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Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab

Sri Muktsar Sahib is a city and district headquarters for the district of Sri Muktsar Sahib, located in Punjab, India. The 2011 Census of India put the total population of Sri Muktsar Sahib municipality to 117,085,making it the 14th largest city of Punjab, in terms of population. Historically known as Khidrana or Khidrane di dhab, the city was made the district headquarter in 1995. Chronological evidence indicates that the city was named Muktsar after the battle of Muktsar in 1705. The government officially changed the name of the city to Sri Muktsar Sahib in 2012, though the city is still primarily referred to by its unofficial name – Muktsar.

History and etymology of Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab
Early history of Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab

The modern day Muktsar city was historically a semi-desert terrain named Khidrana or Khidrane de dhab, situated near a lake. Not much is known about the early history of the present area of the city. This may partly be due to the river Sutlej. The Sutlej is notorious for shifting its course, and it is stated to have flowed as far east as Muktsar within historical times. While shifting its course it is said to have leveled down everything that came its way, leaving behind ruins and mounds of earth and pottery debris. The present area of Muktsar is almost entirely destitute of ancient buildings and contains no places mentioned in early records. Legends connected with Raja Sálbán attach to one or two other ruined sites near Muktsar such as that at Sarai Naga, 10 miles (16 km) to the east of Muktsar. But the city does not date from an earlier period than the reign of Akbar.

Medieval history of Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab

Territory of which Muktsar now forms a part of was formerly ruled by the Paramara Rajputs who held it for a considerable period. Jiwa moved to the neighborhood of Muktsar where his descendants held a group of villages, and his grandson Abdulla Khan became the zaildar of Muktsar.

About the time of first Muslim conquests of India, a colony of Bhati Rajputs, of whose stock the tribes of Manj, Naipals and Dogra Rajputs are branches, came from Jaisalmer under a leader, called Rai Hel, and settled to the south of the present town of Muktsar. They overcame the local Paramara chief and firmly established themselves. Brar had two sons, Paur and Dhul, the younger of whom held almost the whole of the region of Muktsar.

During the decay of the Delhi Empire, the country, which had apparently become almost depopulated, was occupied by the Dogras, a clan of Rajput origin, who are still prominent among the occupants of Muktsar.

The rulers, who were Islamic and called themselves converted descendants of the Chauhans of Delhi, emigrated some years ago to the neighbourhood of Pakpattan; and from thence, two centuries ago, spread for a hundred miles along both banks of the river Sutlej from a few miles above Ferozepur to the borders of Bahawalpur. At one time they were undoubted masters of Mamdot and Khai, as well as of Ferozepor including the present area of Muktsar; their seats were principally in the Khadir of the Sutlej, and their occupations pastoral and predatory.

In March 1504, the second Sikh guru, Guru Angad Dev, was born at Matte-di-Sarai (now called Sarai Naga), about 6 miles from Muktsar. His father Bhai Pheru was a Trehan Khatri merchant, and mother, Ramo, a housewife.

Battle of Muktsar of Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab

An artist’s expression of the Battle of Muktsar, 1705
In 1705, when Guru Gobind Singh lost the battle of Chamkaur against the Mughals, he started looking out for a suitable place from where he could defend himself effectively. Assisted by an experienced guide of a Brar chief, the guru reached Khidrane Di Dhab where he finally decided to meet the enemy. He now got news that he was being pursued by the imperial troops, at least 10,000 strong, under Wazir Khan, subedar of Sirhind. Earlier in 1704, when the Guru Gobind Singh’s Army in Anandpur Sahib had run out of provisions, 40 Sikhs from Majha deserted him, where they signed a declaration saying they were no longer the Sikhs of Guru Gobind Singh and he was no longer their guru. Now, those 40 deserters came back to join the guru’s forces, realizing their mistake of deserting him, under the motivation of a woman fighter, Mai Bhago. The Sikhs engaged the Mughal forces. Guru Gobind Singh also sent reinforcements, though the number of Sikh soldiers is disputed. Historians like Latif have put it at 12,000, though the Sikh chroniclers say they were far fewer, some say as few as forty. They showered arrows from his strategic position on the mound, down on the imperial army, killing a number of them. The resistance of the Sikhs became fierce. The enemy became restive for want of water. It was not possible for them to reach the lake of Khidrana. As it was semi-desert terrain and the summer heat was reaching its peak, the guru knew of its importance and based his defenses around the water reservoir. The only water they could get was fifteen miles behind them. Thirst and oppressive heat, and the tough resistance offered by the Sikhs, compelled the Mughal army to retreat. Guru Gobind Singh won this last Mughal-Khalsa battle, which had resulted in heavy casualties. At the end of the battle, when he was looking for survivors, Mai Bhago, who was lying wounded, told him how the forty deserters had laid down their lives fighting in the battlefield. Mai Bhago recovered and remained in the Guru’s presence after the battle of Muktsar. When Guru Gobind Singh along with his Sikhs was collecting the dead bodies for cremation, he found one man named Mahan Singh still clinging to life. On seeing the Guru, he made an effort to rise; the Guru at once took him in his embrace, and sat down with him. Mahan Singh, tearful and exhausted, requested the guru to destroy the document disclaiming his being a Sikh of the Guru. Before Mahan Singh died, Guru Gobind Singh took the document and tore it up. It is a legendary belief that this gave “mukti”, meaning freedom, to those 40 Sikhs and hence, the city got its modern-day name Muktsar, where the word “sar” is derived from the word “sarovar”, meaning reservoir, with reference to the Kidrana reservoir.

Post battle of Muktsar Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab
In the days of persecution of the Sikhs, Jassa Singh often took refuge in the jungles of Muktsar.

The territories of Muktsar, Kotkapura, Mari and Mudki together with the Faridkot State, formed originally one territory, with its capital at Kotkapura. In 1807 Dewan Mokham Chand conquered the whole of this territory from Tegh Singh, and added it to the Lahore demesne. Mohkam Chand established thana at Muktsar, Kotkapura and Mari and since that time the villages subject to these thanas have been known as separate territories.

Ram Singh, leader of the Namdhari sect, visited Muktsar in 1861 on the occasion of Mela Maghi to deliver his message. However, the priests of Muktsar Gurudwara refused to pray for Ram Singh, unless he agreed, by way of penalty for his “un-Sikh” ways, to pay the entire cost of masonry for the local tank.

Modern history of Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab

After India got independence from the British in August 1947, there was an aggressive exodus of the non-Muslims from West Punjab and that of Muslims from the East Punjab. A large number of refugees from the Bahawalpur state and from Montgomery and Lahore districts entered India through the border along the Firozpur district, of which Muktsar was a part of. According to the 1951 Census, 349,767 refugees from Pakistan settled in the Firozpur district including the erstwhile Muktsar and Moga tehsils.

The Muktsar city remained a tehsil of Ferozepur district from August 1947 to August 1972, and then it became a teshil of the newly carved out district, Faridkot. In November 1995, Muktsar became a district city. In February 2012, the city was officially renamed Sri Muktsar Sahib

Places of interest in Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab
Gurudwaras

The main gurdwara in Muktsar is Gurudwara Tuti Gandi Sahib, which was built by the first Sikh residents of the city that settled in the city in 1743.The gurdwara has a large holy pool, and the darbar sahib is located on the western bank of the pool. The building has been since renovated several times. The holy shrine was built in the memory of the 40 muktas who died fighting for the 10th Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh.Tuti gandi, which literally translated means “broken ties”, which is referred to Guru Gobind Singh nullifying the document that he was no longer the Guru of the 40 Sikhs, in the context of battle of Muktar. Though the gurudwara attracts several visitors a day, there is a massive devotee footfall on Mela Maghi, celebrated on 13 January every year. Tbe gurudwara also celebrates other religious occasions like birthdays of Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Gobind Singh and martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev and Diwali, when the gurdwara is often illuminated. Shri Kalgidhar Niwas with forty rooms is available here for the devotees to stay during their visit.In the same premises, near the southeastern corner of the pool, is Gurudwara Tambu Sahib,which was built by Maharaja Mohinder Singh of Patiala.50 meters away from the sarovar lies the Gurudwara Shahidganj Sahib. Built by Raja Wazir Singh of Faridkot, it is believed that it was here that Guru Gobind Singh cremated the bodies of the martyrs.Gurudwara Tibbi Sahib is also associated with the battle of Muktsar. It was this strategic spot that the guru chose to get a good view of the area, as that spot was located on a small hill, or a tibbi as called in Punjabi.Located around 200 meters east of Gurudwara Tibbi Sahib, is located the Gurudwara Rakabsar Sahib, where, according to Sikh chronicles, stirrup, or rakab in Punjabi, of Guru Gobind Singh’s horse snapped.Another gurudwara associated with Guru Gobind Singh in Muktsar is Gurudwara Sri Datansar Sahib, where he killed a Muslim enemy, when he was attacked while brushing is teeth with a datan, a traditional Indian toothbrush.Gurudwara Taran Taran Sahib, located on Muktsar-Bathinda road, is also associated with Guru Gobind Singh, where he halted while moving towards Rupana, after winning the battle of Muktsar.

Hindu temples at Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab
Muktsar has several Hindu temples, the prominent ones includes Durga Mandir,Shiv Mandir on Kotkapura road and Mahadev Mandir.
Mosque in Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab

The city as a historical mosque called Jama Masjid. Also known as Angooran wali maseet,it was built in November 1894 by Nawab Maulvi Razav Ali Mian Badruddin Shah. It is built with the minarets and domes on the top of it.

Mela Maghi in Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab

An annual event celebrated in the month of January every year, the mela is organized as a tribute to the 40 Sikhs who died fighting for Guru Gobind Singh in the battle of Muktsar in 1705. Though the mela extends for more than a fortnight, the main event is held on 14 January, a day after Lohri, and is considered as one of the most important of all religious gatherings of the Sikhs.Sikhs consider it to be a pious occasion to take a dip in the holy pond of the Muktsar gurduwaras on that day.Despite the biting cold, devotees came in droves from Punjab and neighbouring areas, including Haryana and Rajasthan, to pay obeisance at Gurdwaras here.Apart from the religious activities, several political parties hold rallies in the city during the mela.The Mela celebrates the unique diversity of Punjabi tradition and culture in an ambiance representing the ethos of rural India. Several temporary stalls line up the road selling a variety of wares from kirpans to kitchen-ware to refurbished clothing. A makeshift amusement park is created, which features circus, gaint wheel, merry go round, well of death, toy train and similar rides, along with food stalls.

Mukt-e-minar in Sri Muktsar Sahib District,Punjab

In May 2005, the then chief minister of Punjab, Amrinder Singh, inaugurated Mukt-e-minar, which is the world’s tallest khanda. An 81-feet double edged sword shaped structure, it has 40 rings around it, symbolizing the 40 Sikhs that died during the battle of Muktsar. The memorial was dedicated in the memory of completion of 300 years of the last Mughal-Khalsa battle, where the Khalsa forces defeated the enemy.