MATĀB SIṄGH or Mahtāb Siṅgh (d. 1745), eighteenth-century Sikh warrior and martyr, was born the son of Harā Siṅgh, a Jaṭṭ Sikh of Bhaṅgū clan of the village of Mīrāṅkoṭ, 8 km north of Amritsar. He grew up amidst the most ruthless persecution Sikhs suffered under the later Mughals, and like many another spirited youth joined one of the several small guerilla bands into which they had organized themselves after the capture and execution, in 1716, of Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur. Nādir Shāh's invasion, while it violently shook the already crumbling edifice of the Mughal empire, so emboldened the Sikhs that they attacked and robbed-even the invader's rear on his way back. Zakarīyā Khān, the governor of the Punjab from 1726 to1745, further intensified his campaign against the Sikhs, forcing them to seek safety in hills and deserts beyond the central Punjab. Matāb Siṅgh, entrusting his family to the care of a village elder, Natthā, a Khahirā Jaṭṭ, went, according to his grandson, Ratan Siṅgh Bhaṅgū, the author of Prāchīn Panth Prakāsh, to Jaipur in Rājasthān, where he took up employment under the local ruler. It was at Jaipur that he learnt how Masse Khān Raṅghaṛ, the new kotwāl of Amritsar, had occupied the holy Harimandar and converted it into a pleasure-house. Resolved to avenge the sacrilege, Matāb Siṅgh left forthwith for Amritsar, accompanied by another bold warrior, Sukkhā Siṅgh of Māṛī Kambo. They disguised themselves as tax-collectors carrying on their backs bags seemingly filled with money. "It was a scorching noon of the month of Bhādoṅ," narrates Ratan Siṅgh Bhaṅgū. "A strong wind raised a lot of dust, giving the two an excuse to cover their faces. Massā [inside the sacred sanctuary] was enjoying music appropriate to the rainy season. The guards were either resting under shelters or listening to the songs of the dancing-girls. The two [Matāb Siṅgh and Sukkhā Siṅgh] got their God-given chance. They hid their horses and spears outside the main entrance, one at either side, concealed their swords under their armpits, and advanced as if some soldiers were come with their collection of tax. Walking smartly, they reached where the mṛdaṅg [Indian double-sided drum] was being played. One of them immediately drew his sword and severed Massā's head like a gourd is plucked off the plant, while the other removed the ornaments from the body. There arose an instant tumult, but the two rode away on their horses and vanished into the forest." This happened on 11 August 1740.
Matāb Siṅgh's ancestral village, Mīrāṅkoṭ, was raided by a strong military contingent under Faujdār Nūrdīn. Natthā, the village elder, and his son, nephew and two servants were killed while attempting to escape with their ward, Rāi Siṅgh; the young. son of Matāb Siṅgh. Rāi Siṅgh was also grievously wounded and was left for dead. But of Matāb Siṅgh there was no trace, until five years later, on receiving the news of the arrest of Bhāī Tārū Siṅgh, he surrendered himself voluntarily to die by his side. Harshest torments were reserved for both. Bhāī Tārū Siṅgh had his scalp scraped with lancets and Matāb Siṅgh was broken on the wheel in the Nakhās square in Lahore.
Gurdev Siṅgh Deol