In the first half of 18th century, during the Black period of Sikh history, the Sikhs of Punjab specially of Majha and Doab were suffering a lot due to the harassment by the Govt. of the province. Taxes were increased and extracted in the most unmerciful way.The locals were also suffering a lot due to continuously passing military contingents. It was time for the scattered Sikh community to come together and form a defense mechanism.
In the early days, there were small groups of Sikhs(10-20 people), acting as irregular militia or Dharwee, as called by English scholar James Prinsep. Since they were not united under one command, they had to suffer a lot during raids or invasion, when they would hide in jungles and hills. As invasions and the atrocities of the government officials increased, need to unite increased amongst the Sikhs. An opportunity presented itself after the death of Zakaria Khan, the governor of Lahore.
It was the Diwali of 1745. Death of Zakaria Khan had pushed the provincial capital in a confused state, creating a vacuum, which was soon to be filled by local Sikhs. Hari Ram Gupta, in his work ‘History of Sikhs’ (1739-68) gives the date of Diwali as 14th October 1745, while few other calculations suggest that it should be 24th October 1745. Sikhs gathered at Amritsar on the eve of Diwali for holy pilgrimage. This included people from all walks of life. Most Sikh leaders and warriors were also present there, amongst farmers, traders and other citizens.
The Sikh Leaders got together and took a vow of unity. They passed a resolution (also known as Gurmatta) to reform the Sikh Armed brethren. They divided themselves into bands and distributed strategically in Punjab. Each band contained about 100 warriors, mounted on horses and equipped with matchlock firearm, led by a Sardar. S. Kehar Singh Matharu mentions that there were 30 such bands, while some other books give the number as 25 .
The 25 Sikh leaders, who gathered for the Gurmatta were:
- Sham Singh Naroke of Sialkot
- Gurbaksh Singh of Kalsian village
- Karora Singh of Panjgarh
- Karam Singh of Panjgarh
- Gurdial Singh of Dallewal
- Nodh Singh of Shukarchak
- Chanda Singh of Shukarchak
- Kala Singh of Kang
- Khiala Singh of Kang
- Dharam Singh Khatri of Bhatchang
- Bhag Singh
- Jassa Singh
- Hari Singh
- Deep Singh Shaheed
- Chhaja Singh of Panjwar
- Bhuma Singh
- Nawab Kapoor Singh of Faizalpur
- Jai Singh of Kanah
- Saada Singh
- Heera Singh Nakai
- Aggar Singh
- Sukha Singh
- Madan Singh
- Bir Singh Mazbhi
- Karam Singh of Narli near Amritsar
During the first invasion of Ahmed Shah Abdali (1747-48 ), Muin-ul-Muluk (Mir Manu) got busy in the battles and was not able to look towards his estate for over a year. This gave Sikhs bands enough time to come out of hiding and retake their land. They started punishing those, who extended imperial atrocities on common public and the informers of the court. They also laid siege on localities, that had allied with the Mughals and were against Sikhs. Influential people, who gained power by helping the Mughals against common people were brought to justice. Few names that appear prominently in history are: Chowdhri sahib Rai a Jatt of village Noshera, Rama Randhawa of village Ghania, Harbhagat Niranjnia of village Guru Ka Jandiala, Sanmukh Rai village Mandiala, Karma Chhina village Chheena, Gahna Mal village Bheemwal, Qazi Fazal ahmed Khan, Dharam das of village Jodh Nagar, Shamsher Khan Khokhar, Ranghards of village Sathiala and Bootala, Jatts of village dhaneshta, Khattries of village Haibat pur Patti and Ranghards of village Shekhupura etc.
After this,the Sikhs plundered the villages like Ghania, Noshehra Sandhua, Batala,Jandiala, Majitha, Kalanaur, Jodh Nagar, Phagwara, Talwan, Bajwara, Jalandhar, Sathiala, Bootala, Mandiala, Shekhupura, Rasool Nagar, Dhigg and Manjaki etc. These attacks gave a strong message to everyone, that if anyone spies on Sikhs for the Mughal court, will be punished. This time was good enough for Sikhs to reunite (Kehar singh Matharu, Jassa singh ramgarhia page 57 ), as by end of March , 1748, the number of Sikh bands had reached 66.
Sohan singh seetal in his book Sikh Mislan te Raj Gharane writes that on Baisakhi at Amritsar (29th march 1748), Nawab Kapoor Singh produced a resolution in front of Khalsa to strengthen the Sikh bands and Dal Khalsa was formed which led to the formation of Sikh Misls.Twelve Misls were formed for better administration.Dal Khalsa was further divided in two categories. First the Budhha Dal and other was Taruna Dal.
Going forward, these misls were reunited under one command By Maharaja Ranjit singh forming a great Punjab and brought a new dawn, until the East India Company took over the entire Punjab with their treacherous plans and divide-rule policy.