After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, Mughal power went into decline. The successor of Aurangzeb Bahadur Shah I was unable to control the vast empire and local chieftains seized power in the far flung provinces of the Empire.
In the Punjab one Sikh General Baghel Singh came to the fore. He began a consolidation of Sikh power after Ahmed Shah Abdali had defeated the Marathas in the Third Battle of Panipat (1861). On his return from Delhi the Afghan force was attacked by the Sikhs at a number of places in the Punjab and much of the gold and silver looted by Ahmed Shah was captured by the Sikhs. More important hundreds of Hindu girls captured by Abdali for the harems of the Afghan nobles were rescued.
The man who organized the Sikhs at that time was Baba Baghel Singh. He organized the Sikh army and it can safely be said that he was the precursor of the Sikh empire launched later by Ranjit Singh. Baba Baghel took advantage of the fact tha Shah Alam II the Mughal emperor was weak and ineffectual.
In 1773 Baghel Singh collected Sikh force of 40,000 and marched on Delhi. The Sikh army moved across the plains of Punjab and closed in on Delhi. The Mughal force tried to put up resistance, but against a determined assault the Mughal force withered away and Baghel Singh captured Ghaziabad close to Delhi. In early 1773 Baghel Singh entered Delhi and captured the Red Fort the seat of Mughal power. The significance of this event in Indian history is not much appreciated as it was the first and only time a Non Muslim had captured the historic Red Fort. The British Governor General in Calcutta (The seat of the East India Company) was alarmed.
Shah Alam met Bagel Singh and conceded defeat. He signed a treaty with Baghel acknowledging his defeat and agreeing to pay him revenue that amounted to almost 37% of the income of the Mughal ruler from Delhi. Baghel Singh made his head quarters in present day Subzi Mandi.
Baghel during his stay in Delhi did an event of supreme importance that has lived down the ages. As a conqueror he constructed 6 famous Gurudwara at Delhi and two of them commemorated the beheading of the Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur. The place where the Sikh guru was beheaded was commemorated with the famous Sikh Gurudwara Sis Ganj and the place where his body was burnt was also commemorated with a Gurudwara known as Rakab Ganj Gurudwara. Sikhs cannot for posterity forget these acts of Baghel Singh. The Gurudwara were constructed by Baghel Singh in the period 1775-76 and are a testimony to the power of Baghel Singh.
Unfortunately Baghel Singh was not a man with a strategic vision and he never consolidated Sikh power in Delhi and left Delhi to fight local wars in the Punjab. As per reports he died in 1802 at Hoshiarpur in North Punjab.
Bagel’s Singh’s capture of Delhi and the Red Fort and the defeat of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II followed by construction of 6 Gurudwara in Delhi is an event that needs to be given greater importance in Indian history.
Painting of Baghel Singh in front of captured Red Fort