Bhai Tara Singh Wan was an eighteenth century Sikh. He was from the village of Wan, also known as Wan Tara Singh or Dall-Wan now in Amritsar district of the Eastern Punjab.
His father, Sardar Gurdas Singh, had received the rites of the Khalsa in the time of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, and had taken part in the Battle of Amritsar (April 1709), in which Bhai Mani Singh led the Sikhs and in which Har Sahai, a revenue official of Patti, was killed at his (Gurdas Singh's) hands. Baba Gurdas Singh took martyrdom in Bajwara (Hoshiarpur) when he went along with Baba Banda Singh to fight for Sirhind.
Bhai Tara Singh was the eldest of the five sons of Gurdas Singh and was born around 1687. He took Amrit from Bhai Mani Singh. Receiving the rites of initiation, he grew up to be a devout Sikh, skilled in the martial arts.
During Moghul rule, the village heads (Chaudhary) used to have considerable authority over local population. They often exercised these powers most mercilessly in order to awe the subjects into submission.
One such fellow Sahib Rai was head of village Naushahra. He was a hot headed and cruel person. He would often let loose his horses in the green fields of farmers of the village, causing extensive damage to their crops. If the aggrieved farmers complained to him about it, he used to abuse them, instead of sympathizing with them or redressing their grievances.
Once the sikh farmers of the village together requested him to keep his houses confined to the areas meant for grazing and not let them graze in their fields thereby destroying their crops.
Instead of giving them any assurance, Sahib Rai turned them saying, "I will definitely tie my horses but with the ropes made out of your beautiful Keshas (Hair)." Such insulting words were unbearable for the Sikhs who valued their Keshas more than their lives. Deeply hurt, they narrated the incident to S. Baghel Singh and S. Amar Singh of the nearby village, Bhusay.
A few days later, S. Amar Singh and S. Baghel Singh caught hold of Sahib Rai's horses, while those were destroying the crops of Sikh farmers of village Naushehra, and sold them to S. Aala Singh, the then ruler of State of Patiala. The proceeds were donated to S. Tara Singh, a saint of village Waan for free Kitchen (Langer).
Bhai Tara Singh was God fearing devoted Sikh saint. He owned considerable agricultural land and had established a Gurudwara on his land. Sikhs passing through his village were provided shelter and free meals at this Gurudwara apart from other facilities required by them. S. Tara Singh, apart from being a saint, mostly absorbed in meditation, was a brave Sikh conversant with use of arms. He had fought many a battles under the leadership of Banda Singh Bahadur.
Chaudhary Sahib Rai found out through his agents that S. Baghel Singh and S. Tara Singh had caught and sold his horses. Accompanied by some of his supporters, he entered Bhai Tara Singh's residence unannounced, and uttered insulting remarks towards Sikh community. Bhai Tara Singh tried to pacify the Chaudhary, but failed to do so. At this, the Sikhs at the Gurudwara thrashed Sahib Rai and his men, making them run for their lives.
Thus infuriated Sahib Rai went straight to the police chief of the area based in the town Patti in Amritsar District and narrated to him the exaggerated version of the humiliation suffered by him at the hand of Sikhs. Jaffar Beg, the police chief, assisted by a contingent of 200 policemen proceeded towards the residence of Bhai Tara Singh to teach Sikhs a lesson.
S. Baghel Singh who had gone out of Bahi Tara Singh's residence to answer call of nature very early in the morning, noticed the raiding party. He asked them to stop and shouted, "BOLE SO NEHAL SAT SRI AKAL" at the top of his voice to alert other Sikhs. At the same time, he started firing at the invaders from his gun.
Bhai Tara Singh, on hearing gun shots, along with other Sikhs rushed to the assistance of Baghel Singh. They engaged the invading soldiers in a fierce battle. Despite superiority in numbers and better equipped, two nephews and ten other soldiers of Jaffar Beg were killed at the hands of brave Sikhs. S. Baghel Singh also attained martyrdom in that battle. He had engaged the raiders single handedly and by sacrificing his own life, managed to alert other sikhs.
Jaffar Beg could barely save his own life by beating a hasty retreat. Jaffar Beg went straight to Lahore and narrated the incident to Zakaria Khan, Governor of Lahore. He sought his support to avenge his humiliating defeat at the hands of Sikhs. Zakaria Khan was a sworn enemy of the Sikh community. He ordered his commander, Moman Khan, to immediately mount an attack on S. Tara Singh's abode and produce him dead or alive before him.
One of the Sikh residents of Lahore rushed to village Waan and informed Bhai Tara Singh of this impending attack by a huge Mughal force and advised him to go elsewhere. When Singh jee heard this, his face became red with Bir Rass. He said that he could not wait to combat the Mughals and declared that the bodies of Singhs and warriors get pure and sacred when they are cut by the weapons in the battlefield. In Panth Parkash, it is quoted as follows:
TAU SINGH JEE, UNN KAHEE SUNAAYE||
DEH PAVITTER HOYE, SHASTER LAGAAYE||
Bhai Tara Singh accompanied by about fifty sikhs present at that time in his dera (house), decided to stay and face the inevitable, bravely. The Sikhs planned their strategy and took up positions at vantage points to face the enemy and inflict maximum casualties on the raiders. Momin Khan, mobilising more forces enroute and accompanied by another commander Tara Beg, mounted attack on village Waan, much before Sunrise. The Sikhs were waiting and answered the attack by a deadly shower of bullets from their guns, felling the front row enemy soldiers dead.
Momin Khan ordered Takki Beg to engage Bhai Tara Singh. Bhai Ji, in a swift action, thrust his spear into Takki Beg's mouth. A shower of blood flowed from Takki Beg's mouth, who ran back to save his life. Momin Khan added insult to Takki Beg's misery by asking whether Takki Beg was chewing Paan in the battle field. Takki Beg, reacting sharply, told Momin Khan 'Yes I am eating Paan. Tara Singh is giving out free paans and if you want one, you too should move forward to get it. Why are you talking standing so far from the battlefield?'
Momin Khan, instead of himself moving forward, sent forward his nephew Mureed Khan, whose head was cut off with a sharp blow of sword, by S. Bhomi Singh, in a swift attack.
Losing so many men and patience, Momin Khan ordered his entire force to attack the Sikhs at the same time. Thus ensued hand to hand fight. The Sikhs put up a brave fight, killing hundreds of enemy soldiers before laying down their own lives as well.
When Bhai Tara Singh jee entered the imperial army, he created a storm. He killed countless before he was shot from a distance. Yet, he still would not fall and kept fighting and slicing the soldiers. It was felt as if he was accompanied by thousands more hands. He sent several to Dharam Rai before finally attaining shaheedi there. Not a single Sikh surrendered to the enemy.
This is how the Sikhs tried to uproot the cruel Mughal regime from Punjab, lock, stock and barrel. They fought to the finish, inflicting very heavy casualties on the enemy forces. We should be thankful to the Sikhs because of whose bravery and sacrifices the mighty Mughal rule finally came to an end in Punjab towards the end of eighteenth Century