BOTA SINGH (d. 1739), an eighteenth century martyr of the Sikh faith, belonged to the village of Bharana in Amritsar district. In those days of dire persecution, he along with many fellow Sikhs had sought the safety of wastes and jungles. At nightfall, he would come out of his hiding place and visit some human habitations in search of food. Occasionally he would come to Amritsar by night to have a dip in the holy tank, spending the day in the wilderness around Tarn Taran. One day he was noticed by some people who thought he was a Sikh.

But one of the party said that he was not a Sikh, for had he been one he would not conceal himself thus. The taunt cut Bota Singh to the quick. Accompanied by his companion Garja Singh, a Rarighreta Sikh, and with a bamboo club in his hand, he took up position on the grand trunk road, near Sarai Nur ud Din, near Tarn Taran. To announce his presence and proclaim the sovereignty of the Khalsa, he started collecting toll from the passersby. Finding everyone submitting tamely to his authority, he sent a communication to the provincial governor himself.

The words of the letter, as preserved in Punjabi folklore, were: Chitthi likhi Singh Bota : Hath hai sota, Vich rah khalota Anna laya gadde nu, Paisa laya khota. Akho Bhabi Khano nu, Yon akhe Singh Bota. Bota Singh writes this letter: With a big club in hand, On the road do I stand. I levy an anna on a cart And a pice on a donkey. This, tell your sister, Khano, who is my sister in law, Is what Bota Singh declares. The wife of the Mughal governor is burlesqued here using her popular name “Khano.”

Bota Singh calls her his bhabi, i.e. brother`s wife with whom one could take liberties. Zakariya Khan, the governor, sent a contingent of one hundred horse under Jalal Din to arrest Bota Singh alive and bring him to Lahore. Jalal Din asked Bota Singh and Garja Singh to surrender and accompany him to Lahore, promising to secure them the governor`s pardon. Bota Singh and his comrade spurned the offer and fell fighting valiantly against heavy odds. This happened in 1739.

References :

1. Bhagat Lakshman Singh, Sikh Martyrs. Madras, 1928
2. Chhibbar, Kesar Singh, Bansavalinama Dasan Patshahian Ka. Chandigarh, 1972
3. Bhahgu, Ratan Singh, Prachin Panth Prakash. Amritsar, 1914