Sunam

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Situated on the Ludhiana-Hisar railway line, it is connected, by road with Patiala (64 km), Sangrur (19 km), Bathinda(114 km),Ludhiana (90 km), and Chandigarh (129 km).

The history of Sunam goes back to the Vedic period, when its name was Surajpur supposedly by the mythical Saraswati River. The modern town was built within the walls of an old fort into which its inhabitants were driven to take refuge. It is divided into two parts, one in the citadel of the fort and the other on the lowland around it. Though now of little importance, Sunam has played a significant part in the history of the Punjab after the Muhammdan invasion ; Al-Baruni mentions it as a famous place of that period. ‘Sunam’ in Sanskrit means auspicious name, but some say that it was named after Sona, a Gujari, who guided Muhammad of Ghor to conquer the fort of Bathinda and asked him to give Sunam as her reward. Others accept a derivation from Sunam, which in Arabic means the hump of a camel. When Qutb-ud-Din Aibak saw that the place had this shape he named it Sunam, but this etymology is untenable, as the town is said to have assumed its present shape only after Taimur’s invasion (AD 1398).Sunam was held by Hindu Rajas till conquered by Muhammad of Ghor. Sultan Shams-ud-Din Altmash gave it to his page Sher Khan in Jagir. Ghais-ud-Din Balban gave it to Timar Khan, with Samana, (now in Patiala District), on the death of his cousin Sher Khan, and subsequently conferred it on his own son Bughra Khan. Under Muhammad Shah Tughlaq, its dependent tribe revolted. Firoz Shah brought a canal through Sirhind and Mansurpur to the town in 1360, and in 1398 Taimur attacked it. It is an ancient site, and by digging 40 or 50 feet deep, statues, big bricks and bones are found. In the time of Akbar, it was a Pargana of Sirhind. During Muslim rule, Sunam was a centre of politics like Samana and Sirhind (now in Patiala District).

Baba Ala Singh, the founder of the erstwhile Patiala State, had won this town from Muslim rulers. Akbar’s courtier Abul Fazal has recorded in his Ain-i-Akbari that Emperor Akbar often came to Sunam on hunting expeditions. The town was famous for its seat of learning Dar-ul-Uloom where theology was taught to Muslims drawn from far and near. Sita Sar is ancient tank spread over 80 bighas. It is said that Sita, wife of Rama, washed her hair in this tank when she was turned out of the house by Rama. Even now the widows of the surrounding area come here and wash their hair. It is also said that at one time kumb fair of the Punjab was held here. This tank, it is said, was filled with the water of River Saraswati. The tank is, now, not in good condition. Shiv Mandirs have been built in the south west and north of the tank. A small Shitla Mata Mandir has also been built in the south of the tank in which an ancient idol of Mata has been installed.

This small town came to prominence after the martyrdom of Shaheed Udham Singh. Born in Sunam on Dec 26, 1899, Udham Singh was orphaned at a very young age in 1907 and was brought up in the Central Khalsa Putlighar Orphanage in Amritsar. On April 13, 1919, it is popularly believed that Udham Singh was present at Jallianwala Bagh during the firing, and might have been injured in the arm by a bullet. What is certain is that the incident and the subsequent torture and humiliation heaped on the populace in Amritsar and Punjab left an indelible impression on Udham Singh’s mind, and he vowed to avenge the incident. In the 1920’s, he travelled and worked as a mechanic and carpenter in Africa and the Middle East. He moved to the USA and in California came under the influence of the Ghadar Party. Udham Singh married an American and had two sons, and lived in Michigan and New York. He smuggled three revolvers back into India on his return. Between 1927-31 he was arrested for possession of weapons and revolutionary activity. For four years he was in Multan Central Prison and Mianwali Jail, where he met Bhagat Singh before his execution.

In 1931, after his release from prison, Udham Singh opened a sign-painting shop in Ghantaghar Chowk in Amritsar where his name-plate read: Ram Mohammed Singh Azad. In 1934 he left for London and began planning his revenge. On March 13, 1940, After a meeting of the East India Association at Caxton Hall in London. Udham Singh fired six shots after the meeting: Sir Michael O’Dwyer (who had been Governor of Punjab and had ordered General Dyer to carry out the firing at Jallianwala Bagh) was killed, Lord Zetland, Sir Louis Dane and Lord Lamington were injured.

On July 31, 1940 Udham Singh was hanged. His remains were brought to Sunam in 1974 and cremated at a local stadium where a memorial has been raised.

Before his death he said – “ I do not care about the sentence of death. It means nothing at all…….I am dying for a purpose…..I have nothing against the English people at all. I have more English friends living in England than I have in India. I have great sympathy with the workers of England. I am against the imperialist government…….Inquilab Zindabad

– Down with British Imperialism!”

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