SIRHIND (30°37`N, 7623E), pronounced Sarhind, an ancient town lying along the Grand Trunk Road (now renamed Sher Shah Suri Marg) midway between Ludhiana and Ambala, derives its name probably from Sairindhas, a tribe that according to Varahamihira (AD 50587), Brihat Samhita, once inhabited this part of the country. According to Heuin Tsang, the Chinese traveller who visited India during the seventh century, Sirhind was the capital of the district of Shitotulo, or Shatadru (the River Sutlej), which was about 2000 H or 533 km in circuit.

The Shatadru principality subsequently became part of the vast kingdom called Trigat of which Jalandhar was the capital. At the time of the struggle between the Hindushahi kings and the Turkish rulers of Ghazni, Sirhind was an important outpost on the eastern frontier of the Hindushahi empire. With the contraction of their territory under the Ghaznivid onslaught, the Hindushahi capital was shifted in 1012 to Sirhind, where it remained till the death ofTrilochanpal, the last ruling king of the dynasty. At the close of the twelfth century, the town was occupied by the Chauhans.

During the invasions of Muhammad Ghori, Sirhind, along with Bathinda, constituted the most important military outpost of Prithvi Raj Chauhan, the last Rajput ruler of Delhi. Under the Slave kings, Sirhind constituted one of the six territorial divisions of the Punjab. In the time of Emperor Akbar the rival towns of Sunam and Samana were subordinated to it and included in what was called Sirhind sarkar of the Subah of Delhi. Under the Mughals Sirhind was the second largest city of the Punjab and the strongest fortified town between Delhi and Lahore.

The town also enjoyed considerable commercial importance. According to Nasir `Ali Sirhindi, TankhiNasin, Sirhind at that time possessed buildings which had no parallel in the whole of India. Spread over an area of 3 kos (10 km approximately) on the banks of the River Hansala (now known as Sirhind Nala), it had many beautiful gardens and several canals, Emperor Jahangir, who made several visits to Sirhind, refers in his memoirs to the captivating beauty of its gardens. The jurisdiction of Sirhind sarkar extended to Anandpur which was the seat of Guru Gobind Singh in the closing decades of the seventeenth century.

At the instance of one of the hill rulers, Raja Ajmer Chand, Wazir Khan, the faujdar of Sirhind, despatched some troops along with a couple of artillery pieces to reinforce the hill army attacking Anandpur. An inconclusive encounter took place on 1314 October 1700. Guru Gobind Singh after a brief interval returned to Anandpur but had to quit it again on 56 December 1705 under pressure of a prolonged siege by the hill chief supported by Sirhind troops. Under the orders of the faujdar, Nawab Wazir Khan, Guru Gobind Singh`s two younger sons, aged nine and seven, were cruelly done to death.

According to Sikh tradition, they were enclosed alive in a wall in Sirhind and executed as the masonry rose up to their necks. Sirhind was for this reason the accurst city in the eyes of the Sikhs. Mobilized under the flag of Banda Singh Bahadur after the death of Guru Gobind Singh in November 1708, they made a fierce attack upon Sirhind. The Mughal army was routed and Wazir Khan killed in the battle of ChapparChin fought on 12 May 1710. Sirhind was occupied by the Sikhs two days later, and Bhai Baj Singh was appointed governor. The town was, however, taken again by the imperial forces.

In March 1748, Sirhind was seized, but only temporarily, byAhmad Shah Durrani, the Afghan general of Nadir Shah who succeeded his master in the possession of the eastern part of his dominions. But the Durrani was defeated by the Mughal rulers of Delhi who reoccupied the town, although the invader reconquerred it during his fourth invasion during 1756-57. Early in 1758, the Sikhs, in collaboration with the Marathas, sacked Sirhind, drove Prince Taimur, son ofAhmad Shah and his viceroy at Lahore, out of the Punjab.

Ahmad Shah defeated the Marathas at Panipat in January 1761. and struck the Sikhs a severe blow in what is known as Vadda Ghallughara, the Great Massacre, that took place on 5 February 1762. Sikhs rallied and attacked Sirhind on 17 May 1762. defeating its faujdar, Zain Khan, who purchased peace by paying Rs 50,000 as tribute to the Dal Khalsa. A more decisive battle took place on 14 January 1764 when Dal Khalsa. under Jassa Singh Ahluvalia, made another assault upon Sirhind. Zain Khan was killed in action and Sirhind was occupied and subjected to plunder and destruction.

The booty was donated for the repair and reconstruction of the sacred shrines at Amritsar demolished by Ahmad Shah. The territories of the Sirhind sarkar were divided among the leaders of the Dal Khalsa, but no one was willing to lake the town of Sirhind where Guru Gobind Singh`s younger sons were subjected to a cruel fate. By a unanimous will it was made over to Buddha Singh, descendant of Bhai Bhagatu, wlio soon after (2 August 1764) transferred possession to Sardar Ala Singh, founder of the Patiala family. Sirhind thereafter remained part of the Patiala territory until the state lapsed in 1948.

Maharaja Karam Singh of Patiala (1813-45) had gurdwaras constructed in Sirhind in memory of the young martyrs and their grandmother, Mata Gujari. He changed the name of the nizamat or district from Sirhind to Fatehgarh Sahib, after the name of the principal gurdwara. Besides the Sikh shrines, Sirhind has an important Muslim monumentRauzaSharifMujjadidAlfSani, the mausoleum of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1569-1624),.the fundamentalist leader of the orthodox; Naqshbandi school of Sufism. There are a number of other tombs in the compound mostly of the members of Shaikh Ahmad`s house. See FATEHGARH SAHIB, GURDWARA

References :

1. Kuir Singh, Gurbilas Patshahl 10, ed. Shamsher Singh Ashok. Patiala, 1968
2. Santokh Singh, Bhai, Sri” Gur Pratap Suraj Granth. Arnritsar, 1927-35
3. Gian Singh, Giani, Twankh. Guru Khalsa [Reprint]. Patiala, 1970
4. Narotam, Tara Singh, Sri Guru Tsratli Sangralii. Kankhal, 1975
5. Ganda Singh, Sardar Jassa Sing}i Aliluvalia. Patiala, 1969
6. Harbans Singh, Guru Gobinci Singh. Chandigarh, 1966
7. Gupta, Hari Ram, History of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1978-82