SIRHIND (30º-37'N, 76º-23'E), pronounced Sarhind, an ancient town lying along the Grand Trunk Road (now renamed Sher Shāh Sūrī Mārg) midway between Ludhiāṇā and Ambālā, derives its name probably from Sairindhās, a tribe that according to Varāhamihira (AD 505-87), Brihat Saṁhitā, 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 Shī-to-tū-lo, or Shatadru (the River Sutlej), which was about 2000 lī. 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 Hindūshāhī kings and the Turkish rulers of Ghaznī, Sirhind was an important outpost on the eastern frontier of the Hindūshāhī empire. With the contraction of their territory under the Ghaznivid onslaught, the Hindūshāhī capital was shifted in 1012 to Sirhind, where it remained till the death of Trilochanpāl, the last ruling king of the dynasty. At the close of the twelfth century, the town was occupied by the Chauhāns. During the invasions of Muhammad Ghorī, Sirhind, along with Baṭhiṇḍā, constituted the most important military outpost of Prithvī Rāj Chauhān, the last Rājpūt 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 Sunām and Samānā were subordinated to it and included in what was called Sirhind sarkār of the Sūbah 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 Nāsir 'Alī Sirhindī, Tārīkh-i-Nāsirī, 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 Haṅsalā (now known as Sirhind Nālā), it had many beautiful gardens and several canals. Emperor Jahāṅgīr, who made several visits to Sirhind, refers in his memoirs to the captivating beauty of its gardens.
The jurisdiction of Sirhind sarkār extended to Anandpur which was the seat of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh in the closing decades of the seventeenth century. At the instance of one of the hill rulers, Rājā Ajmer Chand, Wazīr Khān, the faujdār 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 13-14 October 1700. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh after a brief interval returned to Anandpur but had to quit it again on 5-6 December 1705 under pressure of a prolonged siege by the hill chief supported by Sirhind troops. Under the orders of the faujdār, Nawāb Wazīr Khān, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh'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 Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur after the death of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh in November 1708, they made a fierce attack upon Sirhind. The Mughal army was routed and Wazīr Khān killed in the battle of Chappar-Chiṛī fought on 12 May 1710. Sirhind was occupied by the Sikhs two days later, and Bhāī Bāj Siṅgh was appointed governor. The town was, however, taken again by the imperial forces.
In March 1748, Sirhind was seized, but only temporarily, by Ahmad Shāh Durrānī, the Afghān general of Nādir Shāh who succeeded his master in the possession of the eastern part of his dominions. But the Durrānī was defeated by the Mughal rulers of Delhi who reoccupied the town, although the invader reconquered it during his fourth invasion during 1756-57. Early in 1758, the Sikhs, in collaboration with the Marāṭhās, sacked Sirhind, drove Prince Taimūr, son of Ahmad Shāh and his viceroy at Lahore, out of the Punjab. Ahmad Shāh defeated the Marāṭhās at Pānīpat in January 1761, and struck the Sikhs a severe blow in what is known as Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā, the Great Massacre, that took place on 5 February 1762. Sikhs rallied and attacked Sirhind on 17 May 1762, defeating its faujdār, Zain Khān, who purchased peace by paying Rs 50,000 as tribute to the Dal Khālsā. A more decisive battle took place on 14 January 1764 when Dal Khālsā, under Jassā Siṅgh Āhlūvālīā, made another assault upon Sirhind. Zain Khān 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 Shāh. The territories of the Sirhind sarkār were divided among the leaders of the Dal Khālsā, but no one was willing to take the town of Sirhind where Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's younger sons were subjected to a cruel fate. By a unanimous will it was made over to Buḍḍhā Siṅgh, descendant of Bhāī Bhagatū, who soon after (2 August 1764) transferred possession to Sardār Ālā Siṅgh, founder of the Paṭiālā family. Sirhind thereafter remained part of the Paṭiālā territory, until the state lapsed in 1948.
Mahārājā Karam Siṅgh of Paṭiālā (1813-45) had gurdwārās constructed in Sirhind in memory of the young martyrs and their grandmother, Mātā Gujarī. He changed the name of the nizāmat or district from Sirhind to Fatehgaṛh Sāhib, after the name of the principal gurdwārā. Besides the Sikh shrines, Sirhind has an important Muslim monument Rauzā Sharīf Mujjadid Alf Sānī, the mausoleum of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindī (1569-1624), the fundamentalist leader of the orthodox Naqshbandī school of Sūfīsm. There are a number of other tombs in the compound mostly of the members of Shaikh Ahmad's house.
See FATEHGAṚH SĀHIB, GURDWĀRĀ
M. S. Āhlūwālīā