The legend of Ranbanka Rathores and the Militarisation of the Sikhs

By Karn Singh Rathore

This article was originally published in The Rational Hindu.

Guru Hargobind (sixth Guru, ‘Sachcha Badshah’, son of Arjan Singh the fifth Guru) was released from Gwalior fort along with 52 Rajput princes in February 1620. These Rajput princes, mostly belonging to the Ranbanka Rathore tribe, helped to make a small army of 700 horsemen for the protection of the ruling house of the Sikhs.

Before that, the Sikhs were, by and large, a peaceful community. A major chunk of the Sikh community still was not used to carrying arms till then. However, with the advent of Ranbanka Rathores amongst the Sikhs their militarisation began. According to Sikhan di Bhagat Ratan Mala (written in 17th-century), Guru Hargobind was taught Shastarvidya by two Rajputs, namely Rao Sigara and Rao Jaita.

When Guru Hargobind returned to Punjab after his release from imprisonment, the local jagirdars, who earlier committed foul play against the Guru, and got him arrested and incarcerated in Gwalior jail under the Mughal emperor Jahangir, were very unhappy to see the Guru being released from captivity.

These local jagirdars, Bhagwan Das Gherad, his son Ratan Chand, along with the Mughal governor Abdul Khan attacked the Guru at Rohilla (the battleground for the first battle of Sikhs) when Guru Hargobind was preaching to the Sikhs during a procession. This time around the Guru had adept warriors, rebel Rajput princes, with him. When Rao Mandan ji Rathore saw these jagirdars heading towards them, he acted swiftly and fought them away.

These were minor jagirdars who could not withstand these battle-hardened Rajput warlords. Bhagwan Dass Gherad life ended with just a single blow and his son Ratan Chand fled the battlefield in fear. The remaining Mughal army of Abdul Khan was defeated by the combined forces of the Sikhs and the Rajputs.

This was recorded by Rai Bhaat of Rajput Sikhs and is further referred to in the various Sikh texts also. He wrote:
Mandan beta Uda ka , pota Nathu ka , parpota Salha ka Suryavanshi Gautam Gotra Udaana Rathore , Dhuda beta Godria ka pota Ranmall ka parpota Rama ka Suryavanshi Gautam gotra Ramana Rathore Ganv Ruhilla , Pargana Batala , Bhagwana beta Kahne ka Gherad Gotra Khatri k saath joojh kar ghayal huye , solah sai athatra asuj parvishthe athayi ko Bhagwan Gherad maara , iska beta Ratan Chand ghayal huya.

Rao Mandan Ji Rathore was the great-grandfather of the legendary Sardar Bajjar Singh Rathore, who was the Shastarvidya Guru of Guru Gobind Singh.

It is indeed intriguing how history works at times. It was the Hindu Rajputs who were the Shastravidya Gurus of the Sikhs and initiated the militarisation of the Sikhs, in a common struggle against the Mughal hordes, and it was the Sikhs who protected the Hindu communities from the later Mughal onslaught in the Northwest of India in the late 18th century.

Along with the Marathas, both the Rajputs and the Sikhs were and are largely responsible for protecting India. And as long as the Sikhs and the Rajputs continue to fight for India, either in the Armed Forces or the forces under the Home Ministry, no Pakistan or China will ever succeed in harming India.

One should ask the Pakistanis on how the legendary warriors of C and D companies of First Sikh were para-dropped on Srinagar on the morning of the fateful day of 27th of October 1947 who then beat the Pakistani militias black and blue. They were later joined by Sixth Rajputana and Fourth Kumaon. Together they successfully secured Srinagar, eliminating 618 Pakistani militiamen, who were mostly savages, in just a couple of days. It was Jinnah’s dream to celebrate the Eid of 1947 in Jahangir’s Royal Shalimar Bagh in Srinagar, which remains unfulfilled to this very day. This, mainly, due to the efforts of First Sikh, Sixth Rajputana and Fourth Kumaon.

Again, if we were to ask the Chinese, they will still shudder in fear at the mention of Major Shaitan Singh Bhati and the battle of Rezang La in 1962, when 3000 Chinese troops faced the wrath of one Rajput madman and his C company of 13th Kumaon of 123 men. A thousand Chinese died at the hands of these 123 men before these brave men were finally killed in a fierce battle. He ordered the evacuation of the remaining able-bodied soldiers when death was certain while he himself stayed put at the post fending off the Chinese, killing scores of them in the process. Major Shaitan Singh Bhati’s body was found days later tightly clutching his gun. He died a heroic warrior’s death.

So, be it in the medieval era or in the modern military history, the Sikhs and the Rajputs, as fate would have it, have supplemented each other and have continued to define and defend what India stands for and would continue to do so.


This article was originally published in The Rational Hindu.