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The Sikh holocaust of 1762 (Punjabi: ਵੱਡਾ ਘੱਲੂਘਾਰਾ Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā [ʋəɖɖɑ kə̀lːuɡɑ̀ɾɑ] "the great massacre or holocaust") was the mass killing of the Sikhs by Afghani Durrani Forces that happened during the years of Afghan influence in the Punjab region owing to the repeated incursions of Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1764. As such, it is distinguished from the Sikh holocaust of 1746 ("the lesser massacre or holocaust"). An estimated 25,000-30,000 Sikhs died in this massacre, up to one-third or half of the Sikh population at the time.
The Sikh holocausts were not pogroms in the sense of the killing of masses of defenseless people. Since the martyrdom of the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev in 1606, Sikhs wielded arms in self-defense. They are called ghalughara because of the wholesale slaughter of the innocent with the intention of genocide. The first holocaust was a dramatic and bloody massacre during the Afghan provincial government's campaign to wipe out the Sikhs, an offensive that had begun with the Mughals and lasted several decades.
Sikhism began in the days of Guru Nanak (1469–1539) and grew to be a distinctive social force especially after the formation of the Order of Khalsa in 1699. The Khalsa was constantly opposed by the Mughal Empire. Through much of the early eighteenth century, the Khalsa were outlawed by the government and survived in the safety of remote forests, deserts, and swamplands of the Punjab region and neighboring Kashmir and Rajasthan.
In the eighteen years following the first great carnage, the Punjab roiled with five invasions and several years of rebellions and civil war. Under these unsettled circumstances, it was difficult for any authority to carry on a campaign of oppression against the Sikhs. Instead, they were often sought out and valued as useful allies in the various struggles for power.
In times of relative calm, however, the Governor at Lahore and his Afghan allies resumed their genocidal campaigns against the Sikhs. These were characterized by the desecration of Sikh places of worship and the organized capture, torture and execution of tens of thousands of Sikh men, women and children.
Mir Mannu (shortened from Mu'in ul-Mulk) became Governor of Lahore and the surrounding provinces in 1748 through his exploits in battle against the Afghan army. His first act as governor was to storm the Sikh fort at Amritsar, where 500 Sikhs had taken shelter. Mir Mannu then stationed detachments of troops in all parts of Punjab with any Sikh inhabitants with orders to capture them and shave their heads and beards. His oppression was such that large numbers of Sikhs moved to relatively inaccessible mountains and forests. The governor ordered the hill rajas to apprehend Sikhs and send them in irons to Lahore. Hundreds were thus taken to Lahore and executed in the horse market before crowds of onlookers.
Partly through the influence of his Hindu minister, Kaura Mall, who was sympathetic to the Sikhs, and partly because of the threat of another Afghan invasion, Mir Mannu made peace with the Sikhs the next year. This truce was to last until the passing of Kaura Mall in battle against the Afghans in 1752 and the surrender of Lahore to invader Ahmad Shah Durrani.
In his new role as Governor for the Afghans, Mir Mannu was able to resume his persecution of the Sikhs. Moreover, he had arranged for new artillery to be forged and a unit of 900 men assigned especially to the hunting down of the “infidels”. In the words of an eye witness: “Muin appointed most of the gunmen to the task of chastising the Sikhs. They ran after these wretches up to 67 kilometers (42 mi) a day and slew them wherever they stood up to oppose them. Anybody who brought a Sikh head received a reward of ten rupees per head.” 
According to that same account: “The Sikhs who were captured alive were sent to hell by being beaten with wooden mallets. At times, Adina Beg Khan sent 40-50 Sikh captives from the Doab. They were as a rule killed with the strokes of wooden hammers.” 
Mir Mannu did not refrain from visiting torture and death upon the Sikh womenfolk and children. According to a Sikh account, the women were seized from their homes and “put to grind grain in the prison. Many were given merciless lashing... Each of the detainees was given 450 kilos (half a ton) of grain to grind in a day. Exhausted from thirst and hunger, they plied their stone-mills. They plied their stone-mills and sang their Guru's hymns. The Hindu or the Muslim, or in fact anyone who saw them and listened to their songs was utterly astonished. As their children, hungry and thirsty, wailed and writhed on the ground for a morsel, the helpless prisoners in the clutches of the tyrants could do little except solace them with their affection. Wearied from crying, the hungry children would at last go to sleep.” 
History recalls instances of Sikh children being hacked to pieces in front of their mothers. The bits of flesh would be thrown around the mothers' necks like garlands. Still the brave women chanted and toiled on.
Mir Mannu's cruel reign (1748–53), however, had little effect on the spirit of the Sikhs. From their suffering and sacrifice, they gained in strength and numbers. A common saying of that time went: “Mannu is our sickle, We the fodder for him to mow. The more he cuts, the more we grow.” 
In 1757, Ahmad Shah Durrani invaded India for loot and plunder a fourth time. This time, he was so harassed by Sikh fighters who several times slew his guards and pillaged his baggage train that he determined to take his revenge on them. Since Durrani could not lay his hands on the elusive bands of Sikhs, he determined to vent his fury on their holy city of Amritsar. The Harimandir Sahib was blown up and the surrounding pool filled with the entrails of slaughtered cows.
Hearing of the sacrilege, Baba Deep Singh, an elderly scholar of the Sikhs living at Damdama Sahib, 160 kilometers (99 mi) south of Amritsar, was stirred to action. As leader of one of the Sikh divisions entrusted with care of the temple, he felt responsible for the damage that had been done to it and announced his intention of rebuilding the Harmandir Sahib. He then set out with a body of Sikhs toward the holy city. Along the way, many others joined, so there were about 5,000 as they reached the outskirts of Amritsar. In the nearby town of Tarntaran, they prepared themselves for martyrdom by sprinkling saffron on each other's turbans.
When word reached Lahore that a large body of Sikhs had arrived near Amritsar, a general mobilization was ordered. Two large forces were sent. Approaching Amritsar, Baba Deep Singh and his companions encountered them and a fierce battle ensued.
Wielding his double-edged sword, the sixty-nine-year-old Sikh sustained many wounds. According to tradition, his head was nearly severed. Baba Deep Singh still pressed on in his determination to reach the holy shrine, until he made the precincts of the Harmandir and expired. A legend grew that it was Baba Deep Singh's headless body holding his head on his left hand and wielding his great sword in his right that had fought on until he redeemed his pledge to reach the holy temple.
When Ahmad Shah Durrani returned for a sixth campaign of looting and conquest (his fifth being in 1759-61), Sikh fighters were investing the town of Jandiala, 18 kilometers (11 mi) east of Amritsar. The place was the home of Aqil Das, the head of the Nirinjania sect, a friend of the Afghans, and an inveterate foe of the Sikhs.
Aqil Das sent messengers to Durrani pleading for his help against the Sikhs. The Afghan forces hurried to Jandiala, but by the time they arrived the siege had been lifted and the besiegers were gone.
The Sikh fighters had retreated with a view to taking their families to the safety of the Hariyana desert to the east before returning to confront the invader. When the Afghan leader came to know of the whereabouts of the Sikhs, he sent word ahead to his allies in Malerkotla and Sirhind to stop their advance. Durrani then set about on a rapid march, covering the distance of 240 kilometers (150 mi), including two river crossings, in less than forty-eight hours.
In the twilight of dawn, Durrani and his allies surprised the Sikhs, who numbered about 50,000, most of them noncombatants. It was decided that the Sikh fighters would form a cordon around the slow-moving baggage train consisting of women, children and old men. They would then make their way to the desert in the south-west by the town of Barnala, where they expected their ally Alha Singh of Patiala to come to their rescue.
An eye witness account describes the Sikhs. “Fighting while moving and moving while fighting, they kept the baggage train marching, covering it as a hen covers its chicks under its wings.”  More than once, the troops of the invader broke the cordon and mercilessly butchered the women, children and elderly inside, but each time the Sikh warriors regrouped and managed to push back the attackers.
By early afternoon, the large fighting cavalcade reached a big pond, the first they had come across since morning. Suddenly the bloodletting ceased as the two forces, man and beast, resorted to the water to quench their thirst and relax their tired limbs.
From that point on, the two forces went their separate ways. The Afghan forces, who had inflicted terrible human losses on the Sikh nation, and had in turn suffered many killed and wounded, were exhausted, having not had any rest in two days. While the living remainder of the Sikhs proceeded into the semi-desert toward Barnala, Ahmad Shah Durrani's army returned to the capital of Lahore with fifty cartloads of Sikh heads and hundreds of Sikhs in chains. From the capital, Durrani returned to Amritsar and blew up the Harimandir Sahib which since 1757 the Sikhs had rebuilt. As an act of intended sacrilege, the pool around it was filled with cow carcasses.
It was estimated that 25,000 to 30,000 Sikhs were killed on that horrific day of 5 February 1762. As it is doubtful their entire population would have numbered 100,000, it means one third to a half of all Sikhs perished. The Sikhs were not the only people who were targeted; the Mughals also captured Hindus, especially intellects and those who sheltered the Sikhs.
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