Hemachandra's Valour; The Sikh Army of Lions

Hemachandra Vikramaditya: The Emperor Deprived of Fame

In the history of India, there have been a few decisive wars. The Battles of Panipat also form a part of that. If the results of the three Battles of Panipat had changed even slightly, the future of India would have been completely different. One of the great heroes who fell in one of these Panipat wars is Hemachandra or Hemu.

Hemachandra was responsible for bringing back the grandeur of Sanatana Dharma to the throne of Delhi, which had gone into the hands of the Muslim invaders for two centuries. He was not from a royal family; he was the owner of a small grocery store. From there, he rose to the level of becoming the emperor of Delhi. In our “secular” history, Hemachandra has been painted as a treacherous, arrogant man.

Hemachandra, who belonged to the baniya jati, was born in a poor family of Dhansar. He was born in the province of Alwar. While he was a fruit seller and greengrocer in the city of Rewari, he was noticed by the army colonel Islamshah. Soon after, he became the overseer of the Delhi Market. Then he joined the secret service and became a spy. Then he rose to the rank of the prime minister to Adil Shah. He earned fame having repeatedly defeated the Bengal king Sultan Muhammad. He also defeated Muhammad’s brothers Tajkharani and Ruknakharani on the battlefield. He waged war against Muzariz Khan twenty-two times and emerged victorious on every occasion. When Adil Shah’s period was coming to an end, Hemachandra became king. It was at that time Humayun was roaming about homeless. Hemachandra ruled over Delhi for around fifteen years. It was then that he added the title of ‘Vikramaditya’ to his name. He had coins minted with the words ‘Raja Vikramajit.’ On 5th November 1556, he fought the second Battle of Panipat against Akbar. During the war, a stray arrow pierced his eye and he lost control over his army. Hemachandra was captured by the enemy.

V. A. Smith writes, “Bairam Khan desired Akbar to earn the title of Ghazi, Slayer of the Infidel, by fleshing his sword on the captive. The boy naturally obeyed his guardian and smote Hemu on the neck with his scimitar. The bystanders also plunged their swords into the bleeding corpse. Hemu’s head was sent to Kabul to be exposed, and his trunk was gibbeted at one of the gates of Delhi.”

His house was also attacked. Hemu’s eighty-year-old father was dragged by a colonel of Akbar’s army, Nasir Mulk, and was forced to convert to Islam. But he said that ‘having spent eighty years of my life, adhering to Sanatana Dharma, there is no question of converting to another faith’ and firmly expressed his opposition; subsequently he lost his life.

The Sikh Army of Lions

The sikhs have greatly contributed to the kshaatra tradition of India. The sikh faith is yet another part of Sanatanadharma. There is a widespread notion that Sikhism is a mixture of Hinduism and Islam. However, what is contained in the Guru Granth Saheb is entirely the philosophy of the Upanishads. Guru Nanak (1469-1538 CE) established Sikhism. The word ‘sikh’ means disciple or student. The Granth Saheb has pearls of wisdom selected from Sanskrit and Prakrit works. The songs ave sayings of the ten Gurus are also included in it. Selections from the various treatises of niti are also included in it. Sikhism propagates sahajaadvaita, fundamentally a non-dualistic approach. There are two branches in Sikhism: the khalsa (keshadhari) and the nirmal (sahajdhari). What is special is that Sikhism greatly emphasized on kshaatra. It was a great saviour of Sanatanadharma during the reign of the barbarian Mughal king Aurangzeb. 

After Guru Nanak came Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjandev, Guru Har Gobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Kishan, Guru Tegh Bahadur, and Guru Gobind Singh – these are the ten gurus of the Sikh pantha. It was Guru Arjandev who built Amritsar’s Golden Temple and Har Mandir Saheb. He was also the person who began compiling the Granth Saheb. He died as a result of Jehangir’s cruelty.[1] The bigoted Mughal ruler Jehangir had Guru Arjandev tortured and burnt to death by being thrown into a cauldron of boiling water with heated sand thrown on him. Jehangir had him arrested and executed in this manner because he offered shelter to Khusru, who was Jehangir’s enemy (and also because he refused to convert to Islam).

The ninth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur shone brilliantly as a great hero of kshaatra. He was born in 1621 as the fifth child of Guru Har Gobind and Nanaki. His parents wanted him to grow up to be a tyagi (one who sacrifices for others, one who renounces his own pleasures for the larger good) and so named him ‘Tyagamal.’ Even from his childhood, along with traditional education he was also trained in the use of weapons and in martial arts. It was because he was extremely skilled in the use of the sword, he attained the title ‘Tegh Bahadur’ (the mighty wielder of the sword). The word ‘tegh’ refers to sword in Punjabi.

After ascending to the position of the guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur developed a town called Anandapur in the Shivalik region and made it his home. His son was Guru Gobind Singh. When Gobind Singh was a small boy, Guru Tegh Bahadur had to face a terrible crisis.

To be continued...



[1] Jehangir has been hailed as a magnanimous and non-bigoted ruler simply because on a few occasions he was seen to be in the company of a couple of sufis and sanyasis, intoxicated by opium along with them. He categorically tortured Hindus and Jains. Historians like H M Eliot record his barbaric acts of destroying many Jain temples in Ahmedabad, killing several Jain monks, and destroying the status of Jain tirthankaras and using them to build the stairs for mosques (that came in the place of those temples).



Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.



Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.


Hari is a writer, translator, editor, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in philosophy, education pedagogy design, literature, and films. He has (co-)written/translated and (co-)edited 35+ books, mostly related to Indian culture. He serves on the advisory board of a few educational institutions.

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