About thirty miles south-west of the city of Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, and on the borders of the civil districts of Gujranwala and Faisalabad (formerly called Lyallpur), stands the town of Nankana Sahib. In the 15th century, this town was called Talwandi and was surrounded by a deep and lonely Bar or raised forest tract in the centre of the Punjab (or Panjab as it was called then). The town is now girdled by a broad expanse of agriculture and vegetation, which, wears through all seasons a cheerful appearance. The jal (Salvadora Persica) predominates, except there are also found the phulahi (Acacia modest a) and the jand (Prosopis spicigera). The wild deer though not seen any longer were seen irregularly to come out startled at the travellers who uneasy the solitude of its domain, and the hare and the partridges used to cower cautiously among the thickets, deprecating molestation.
Talwandi is said to have been originally built by a Hindu king called Raja Vairat. It was sacked and shattered by fire and crowbar. The Punjab was parceled out to Muslim warrior chiefs in switch over for peace by the sovereigns of Delhi (Delhi Sultanate). One of these chiefs was Rai Bhoi Bhatti, a Muslim of the Bhatti Rajput tribe. Rai Bhoi along with his son salvaged Talwandi and restored it and built a fort on the summit of the tumulus, in which he lived the secure and happy ruler of his estate with quite a lot of thousand acres of educated land, and a boundless wilderness. Nankana was subsequently known then as Rai-Bhoi-Di-Talwandi (or Rai Bhoi's Talwandi). After Rai Bhoi's death, his heritage descended to his only son Rai Bular Bhatti , who governed the land and town at the birth and for the duration of the youth of Nanak.
During Rai Bular's rule, Talwandi did not share the tumults and excitement of the outer political world. Rai Bular was a 'gentle giant', immense in stature, but quiet and private. Talwandi became a reflection of his individuality. It was a quiet place for the training of a prophet or religious teacher who was to lead his countrymen to the sacred path of truth, and disenthrall their minds from the superstitions of ages. In this retreat was born Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh belief. His birth took place on the third day of the light half of the month of Baisakh (April–May) in the year 1526 of the Vikramaditya period, corresponding to A.D. 1469.
Nankana Sahib being most sacred Sikh place; the position of the birth of the Sikh initiator, Guru Nanak is one of the fastest growing towns in Punjab, Pakistan. It is a fashionable place for Sikhs from all over the world. At the time of Guru Nanak's birth the town was called Rai Bhoe's Talwandi and was also referred to as Raipur. Rai Bular Bhatti was the ruler of this part and Baba Nanak's father was Rai Bular's worker. The discover qualities of Baba Nanak were first exposed by his sister Nanaki and Rai Bular Bhatti . Rai Bular gifted approx. 20,000 acres (81 km2) of land all around the city of Talwandi to Guru Nanak and the town began to be called Nankana Sahib. The town currently has nine gurdwaras as one with the Gurdwara Janam Asthan which marks the birth place of Guru Nanak Dev. Each of the gurdwaras is related with important events in Guru Nanak's life. Annually, just about 30,000 Sikh pilgrims visit the town, with about 15,000 gathering during the peak season around the birthday celebrations of Guru Nanak.
In 2006 a bus service between the Sikh consecrated city of Amritsar in India and Nankana Sahib was inaugurated by Manmohan Singh, India's Prime Minister, who himself is a Sikh.
The Sikh trust was founded by Guru Nanak in the fifteenth century and his divine torch was carried on by nine gurus who followed in sequence. The concepts of Sangat, Pangat, Dharamshala (an early word for Gurdwara) and Kirtan took firm roots during this period and became important constituents of Sikhism. Congregations in Gurdwaras had played crucial roles in the religious and social affairs of the early Sikhs.
Later, they assumed wider dimensions by transforming into a religion-political organisation. The peaceful and non-political budding Sikh brotherhood was misshapen into a proud and fiercely martial nation through the baptismal.
process of Amrit-pan. After a long and continuous resistance of several decades against the tyrannies of Mughal rule, the brave Sikhs finally emerged victorious and succeeded in carving out 12 Khalsa principalities in Punjab which soon led to the creation of a unified Khalsa kingdom with Ranjit Singh at the helm.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh reconstruct the Gurdwaras prior destroyed by the Moghuls and also raised many new ones at the sacred places related with the Sikh Gurus. For the sustenance of the Mahants, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had friendly handsome landed properties too many of these Gurdwaras. The earlier Mahants were devoted Sikhs and true missionaries who did a lot for the spread of Sikhism. As the times rolled by, the Gurdwara incomes swelled enormously and the enormous money corrupted and degenerated the later-time Mahants into slack lived folks. They started treating the Gurdwara properties as if they were their personal fiefs. This changed the things for the Sikh Panth.
Dissolute Activities with in Nankana:
Gurdwara Nankana Sahib was managed by Mahant Narayan Das in the in the early hours 20th century. This Gurdwara had a huge property of over 19000 acres of highly fertile land fond of to it which yielded enormous income per year. Money-power made the Mahant corrupt and him in full swing using the Gurdwara's money for wrongful deeds. The Mahant was a very desolate and wicked person who also used Gurdwara premises for immoral and highly objectionable activities. He had kept a Muslim girl as his mistress and all kinds of possible debauchery were committed within the Gurdwara premises. Dance girls were brought to the Gurdwara and dances were held and obscene songs were sung within the holy property. In 1917, he arranged a dance-show by a prostitute near the holy Gurdwara. In 1918, a retired A.A.C. officer paid a visit to the Gurdwara with his 13 years old daughter to offer prayers to the Guru. As the Rehraas was being read in the Gurdwara, a Pujari rogue was raping the minor girl in another room within the Gurdwara premises. When the father lodged a complaint with the Mahant to take action against the Pujari rogue, the Mahant simply ignored his request. In the same year, six young female devotees from Jaranwal village (Lyallpur) visited the Gurdawara on Puranmashi (full Moon) to pay their offerings at Gurdwara and they too were similarly raped.
Sikhs Nation Awakens:
All this went on before the very eyes of the Sikhs which had sent surprise waves across Punjab. The issue was effectively raised in the The Akali (Punjabi), in print from Lahore by Master Sunder Singh Lyallpuri (q.v.), a true patriot and the founder-father of the Akali Movement and Shiromani Akali Dal . Lyallpuri belonged to Bohoru village close to Nankana Sahib and he personally preached against the shamelessness of the Mahant in the nearby villages and also continued to organise the Sikhs for a dynamic movement to bring reforms into the Gurdwaras.
In October 1920, a worshipper was held at Dharowal in Sheikhupura for reform in Gurdwara Nankana Sahib. The misdeeds committed within Gurdwara by Mahant were made known to the Sangat. On January 24, Shiromani Committee held a general meeting and took decision to hold a Dewan in Nankana Sahib on March 4, 5 and 6 and advise Mahant to mend his ways.
Mahant was a very shrewd and sneaky person. He tried to play politics. Publicly, he wanted to leave the thought that he was very peace-loving person and anxious to settle the issues with the Panth. On February 14, Mahant held a surreptitious meeting with his associates to chalk out a secret plan to kill the Sikh leaders on March 5 at Nankana Sahib. Mahant recruited 400 hooligans including fierce Pathans paid at twenty Indian rupees per month to oppose the Sikhs. With government's help, Mahant also collected guns, pistols and other arms and bullets. He also arranged and stored fourteen tins of paraffin and further got the Gurdwara gate strengthened and the holes made in it so that he could use them for firing bullets at the Sikhs.
Mahant Narayan Das had the full help from the Mahants of other Gurdwaras in Punjab. The Bedi Jagirdars who had homeward bound Jagirs from the English Government by virtue of their past connections with Guru Nanak also supported the Mahant. Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia also maintained double standards. But Maharaja of Patiala flatly refused to back Mahant and offered him a healthy advice not to rebel against the Panth. He further advised the Mahant to create a committee of prominent Sikhs and hand over the Gurdwara charge to them. But Mahant uncared for the well-intentioned advice of Patiala Royal house. The Shiromani Committee extended request to Mahant for talks at Gurdwara Khara Sauda to resolve the issue but he did not show up at the given time. Then he offered to hold talks with the Sikh leaders in Sheikhupura on February 15, 1921, but again he disastrous to show up. Third time he promised to meet the Shiromani Committee leaders at the dwelling of Sardar Amar Singh Lyall Gazette on February 16, but once again he failed to turn up.
The Nankana Sahib Massacre refers to the grim affair during the Gurdwara Reform Movement/Akali Movement in which a peaceful batch of reformist Sikhs were subjected to a murderous assault on 20 February 1921 in the holy shrine at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
In October 1920, a congregation was held at Dharowal, area Sheikhupura to inform the sangat of the misdeeds being dedicated inside Gurdwara Nankana Sahib. This shrine along with six others in the town had been under the control of Udasi priests ever since the time the Sikhs were driven by Mughal oppression to seek safety in remote hills and deserts. The priests not only treated the Gurdwaras as their secret properties but had also introduced practices and ceremonial which had no sanction in Sikhism.
At the meeting, it was commonly resolved that the Mahant be asked to mend his ways. When Mahant Narian Dass was asked upon to do so, he in full swing making preparations to oppose the Panth instead. He did not feel it necessary to pay heed to the suggestions of the Committee. He was the owner of the estate attached to the Gurdwara with an income of one hundred thousand rupees besides the offerings of the Gurdwara.
Almost at the same time a Sikh shrine, Gurdwara Babe di Ber, at Sialkot, was free-thinking from priestly control and taken over by the Sikhs on 5 October 1920, which marked the beginning of the Gurdwara Reform movement. Darbar Sahib and the Akal Takht were occupied on 13 October 1920.
Narain Das, with the help of the Government started recruiting a private army and laying in arms. The Government was using every available weapon to make Akali movement of Gurdwara reform, a failure. Narain Das got the Gurdwara gate strengthened and got holes made in it so that bullets could be fired through them.
In the meeting of Parbhandak Committee on 17 February 1921, it was decided that two jathas one led by Bhai Lachhman Singh and the other by Bhai Kartar Singh Virk (alias Jhabbar) should meet at Chander Kot on 19 February. From there they were to reach Nankana Sahib early in the morning of 20th February, to talk to the Mahant, Narain Das. Upon seeing the preparation of the Mahant, the Parbhandak Committee held a meeting on 19th February, in which it was, set on that the jathas should not be taken to Nankana Sahib on the 20th February. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar was present in the meeting. He was informed about the changes and was told to inform Bhai Lachhman Singh. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar immediately dispatched Bhai Waryam Singh to Chander Kot so that other jatha could be stopped.
Bhai Lachchman Singh, in accordance with the original programme had reached Chander Kot on the night of 19th February with his jatha of 150 Singhs and waited for Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar and his jatha.
Bhai Waryama Singh arrived with news not to lead the jatha to the Gurdwara; Bhai Lachchman Singh said to the Singhs of his jatha, “When we have started for a good cause, we should not waste time.” All members of the jatha agreed. Bhai Lachhman Singh got a undertake from the Singh’s not to strike and stay put peaceful no matter what. After that the jatha prayed for their success of their noble resolve. After the prayer, as the jatha was about to move forward, Bhai Waryam Singh arrived. He showed them the letter about the new judgment of the Committee. Bhai Tehal Singh Said, “Dear Khalsa, we have taken our resolve at the prayer (Ardaas) and cannot turn back now. It is imperitive for us to move forward.” The jatha as a whole moved forward following Bhai Tehal Singh.
Thus on the morning of 20 February 1921, the jatha of 150 Sikhs lead by Bhai Lachhman Singh entered the sacred precincts. The Mahant had got the news of their arrival at Chander Kot on the evening of 19th February. He had gathered his men at night and briefed them about their duties.
After the jatha of Singh’s had sat down, the Mahant signalled his men to carry out the prearranged plan. The Sikhs were chanting the sacred hymns when the attack started. Bullets were mercilessly rained on them from the roof of an adjoining building. Bhai Lachhman Singh was struck down sitting in attendance of the Guru Granth Sahib. Twenty-six Singhs became martyrs to those bullets in the courtyard while another sixty or so sitting inside the Darbar Sahib became targets of bullets. When the Mahant’s men saw no one moving, they came down with swords and choppers. Any Singh they found breathing was cut to pieces.
Outside the main gate, Narain Das, pistol in hand and his face quiet up, pranced up and down on horseback directing the operations and all the time shouting, “Let not a single long-haired Sikh go out alive.” Bhai Dalip Singh, a much-respected Sikh who was well known to him, came to intercede with him to stop the bloody carnage. But he killed him on the spot with a shot from his pistol. Six other Sikhs coming from outside were butchered and thrown into a potter’s kiln. Firewood and kerosene oil were brought out and a fire lighted. All the dead and injured were piled up on it to be consumed by the flames. The body of one a live Singh said to be Bhai Lachhman Singh was fastened to a tree near by and burnt alive. The total number of Sikhs killed has been variously estimated between 82 and 156.
As news reached back to Panjab, 20 pathans had been arrested, the Gurdwara had been locked and the city was handed over to Army which cordoned it to restrict any Akali movement to take over Gurdwara. Sardar Kartar Singh Jhabbar arrived with his jatha on 21st February. Commissioner, Mr. King, informed him that if he tried to enter city with his jatha army will open fire. Kartar Singh Jhabbar and his jatha of twenty two hundred Singhs did not listen to the Commissioner and kept on moving towards city. At end, Commissioner Mr. Curry handed over the keys of Gurdwara to Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar.
On the 22nd/23rd February, the bodies were cremated according to Sikh tradition. Charred, mutilated bodies were collected and torn limbs and pieces of flesh picked from wherever they lay in the blood stained chambers. A huge memorial service pyre was erected. Bhai Jodh Singh, in a calculated oration, advised the Sikhs to remain cool and patient and endure the catastrophe with the fortitude with which their ancestors had faced similar situations. The Sikhs, he said, had cleansed by their blood the holy precincts so long exposed to the impious influence of a corrupt regime.
An urdu newspaper called ‘Zamindara’ wrote in its editorial of 23 February 1921, “what more proof of shamelessness of muslims is required than that they have helped the Mahant. O, Shameless Muslims, isn’t the cup of your shamelessness and impudence full as yet? You used your guns and swords against those who went to Nankana Sahib to perform religious duties. You are not fit to be called Muslims. You are worse than infidels.”
Mahant, 20 Pathans and other of his group were sentenced by British. Only Mahant and couple of Pathans got death decree for this crime of more than 50 murders. (The High Court delivering on 3 March 1922, its judgement on Narain Das’s appeal, reduced his sentence to life imprisonment.)
News of the Nankana Sahib carnage shocked the country. Sir Edward Maclagan, Governor of the Punjab, visited the site on 22nd February. Mahatma Gandhi, along with Muslim leaders Shaukat ‘Ali and Muhammad ‘Ali, came on 3rd March. Princess Bamba Duleep Singh, daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, came accompanied by Sir Jogendra Singh, to offer her homage to the memory of the martyrs.