LAKHPAT RĀI (d.1748), dīwān or revenue minister at Lahore under two successive Mughal viceroys, Zakarīyā Khān (1726-45) and Yahīyā Khān (1745-47). He came of a Hindu Khatrī family of Kalānaur, in Gurdāspur district of the Punjab. In 1736 when Zakarīyā Khān organized a mobile column of 10,000 to scour the country in search of Sikhs then condemned to indiscriminate murder and slaughter, Lakhpat Rāi and Mukhlis Khān, the governor's own nephew, were put in command of this force. The Sikhs with their fighting force, the Buḍḍhā Dal, were driven to take refuge in the jungles south of the Sutlej. They, however, soon struck back and Buḍḍhā Dal and Taruṇā Dal jointly fell upon Lakhpat Rāi, defeating his mobile column at Hujrā Shāh Muqīm, near Lahore. Among the Mughal officials killed was Lakhpat Rāi's nephew, Dunī Chand. In 1736, Lakhpat Rāi was deputed to proceed to Amritsar to molest Sikhs gathering for the Dīvālī festival permission for holding which had been secured from the governor himself. This caused confusion and the failure of the revered Bhāī Manī Siṅgh to pay the stipulated amount to the Mughal satrap owing to attenuated attendance was made an excuse for his capture and execution (AD 1737). In the eyes of the Sikhs, Lakhpat Rāi was principally responsible for Bhāī Manī Siṅgh's martyrdom.

         Nādir Shāh's invasion of 1739 dealt a severe blow to the Mughal government. Light cavalry bands organized by Zakarīyā Khān to suppress the Sikhs impoverished the peasantry by their extortions as a result of which revenues dwindled and the treasury became empty. Zakarīyā Khān, holding Dīwān Lakhpat Rāi responsible for this financial breakdown, imprisoned him for his failure to discharge the dues of the army. But Lakhpat's brother, Jaspat Rāi, himself an influential courtier paid a large sum from his personal treasure and secured Lakhpat's release and reinstatement. Lakhpat Rāi continued as dīwān under Yahīyā Khān, when he succeeded Zakarīyā Khān in 1745. The death of his brother, Jaspat Rāi, at the hands of the Sikhs in1746 greatly enraged him and he vowed revenge, declaring that he would not put on his headdress, nor claim himself to be a Khatrī until he had "scourged the entire Sikh Panth. "As a first step, he had the Sikh inhabitants of Lahore rounded up and ordered their execution. Intercession by a group of prominent Hindu nobles led by Dīwān Kauṛā Mall was of no avail. Lakhpat Rāi ignored the request even of his gurū, Sant Jagat Bhagat Gosāīṅ, that the killing should not be carried out at least on the Amāvas, the last day of the dark half of the month which, falling on a Monday, is especially sacred to the Hindus. Executions took place as ordered on that very day, 13 Chet 1802 Bk/10 March 1746. The angry Dīwān then set out at the head of a large force, mostly cavalry supported by cannon, in search of the Sikhs who were reported to have taken shelter in the swampy forest of Kāhnūvān, on the right bank of River Beas, 15 km south of Gurdāspur. He also mobilized the local populace in these operations. The besieged Sikhs put up a determined fight but were severely outnumbered and scattered with heavy losses. They were chased into the hills and, "to complete the revenge" says Syad Muhammad Latif, the Muslim historian of the Punjab, "Lakhpat Rai brought with him, 1,000 Sikhs in irons to Lahore, and having compelled them to ride on donkeys, barebacked, paraded them in the Bazars. They were, then, taken to the horse-market, outside Delhi Gate, and there beheaded one after another without mercy." On this site was later raised a memorial shrine known as Shahīd Gañj.

         More than seven thousand Sikhs lost their lives at Kāhnūvān (1 May 1746) . In Sikh history, this devastation is referred to as Chhoṭā Ghallūghārā or Minor Massacre as distinguished from Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā or the Great Massacre that took place on 5 February 1762. Lakhpat Rāi, in order to ensure total extinction of the Sikhs, ordered their places of worship to be destroyed and their holy books burnt. He decreed that anyone uttering the word gurū should have his belly ripped. Considering that the word guṛ, meaning jaggery, sounded like gurū, he prohibited its use.

         When in March 1747, Shāh Nawāz Khān, brother of Yahiyā Khān and governor of Multān, occupied Lahore, he imprisoned Yahiyā Khān and Lakhpat Rāi, but Ahmad Shāh Durrānī who seized Lahore in January 1748 set up a local government in the Punjab, with Jalhe Khān as governor and Lakhpat Rāi as his dīwān. The Durrānī, defeated by the Mughals in the battle of Mānūpur on 11 March 1748, beat a hasty retreat to his own country, and Muīn ul-Mulk, commonly known as Mīr Mannu, became the governor of Lahore. Mīr Mannū imprisoned Jalhe Khān and Lakhpat Rāi and appointed Kauṛā Mall his deputy and dīwān. He demanded from Lakhpat Rāi an indemnity of three lakh rupees which he was not able to pay. Dīwān Kauṛā Mall, who had opposed Lakhpat Rāi's repressive policy towards the Sikhs in 1746, now offered to make up the balance provided the prisoner was handed over to him. Mīr Mannū agreed and transferred charge of Lakhpat Rāi to Kauṛā Māll, who gave him into the custody of the Dal Khālsā. He was thrown into a dungeon where he died a miserable death after six months of indignity and torture (1748).


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Surjīt Siṅgh Gāndhī