Vadda Ghallughara the Great Sikh Holocaust of 1762

Assault of 18th Century Afghani Invader Ahmad Shah Abdali

Artistic Impression of Ghallughara
Artistic Impression of Ghallughara. Illustration © Courtesy Jedi Nights]

The Great Holocaust of Sikh history is known to Sikhs as Vadda Ghallughara. The 18th century Afghani invader Ahmad Shah Abdali, also known as Durrani, led his sixth major assault against the Sikhs in 1762 A.D. The Shah’s general Nur ud-Din Bamezai had suffered defeat in battle with the Sikhs who set up Jassa Singh Ahluvalia as the regent of Lahore, in what is now Pakistan.

Endeavoring to wipe out Sikh resistance, the Shah led his troupes from Qandahar of Afghanistan in a conquest to overtake a cavalcade of about 50,000 Sikhs comprised of fighting men, women, children, and the elderly, in transition from Malva to the Hariyana dessert in the interior of India.

The Durrani invaders crossed two rivers, riding about 150 miles distance in only two days. They mounted a surprise attack at dawn. The Sikh warriors formed a ring to protect the families they escorted, and fought furiously as they pressed onward, hoping for reinforcements. 

Towards afternoon the forces neared a reservoir. Desperately thirsty, both sides of the conflict clamored for water and fighting slowed. Encircling defenseless grandparents, mothers and children, battle weary warriors rallied and fought with utter most verve to protect innocent families. Yet despite their most valiant efforts, the vastly outnumbered Sikhs succumbed in a bloody battle close to the village of Kup, in the vicinity of Malerkotla.

The invaders captured hundred of Sikhs and chaining them together forcibly marched the captives towards Lahore. The Sikhs fortunate enough to evade capture fled into the arid desert region towards Barnala.

Not a single survivor escaped without being wounded. Upon reaching Lahore with their prisoners, Ahmad Shah and his troupes pressed onward to Amritsar. There the invading army defiled the sacred sarovar, filling the pristine pool with rotting bloated cattle carcasses. The Durrani forces demolished and deliberately desecrated the holy compound of Harrmandir Sahib.

Once again the Sikhas most sacred center of worship suffered sacrilege, after having been refurbished just seven years earlier following the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh during the invader's previous attack.

In early February of 1762, during the 3rd and 5th days of that fateful month, Durrani invaders murdered an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Singhs and about 20,000 Sikh women and children. In just two days of purposely planned genocidal extermination, the ghastly Ghallughara attack shattered the ranks of Sikh warriors. The deaths of the shaheed martyrs represented nearly half the entire population of the Sikh nation in existence at that time. Altogether, between 25,000  to 32,000 estimated Sikh martyrs lost their lives in the vicious massacre which has since come to be called Vadda Ghallughara, or the Greater Holocaust.