The most popular legend out of Sikh war history has to be that of Baba Deep Singh, commonly picturing the warrior with a sword in one hand and his own head in the other. Usually, legends like these are blown out of proportion and seem much likely to be exaggerated than otherwise. But Baba Deep Singh’s final battle defies all understanding and reason. He was one man you really wouldn’t want to cross paths with on a bad day.
Baba Deep Singh was born in Amritsar during the time the Durrani empire was creating quite the ruckus.
Born in 1682, Baba Deep Singh was baptised into Sikhism and trained in the art of Gatka and became a warrior by the time he had turned 20. In 1702, he got married and settled as the caretaker of the Gurudwara Damdama Sahib after studying under Guru Gobind Singh at the Talwandi Sabo by 1705. A chilled life, until the Durranis (or, Abdalis) started messing around, of course.
Over the next few decades Baba Deep Sing continuously fought against the Durranis in various campaigns.
In 1709, he joined another warrior, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur to battle tyrants in Sadhaura and Sirhind. He quickly rose through the ranks and was soon appointed as the leader of the Shaheedan Misl – one of twelve Misls. In fact, during Ahmad Shah Durrani’s invasion, it was Baba Deep Singh’s squad that pretty much waged an all-out guerrilla warfare against his army, freeing his slaves and the booty he had stolen.
Ahmad Shah Durrani later appointed his successor as the governor of Lahore with the mandate of trying to “finish the Sikhs.”
As a result, Timur Shah Durrani ordered the desecration of Sri Harmandir Sahib (or, The Golden Temple) and the complete destruction of Sri Darbar Sahib. This obviously didn’t go down too well with Baba Deep Singh. A quick and energetic speech later, five hundred battle-hardened Sikh soldiers followed Baba Deep Singh towards the retaliation. The Sikh platoon soon grew to 5000 in strength. And Baba Deep Singh pledged that they would celebrate Diwali in Sri Harmandir Sahib that year.
On hearing about the oncoming Sikh platoon, Timur Shah sent an army of 20,000 to face them.
The Durrani army took position north of Amritsar and waited for Baba Deep Singh’s platoon. This happened in 1757. That’s right, Baba Deep Singh was 75-years-old. The clash between the armies began in Gohalwar on November 11, and Baba Deep Singh’s army – one fourth of the opposing – managed to push back the enemy.
At this point the general of the Durrani army, Attal Khan delivered a blow to Baba Deep Singh’s neck that made it lop to one side.
And, in a moment of absolute toughness, a comrade reminded Baba Deep Singh that he had resolved to reach the perimeter of Sri Harmandir Sahib. With absolutely no hesitation, Baba Deep Singh held his head back into place with his left hand, and went berserk on the enemy with his khanda in the right.
Baba Deep Singh smashed through the enemies to reach the perimeter of the temple before he breathed his last breath. The Sikhs celebrated Diwali in Harmandir Sahib that year.