The Eclipse That Ended the Great Sikh Genocide

Ahmad Shah Durrani’s soldiers massacred 30,000 unarmed Sikhs. It took a celestial event on Diwali to halt the ensuing bloodshed.

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Sikhs in battle (Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh,

Ayesha Le Breton


April 12, 2024


10 min

On April 8, the Great American Eclipse brought North America to a standstill. Starting with Mazatlán on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the eclipse was visible in San Antonio, Dallas, Cleveland, New York, and Niagara Falls. People flocked to the streets to catch sight of the darkening sky. In some places, they saw a total eclipse, when the moon comes perfectly between the sun and the Earth. 

But eclipses weren’t always a spectacle. Before scholars and scientists grasped their intricacies, humanity turned elsewhere to find explanations for the phenomena, often resorting to myth and legend. These tales often viewed eclipses as ominous events, inspiring terror and awe among our ancestors. The Indian subcontinent was no different. But one particular eclipse, on Diwali in 1762, had historical consequences that reverberate to this day.

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