CHHOTA GHALLUGHARA, lit. minor holocaust or carnage, as distinguished from Vadda Ghallughara (q.v.) or major massacre, is how Sikh chronicles refer to a bloody action during the severe campaign of persecution launched by the Mughal government at Lahore against the Sikhs in 1746. Early in that year, Jaspat Rai, the faiydar of Eminabad, 55 km north of Lahore, was killed in an encounter with a roving band of Sikhs. Jaspat Rai’s brother, Lakhpat Rai, who was a diwan or revenue minister at Lahore, vowed revenge declaring that he would not put on his head dress nor claim himself to be a Khatri, to which caste he belonged, until he had scourged the entire Sikh Panth out of existence.
With the concurrence of the Mughal governor of Lahore, Yahiya Khan. Lakhpat Rai mobilized the Lahore troops, summoned reinforcements from Multan, Bahawalpur and Jalandhar, alerted the feudal hill chiefs, and roused the general population for jihad or crusade against the Sikhs. As an immediate first step, he had the Sikh inhabitants of Lahore rounded up and ordered their execution despite intercession on their behalf by a group of Hindu nobles headed by Diwan Kaura Mall. He ignored the request even of his guru, Sant Jagat Bhagat Gosairi, that the killing should not be carried out on the appointed day which being an amavasya, the last day of the dark half of the lunar month, falling on a Monday was especially sacred to the Hindus.
Execution took place as ordered on that very day, 13 Chet 1802 Bk / 10 March 1746. Lakhpat Rai then set out at the head of a large force, mostly cavalry supported by cannon, in search of Sikhs who were reported to have concentrated in the swampy forest of Kahnuvan, 15 km south of the present town of Gurdaspur. He surrounded the forest and started a systematic search for his prey. The Sikhs held out for some time striking back whenever they could but, heavily outnumbered and under equipped, they at last decided to make a final sally and escape to the hills in the northeast.
They crossed the River Ravi and made for the heights of Basohli in the present Kathlia district of Jammu and Kashmir only to find that the Hindu hill men in front were as hostile to them as the Muslim hordes following close upon their heels. Caught in this situation and bereft of provisions, they suffered heavy casualties in the area around Parol and Kathua. Yet making a last desperate bid, the survivors broke through the ring and succeeded in recrossing the Ravi, though many were carried away in the torrent. With Lakhpat Rai still close behind, they crossed the Beas and the Sutlej to find refuge in their old sanctuary, the Lakkhi Jungle, deep into the Malva region.
An estimated 7,000 Sikhs were killed and 3,000 captured in the action fought on 1 and 2 May 1746. Lakhpat Rai marched back in triumph to Lahore where he had the captives beheaded in batches in the Nakhas or site of the horse market outside the Delhi gate where, in later times, the Sikhs raised a memorial shrine known as the Shahidganj, lit. the treasure house of martyrs. Lakhpat Rai ordered Sikh places of worship to be destroyed and their holy books burnt. He even decreed that anyone uttering the word guru should be put to death. Considering that the word gur meaning jaggery sounded like guru, he ordered that jaggery should be called ron”, lit. a lump, and not gur.
The nightmarish episode of MarchMay 1746 came to be known among the Sikhs as Ghallughara, later Chhota Ghallughara as compared to a still greater killing that befell them 16 years later, the Vadda Ghallughara of 5 February 1762. Lakhpat Rai’s boast of a total annihilation of the Sikh people, however, was soon falsified. In about six months time, the Sikhs were back on the scene converging upon Amritsar in small groups, and, on 30 March 1747, the Sarbatt Khalsa, congregation representative of the entire Panth, at Amritsar adopted a gurmata, holy resolution, that a fort, named Ram Rauni be constructed by them at Amritsar as a permanent stronghold.