By Subhash Parihar
IN front of the Lahore Museum, on a platform in the midst of The Mall or Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam, stands a beautiful old gun whose nine-and-a-half-inch muzzle rained fire in battlefields for about one century.
To the readers of Sikh history, this gun is better known as Bhangian-di-Top, the gun of the Bhangis (a Sikh misl). The great English novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling had immortalised it as Kims Gun.
The gun bears two inscriptions, one on its muzzle and the other on its back. According to the former inscription, it was cast by Shah Nazir under the orders of Shah Wali Khan, the chief minister of Ahmad Shah Abdali. The last line of the second inscription forms a chronogram a phrase whose each letter has a numerical value which when added gives a specific date. The date given by the chronogram on the gun is 1169 Hijri (1755-56 AD).
At that time not one but two guns were cast. The brass required for these 14 feet and 4.5 inch long guns is said to have been collected by jazia, capitation tax levied by Muslim rulers on the non-Muslims. It is said that each non-Muslim family of Lahore had to give one metallic vessel.
Ahmad Shah Abdali used these guns against the Marathas in the Third Battle of Panipat (1761 AD). After the battle, due to the lack of suitable means of transportation, he left the Zamzama gun with Khwaja Ubaid, the Governor of Lahore. He took the second gun with him but it was washed away in the Chenab when he was trying to cross the river.
Next year, the Sikh misldar, Hari Singh Bhangi, attacked the territories of the Khwaja and seized his artillery, arms and ammunition which included the Zamzama too. For the next two years, it kept lying in the Shah Burj of the Lahore Fort. Thereafter, Lehna Singh and Gujjar Singh Bhangi got hold of it and they gave it to Charat Singh Shukerchakia as his share in the spoils. The Bhangi Sardars thought that Charat Singh would not be able to carry this gun with him and it would remain with them. But contrary to their expectations, Charat Singh successfully carried this gun to his fort at Gujranwala.
From Charat Singh, Zamzama was snatched by the Pathans of Chhata who took it to Ahmadnagar where it became a bone of contention between the Pathan brothers Ahmad Khan and Pir Muhammad. In the fight that ensued, two sons of Ahmad Khan and one of Pir Muhammad were killed. In this fight, Gujjar Singh Bhangi sided with Pir Muhammad. After the victory, the gun was restored to Gujjar Singh. After two years, the gun was wrested by Charat Singh Shukerchakia from whom it was once again snatched by the Pathans.
Next year, Sardar Jhanda Singh Bhangi defeated the Pathans of Chhata and brought the gun to Amritsar. In 1802, Ranjit Singh, after defeating the Bhangis, got hold of the gun. He used it in the battles of Daska, Kasur, Sujanpur, Wazirabad and Multan. In the siege of Multan, the gun was badly damaged.
After the Anglo-Sikh battle of Firuzshah on December 21, 1845, the gun came into the possession of the Britishers. When the Duke of Edinburgh visited Lahore in February, 1870, the gun was placed opposite to the gate of the museum where it rests to date.
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