GURBAKHSH SIṄGH, BHĀĪ (1688-1764), also known as Gurbakhsh Siṅgh Nihaṅg or Shahīd, hailed from the village of Līl, in Amritsar district. According to an old manuscript which was preserved in the Sikh Reference Library, Amritsar, until it perished in the Army action in 1984, and which is quoted by Siṅgh Sāhib Giānī Kirpāl Siṅgh, he was born on Baisākh vadī 5, 1745 Bk/ 10 April 1688 (father Bhāī Dasaundhā, mother Māī Lachchhamī). In 1693, the family shifted to Anandpur where Gurbakhsh Siṅgh took pāhul of the Khālsā on the historic Baisākhī day of 1699. He completed his religious education under Bhāī Manī Siṅgh. He later joined the Shahīd misl under Bābā Dīp Siṅgh and, after the latter's death in 1757, organized his own jathā or fighting band. In the battles against the Durrānīs and the Mughals in the eighteenth century, his ḍerā or small group usually formed the vanguard carrying the banner, and won renown for its acts of gallantry. When in November 1764 Ahmad Shāh Durrānī, at the head of 30,000 men, invaded India for the seventh time, Bhāī Gurbakhsh Siṅgh happened to be stationed at the holy shrine at Amritsar. The Durrānī advanced up to the town virtually unopposed and entered the partially reconstructed Harimandar, which he had demolished two years earlier. Bhāī Gurbakhsh Siṅgh, who had already evacuated from the precincts women, children and the aged, had with him only thirty men. According to Ratan Siṅgh Bhaṅgū, Prāchīn Panth Prakāsh, "Bhāī Gurbakhsh Siṅgh, with garlands around his neck and sword on his shoulder, dressed himself as a bridegroom, his men forming the marriage party, waiting eagerly to court the bride-death." As soon as they saw the Afghān King and his hordes, they swooped down upon them. This was an unequal flight -- thirty pitted against thirty thousand. All thirty Sikhs were killed before Gurbakhsh Siṅgh, though throughout in the forefront, also fell. Giving an eye-witness account of the action, Qāzī Nūr Muhammad, the chronicler who was in the train of the invader, writes in his Jaṅgnāmah:
When the King and his army reached the Chakk (Amritsar), they did not see any[infidel] there. But a few men staying in a fortress were bent upon spilling their blood and they sacrificed themselves for their Gurū.... They were only thirty in number. They did not have the least fear of death. They engaged the Ghāzīs and spilled their blood in the process. Thus all of them were slaughtered and consigned to the seventh [hell].
This happened on 1 December 1764. Bhāī Gurbakhsh Siṅgh was cremated behind Takht Akāl Buṅgā. Later, a tomb was built on the site which is now known as Shahīd Gañj.
G. S. Nayyar