The retreat of the Marathas during the conquest of Punjab by Abdali before Panipat left the Sikhs to fend for themselves. They seem to have stayed low till the Afghans crossed Punjab towards Delhi post which they became active again. Unable to manage the affairs, Saadat Yar Khan who held Lahore resigned from his post and when Sarbuland Khan didn’t bother to assume charge, Surat Singh, a banker in Lahore was asked to take charge. Fully knowing the state of affairs, Surat Singh refused but was prevailed upon as a stop gap till Mir Muhammad Khan assumed charge. Soon after his appointment, a huge assemblage of Sikhs who gathered in November 1760 for Diwali at Amritsar decided to attack Lahore. A band of 10000 Sikhs invested Lahore forcing Mir Muhammad Khan to lock himself in the fort. The suburbs were destroyed and caused a panic to the extent that the Governor was forced to pay a ransom of 30,000 for the Sikhs to leave.

After Panipat, in Aprin 1761, when Abdali crossed Sutlej on his way back laden with the heavy loot from India, he was in no position to focus on the Sikhs. The best he could do was to protect his camp and nothing more. At Goindwal, a considerable number of captives were relieved by the Sikhs and sent back home. From Lahore, Abdali sent expeditions against the Sikhs but didn’t achieve much because of his priorities. His administration in Punjab stood thus and all of them were tasked to chastise the Sikhs.

Though Ghamand Chand who held Jalandhar Doab raised a troop of 4000 to protect the return of Afghan army, the Afghans would see peace only after they crossed Indus. After this, the Sikhs moved towards Chenab and plundered the territories. Nawab Khwajah Mirza Khan, an ex-governor of Lahore and incharge of Chahr Mahal tried to contain them but was defeated and beheaded. After this, they entered Jalandhar Doab – Sadat Khan and Sadiq Khan were defeated and forced to flee and the Sikhs marched on Sirhind learning that Zain Khan was out of town on a tour. His deputy was defeated by Sikhs under Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and the city was pillaged – Bhikan Khan, the ruler of Malerkotla held fort in Sirhind till Zain Khan rushed back hearing of the attack post which the Sikhs retreated. Because of the role Bhikan Khan played, they rushed towards Malerkotla which was forced to capitulate and thoroughly pillaged.

With anarchy prevailing all around, Abdali had no option but to intervene directly – in August 1761, he sent an army under Nuruddin and the Punjab governors were ordered to support him. Bhera, Miani and Chak Sanu in Jalandhar Doab were destroyed but he was engaged by Charat Singh of the Sukerchakia Misl on the Chenab joined by the other Misldars. Nuruddin was defeated after a stiff engagement and broken Afghan units fled towards Sialkot which was promptly invested. Nuruddin fled disguised as a beggar while the fort capitulated and the garrison was allowed to return. Charat Singh gained a considerable amount of artillery and plunder, and retutned to Gujranwala in triumph.

The next month, Lahore was invested. Collection of revenue was impossible and Charat Singh took a forward position against Khwaja Abed by building a fort at Sarai Kamboh. Khwaja Abed commissioned an army of ten thousand including around 500 from a Singh Sardar Sahib Singh Korbast and marched on Manka to chastise it’s chieftains Bhim Singh and Sarup Singh. When he reached Gujranwala, Charat Singh engaged him – soon, news spread of the siege of Gujranwala and the bulk of the Misldars marched on Gujranwala. Khwaja Abed is now under siege while the Sikh levies under him defected forcing Khwaja Abed to flee with a few attendants post which the Sikhs massacred his army.

Two months later, in November 1761, Lahore was invested. Khwaja Abed wasn’t able to do much while the citizenry opened negotiations with the Sikhs and surrendered the city. The citadel was stormed and Khwaja Abed was killed, and the Sikhs declared Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, their formal leader as Padishah. They seized the mint and cast a coin(second in their history) with the legend (the coin was discontinued soon because it was issued in the name of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia without the word Singh, and on the other hand, not in the name of the Gurus),

Sikka zad dar Jahan bafazal-e-Akal,
Mulk-e-Ahmad garift Jassa Kalal.

Coin struck in the world by the grace of God
In the country of Ahmad captured by Jassa Kalal.

On this, Abdali had no alternative but to march on Punjab again and while on march, received a desperate petition from Guru Aqil Das of Jandiala, a Sikh chieftain who always sided Abdali when he was being invested. The Sikhs failed in their siege of Jandiala and moved towards Sirhind while Abdali took Lahore. Learing of an engagement between Zain Khan and the Sikhs near Malerkotla, Abdali reached the place in less than two days from Lahore and attacked the Sikhs who were based in Kup. The Sikhs left the place and Zain Khan’s advance guard tried to stop them but failed and fled to Malerkotla. The Sikhs stumbled into the main Afghan army and tried to fight a retreating war without going for a pitched battle. Shah Wali Khan took the Sikh baggage train and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia sent a troop to counter him while the main army retreated slowly in a square. A fresh thrust from Jahan Khan broke the square leading to massive losses. New Sikh troops under Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Charat Singh Sukerchakia poured in but by the time the Sikhs reached Gahal, their baggage train was lost and the soldiers were barred entry into the village in fear of Afghans and were massacred. The main army, unburderened by the baggage train moved towards Barnala held by Alha Singh of Patiala with greater speed chased by the Afghans. The Sikhs lost more than 20,000 but retreated in comparative order and the exhausted Afghans called off the pursuit near Barnala. The original Guru Granth Sahib held in the Dal Khalsa fell into the Afghan hands and taken away to Kabul. On the other hand, Alha Jat refused to help the Sikh armies in distress and left his capital city. However, when summoned by Abdali to Sirhind, he didn’t make his appearance as that would rupture the terms with Sikhs completely. Abdali was told of Alha Singh by the chieftains of Malerkotla, Raikot and Sirhind of his rebellious attitude and he marched on Barnala. After Barnala and Dhundadhura, Alha Singh sought the intervention of Najibuddaulah to surrender – his hair was cut and he had to pay a ransom for his release.

While returning back, he ordered a clinical demolition of Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. The reservoir of the temple was contaminated and filled up. The main mosques were cleaned up. Abdali would stay in Lahore for nine months from March to December 1762 to contain the Sikhs and on the other hand, assert his suzerainty in India by summoning the envoys from kingdoms and appointed Shah Alam as the Emperor of India though he had to open negotiations with the Peshwa’s envoys on peaceful terms and accept his authority.

The Sikhs dispersed into Rohi after the defeat at Kup but fearful of Abdali, the Brar Jats refused to help them and they moved towards Kot Kapura, Faridkot and Bhatinda and soon, swore revenge and as early as May 1762, they attacked Sirhind and forced Zain Khan to pay a tribute. He, however, attacked the returning Sikhs but was defeated again and was severely pillaged. The swollen rivers meant that Abdali, though based in Lahore wasn’t able to do anything to help. After this, they attacked the Afghan interests all over the area and by August, they were back in Amritsar. The contingents sent by Abdali to tackle the Sikhs failed every time and as a revenge for desecrating Harmandir Sahib, they focussed much on desecrating Muslim religious interests. Soon after this, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia led the entire Dal Khalsa into Jalandhar Doab and punished everyone who sided the Afghans before moving towards Malwa and gathered near Karnal. Soon after, they were back in Amritsar-Lahore area for Diwali in force and Abdali was caught unawares and tried peace – his envoy was chased away forcing Abdali to march on Amrtisar. The Afghans led by Abdali in person were defeated and Abdali retreated back to Lahore. By this time, Abdali started received reinforcements and marched against the Sikhs again but didn’t achieve much except random skirmishes. Soon after, Abdali returned back learning of disturbances in Afghanistan. He was harassed on his return and soon after, they put Lahore on siege.


  1. History Of The Sikhs Vol. II Hari Ram Gupta

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