DĪP SIṄGH SHAHĪD, BĀBĀ (1682-1757), founder of the Shahīd misl or principalīty as well as of the Damdamī Ṭaksāl or Damdamā school of Sikh learning, was born in 1682, the son of Bhāī Bhagatā and Māī Jiūṇī, a Sikh couple living in Pahūviṇḍ, a village 40 km southwest of Amritsar. He received the vows of the Khālsā at Anandpur where he stayed for some time to study the sacred texts under Bhāī Manī Siṅgh. He re-joined Gurū Gobind Siṅgh at Talvaṇḍī Sābo in 1706 and, after the latter's departure for the South, stayed on there to look after the sacred shrine, Damdamā Sāhib. He, at the head of a small group of warriors, joined Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur in his campaign against the Mughal authority, but left him in 1714 when the Tatt Khālsā rose against him (Bandā Siṅgh). Retiring to Damdamā Sāhib at Talvaṇḍī Sābo with his band of warriors, he resumed his study and teaching of the Scripture and training in martial skills. In 1726, he had four copies of the Gurū Granth Sāhib made from the recension prepared earlier by Bhāī Manī Siṅgh under the supervision of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh during their stay at Damdamā Sāhib. In 1732, he went to the rescue of Sardār Ālā Siṅgh who had been besieged in Barnālā by Manjh and Bhaṭṭī Rājpūts in collaboration with the faujdār of Jalandhar and the nawāb of Mālerkoṭlā. In 1733, when the Mughal governor of Lahore sought peace with the Sikhs offering them a nawābship and a jāgīr, Dīp Siṅgh and his jathā or fighting band joined Nawāb Kapūr Siṅgh at Amritsar to form a joint Sikh force, the Dal Khālsā, which was soon divided for administrative convenience into Buddhā Dal and Taruṇā Dal, the latter being further split into five jathās. Dīp Siṅgh, now reverently called Bābā, was given the command of one of these jathās which in 1748 were redesignated misls. It came to be known as Shahīd misl after its founder met with the death of a martyr (shahīd, in Punjabi). The misls soon established their authority over different regions under rākhī system which meant, like chauth of the Marāṭhās, collection of a portion of the revenue of the region for guaranteeing peace, protection and security. Shahīd misl had its sphere of influence south of the River Sutlej and Dīp Siṅgh's headquarters remained at Talvaṇḍī Sābo. The tower in which he lived still stands next to the Takht Srī Damdamā Sāhib and is known as Burj Bābā Dīp Siṅgh Shahīd.
During his fourth invasion of India in the winter of 1756-57, Ahmad Shāh Durrānī annexed the Punjab to the Afghān dominions and appointed his son, Taimūr, viceroy at Lahore, with the veteran general, Jahān Khān, as his deputy. Jahān Khān invested Amritsar in May 1757, razed the Sikh fortress of Rām Rauṇī and filled up the sacred pool. As the news of this desecration reached Dīp Siṅgh, he set out with his jathā towards the Holy City. Many Sikhs joined him on the way so that when he arrived at Tarn Tāran he had at his command a force of 5, 000 men. Jahān Khān's troops lay in wait for them near Gohlvaṛ village, 8 km ahead. They barred their way and a fierce action took place. Dīp Siṅgh suffered grave injury near Rāmsar, yet such was the firmness of his resolve to reach the holy precincts that he carried on the battle until he fell dead in the close vicinity of the Harimandar. This was on 11 November 1757. A legend grew that it was Bābā Dīp Siṅgh's headless body holding his severed head on his left hand and wielding his khaṇḍā, double-edged sword, with his right hand that had fought on until he had redeemed his pledge to liberate the holy shrine. Two shrines now commemorate the martyr, one on the circumambulatory terrace of the sarovar surrounding the Golden Temple where he finally fell and the other, Shahīdgañj Bābā Dīp Siṅgh Shahīd, near Gurdwārā Rāmsar, where his body was cremated.
K. S. Thāpar