History, they say repeats itself. Our forefathers came through this road- full of so much insecurity and bloodshed. That era has its share of patriots, gallantry and treasons….so do this era. But go through the scene- I am sure many of us will agree that we are so privileged to have this life in this era !
NADIR SHAH- 18th Century : DELHI BURNING
All across the city, gunshots were heard, explosions were set off, shops were looted and houses were set on fire. Clouds and plumes of fire and smoke were soon seen in every part of the city. Persian troops stood outside the burning buildings and then slaughtered the Indians as they made their way out, trying to escape from the fire, smoke and flames. Men were chased down alleyways and killed. Women were assaulted, raped and abducted, some had their breasts hacked off whilst others chose to commit suicide. Children had their bellies ripped open whilst babies were torn from their mothers’ arms, swung by their ankles and had their heads smashed against walls. The cries, shrieks and screams of those being killed, chilled everyone who heard them.
Areas of Delhi such as Chandni Chowk and Dariba Kalan, Fatehpuri, Faiz Bazar, Hauz Kazi, Johri Bazar and the Lahori, Ajmeri and Kabuli gates, all of which were densely populated by both Hindus and Muslims, were soon covered with corpses. Muslims, like Hindus and Sikhs, resorted to killing their women, children and themselves rather than submit to the Persians.
In the words of the Tazkira:
“Here and there some opposition was offered, but in most places people were butchered unresistingly. The Persians laid violent hands on everything and everybody. For a long time, streets remained strewn with corpses, as the walks of a garden with dead leaves and flowers. The town was reduced to ashes.”
Muhammad Shah was forced to beg for mercy.These horrific events were recorded in contemporary chronicles such as the Tarikh-e-Hindi of Rustam Ali, the Bayan-e-Waqai of Abdul Karim and the Tazkira of Anand Ram Mukhlis.
Finally, after many hours of desperate pleading by the Mughals for mercy, Nadir Shah relented and signalled a halt to the bloodshed by sheathing his battle sword once again
Casualties: It has been estimated that during the course of six hours in one day, 22 March 1739, something like 20,000 to 30,000 Indian men, women and children were slaughtered by the Persian troops during the massacre in the city. Exact casualty figures are uncertain, as after the massacre, the bodies of the victims were simply buried in mass burial pits or cremated in grand funeral pyres without any proper record being made of the numbers cremated or buried
Sikhs free slaves
Meahwhile, The Khalsa bands got together and passed a resolution: “Nadir Shah must deliver a part of the booty he was carrying away from Delhi.” Nadir, on the other hand, felt that his reputation was a sufficient deterrent to anyone attacking him on the way. He had chosen the route along the foothills of the northern mountains to escape the heat of the plains. His baggage train being heavy-laden, lagged well behind his main force, and it was quite a shock for him to hear on reaching Akhnoor by the river Chenab, that all his slaves had been freed by Sikh bands, who had also seized a large share of his gold. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia who had just turned 21, showed a glimpse of his greatness as a leader by planning those raids, and by escorting the freed maidens to responsible homes from where they could return to their families.
Zakaria Khan had accompanied Nadir Shah to Akhnoor, and Nadir asked Zakaria Khan who those Sikhs were. On being told that they were all bands of poor sadhus, without clothing or riches, he asked;
“Then why don’t you burn their houses down to punish them ?”
To that Zakaria replied,
“Their only homes are the saddles of their horses. They can last long periods without food and rest. They are known to sleep on horseback. We have put prizes on their heads, but their numbers keep increasing. They are never despondent, but are always singing the songs of their Pirs.” With a sigh, Nadir admitted that in that case the Sikhs would one day rule the land. Then he obtained a promise of a tribute of 2 million Rupees annually from Lahore, and confirmed the appointment of Zakaria Khan at Lahore and of his son Shah Nawaz Khan at Multan (where Abdus Samad Khan had just died).