AKHBĀR-I-DARBĀR-I-MU'ALLĀ, in Persian, News of the Exalted (Imperial Mughal) Court (darbār), was not, as the title suggests, exclusively news of the royal court. They were, broadly speaking, court bulletins which included, besides provincial newsletters and reports of generals and governors, orders, activities and observations of the emperors, appointments, promotions, transfers, dismissals and references to other matters of State. The Mughal emperors had an elaborate system for the collection of news from all parts of the country through a network of officials, newswriters called Akhbār-nawīs, waqā'i-nawīs or waqā' i-nigār, who regularly sent their news-sheets or reports to the imperial capital, where a regular department existed for the compilation of day-to-day news of the kingdom for presentation to the emperor for his information or orders. Copies of these bulletins were kept by feudatory chiefs, officers and governors through their vakīls or agents stationed at the capital. There is an invaluable stock of such news bulletins, in Persian, at Jaipur, now partly transferred to Bīkāner, in Rājasthān, covering the period from 1650 to 1730 with some gaps. Especially noteworthy is news from the Punjab from 1708 to 1716 when it faced a strong armed uprising led by the Sikh warrior Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur. The late Dr Gaṇḍā Siṅgh scrutinized these papers from September 1944 to January 1945 and prepared a manuscript, comprising extracts of reports pertaining to the Punjab, with special reference to the Sikhs. This manuscript, Akhbār-i-Darbār-i-Mu'allā, is now preserved in the Punjabi University Library, to which the learned historian had donated his entire collection of books, manuscripts and papers. The Akhbār manuscript comprises 220 foolscap pages and embraces events from the ninth year of Auraṅgzīb's reign to the seventh of Farrukh Sīyar's, i. e. from 1667 to 1719. In the news of Auraṅgzīb's reign there are wide gaps, yet the manuscript provides interesting and authentic details about the Sikh movement from 1708 to 1716, and about the efforts made by the imperial government to suppress it. Although a contemporary record, the contents of the Akhbār have to be used with caution because at places the newswriters have been victims of grave misunderstanding or prejudice. For example, Bandā Siṅgh has been referred to variously as Gurū, Gobind, Gurū Gobind and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. Similarly, Ajīt Siṅgh of the Akhbār was the adopted son of Mātā Sundarī, widow of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, and not Sāhibzādā Ajīt Siṅgh, the real son of the Gurū.

        As revealed by the Akhbār, the Sikh movement under Bandā Siṅgh had a strong base in the villages. As soon as he started his operations in the Punjab, the peasants promptly rallied round him and accepted him as their overlord. During the entire period of their struggle against the Mughals, Bandā Siṅgh and his Sikhs could move almost unchecked in the eastern part of the Punjab. The zamīndārs of the Punjab, mainly of the northeastern districts of Bārī Doāb, supplied arms and horses to Bandā Siṅgh and many of the hill chiefs of the Śivālik ranges provided him shelter. However, this does not mean that there was no opposition from any of the zamīndārs. Besides the Muslim zamīndārs, many Hindu chiefs also sided with the Mughals mainly with a view to escaping harassment at the hands of the government. For instance, in the early stages, Bhūp Parkāsh, son of Harī Parkāsh, ruler of Nāhan, supported the cause of Bandā Siṅgh. According to the Akhbār, Bhūp Parkāsh was called to Delhi and imprisoned. In order to prove her loyalty to the Emperor, Bhūp Parkāsh's mother captured many Sikhs and sent them to Delhi for execution or imprisonment. The zamīndārs of Kumāoṅ and Sirmūr, too, were hostile to Bandā Siṅgh.

        According to the entry, dated 10 December 1710, the Emperor asked Bakhshī ul-Mumālik Mahābat Khān that under his name orders should be issued to the faujdārs around Shāhjahānābād that wherever Nānak-worshippers be found they should be executed. This order was repeated by Emperor Farrukh-Sīyar in almost the same words. There are news items in the Akhbār-i-Darbār-i-Mu'allā about the help rendered to Bandā Siṅgh by the banjārās, grain carriers, who moved about in all parts of the country plying their trade. It is recorded in the Akhbār that on 11 October 1711, forty banjārās, who were Nānak-worshippers, were brought to Delhi and on their refusing to accept Islam were executed under the orders of the Emperor. In a newsletter of 28 October 1711, it was reported to the Emperor that the Hindu faqirs, yogīs, sannyāsīs and bairāgīs conveyed the news of the Imperial court to Bandā Siṅgh. A newsletter of 29 May 1711 shows that the Mughal Emperor Bahādur Shāh had issued an edict ordering the mutasaddis (accountants) to realize Jizyah from the Nānak-worshippers at a double rate. A newsletter of 9 November 1713 records that Emperor Farrukh Sīyar ordered that the kotwāl of Delhi should announce it with the beat of drum that the Hindus should not ride palanquins and horses of Iraqi and Arab breed. None of the Hindus should play or celebrate holī.

        Despite the ruthlessly repressive measures adopted by the government, Bandā Siṅgh did not resile from his liberal principles. The newsletter of 28 April 1711 records Bandā Siṅgh's promise and proclamation: "I do not oppress the Muslims. " For every Muslim who approached him, he fixed a daily allowance and wage and took good care of him. Another newsletter, dated 21 April 1711, records that Bandā Siṅgh permitted Muslims to recite khutbā and nāmāz. 5, 000 Muslims had gathered around him.

        From the news it is evident how seriously the Mughal authority took Bandā Siṅgh's revolt and how thorough were the operations launched against the Sikhs. Commanders and officers of very high rank were deputed by the Emperor to fight against them with all the resources at their command. According to newsletter, dated 20 October 1710, Fīroz Khān Mewātī chopped off 300 heads of the rebel Sikhs and made a gift of these to the Emperor. According to the newsletter of 6 December 1710, Amīn Khān Bahādur wrote to the Emperor that he had killed one thousand Sikhs at Sirhind. He sent 500 heads of the Sikhs to the Emperor who ordered them to be publically displayed. According to the newsletter of 29 November 1713, 'Abd us-Samad Khān carried 900 heads of Nānak-worshippers to Delhi. The heads were exhibited in the Chāndnī Chowk Bāzār.


    Bhagat Singh, trans. and ed. , Akhbār-i-Darbār-i-Mu'allā. Patiala, 1984

Bhagat Siṅgh