SIKHS' RELATIONS WITH MUGHAL EMPERORS. The janam sākhīs, traditional accounts of the life of Gurū Nānak (1469-1539), describe a meeting between him and Bābar (1483-1530), founder of the Mughal dynasty, who was impressed by the former's spiritual manner. Four of the Gurū's śabdas included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib allude to the havoc and misery Bābar's invasion brought in its train. According to Sikh tradition, Emperor Humāyūṅ (d. 1556), while fleeing to Iran in 1540, waited upon Gurū Aṅgad (1506-52) at Khaḍūr to seek his blessing. Akbar (1542-1605), liberal in his religious policy, treated Gurū Amar Dās (1479-1574), Gurū Rām Dās(1534-81) and Gurū Arjan (1563-1606) with reverence. His son and successor, Jahāṅgīr (1569-1627), was not an open-hearted. He had Gurū Arjan executed and Gurū Hargobind (1595-1644) imprisoned for a time, though later he adopted a friendly attitude towards the latter. Gurū Hargobind gave a martial turn to the career of the Sikh community, and there occurred in his lifetime armed encounters with the imperial troops. Emperor Shāh Jahān's eldest son, Dārā Shukoh, was known to be an admirer of Gurū Har Rāi. Dārā lost to Auraṅgzīb in the battle of succession. Auraṅgzīb, emperor from 1658 to 1707, summoned Gurū Har Rāi to Delhi probably to explain his alleged support to Dārā. The Gurū did not go himself but sent his son, Rām Rāi, who won the Emperor's favour by deliberately misreading a verse by Gurū Nānak to please the king for which he was anathematized by his father. Gurū Har Rāi's successor, Gurū Har Krishan (1656-64), was also summoned by the Emperor to Delhi where he died of smallpox. Gurū Tegh Bahādur (1621-75), Nānak IX, was executed in Delhi under Auraṅgzīb's orders. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh (1666-1708) was forced to remain in a constant state of warfare owing to the intolerance of the Emperor. He addressed a strong letter of protest and admonition in Persian verse to Auraṅgzīb who invited him for personal parleys. But the Emperor died before the two could meet. The next Emperor, Bahādur Shāh I, displayed friendly respect towards the Gurū and relations between the Sikhs and the State would have taken a positive turn but for the sudden death of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh.

        Gurū Gobind Siṅgh shortly before his death vested the gurūship in the Granth or the Holy Book and the Panth or the community as a whole, ending the line of living Gurūs. On the other hand, the Mughal empire, following the death of Auraṅgzīb, started disintegrating. There were rebellions everywhere, and outlying provinces had become virtually independent Emperors at Delhi came and went in quick succession, the throne changing hands eight times between 1707 and 1720. Sikhs rose in rebellion under the leadership of Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur (1670-1716), and Emperor Bahādur Shāh issued, on 10 December 1710, a general warrant for the faujdārs to "kill the worshippers of Nānak [i.e. Sikhs] wherever found." Persecution of the cruellest kind was let loose upon the Sikhs, who yet rose again and again with redoubled strength until in the late 1760's they became sovereign masters of the country between the Indus and the Yamunā. They took full advantage of the disorder caused by foreign invaders, Nādir Shāh and Ahmad Shāh Abdālī. Shāh 'Ālam II (acc. 1759, d. 1806) was emperor only in name. Following the murder of his father, 'Ālamgīr II, on 29 November 1759, he had fled from Delhi, crowned himself in the camp, and lived at Allāhābād up to 1771, returning to Delhi thereafter as a protege of Mahādjī Scindīā, the Marāṭhā chief of Gwālīor. The Sikhs had established themselves in the Sirhind province up to Karnāl and Pānīpat beyond which lay the crown-lands of the Emperor on both sides of the Yamunā. These territories became a perpetual raiding ground of the Sikhs. Even the imperial capital was not beyond their reach. In January 1774, they sacked Shāhdarā and in July 1775 they raided Pahāṛgañj and Jaisiṅghpurā. Their depredations extended beyond Delhi as far as 'Alīgaṛh and Farrukhābād. The Sikhs entered the Red Fort on 11 March 1783, the Emperor and his courtiers hiding themselves in their private apartments. At the Emperor's request, Begam Samrū persuaded the Sikhs to retire from Delhi and spare the crown-lands. It was agreed that only Sardār Baghel Siṅgh of the Karoṛsiṅghīā misl with 4,000 men would remain in the capital, with Sabzī Maṇḍī as his headquarters. He was allowed to build seven gurdwārās at places sacred to the Sikhs. To meet the expenses of his troops and of the construction of gurdwārās, he was permitted to charge six ānnās in a rupee (37.5 %) of the income from octroi duties in the capital. In 1787, the Sikhs aided Ghulām Qādir Ruhīlā to capture Delhi. Mahādjī Scindia expelled the Ruhīlā chief from Delhi and reasserted his authority over the Emperor in October 1788. He tried without much success to placate the Sikhs, who had resumed their attacks on the crown-lands, which came to an end only after the Maraṭhā's defeat at the hands of the British and the establishment of British supremacy at Delhi in 1803.


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  2. Giān Siṅgh, Giānī, Twārīkh Gurū Khālsā [Reprint]. Patiala, 1970
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  4. Gupta, Hari Ram, History of the Sikh Gurus. Delhi, 1978
  5. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983
  6. Gandhi, Surjit Singh, Struggle of the Sikhs for Sovereignty. Delhi, 1980
  7. Gopal Singh, A History of the Sikh People (1469-1978). Delhi, 1979

Harī Rām Gupta