Early in the year of 1739
The Mughal government had started an all-out campaign against the Sikhs. As a result, most of the Sikhs had left the plains. They had taken shelter in places like the Shivalik hills, jungles and sandy deserts. Sometimes, however, they used to come out of their hiding and make their presence felt. One such occasion was during Nadir Shah's invasion of India. The Shah of Persia had overrun the Punjab and plundered Delhi in the early months of 1739. On the way back, he decided to avoid the heat of the plains. So he took a northerly route at the bottom of the Shivalik hills. It happened that a number of Sikhs were passing their days hiding out in those very hills. They decided to plunder the plunderer and relieve the foriegn invader of his ill gotten treasures. They fell on the rear of the trailing units of his army. They took away so much of his booty that the astonished Nadir Shah stopped at Lahore where he asked the man he had assigned to govern Lahore, "Who are these people who have dared to interfere with my onward march? Who are these bold mischief-makers"? Zakriya Khan replied, "They are a group of fakirs who visit their Guru's tank at Amritsar twice a year. After bathing they disappear."
"Where do they live ?" asked Nadir Shah. "Their saddles are their homes," replied the governor. "Take care", said Nadir Shah, "the day is not far off when they will take possession of your country."
Nadir Shah's remark had cut Zakriya Khan to the quick. He resolved to intensify his campaign against the Sikhs. He re-started his former policy of offering rewards for their capture and destruction. Thousands of Sikhs were killed. Soon, the plains seemed to have been cleared of them. However, another action still was soon to be taken against them. Zakriya Khan had the the Darbar Sahib of Amritsar occupied. The city was sealed off with its approaches guarded by military pickets. As intended this prevented the Sikhs from assembling in their most sacred Holy place during the events which had rrawn them to the city since its establishment by Guru Arjan.
Now the military commander Massa Ranghar of Mandiali was put in charge of the Darbar Sahib. He was the most active of the Chaudries engaged in capturing and destroying Sikhs. The Harmandir Sahib was turned into a place for debauchery with nauch (dance) girls being housed their for Massa Ranghar entertainment. The use of Naquills (water pipes) was by then a daily practice for Moslems, so the odor and smoke of tobacco, a substance which Guru Gobind Singh had forbidden his Sikhs to use, now filled the halls of the Sikhs' most Holy site, the very rooms where the beloved first Holy book and the SGGS had enjoyed Prakash for years. Alcohol in wine and other forms, forbidden even by the Moslem's own Holy book the Qur'an, now flowed freely as Massa Rangar and his friends enjoyed the dancing and other activities that the nautch girls were famed for. For the Sikhs whose Bani and Holy writings forbid the use of alcohol totally this was one but one more final insult.
The news that their sacred Gurdwara was now being used as a Seraglio, with wine and tabacco staining its walls and floors soon fell on the ears of a group of Sikhs living in Jaipur in Rajputana. Bhai Mehtab Singh a GurSikh of Mirankot, a village near Amritsar, was one of the first to hear this alarming news. Astonished and angered by the news he questioned the man who had just relayed the story:
- "You have heard of this outrage to the sacred place, and yet you still live and go about telling this news to others! Why did you not kill Massa then and there? Is there no Sikh left in Amritsar to avenge this evil?" "No", replied the messenger. "There are no Sikhs there with a greater sense of honor than those who have run away to places like Jaipur in order to save their lives."
The messenger's taunt stung Bhai Mehtab Singh, a brave, strong minded and stout bodied young man, like the sting of some deadly dessert scorpion. He bolted up at once, took his sword and said:
- "I shall go and cut off Massa's head with this sword, and bring it here!"
He saddled his horse and got ready to gallop away. A bystander who had hear the news as well Bhai Sukha Singh of Mari Kambo offered to go along with him. Mounting their horses, they took off towards Amritsar. When they reached the sacred city, in August 1740 they noted the Mughal outposts, so they took some time to disguise themselves as Muhammadans. They filled two bags with well rounded pieces of broken earthen pots. Each of them placed one of the bags before him on the horse. They looked like harmless Muhammadan Lambardars who had come to pay their land revenue.
They entered the precincts of the Gurdwara. To the guards they said, "We have to come pay land revenue to our Chaudri." Their ruse worked and they were allowed to go into the compound of the Holy Temple. Tying their horses to a ber tree outside the main gate, the ber tree to the which horses were tied still exists, and carrying thir sacks of payment they entered the room where they saw Massa Ranghar. He was seated on a cot, smoking a hukka, they could tell that he was intoxicated with wine. With half closed eyes he was listening to the music of the dancing girls. The sight made their blood boil. Bhai Sukha Singh stood watch near the door. Bhai Mehtab Singh went in and fell on the tyrant like lightning. With one stroke of his sword he cut off Massa's head.
Massa's companions were taken by surprise. They ran about in terror. Before they could recover from their surprise and shock, Bhai Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh had made good their escape and galloped away. Zakriya Khan soon heard of Massa Ranghar's death. He was beside himself with rage on hearing of the daring deed of the two Sikhs. He summoned all the Muslim Chaudhries around Amritsar. He ordered them to find out who the men were and to catch them and bring him the murderer of Massa. A handsome prize was promised for his capture. Hearing this, Harbhagat Niranjinia of Jandiala, a sworn enemy of the Sikhs who had helped the government to hunt them down in the past came forward and promised to do his best to bring the men to justice.
A village surrounded
He discovered that it was Bhai Mehtab Singh who had murdered Massa. He conveyed his information to the governor. Thereupon, Bhai Mehtab Singh's village, Mirankot, was surrounded by a strong force under the command of one Nur ud'Din, Harbhagat accompanied the force. Bhai Mehtab Singh, of course, was not found there. But his little son, Rai Singh, was there. Before leaving the village, Bhai Mehtab Singh had placed his little son under the protection of the village Lambardar. The latter's name was Natha Khaihra. Nur Din sent for him. He was told to bring the child with him. But Natha did not want to hand over the child to those butchers. Lifting him on his shoulder, he left the village by anoher gateway. Three or four villagers accompanied him. Nur Din's men learned of his escape.
Harbhagat, together with some soldiers, hurried after Natha and his companions. He overtook them soon and attacked them. A fierce fight took place between the two parties. Nathan and and his companions were killed. Rai Singh was seriously wounded, but Harbhagat thinking he was dead he left the motionless child with the dead villagers bodies and returned to the village. A Kambo woman happened to pass that way where she found that the child was only wounded still clinging to life. She took him to her home where, under her motherly care, Rai Singh recovered in due course.
In the year 1745, Bhai Mehtab Singh came to his village in order to see his family and friends. Some evil person informed the local Muslim official that he was there. Bhai Mehtab Singh was captured, chained, and taken to Lahore. There he was given the chance to choose between Islam and death. He stoutly refused to give up his faith choosing death. He said:
- 'No true Sikh can ever agree to give up his faith, to turn his back on the Guru. I shall die a Sikh."
Thereupon, he was publicly broken on the 'wheel'. The 'wheel' an ancient torture device was a most painful mode of killing someone. However painful it must have been, Bhai Mehtab Singh did not utter even a single groan or cry of pain. The whole time he kept meditating, on God while he repeated WaheGuru. Bhai Mehtab Singh remained calm until his death.
His head was then cut off and hung up in Hiramandi. His body was thrown into a ditch. Bhai Mehtab Singh was killed with the utmost brutality, but he is not really dead. Like all martyrs, he is still alive. His memory will last as long as the holy Harmandar at Amritsar still stands. We know that he tied his horse to a ber tree outside the holy place. That tree still exists. Visitors to the Golden Temple respectfully touch and salute that very ber tree even today while they recall in admiration the daring, noble deed of the great Sikh martyr. He shall live forever.