CHHOṬĀ GHALLŪGHĀRĀ, lit. minor holocaust or carnage, as distinguished from Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā (q. v. ) or major massacre, is how Sikh chronicles refer to a bloody action during the severe campaign of persecution launched by the Mughal government at Lahore against the Sikhs in 1746. Early in that year, Jaspat Rāi, the faujdār of Eminābād, 55 km north of Lahore, was killed in an encounter with a roving band of Sikhs. Jaspat Rāi's brother, Lakhpat Rāi, who was a Dīwān or revenue minister at Lahore, vowed revenge declaring that he would not put on his headdress nor claim himself to be a Khatrī, to which caste he belonged, until he had scourged the entire Sikh Panth out of existence. With the concurrence of the Mughal governor of Lahore, Yahīyā Khān, Lakhpat Rāi mobilized the Lahore troops, summoned reinforcements from Multān, Bahāwalpur and Jalandhar, alerted the feudal hill chiefs, and roused the general population for a jihād or crusade against the Sikhs. As an immediate first step, he had the Sikh inhabitants of Lahore rounded up and ordered their execution despite intercession on their behalf by a group of Hindu nobles headed by Dīwān Kauṛā Mall. He ignored the request even of his gurū, Sant Jagat Bhagat Gosāiṅ, that the killing should not be carried out on the appointed day which being an amāvasyā, the last day of the dark half of the lunar month, falling on a Monday was especially sacred to the Hindus. Execution took place as ordered on that very day, 13 Chet 1802 Bk / 10 March 1746. Lakhpat Rāi then set out at the head of a large force, mostly cavalry supported by cannon, in search of Sikhs who were reported to have concentrated in the swampy forest of Kāhnūvān, 15 km south of the present town of Gurdāspur. He surrounded the forest and started a systematic search for his prey. The Sikhs held out for some time striking back whenever they could but, heavily outnumbered and underequipped, they at last decided to make a final sally and escape to the hills in the northeast. They crossed the River Rāvī and made for the heights of Basohlī in the present Kāṭhūā district of Jammū and Kashmīr only to find that the Hindu hillmen in front were as hostile to them as the Muslim hordes following close upon their heels. Caught in this situation and bereft of provisions, they suffered heavy casualties in the area around Paṛol and Kaṭhūā. Yet making a last desperate bid, the survivors broke through the ring and succeeded in recrossing the Rāvī, though many were carried away in the torrent. With Lakhpat Rāi still close behind, they crossed the Beās and the Sutlej to find refuge in their old sanctuary, the Lakkhī Jungle, deep into the Mālvā region. An estimated 7, 000 Sikhs were killed and 3, 000 captured in the action fought on 1 and 2 May 1746. Lakhpat Rāi marched back in triumph to Lahore where he had the captives beheaded in batches in the Nakhās or site of the horse market outside the Delhi gate where, in later times, the Sikhs raised a memorial shrine known as the Shāhīdgañj, lit. the treasure-house of martyrs. Lakhpat Rāi ordered Sikh places of worship to be destroyed and their holy books burnt. He even decreed that anyone uttering the word gurū should be put to death. Considering that the word guṛ meaning jaggery sounded like gurū, he ordered that jaggery should be called roṛī, lit. a lump, and not guṛ. The nightmarish episode of March-May 1746 came to be known among the Sikhs as Ghallūghārā, later Chhoṭā Ghallūghārā as compared to a still greater killing that befell them 16 years later, the Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā of 5 February 1762.

         Lakhpat Rāi's boast of a total annihilation of the Sikh people, however, was soon falsified. In about six months' time, the Sikhs were back on the scene converging upon Amritsar in small groups, and, on 30 March 1747, the Sarbatt Khālsā, congregation representative of the entire Panth, at Amritsar adopted a gurmatā, holy resolution, that a fort, named Rām Rauṇī be constructed by them at Amritsar as a permanent stronghold.


  1. Bhaṅgū, Ratan Siṅgh, Prāchīn Panth Prakāsh. Amritsar, 1914
  2. Giān Siṅgh, Giānī, Panth Prakāsh. Patiālā, 1970
  3. Cunningham, Joseph Davey, A History of the Sikhs. London, 1849
  4. Gupta, H. R. , History of the Sikhs, vol. IV. Delhi, 1982

B. S. Nijjar