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The Sikhs began their consorted opposition to Muslim oppression as guerrilla fighters in the hills and plains of the Punjab, and to begin with had no need of forts. Their battle cry 'Bareh Sonehal!' struck fear in the hearts of all who opposed them: 'they go about heavily armed, frequently bearing a drawn sword in each hand, two other swords in their belt, a matchlock in their back, and on their turbans irons quoits 6-8 inches in diameter, with their outer edges sharpened; and these, it is asserted, they throw with such force, as well as precision of aim, as a lop off the leg of a horse.  

It was the tenth and last Guru, Gobind Singh, who really founded Sikh military power. Initiates were commanded to wear 'the five K's': Kesh, unshorn hair and beard; Kangha, a comb worn in the hair; Kachcha, short breeches; Kara, an iron bangle on the right wrist and Kirpan, a small steel dagger. Gobind decided, none the less, to support Bahadur Shah in his fight for the throne but Gobind's successor, Banda Singh, was projected as his reincarnation charged with the destruction of the Mughal empire. He went on the rampage in Sirhind with 40,000 armed Sikhs. Bahadur Shah and then Abdul Samad Khan defeated them; the Sikhs were driven to the hills and hunted down, only coming to the position of strength, in the Punjab atleast, on the accession of Persian Nadir Shah in the later 18th century. 

The Sikh movement had been established in the Punjab in the 15th and 16th century by Guru Nanak; his Sikhs, or disciple, laid stress on the unity of God, the futility on the forms of worship and the unreality of caste. In 1577, Akbar granted them the tank and the Golden temple at Amritsar, which became the focus of the Sikh faith. Hargobind, the sixth Guru, began the change from a sect of a pious ascetics to a military brotherhood. Both Jahangir and Shah Jahan forced him into retreat in the hill country and Aurangzeb intensified the attack, appointing temple breakers and executing the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur. 

After the death of Gobind Singh, a political power had passed to the whole Sikh community of Khalsa and sole spiritual authority was vested in their scriptures, the Granth Sahib. The Sikhs, predominantly Jat by race organized them into 12 misls or martial brotherhood, who parceled out the Punjab between them. Two of the most prominent group were the 'Sukechakias' in the Gujaranwala and the 'Phulkias' in Jind, Nabha and Patiala. The Patial chiefs founded a state in 1760's and Ahmad Shah Abdali, the Afgan ruler who had followed Nadir Shah, conferred the title 'Rajah' on Ala Singh. Ala Singh's headquarters were a great concentric fort at Patiala, the very model of a sophisticated Nara Durg, a fort on the plain, protected by men and strong enough to repulse a fierce Maratha attack in 1794. A stark and commanding moated gun emplacement, Patiala has no softer side: there are no palatial apartments or pleasure gardens here.

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