RAHĪṚĀ and Kup, two villages, 4 km apart from each other and jointly known in Sikh history as Kup- Rahīṛā, in Saṅgrūr district of the Punjab, were the scene of a fierce battle between the Sikhs and the combined forces of Ahmad Shāh Durrānī and his vassals in Sirhind and Mālerkoṭlā: Ahmad Shāh Durrānī, who, after his victory over the Marāṭhās in the third battle of Pānīpat 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 12,000-strong 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 Khān, the governor of Lahore, and, forcing him to take refuge in the citadel, became the virtual masters of the town. Ahmad Shāh, 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 Lakkhī Jungle, a desert deep in the heart of the Mālvā region, and be free to deal with the Durrānī. They crossed the Sutlej along with their women folk and children and the aged and the infirm. Ahmad Shāh, marching from Lahore on the morning of 3 February 1762 crossed the Sutlej the following day. He sent orders to Zain Khān, his faujdār at Sirhind, and Bhīkhan Khān, the chief of Mālerkoṭlā, 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 Rahīṛā and Kup. The combatants among them hastily re-formed 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 Kutbā and Bāhmaṇī, some 25 km to the west of Kup-Rahīṛā. The Sikhs lost between twenty and twenty-five thousand men, women and children, the heaviest casualties suffered by them on a single day. The action, therefore, came to be known as Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā, or the major holocaust, to be distinguished from the Chhoṭā or smaller Ghallūghārā suffered by them in1746 around the Kāhnūvāṇ marshes in Gurdāspur district.
Kup and Rahīṛā being Muslim villages in the Muslim state of Mālerkoṭlā, no monument was raised to commemorate the battle so doggedly fought by the Dal Khālsā. In recent years, however, Nihaṅgs of the Buḍḍhā Dal have constructed two gurdwārās near Rahīṛā, both sharing the name Gurdwārā Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā Sāhib. The one near the railway station, itself named Ghallūghārā Rahīṛā, 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.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)