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Forgotten stories of the bravery of the 1.5m Indian soldiers who fought alongside the British in WWI and the racism they faced in the trenche


dallysingh101
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31 minutes ago, dallysingh101 said:

It's mad when I think about it. 

 

These guys couldn't read or write (completely illiterate). Had very little life experiences outside of the family farm/village. Didn't know any useful skills/trades like blacksmithery/carpentry/bricklaying. They couldn't even go to any courses to learn any trade that could help them earn.  Their family farms weren't making enough money for the family. Some of them must have been quite desperate.

No wonder they swallowed whatever white men told them. 

don't pity them please, they don't deserve our pity, but bit more respect.

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8 minutes ago, mahandulai said:

don't pity them please, they don't deserve our pity, but bit more respect.

They deserve some pity. Despite all the fictitious, latter day bombast by rural folk - these guys didn't have many options. Plus the whole lack of education and sleepy village social lifestyle meant that they were seriously disadvantaged with going to big cities and trying their luck out there. 

Hmmmm.......

No wonder they lapped up all the hyperbolic horse5hit they were being fed about their caste. 

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Why do in old punjabi photos these people are dark and so unfed.  We see so many depictions of history where the people were big, light, and strong like today.  Times must have been so harsh back then and I doubt I would survive. 

I know my statement is a bit ignorant but it is how I feel when seeing the photos!

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10 minutes ago, namespace said:

Why do in old punjabi photos these people are dark and so unfed.  We see so many depictions of history where the people were big, light, and strong like today.  Times must have been so harsh back then and I doubt I would survive. 

I know my statement is a bit ignorant but it is how I feel when seeing the photos!

When I've seen old Sikh paintings they often seem to contain a mixture of light skinned and dark skinned individuals. If we are obsessing about varying skin shades between Sikhs, I think we are lost. 

Remember these photos were taken 65 years after the british 'annexation' of Panjab. A lot of changes took place. Here's an account by someone who lived through this change. It seems to imply that these soldiers had lost the indigenous Sikh martial training lifestyle.

ਪਿੱਛੇ ਦਿਖਾਏ ਇਲਮਾਂ, ਹੁਨਰਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਬਨਾਵਟ ਸਮਝਣ ਵਾਲਿਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਅਸੀਂ ਅਪਣੇ ਨੇਤ੍ਰੀ ਦੇਖੀ ਵਾਰਤਾ ਦੱਸਦੇ ਹਾਂ।ਇਲਮ ਤੀਰੰਦਾਜ਼ੀ ਤੇ ਲੱਕੜੀ ਬਾਜ਼ੀ ਦਾ ਥੋੜ੍ਹੇ ਹੀ ਬਰਸ ਹੋਏ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਵਿਚਅਜੇਹਾ ਚਰਚਾ ਸੀ ਕਿ ਜਿਸਨੂੰ ਸੁਣਕੇ ਅਨੇਕ ਅੰਗ੍ਰੇਜ਼ੀ ਪੜ੍ਹੇ ਹੋਏ ਗੱਭਰੂ ਅਚਰਜ ਮਨਣਗੇ। ਸਰਦਾਰ ਅਮਰ ਸਿੰਘ ਮਜੀਠੀਆ, ਬੁੱਧ ਸਿੰਘ, ਵਸਾਵਾ ਸਿੰਘ ਸੰਧਾ ਵਾਲੀਏ ਵਗ਼ੈਰਾ ਅਨੇਕ ਸਰਦਾਰ ਕੜਾਹੇ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਦੀ ਤੀਰ ਨਿਕਾਲ ਦਿੰਦੇ ਸਨ ਤੇ ਜਿੱਥੇ ਚਾਹੁੰਦੇ ਓਥੇ ਹੀ ਬਾਣ ਮਾਰਦੇ। ਭਾਈ ਮਨੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਦਾ ਸਕਾ ਭਤੀਜਾ ਏਸ ਤਵਾਰੀਖ ਦੇ ਕਰਤਾ ਦਾ ਬਾਬਾ ਭਾਈ ਦਰਗਾਹਾਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ‘ਸ਼ਬਦ ਬੇਧ’ ਅਰਥਾਤ ਅੰਧੇਰੇ ਵਿੱਚ ਜਿੱਥੋਂ ਆਵਾਜ਼ ਆਂਵਦੀ ਉਸ ਦੇ ਮੂੰਹ ਯਾ ਦੇਹ ਵਿੱਚ ਅਚੂਕ ਤੀਰ ਮਾਰਦਾ। ਏਹ ਬਾਤ ਕਨਖਲ ਵਿੱਚ ਅਨੇਕ ਆਦਮੀ ਸੁਣੀ ਹੋਈ ਸੁਣਾਯਾ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਨ ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਓਹ ਓਥੇ ਹੀ ਜਾ ਰਹੇ ਸਨ। ਡੇਰਾ ਭੀ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਾ ਓਥੇ ਮਸ਼ਹੂਰ ਹੈ। ਅਨੇਕ ਦਰੱਖਤਾਂ ਦੇ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਓਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੇ ਤੀਰ ਕੱਢੇ ਸਨ ਅਤੇ ਲੱਕੜੀ ਬਾਜ਼ੀ ਵਾਲੇ ਅਸਾਂ ਏਥੋਂ ਤੱਕ ਦੇਖੇ ਹਨ ਜੋ ਮੰਜੇ ਹੇਠੋਂ ਕਾਂਉ ਨੂੰ ਬਾਹਰ ਨਾ ਜਾਣ ਦੇਣਾ। ਬਾਕੀ ਜੰਗ ਦਾ ਸਾਮਾਨ ਫੁਲਾਦੀ ਸੰਜੋਆਂ ਪੇਟੀ ਚਿਰਾਨੇ ਟੋਪ ਇਤਨੇਭਾਰੇ ਅਸਾਂ ਦੇਖੇ ਹਨ ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਹੁਣ ਦੇ ਗੱਭਰੂ ਮਸਾਂ ਚੁੱਕਣ ਤੇ ਓਹ ਸਿੰਘ ਓਦੂੰ ਦੂਣੇ ਭਾਰੇ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਸੰਜੋਆਂ ਪਹਿਨ ਕੇ ਜੰਗ ਕਰਦੇ ਹੁੰਦੇ ਜਾਂ ਭਾਂਜ ਪੈਂਦੀ ਤਾਂ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰਾਂ ਸੰਜੋਆਂ ਸਮੇਤ ਬੀਸ-ਬੀਸਕੋਹ ਨੱਠੇ ਚਲੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ। ਬਾਕੀ ਜੇ ਲੁੱਟ ਦਾ ਪਦਾਰਥ ਮਣ ਦੋ ਮਣ ਮਿਲ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਤਾਂ ਚਾਲੀ-ਚਾਲੀ ਕੋਹ ਪਹੁੰਚ ਕੇ ਦਮ ਲੈਂਦੇ ਸਨ।

 

For those who consider the previously described skills and knowledge to be fictitious, I’ll now give an account of what I have witnessed with my very own eyes. It’s only been a few years since the arts of archery and stick fighting were discussed in such a way that should [today's] young British-educated men have heard it, they would've considered it astounding. Sardars like Amar Singh Majittia, Buddh Singh, Wasava Singh Sandawalia and many other chieftains could shoot arrows straight through [metal] cauldrons; their arrows striking whichever targets they desired. Bhai Mani Singh ji’s nephew, [who was] the author of this historical document's forefather [called] Baba Dargaha Singh ji could 'pierce the word' meaning that even in the dark, they could accurately shoot an arrow into the mouth or body of anyone who made a sound. 

 In the town of Kankhal these matters are spoken of by many men and they will inform you of as much because they [the previously mentioned sardars] used to go there. Even their camp is well known at that place. There, they shot arrows straight through many trees and I have seen stick fighters who have reached a point where they can keep a crow trapped underneath a bed. I’ve seen other materials of war like steel chainmail, belts, body armour and helmets that were so heavy that the strapping youth of today would just about be able to pick them up and those Singhs would go to war wielding and wearing weaponry and chainmail that was twice as heavy or they would undergo forced marches of approximately 50 kilometres (20 koh) with such weaponry and armour. They would only stop to rest after reaching destinations roughly 100 kilometres away and that too carrying any looted materials that came to hand.

 

ਭਰੋਸਾ ਹੈ ਹੁਣ ਦੇ ਜਵਾਨ ਏਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਤਾਕਤਾਂ ਤੇ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਵਿੱਦਿਆ ਨੂੰ ਭੀ ਸ਼ਾਇਦ ਹੀ ਸੱਚ ਮੰਨਣ ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਏਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਤਾਂ ਓਹ ਕਮਾਣਾਂ ਦੇਖੀਆਂ ਭੀ ਨਹੀਂ । ਚਿੱਲੇ ਕੀ ਚੜ੍ਹਾਉਣ? ਏਸੇ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਅਨੇਕ ਇਲਮ ਤੇ ਹੁਨਰ ਆਪਣੇ ਸਮੇਂ ਸਿਰ ਉਨੱਤੀ ਪਰ ਹੋ ਕੇ ਮਿਟ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ । ਸੰਮਤ ੧੯੧੪ ਬਿਕ੍ਰਮੀ ਤੋਂ ਪਹਿਲੇ ਤੀਰ ਅਨੇਕ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਦੇ ਭੱਥੇ ਭਰੇ ਹੋਏ ਕਮਾਨਾਂ, ਬੰਦੂਕਾਂ ਤੋੜੇਦਾਰਾਂਤੇ ਪੱਥਰ ਕਲਾਂ ਤਲਵਾਰਾਂ, ਨੇਜ਼ੇ, ਬਰਛੀਆਂ, ਸਾਂਗਾਂ, ਕਟਾਰ ਪੇਸ਼ਕਬਜ਼, ਤਮੰਚੇ, ਪਸਤੌਲ ਢਾਲਾਂ ਆਦਿਕ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਸੰਜੋਇ ਆਦਿਕ ਬਖਤਰ ਘਰ ਘਰ ਹੁੰਦੇ ਸੇ । ਸਭ ਲੋਕ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰਵਿੱਦ੍ਯਾ ਸਿੱਖਦੇ ਸਿਖਾਂਵਦੇ ਘਰ ਬੈਠੇ ਹੀ ਪੱਕੇ ਸਿਪਾਹੀ ਬਣੇ ਰਹਿੰਦੇ ਸੇ ।I

I believe that the young, strapping lads of today may have trouble accepting such strength and martial skills to be a reality because they haven't even seen those bows, let alone string one? In this fashion, many arts and skills - after reaching a highly developed stage become extinct at the hands of time. Prior to 1914 Bikram there were quivers packed with many varieties of arrows, guns, matchlocks, stone-cutting sabres, javelins, spears and pikes. Coats of mail and armoury, as well as weaponry such as punch daggers, Afghani stilettos, revolvers, pistols, shields and so forth were kept in each and every home. All the people would be learning or teaching the art of weaponry, and even whilst seated within their own homes they remained as true soldiers.

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23 minutes ago, namespace said:

Why do in old punjabi photos these people are dark and so unfed.  We see so many depictions of history where the people were big, light, and strong like today.  Times must have been so harsh back then and I doubt I would survive. 

I know my statement is a bit ignorant but it is how I feel when seeing the photos!

Well they were outdoors most the time and in bad conditions. 

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3 minutes ago, puzzled said:

Well they were outdoors most the time and in bad conditions. 

My deceased nani told me that in her time farmers were known for their skinniness and black skin from working long hours in the sun, and taking afeem to keep going. Crops would go bad or drought strike and then they would go through [periods of serious hardships. 

I've seen a lot of apnay seriously change in colour when they get exposed to the sun for prolonged periods, who then change back quickly when winter comes (in ENgland) 

If we live in a cold country we should realise that our colour (if we normally work indoors) is unlikely to be what it would have been in the scorching sun of India. 

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10 minutes ago, dallysingh101 said:

My deceased nani told me that in her time farmers were known for their skinniness and black skin from working long hours in the sun, and taking afeem to keep going. Crops would go bad or drought strike and then they would go through [periods of serious hardships. 

I've seen a lot of apnay seriously change in colour when they get exposed to the sun for prolonged periods, who then change back quickly when winter comes (in ENgland) 

If we live in a cold country we should realise that our colour (if we normally work indoors) is unlikely to be what it would have been in the scorching sun of India. 

Yeah my mum told me that men were darker in those days because they used to spend most if their time outside working 

Yes I know what you mean    I'm like that yellowish brownish colour that some punjabis are and I get really dark during summer    I end up with a tan line on my forhead wear my patka is haha!  It's only in the last few weeks that my skin is going back to normal     Same happens when I go India. 

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3 hours ago, dallysingh101 said:

When I've seen old Sikh paintings they often seem to contain a mixture of light skinned and dark skinned individuals. If we are obsessing about varying skin shades between Sikhs, I think we are lost. 

Remember these photos were taken 65 years after the british 'annexation' of Panjab. A lot of changes took place. Here's an account by someone who lived through this change. It seems to imply that these soldiers had lost the indigenous Sikh martial training lifestyle.

ਪਿੱਛੇ ਦਿਖਾਏ ਇਲਮਾਂ, ਹੁਨਰਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਬਨਾਵਟ ਸਮਝਣ ਵਾਲਿਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਅਸੀਂ ਅਪਣੇ ਨੇਤ੍ਰੀ ਦੇਖੀ ਵਾਰਤਾ ਦੱਸਦੇ ਹਾਂ।ਇਲਮ ਤੀਰੰਦਾਜ਼ੀ ਤੇ ਲੱਕੜੀ ਬਾਜ਼ੀ ਦਾ ਥੋੜ੍ਹੇ ਹੀ ਬਰਸ ਹੋਏ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਵਿਚਅਜੇਹਾ ਚਰਚਾ ਸੀ ਕਿ ਜਿਸਨੂੰ ਸੁਣਕੇ ਅਨੇਕ ਅੰਗ੍ਰੇਜ਼ੀ ਪੜ੍ਹੇ ਹੋਏ ਗੱਭਰੂ ਅਚਰਜ ਮਨਣਗੇ। ਸਰਦਾਰ ਅਮਰ ਸਿੰਘ ਮਜੀਠੀਆ, ਬੁੱਧ ਸਿੰਘ, ਵਸਾਵਾ ਸਿੰਘ ਸੰਧਾ ਵਾਲੀਏ ਵਗ਼ੈਰਾ ਅਨੇਕ ਸਰਦਾਰ ਕੜਾਹੇ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਦੀ ਤੀਰ ਨਿਕਾਲ ਦਿੰਦੇ ਸਨ ਤੇ ਜਿੱਥੇ ਚਾਹੁੰਦੇ ਓਥੇ ਹੀ ਬਾਣ ਮਾਰਦੇ। ਭਾਈ ਮਨੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਦਾ ਸਕਾ ਭਤੀਜਾ ਏਸ ਤਵਾਰੀਖ ਦੇ ਕਰਤਾ ਦਾ ਬਾਬਾ ਭਾਈ ਦਰਗਾਹਾਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ‘ਸ਼ਬਦ ਬੇਧ’ ਅਰਥਾਤ ਅੰਧੇਰੇ ਵਿੱਚ ਜਿੱਥੋਂ ਆਵਾਜ਼ ਆਂਵਦੀ ਉਸ ਦੇ ਮੂੰਹ ਯਾ ਦੇਹ ਵਿੱਚ ਅਚੂਕ ਤੀਰ ਮਾਰਦਾ। ਏਹ ਬਾਤ ਕਨਖਲ ਵਿੱਚ ਅਨੇਕ ਆਦਮੀ ਸੁਣੀ ਹੋਈ ਸੁਣਾਯਾ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਨ ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਓਹ ਓਥੇ ਹੀ ਜਾ ਰਹੇ ਸਨ। ਡੇਰਾ ਭੀ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਾ ਓਥੇ ਮਸ਼ਹੂਰ ਹੈ। ਅਨੇਕ ਦਰੱਖਤਾਂ ਦੇ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਓਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੇ ਤੀਰ ਕੱਢੇ ਸਨ ਅਤੇ ਲੱਕੜੀ ਬਾਜ਼ੀ ਵਾਲੇ ਅਸਾਂ ਏਥੋਂ ਤੱਕ ਦੇਖੇ ਹਨ ਜੋ ਮੰਜੇ ਹੇਠੋਂ ਕਾਂਉ ਨੂੰ ਬਾਹਰ ਨਾ ਜਾਣ ਦੇਣਾ। ਬਾਕੀ ਜੰਗ ਦਾ ਸਾਮਾਨ ਫੁਲਾਦੀ ਸੰਜੋਆਂ ਪੇਟੀ ਚਿਰਾਨੇ ਟੋਪ ਇਤਨੇਭਾਰੇ ਅਸਾਂ ਦੇਖੇ ਹਨ ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਹੁਣ ਦੇ ਗੱਭਰੂ ਮਸਾਂ ਚੁੱਕਣ ਤੇ ਓਹ ਸਿੰਘ ਓਦੂੰ ਦੂਣੇ ਭਾਰੇ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਸੰਜੋਆਂ ਪਹਿਨ ਕੇ ਜੰਗ ਕਰਦੇ ਹੁੰਦੇ ਜਾਂ ਭਾਂਜ ਪੈਂਦੀ ਤਾਂ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰਾਂ ਸੰਜੋਆਂ ਸਮੇਤ ਬੀਸ-ਬੀਸਕੋਹ ਨੱਠੇ ਚਲੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ। ਬਾਕੀ ਜੇ ਲੁੱਟ ਦਾ ਪਦਾਰਥ ਮਣ ਦੋ ਮਣ ਮਿਲ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਤਾਂ ਚਾਲੀ-ਚਾਲੀ ਕੋਹ ਪਹੁੰਚ ਕੇ ਦਮ ਲੈਂਦੇ ਸਨ।

 

For those who consider the previously described skills and knowledge to be fictitious, I’ll now give an account of what I have witnessed with my very own eyes. It’s only been a few years since the arts of archery and stick fighting were discussed in such a way that should [today's] young British-educated men have heard it, they would've considered it astounding. Sardars like Amar Singh Majittia, Buddh Singh, Wasava Singh Sandawalia and many other chieftains could shoot arrows straight through [metal] cauldrons; their arrows striking whichever targets they desired. Bhai Mani Singh ji’s nephew, [who was] the author of this historical document's forefather [called] Baba Dargaha Singh ji could 'pierce the word' meaning that even in the dark, they could accurately shoot an arrow into the mouth or body of anyone who made a sound. 

 In the town of Kankhal these matters are spoken of by many men and they will inform you of as much because they [the previously mentioned sardars] used to go there. Even their camp is well known at that place. There, they shot arrows straight through many trees and I have seen stick fighters who have reached a point where they can keep a crow trapped underneath a bed. I’ve seen other materials of war like steel chainmail, belts, body armour and helmets that were so heavy that the strapping youth of today would just about be able to pick them up and those Singhs would go to war wielding and wearing weaponry and chainmail that was twice as heavy or they would undergo forced marches of approximately 50 kilometres (20 koh) with such weaponry and armour. They would only stop to rest after reaching destinations roughly 100 kilometres away and that too carrying any looted materials that came to hand.

 

ਭਰੋਸਾ ਹੈ ਹੁਣ ਦੇ ਜਵਾਨ ਏਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਤਾਕਤਾਂ ਤੇ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਵਿੱਦਿਆ ਨੂੰ ਭੀ ਸ਼ਾਇਦ ਹੀ ਸੱਚ ਮੰਨਣ ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਏਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਤਾਂ ਓਹ ਕਮਾਣਾਂ ਦੇਖੀਆਂ ਭੀ ਨਹੀਂ । ਚਿੱਲੇ ਕੀ ਚੜ੍ਹਾਉਣ? ਏਸੇ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਅਨੇਕ ਇਲਮ ਤੇ ਹੁਨਰ ਆਪਣੇ ਸਮੇਂ ਸਿਰ ਉਨੱਤੀ ਪਰ ਹੋ ਕੇ ਮਿਟ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ । ਸੰਮਤ ੧੯੧੪ ਬਿਕ੍ਰਮੀ ਤੋਂ ਪਹਿਲੇ ਤੀਰ ਅਨੇਕ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਦੇ ਭੱਥੇ ਭਰੇ ਹੋਏ ਕਮਾਨਾਂ, ਬੰਦੂਕਾਂ ਤੋੜੇਦਾਰਾਂਤੇ ਪੱਥਰ ਕਲਾਂ ਤਲਵਾਰਾਂ, ਨੇਜ਼ੇ, ਬਰਛੀਆਂ, ਸਾਂਗਾਂ, ਕਟਾਰ ਪੇਸ਼ਕਬਜ਼, ਤਮੰਚੇ, ਪਸਤੌਲ ਢਾਲਾਂ ਆਦਿਕ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਸੰਜੋਇ ਆਦਿਕ ਬਖਤਰ ਘਰ ਘਰ ਹੁੰਦੇ ਸੇ । ਸਭ ਲੋਕ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰਵਿੱਦ੍ਯਾ ਸਿੱਖਦੇ ਸਿਖਾਂਵਦੇ ਘਰ ਬੈਠੇ ਹੀ ਪੱਕੇ ਸਿਪਾਹੀ ਬਣੇ ਰਹਿੰਦੇ ਸੇ ।I

I believe that the young, strapping lads of today may have trouble accepting such strength and martial skills to be a reality because they haven't even seen those bows, let alone string one? In this fashion, many arts and skills - after reaching a highly developed stage become extinct at the hands of time. Prior to 1914 Bikram there were quivers packed with many varieties of arrows, guns, matchlocks, stone-cutting sabres, javelins, spears and pikes. Coats of mail and armoury, as well as weaponry such as punch daggers, Afghani stilettos, revolvers, pistols, shields and so forth were kept in each and every home. All the people would be learning or teaching the art of weaponry, and even whilst seated within their own homes they remained as true soldiers.

Alas.  It is scholarship such as this that I often feel envious of the Nihang. 

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