'IBRATNĀMAH, also described by the author, Mirzā Muhammad Hārisī (b. 1687), in the short invocation at the beginning as "Tazkirah-i-Ahwāl-Khud ba Tarz-i-Roznāmchah" (lit. an account of events concerning himself in the style of a diary), is an oft quoted Persian manuscript copies of which are preserved in Oriental Public (Khudā Bakhsh) Library, Bāṅkīpur, Paṭnā, and Asiatic Society, Calcutta. A third copy was known to be in the personal Library of the late Sir Jadūnāth Sarkār.The manuscript, a book of memoirs, is of great historical importance because of the author's first-hand account of events in the Punjab/northern India from 1703 to 1776. It is of special interest to students of Sikh history for its account of the capture of Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur and his companions and their execution at Delhi. After referring briefly to Gurū Nānak, described as a perfect religious faqīr, and his successors, Hārisī states that one of the successors, Govind (Gurū Gobind Siṅgh), introduced new rules and instituted a fresh organization called the Khālsā. His growing opulence, modes and behaviour attracted the notice of local officials, especially of Wazīr Khān, the faujdār of Sirhind, who sought the royal permission to deal with him. In the fighting that ensued two sons of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh were killed . But the next emperor Shāh 'Ālam (Bahādur Shāh), continues the author, received the Gurū well during his march towards the Deccan. After the Gurū had been killed unexpectedly by an Afghān, his adopted son Ajīt (Siṅgh) became an object of royal favour. Not long after, an obscure person (Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur) assembled a large number of Sikhs in the Punjab and established control over a vast tract in the Punjab from the Gangetic Doāb on one side and western borders of Lakkhī jungle on the other. Wazīr Khān of Sirhind was killed ; 'Alī Hamīd Khān, faujdār of Sahāranpur ran away; Shams Khān, faujdār of Jalandhar Doāb, put up a stout resistance but was worsted; so was Aslam Khān, governor of Lahore. Shāh 'Ālam (Emperor Bahādur Shāh) on his return from the Deccan deputed Amīn Khān and Rustam Dil Khān to recover the lost possessions and eliminate the Sikhs. Bandā Siṅgh fell back upon his newly built stronghold of Gurdāspur [Gurdās Naṅgal], taking advantage of the confusion which followed the death of Bahādur Shāh. Later, Emperor Farrukh Sīyar sent Abd us-Samad Khān and his son, Zakarīyā Khān, to annihilate Bandā Siṅgh. A total lack of food and other provisions compelled Bandā Siṅgh and his companions to surrender. They were first taken to Lahore and then marched in a procession to Delhi. The progress was slow for they had to be paraded in all the places they were taken through. Hārisī's account of what he calls a tamāshah (fun, show) is that of an eye-witness. Bandā Siṅgh, he narrates, was mockingly attired in a colourful dress and seated in an iron cage on the back of an elephant. Preceding him was a cavalcade of camel-riders with bamboo poles each having stuck at the top a severed head [of a Sikh] with hair flowing in the wind. Taken along this triumphal procession was the dead body of a cat, also tied to the top of bamboo pole, signifying that not even a quadruped had been left alive in Gurdāspur. According to Hārisī, although 740 prisoners were presented before the Emperor, the number brought from the Gurdās-Naṅgal fortress was much smaller and had to be augmented by others taken from villages that lay on the way. They were all slaughtered on the Kotwālī Chabūtrah (platform of the police post) . At last the Gurū [Bandā Siṅgh] was despatched in the same manner.

         Mirzā Muhammad Hārisī's language where he writes about the Sikhs is highly vituperative, but he is also very lavish in his praise of their qualities of courage and daring, their complete indifference to death and their submission to the Will of God.


  1. Kirpal Singh, A Catalogue of Persian and Sanskrit Manuscripts. Amritsar, 1962
  2. Ganda Singh, A Bibliography of the Panjab. Patiala, 1966

Syad Hasan Askarī