About Vanjaras

About Vanjaras

posted in: Sikh History | 1

Numerically the vanjara tribe is the most important, spread all over South India. Vanjaras are among those Sikhs who irrigated with the blood of whole of their families, the plant of Sikhism. They were so brave that men like Bachitar Singh turned away elephant by hitting his steel covered head with spear; so knowledgeable that after Bhai Gurdas, whatever interpretation of Gurubani has been done, it was by a Vanjara Sikh, Bhai Mani Singh, who got his pores cut for Sikhism. Vanjaras like Makhan shah sacrificed his wealth to search out the Guru and Lakhi Shah burnt his own house to cremate the body of Ninth Guru.


Guru Nanak came in contact with numerous vanjaras during the udasis. He composed rhymes addressing Vanjaras. Janamsakhis record Bhai Mansukh as the first Vanjara sikh who got associated with the Gurughar and inspired the emperor Shivnabh of Sri Lanka to embrace Sikhism and thus helped spread Sikhism outside the boundaries of India. There was another sikh of the Sixth guru, Hridas Vanjara, the daroga of Gwalior fort. During Guru Hargobind’s imprisonment Sikhs like Baba Buddha, Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Ballu, Bhai Parana & Bhai Kirtia would often come to him from Punjab. He would not only inform the Sixth Guru of all the news of the royal court but also provided all facilities. When Guruji was asked of his release from Gwalior, he explained his important role as follows;” One day Haridas Daroga came to me and said,”When Emperor Jahangir sleeps in his palace he seens dreadly faces and threarening shrieks resound in his mind asking him to release the ‘Peer of Hind’ whom he has incarcerated in gwalior fort”.”Wazir khan gave the Daroga his message to release the prisoners. After watching the message all those prisoners undergoing smaller sentences were released. 101 prisoners with linger sentences were left. I asked the Daroga, ” What is written in the letter about remaining prisoners.” He replied with folded hands.”Those who could not be released now could escape by holding the robe of the Guru”. The Daroga was a Sikh of the Guru. I asked him to get a large sized robe stitched. By morning, all the kings got freed holding onto Guru’s robe.


Makhan shah was associated with Sikhism since the Sixth Guru.Bhatt Vahis testify this ” The cavalcade of Bhai Makhan shah who was the Sikh of Guru, was going to Kashmir. The Satguru joined him there. After pilgrimage of Mutton Martand with Bhai Dasa and Bhai Aru Ram, he reached the place of Bhai Makhan Shah at Mota Tanda. Bhai Dasa, Father of Bhai Makhan shah breathed his last there.”


The Seventh Guru stayed with him in kashmir, This is mentioned in ‘Guru Kian Sakhian’ and ‘Bhatt vahi ‘ Guru Har Rai Jee, the seventh Guru, son of baba Gurditta jee arrived in srinagar, in the year seventeen hundred seventeen, Krishan pakh, panchami of jeth month. Makhan Shah, son of Bhai Dasa, grandson of Binai, maternal grandson of Baheru, sub caste Vanjara came to him.The Guru stayed at the Tanda of Makhan shah in kashmir for four months.


The account of Makhan shah Vanjara declaring Guru Teg Bahadur jee, the guru mentioned thus in sakhis-

“On the festival of Diwali of 1721, the people from far and wide came to seek blessings of the guru. There was a big spectacle in the village of Bakala. Makhan Shah Banjara came with his people to seek blessings of the guru. His ship was stuck in the whirlwind in the river near Tremu harbour. He pledged 100 coins and came to Bakala town. At first he was led to the house of Dheer Mal by the attendants of this fake. Makhan shah gifted five coins. Dheer Mal saw him off after bestowing siropa on him. Makhan shah came to the court of Guru Teg Bahadur there after and gifted five coins. Guru jee smiled and asked him what he had pledged. The guru said, “Makhan shah ! Your wife has brought coins in a red bag with a green string. The bag is with your elder son who is standing behind you.” At this his Chandu Lal bowed his head before him and his son gifted the bag. Makhan shah came out and shouted thrice, “o mistaken Sangat! I have found the Guru.”Guru jee blessed him to be a true Sikh.


Makhan shah Banjara remained Guru’s devoted Sikh and his son Kyshal singh attained martydom fighting along with the Guru’s forces in Lohgarh fort. More touching is the story of lakhi shah Banjara who brought in the body of Guru Teg Bahadur from Nakhas chowk stealthily and made his own home the cremation pyre. Nayak Bhagwant singh did mot care for his title of Panj Hazari given by Auranjzeb and made his house a safe haven for sikhs.


The number of sacrifices made by this tribe to preserve sikhism is unprecedented. Over 100 Vanjaras Sikhs have been listed here as an example, but they number much more. From the list we find three brothers, Bhai Dayala boiled alive in pot(tegh),Bhai Mani singh was cut limb by limb , Bhai Jagat Singh was skinned alive and Bhai Mani singhs son Chitar Singh was tied with spokes. Their six other brothers also achieved martydom similarly while preserving sikhism. Just as their grandfather Ballu sent his own brother Nanu and three sons Nathia, Dassa and Suhela for martyrdom in the battles of Guru Hargobind, bhai Mani Singh also sacrificed all of his sons  Chitar Singh, Bachitar Singh, Udai Singh, Anik Singh, Ajab Singh, Ajaib Singh, Bhagwan Singh and Gurbakash Singh, Grandsons Keso Singh, Saina Singh, Sangram Singh, Ram Sing, Mehboob Singh, Fateh Singh, Albel Singh, Mehar Singh, Bagh Singh, Maha Singh, Seetal Singh, uncle Nathia’s sons Sangat Singh Bangeshwari, Ran Singh, Bhagwant Singh, Kaur Singh, Baj Singh, Sham Singh, Sukha Singh, Lal Singh, Nand Singh etc. Almost all of the family of Bhai Mani Singh has entered the list of martyrs.


Besides these martyrdom of 40 other Banjaras at Alowal near Multan on October 11, are recorded in Akbarat-e-Darbar-e-Muala, October 11, 1711, 10 Ramzan Hizri 1123, year Pancham Bahadurshahi.

“Sarbrah khan kotwal received orders that 40 Sikhs have been brought in the Kotwali from Multan. Ask them to accept Islam, otherwise kill them. The Emperor was told that they didi not yield. An order was given that they be killed’

The following figures would show how they participated in every battle of Guru and attained martyrdom.

List of Vanjara Sikh Martyrs


1 Nannu Moola Ruhila 2 Kattak 1679 Sixth Guru Multani
2 Sukha Mandan Marajhke 17 Poh 1691 Sixth Guru Multani
3 Ballu Moola Amritsar 15-4-1634 Sixth Guru Multani
4 Nathia Ballu Kartarpur 31 Visakh1992 Sixth Guru Multani
5 Dasa Ballu Phagwara 1 jeth 1692 Sixth Guru Talaunda
6 Suhela Ballu Phagwara 1 jeth 1692 Sixth Guru Talaunda
7 Dial Das Mai Das Delhi 11-11-1675 Ninth Guru Talaunda
8 Hathhi chand Mai Das Bhangani 18-11-1688 Tenth Guru Multani
9 Sohan Chand Mai Das Nadaun 20-03-1691 Tenth Guru Multani
10 Lehna singh Mai Das Guler 20-02-1696 Tenth Guru Bhadson
11 Rai singh Mai Dass Mukatsar 30-12-1705 Tenth Guru Multani
12 Maan singh Mai Dass Chitaurgarh 03-04-1708 Tenth Guru Sakhian
13 Jetha singh Mai Dass Alowal 11-10-1711 Banda Singh Talaunda
14 Roop singh Mai Dass Alowal 11-10-1711 Banda singh Talaunda
15 Jetha singh Chhabila Alowal 9katak1768 Banda singh Talaunda
16 Mani singh Mai Dass Lahore 24-06-1734 Mani singh Multani
17 Jagat singh Mai Dass Lahore 24-06-1734 Mani singh Multani
18 Kalian singh Dial Dass Taragarh 29Bhadon1757 Tenth Guru Tomar
19 Bhagwan singh Mani singh Fatehgarh 31Bhadon1757 Tenth Guru Jadobansi
20 Nand singh Nathia Fatehgarh 31Bhadon1757 Tenth guru Jadobansi
21 Bagh Singh Rai Singh Agarmgarh 31Bhadon1757 Tenth Guru Talunda
22 Gharbara singh Nannu Agamgarh 31Bhadon1757 Tenth Gurur Talunda
23 Aalam Singh Daria Lohgarh 1Assu1757 TenthGuru Talunda
24 Sukha singh Rai Singh Lohgarh 1 Assu1757 Tenth Guru Talunda
25 Kushal singh Makhan shah Lohgarh 1Assu1757 Tenth Guru Talunda
26 Mathura Dass Dial Dass Nirmohgarh 7 Kattak1757 Tenth Guru Multani
27 Soorat Singh Kewal Nirmohgarh 7 Kattak1757 Tenth Guru Multani
28 Himmat Singh Jeeta Nirmohgarh 12 Kattak 1757 Tenth Guru Talaunda
29 Mehar singh Dhooma Nirmohgarh 12 Kattak1757 Tenth Guru Talaunda
30 Jeewan Singh Prem chand Kalmot 19 Kattak1757 Tenth Guru Talaunda
31 Udai Singh Mani Singh Shahi Tibbi 06-12-1705 Tenth Guru Karsindhu
32 Anik Singh Mani singh Chamkaur 07-12-1705 Tenth Guru Sakhian
33 Ajab Singh Mani singh Chamkaur 07-12-1705 Tenth Guru Sakhian
34 Ajaib Singh Mani Singh Chamkaur 07-12-1705 Tenth Guru sakhian
35 Bacchitar Singh Mani Singh Kot Nihang 08-12-1705 Tenth Guru Talaunda
36 Chitar Singh Mani Singh Lahore 24-06-1734 Tenth Guru Multani
37 Gurbaksh Singh Mani Singh Lahore 24-06-1734 Tenth Guru Multani
38 Kesho Singh Chitar Singh Bilaspur 26-12-1711 BandaSingh Sakhian
39 Saina Singh Chitar Singh Sadaura 22-06-1713 Banda Singh Sakhian
40 Sangram singh Bachitar Singh Chaparchiri 13-05-1710 Banda Singh Sakhian
41 Ram Singh Chitar Singh Delhi 9-6-1713 Banda Singh Sakhian
42 Mehboob Singh Udai Singh Chaparchiri 13-5-1710 Banda singh Sakhian
43 Fateh Singh Udai singh Chaparchiri 13-5-1710 Banda singh Sakhian
44 Albel Singh Udai singh Sadhaura 22-6-1713 Banda singh Sakhian
45 Mehar singh Udai singh sadhaura 22-6-1713 Banda singh Sakhian
46 Bagh Singh Rai singh Agamgarh Bhadon 1757 Banda Singh Multani
47 Maha Singh Rai singh Mukatsar 30-12-1705 Tenth Guru Multani
48 Seetal singh Rai singh Mukatsar 30-12-1705 Tenth Guru Multani
49 Sant Singh Nathia Chamkaur 7-12-1705 Tenth Guru Sakhian
50 Sangat singh Nathia Lahore 24-7-1734 Mani singh Karsindhu
51 Bhagwant Singh Nathia Delhi 1 Har 1773 Banda Singh Bhadson
52 Kaur Singh Nathia Delhi 1 Har 1773 Banda singh Bhadson
53 Baj singh Nathia Delhi 1 Har 1773 Banda Singh Bhadson
54 Sham Singh Nathia Delhi 1 Har 1773 Banda Singh Bhadson
55 Sukha singh Nathia Delhi 1 Har 1773 Banda singh Bhadson
56 Lal singh Nathia Delhi 1 Har 1773 Banda Singh Bhadson
57 Alam Singh Daria Lahore 24-6-1734 Mani Singh Talaunda
58 Gulzar Singh Daria Lahore 4-6-1734 Mani Singh Talaunda
59 Nagahi Singh Lakhi Rai Amritsar 9 visakh 1766 Mani Singh Sakhian
60 Dan Singh Mai Dass Chamkaur 7-12-1705 Tenth Guru Mohranwali
61 Jeeta Singh Rama Nirmohgarh 12 katrik 1757 Tenth Guru Mohranwali
62 Sewa singh Jeeta singh Nirmohgarh 12 katrik 1757 Tenth Guru Mohranwali
63 Mehar Singh Jeeta Singh Nirmohgarh 12 katrik 1757 Tenth Guru Mohranwali
64 Man singh Jeeta singh Baghor 19 Chet 1764 Tenth Guru Mohranwali
65 Alam Singh Neta singh Lahore 24.6.1734 Mani singh Mohranwali
66 Fateh singh Kirat singh Lahore 24.6.1734 Mani singh Mohranwali
67 Kan singh Neta singh Anandpur 5Magar1760 Tenth guru Mohranwali
68 Tara singh Neta singh Chaparchhri 1 jeth 1787 Banda singh


69 Bajar singh Rama chaparchiri 1 jeth 1787 Banda singh Mohranwali
70 Chhabil singh Murari Amritsar 9 viskah1766 Mani singh Mohranwali
71 Sangat singh Chhabils Amritsar 9 viskah1766 Mani singh Mohranwali
72 Gurmukh singh Chhabils Amritsar 9 visakh 1766 Mani singh Mohranwali
73 Bhoopat singh Jetha Lahore 24.6.1734 Mani singh Mohranwali
74 Ran singh Nathia Lahore 24.6.1734 Mani singh Mohranwali
75 Bagwan singh Man singh Fatehgarh 30bhadon1757 Tenth Guru Mohranwali


Some samples of their valour are given as follows:- On the orders of Guru, Bhai Mani Singh son of Mai Dass, grandson of Ballu, Bachitar Singh son of Mani singh, Udai Singh son of Mani Singh…in the year 1757,month of Assu, on the first Thursday at fort Lohgarh the bank ofcharanganga river fought an intense battle. Bachitar Singh forced the elephant to with draw and run away. Kesri Chand Jaswari was killed at the hands of Udai singh. Mani singh was grievously injured. Alam singh, son of Daria and grandson of Moola, Sucha singh son of Rai singh, Kushal Singh, son of Makhan Shah were martyred.(Bhatt Vahi Talaunda,Pargana jeend Khatta Jalhanon ka)

*Baj Singh –In the year 1765 month of Kartik on the day oh Teej the Tenth Guru nominated Banda singh as the jathedar of Panth and sent to Madar Desh in the Tanda of Bangesari. Five selected Sikhs Bhai Bhagwant Singh, Koir Singh, Baj Singh, Binod Singh and Kahan Singh were sent along with him Banda Singh deputed the Majha group under Binod Singh, Baj Singh, Kam singh and Sham singh….The rule of whole sarhind was given to Baj Singh whose third brother Sham singh lived with him while the fourth one Koir Singh was in the deployment of Banda. In the tenure of Banda, Baj Singh earned a name unequalled. He was a distinguished warrior and acknowledged brave. His brothers were no less. That was why two of the posts were given to them and their writ ran among whole of the Dal. On reading whole account of Banda one can easily conclude that he did not commit any mistake by having faith on Baj Singh because till his last this brave man remained with him and attained martyrdom along with Banda in Delhi. Bhatt Wahis have this record “Bhagwant Singh, Koir Singh, Baj Singh sons of Nathia and grandsons of Ballu Rai… attained martyrdom along with Banda on the banks of Jamuna near the tomb of Bakhtyar Kaki, in the year 1773, month of Ashad at the dawn of the first day ( Bhatt Vahi Bhadson, Pargana Thanesar)

According to the research done by Dr. Harbhajan Singh of Punjabi University, Patiala, the Vanjaras have 20,000 tandas (settlements) in India. Their population is 5 crorre spread in 22 states of India but mainly in Madhya Pradesh(47 Lacs), Maharshtra (62 lacs), Andhra Pradesh (71 lacs), Karnataka (67 lacs), uttar Pardesh (58 lacs), Orissa (33 lacs), Bihar (35 lacs) and Rajasthan (32 lacs). They name their settlement suffixing Tanda to the city, town or village where they settle. The leader of the Tanda is called Nayak. They trace their origin to Rathors, Chauhans, Pawars and Yadavs and also call themselves Rajputs. Due to their Large numbers in Maharashtra V.P. Nayak and Sudhakar Rao Nayak became chief ministers of the state. Though they did not announce themselves Sikhs but they brought in certain improvements in Tandas. Vanjaras were the leading transporters during Mughal period. They moved from Qabul to Agra, Agra to Patna, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad suppyling cart loads of weapons and food to the troops. Size of their convoy consisted of large number of carts. Bhagwan Dass Nayak caravan had 52,000 oxen. Peter Mundi(1632) had recorded in his travelogue, Vanjaras were moving in a caravan of 14,000 oxen’.

Due to their trading activity while roaming they were called Vanjaras. The English were also a trading class. Their rule affected them adversely. Leaving their wandering trade, they settled near cities and towns and started trading. However new trading practices caused them great harm. This resulted in their change to agriculture. There too they failed. These days they are living in great penury. Christians tried to take advantage to their poverty but they did not abdicate Sikhism. Long deep relationship with the Gurus has kept them tied to Sikhism. Their slogan still remains,”jis ghar Nanak puja, us ghar hor na duja.’’(where ever Guru Nanak is worshipped , no other religion can enter there.)

Vanjaras Sikhs suffix Singh to their names. Every Tanda has an Ardasia. If there is any quarrel within two groups when the Ardasia prays in the name Guru Nanak, both groups leave the quarrel in between and go back to their homes. A boy cannot be married without tying a rupee in his turban in the name of Guru Nanak. This rupee is considered most precious and important in the marriage. The bride to be, wears choora (bangles) in the name of Guru Nanak. At the time of marriage the groom is branded on the arm with a hot needle in the name of Guru Nanak.

75 percent of Vanjaras have land but lack resources to yield.From the times of Guru Gobind Singh,Vanjaras keep nagaras( drums) in their Tandas. They were among the first on the day of Vaisakhi of 1699 to have Amrit &became Sikhs. The name of Guru Nanak is stamped indelibly in their minds. They tell with pride how Lakhi shah Vanjara cremated the body of Guru Teg Bahadur. This way they claim on half of the Sikhi. During our Mahrashtra visit, we went to a village Panchaur, There, they were about to construct a Gurdwara. Surprising fact came to the fore. Bhai Maan Singh of Talegaon had been married to the daughter of Manu Singh of Pachaur. Maan Singh was  a good Sikh preacher. He began preparing the whole village to baptize. To start with, a plan was made to construct a Gurdwara for which the villagers promised to gift land initially but declined later. Manu Singh had pledged to construct the Gurdwara. He declared ,” If our ancestor Lakhi Shah Vanjara can burn his own house to cremate Guru’s body why can’t I demolish my own house?’’ The villagers thought it to be a gimmick but Manu Singh after waiting for some days really started dismantling his house. When almost half of it was dismantled the villagers saw reason and gave the land for the Gurdwara. The kind of fervour that I saw there among the people assembled from nearby villages saw reason and gave the land for the Gurdwara. The kind of fervour that I saw there among the people assembled from nearby villages I did not find anywhere else. The joy was like that of a marriage and the servitude limitless. But unfortunately we haven’t been able to send the promised money to them as assistance.

The arrival of Vanjaras in Andhra Pradesh is associated with the arrival of Maharaja Ranjit Singh army. Most of the 1200 Sikh soldiers were Vanjaras whose families spread far and wide thereafter.90 percent Vanjaras are living below poverty line. There is a need to preserve and associate them with Gurughar.

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