RAHIRA and Kup, two villages, 4 km apart from each other and jointly known in Sikh history as KupR.ihIra, in Sangrur district of the Punjab, were the scene of a fierce battle between the Sikhs and the combined forces of Ahmad Shah Durrani and his vassals in Sirhind and Malerkotla. Ahmad Shah Durrani, who, after his victory over the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat in January 1761, considered himself master of north India, was peeved at the open challenge to his supremacy when, during his return march in April 1761, the Sikhs attacked his baggage train and liberated several hundreds of women whom the invader had made captive and who were being carried to Afghanistan.
A 12,000strong punitive expedition sent by him against the Sikhs in August 1761 was forced to surrender, its commander having ignominiously deserted and escaped under cover of darkness. Next month the Sikhs defeated Obaid Khan, the governor of Lahore, and, forcing him to take refuge in the citadel, became the virtual masters of the town. Ahmad Shah, furious at the repeated reverses, came out at the head of a huge army determined to scourge the Sikhs out of existence. The latter, following their usual tactics, disappeared from the scene.
They, however, decided to escort their families to the safety of Lakkhl Jungle, a desert deep in the heart of the Malva region, and be free to deal with the Durrani. They crossed the Sutlej along with their women folk and children and the aged and the infirm. Ahmad Shah, marching from Lahore on the morning of 3 February 1762 crossed the Sutlej the following day. He sent orders to Zain Khan. his faujddr at Sirhind, and BhTkhan Khan. the chief of Malerkotla, to foreclose the Sikhs, as he himself rushed to attack them from the rear.
On the morning of 5 February 1762, the Sikhs found themselves trapped around the villages of Rahira and Kup. The combatants among them hastily reformed to make a protective ring around the rest of the column and continued their movement, fighting back at the same time against heavy odds. This desperate fight continued throughout the day, and ended at sunset, both sides utterly exhausted, near the villages Kutba and Bahmani, some 25 km to the west of KupRahTra. The Sikhs lust between twenty and tweniy-five thousand men, women and children, the heaviest casualties suffered by them on a single day.
The action, therefore, came to be known as Vadda Ghallughara, or the major holocaust, to be distinguished from the Chhota or smaller Ghallughara suffered by them in 1746 around the Kahnuvan marshes in Gurdaspur district. Kup and Rahira being Muslim villages in the Muslim state of Malerkotla, no monument was raised to commemorate the battle so doggedly fought by the Dal Khalsa. In recent years, however, Nihangs of the Buddha Dal have constructed (wo gurudwaras near Rahira, both sharing the name Gurdwara Vadda Ghallughara Sahib. The one near the railway station, itself named Ghallughara Rahira, consists of a square flat roofed hall and a row of six small rooms. The other, nearer to the village and by the side of an old sandy mound, comprises a row of three rooms, the middle room serving as the sanctum.
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