Although the Sikhs under Jassa Singh Ahluwalia’s command occupied Lahore in 1761, and minted their own coins in the names of the 1st and the 10th Gurus, they still did not have enough manpower or war machinery to beat back the Mughal forces in a direct confrontation or a prolonged battle.
The Sikhs decided to lay a siege to the village Jandiala to capture Aqil Daas, an ally of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the foreign invader, who had attacked and plundered India several times before. But somehow this did not work. Aqil Daas succeeded in getting help from Ahmad Shah who was already on his way to India with a mighty force and well equipped with guns and other weapons of war.
When the Sikhs came to know of it, they raised the siege to Aqil Daas’s village and moved out with their families to places they thought were safer and beyond the reach of the invader. They regrouped in villages close to Malerkotla, away from the main road to Delhi. But a few months later, in Feb.1762, Ahmad Shah took the 30,000 Sikhs by surprise near Kupp, a village near Malerkotla and surrounded them. Governor of Sarhind also brought in a large force to help the invader to face the Sikhs.
Though sure of their deaths, yet undetered, they decided to give the enemy some of their toughest blows and to die fighting like true Sikhs of the Guru but never to surrender to save their lives by giving up their faith. The Sikh men threw a protective circle around their children and women and moved on as they fought, calling out their thunderous Jaikaras of ‘Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal’!
The Sikhs gave the enemy many crushing blows as they stood their ground for several hours though wounded, bleeding and tired. Finally their circle broke. The invaders came in and a wholesale massacre followed. More than 20,000 Sikhs including their wives and children were killed in this massacre that took place in Feb.1762. This incident is called ‘Wadda Ghalughara’ and those who laid down their lives but never gave up their faith are remembered in our daily prayers.
As a result of these sacrifices, people developed a great respect for the Sikhs. Soon the tyrannical rule ended and the Sikhs became masters of their state called Punjab (PUNJ-AB), meaning the land of 5 rivers - popularly known as the ‘Homeland of the Sikhs’.