The ‘Satnami’ sect that could never be conquered by Mughal barbarian Aurangzeb; Read how they became a nightmare to Aurangzeb

The contribution of Sikhs to Indian history is immense. Not many people have heard about the Satnami Sikhs, who had the courage to take on Mughlal ruler Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb had implemented a Jeziya Tax against all Hindus in 1667. The satnamis on the instructions of Tegh Bahadur were ready to fight against evil Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Guru Tegh Bahadur decided to oppose the Jeziya system of taxation and the destruction of Hindu temples and teaching centres by the Mughal emperor.

The satnamis were over 1 crore and spread in the areas of Jharkhand, Bengal and Chhatisgarh. On April 9,1669 Aurangzeb passed orders that all Hindu Temples & teaching centres be destroyed and all Hindu practices should be banned. This decision was implemented ruthlessly. On hearing these orders Guru Tegh Bahadur started from Assam towards Punjab in December 1671 and reached Delhi in January 1672. In Delhi he gave the call “bhai kahu ko det nahi, na bhai manat aan” (Neither I cause fear to anyone nor I accept fear). The satnamis followed their guru’s word).

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The Satnamis held possession of the whole areas of Southern Haryana and North Rajasthan. These Sikhs associated themselves with Sikhism when Guru Nanak visited the states. They recite ‘Satnam’ and haven’t stopped reciting since then. Satnam is the main word that appears in the Sikh sacred scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. It is part of the Gurbani shabad called Mool Mantra which is repeated daily by all practicing Sikhs.

Guru  Tegh Bahadur knew that if the misdeeds of the Mughals were not challenged, they would wreak more havoc. He called upon every Sikh to be fearless. It included Jagjivan Das also. The Satnamis decided that they would not pay anything to anyone except the Guru. When Mughal soldiers came to collect the taxes, the Satnamis refused to pay. When attacked, the Satnamis retaliated in kind. The Mughla forces fled from the area of Narnaul after being trashed by the Satnamis. There were rumors that the Satnamis were unbeatable & were heading towards invincibility.

Auranagzeb was really scared. He was already worried due to rebellions in Afghanistan and Peshawar. The rebellion at Narnaul scared him the most as it could have cost him his throne. The Satnamis showed no signs of complacency.They had fortified themselves. Jagjivan Dass Chandel was leading them & the Satnamis were now swearing by the sword. Aurnagzeb had information about the Satnamis and his task was to break the fortifications of Satnamis. He also wanted to break the myth that the Satnamis were unbeatable.

Aurangzeb prepared his forces on a large scale to tackle the rebellion. His contingent of forces was led by General Salar Sayyad Ahmed Khan. Aurangzeb wrote the ayats of Quran on the army flags, so that his forces would not think that the Satnamis were invincible while taking on them. Addressing the forces he said, “The ayats on your flags will keep you safe and nobody will be able to defeat you because you are going to annihilate the Kafirs.”

Aurnagzeb’s forces armed with guns and weaponry reached Narnaul and surrounded the Satnamis. How could these unarmed Satnamis take on the mighty and barbaric Mughal army? The Satnamis recalled the words of their Guru, fighting till dusk and left when the night arrived. They reached Madhya Pradesh eventually. The Mughal forces were closely following them. The Satnamis scattered themselves in the forests of Madhya Pradesh (now, Chhattisgarh). Aurangzeb recalled his army as he required them elsewhere.

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The Satnamis have been living in these forests, since then. The Satnamis were oppressed by the rich and strong sections of the local population. The Satnamis remained aloof in their huts and remained unaware of the rituals of the Pandits. Later Ghasi united them, thwarting the opposition of Pandits and making them understand the Satnamis. During the British rule, some of the Satnamis were converted to Christianity. The first Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Ajit Jogi also hails from the Satnami sect. His family was one among the few Satnamis that converted to Christianity.

Dhamtari in Chattisgarh witnessed a miracle when the house of a Satnami was burnt few years ago. Every single thing was destroyed in the house, excluding a wooden box which contained the Guru Granth Sahib. The script of the Granth Sahib could not be understood by the locals. The locals sought the help of a few Punjabis who were living in the area. One of them visited the house and found that this was an ancient ‘birh’ of Guru Granth Sahib. The housekeeper informed that his ancestors used to read and worship the Granth (Dainik Bhaskar, Raipur Edition, November 8, 2003).

The people of Dhamtari wished to build a Gurdwara there, once they came to know of this. The housekeeper gifted his house for the Gurdwara. He realised that his ancestors were Sikhs and hence partook amrit himself. Many of them have been baptised as Sikhs in the region after the Gurdwara was successfully built. The Satnam foundation of Raipur assisted by the Scottish Sikh counsel, along with other associations, continue even now.

India was a land of the braves. There is unity in diversity and there is unity in bravery. When we look at these brave sects, we understand that there is a need to glorify such unsung heroes. For them nationalism was something inherent, not something that was ‘taught’ elsewhere.

Credits: Dr Davinder Singh Grewal,

Tony Joseph