Mai Bhago

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Mai Bhag Kaur
Mai Bhago -SikhHeritageMuseum.jpg
Mai Bhag Kaur was the first woman in Sikh history to take up arms to fight opressors.
BornJhabal, Punjab
SpouseNidhan Singh
FatherBhai Malo
ReligionSikhism

Mai Bhago Kaur (Punjabi: ਮਾਈ ਭਾਗੋ) was a Sikh woman who led Sikh soldiers against the Mughals in 1705. She was an exceptionally skilled warrior on the battlefield and is revered as a saint in Sikhism.[1] She was known for rallying the 40 Sikhs (Chali Mukte) who abandoned Guru Gobind Singh at the siege of Anandpur Sahib and bringing them back to fight.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Mai Bhago was born in her family's ancestral village of Jhabal Kalan, in the present-day Tarn Taran district of the Punjab. Mai Bhago was a staunch Sikh by birth and had her upbringing in a devout Sikh family. Mai Bhago's father, Malo Shah, was enrolled in Guru Hargobind's army[2] and like her father Mai Bhago learned Shaster vidya (training in arms). Mai Bhago was the granddaughter of Bhai Pero Shah who was younger brother of the famous Bhai Langah the chief of 84 villages who had converted to Sikhism during the time of Guru Arjan Dev (1563–1606), the fifth Sikh Guru.[3][4] She had two brothers Dilbagh Singh and Bhag Singh.[5] When she was young her parents took her to Anandpur Sahib to do darshan (glimpse) of Guru Gobind Singh. She married Bhai Nidhan Singh of Patti.[6]

Mughal confrontation[edit]

In attempt to capture the Guru the large Mughal army led by Wazir Khan (of Sirhind) under the orders of Emperor Aurangzeb proceeded to Anandpur Sahib alongside the Mughal Armies of Lahore and Kashmir, and the Hindu hill rajas.[7]

Disbandment of the Chali Mukte (40 "liberated" Sikhs)[edit]

On around 1704[8] the Mughal hill chiefs had surrounded Anandpur Sahib and were demanding it be evacuated stopping provisions for food and the siege lasting a few months.[9] They announced that any Sikh who would say that "he/she is not anymore a Sikh of Guru Gobind" would be left untouched while others would be "done to death". A group of 40 Sikhs (Chali Mukte),[10] led by Mahan Singh Brar, told Guru Gobind Singh that they were not his Sikhs anymore. The Guru told them that they would have to write a document that said "We are not your Sikhs anymore" and sign it. All forty Sikhs (except one: 'Bedava') wrote their names on this document, and left Guru Gobind Singh.

Mai Bhago's retaliation[edit]

Mai Bhago was distressed to hear that some of the Sikhs of her neighbourhood, who had gone to Anandpur to fight for Guru Gobind Singh, had deserted him under adverse conditions. She criticized them openly; hearing her taunts, these Sikhs were ashamed of their betrayal.[11] Mai Bhago rallied the deserters, and persuaded them to meet with the Guru and apologize to him. She set off with them (and some other Sikhs) to seek out the Guru, who was then traveling across the Malva region.

Unfolding events at Anandpur Sahib[edit]

The Guru leaving Anandpur fort[edit]

A messenger arrived with an oath signed by Aurangzeb on a copy of the Quran, assuring the Guru that if he came out of the fort, permanent peace would be negotiated on honourable terms. The oath of the Emperor was further supported by an oath signed by all the Generals of the Mughal army and the Hill Chiefs.[12] Guru Gobind Singh did not trust these assurances,[13] but to show the real face of the Mughals, the Guru nevertheless decided to leave the fort.

Separation of the Guru's family[edit]

Meanwhile, Guru Gobind Singh evacuated the fort of Anandpur. His children had already been separated in the retreat by the betraying Mughal army and the Hill Chiefs. The two youngest ones, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh, had gone along with their grandmother Mata Gujari Kaur (mother of Guru Gobind Singh Ji) while the elder two, Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Sahibzada Jhujhar Singh, had gone with their father. At the battle of Chamkaur, the Guru's elder sons were killed and attained martyrdom. The Guru left Chamkaur on the order of the Panj Pyare.[14] Guru Gobind Singh's forces travelled day and night through the jungles of the Malva region with the imperial Mughal forces of Aurangzeb in constant pursuit.[15]

Battle of Muktsar at Khidrana[edit]

Mai Bhago (top right) in the battle of Muktsar December 1705

The Guru had reached the village of Khidrana, when Mai Bhago and the men she led stopped near the dhab, or pool, of Khidrana, the only source of water in the area[16] which was overtaken by the Mughal imperial army pursuing the Guru.

Mai Bhago and her men attacked the pursuing Mughals and eventually had them retreat, while the Guru's forces showered arrows onto the Mughals from nearby high ground. When Guru Gobind Singh visited the battlefield, he found all dead except Mai Bhago and the previous leader of the deserters, Mahan Singh. Mahan Singh, who had been seriously wounded, died as the Guru took him into his lap.[17] All forty of the Sikhs who came to redeem themselves died as well as Mai Bhago's brothers and husband[18] and attained martyrdom in this pitched battle. Some sources say Mai Bhago's children were martyred there too.[19]

Guru Gobind Singh blessed those forty dead as the Chali Mukte, Forty Liberated Ones. He took into his care Mai Bhago, who had suffered serious injury[20] in the battle.

Mai Bhag Kaur residing with the Guru[edit]

Mai Bhago stayed with Guru Gobind Singh at Talwandi Sabo.[21] She may have adopted the garb of a Nihang.[22] Mai Bhago became so spiritually absorbed that, according to the famous historical text Suraj Parkash, she would be absorbed in samadhi; her experiences were so profound that she forsook all her clothes and began living life nakedly as a sadhni.[23] The Guru however ordered[24] her to wear a small turban, Kacchera, and wrap herself in a blanket as well as return to worldly ways and walk in Maryada (code of conduct).[25] When the Guru went to Hazur Sahib she became one of ten other bodyguards of the Guru arming herself with a large lance (weighing about 102 pounds)[26] and musket[27] and did so in male attire.[28]

Mai Bhag Kaur at Janwara[edit]

After the death of Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Nanded in 1708, Mai Bhag Kaur retired further south. She settled down at Janwara, 11 km from Bidar in Karnataka, setting up her Dera where she immersed in meditation and taught Gurmat (The Guru's way) living a long life.[29] Her hut in Jinvara has now been converted into a place of worship and learning, Gurdwara Tap Asthan Mai Bhago. At Nanded, too, a hall within the compound of Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib marking the site of her former residence is known as Bunga Mai Bhago.

Legacy[edit]

Mohan Singh, Jathedar of Hazur Sahib, in 1788 built a Bunga (war tower) in the memory of Mai Bhag Kaur.[30]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, Bonnie (2008). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. p. 226. ISBN 9780195148909.
  2. ^ Smith, Bonnie (2008). The Oxford encyclopedia of Women in World History, Volume 4. Oxford University Press. p. 226. ISBN 9780195148909.
  3. ^ Dalbir Singh Dhillon (1988). Sikhism Origin and Development. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 152. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  4. ^ Sagoo, Harbans (2001). Banda Singh Bahadur and Sikh Sovereignty. Deep & Deep Publications.
  5. ^ Nihang, Nidar; Singh, Parmjit (2008). In the Master's Presence: the Sikh's of Hazoor Sahib. London: Kashi House. p. 54. ISBN 9780956016829.
  6. ^ Arneja, Simran. Ik Onkar One God. Simran Kaur Arneja. p. 102. ISBN 9788184650938.
  7. ^ Shaw, Jeffrey; Demy, Timothy (2017). War and Religion: an Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict. ABC-CLIO. p. 576. ISBN 9781610695176.
  8. ^ Fenech, Louis (2013). The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of The Mughal Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 18. ISBN 9780199931453.
  9. ^ Singh, Teja; Jaggi, Rattan (1988). Essays in Sikhism. Languages Department Punjab. p. 57.
  10. ^ Singh, Harbans (2005). The Encyclopedia of Sikhism (Second ed.). New Delhi: Hemkunt Press. p. 42. ISBN 9788170103011.
  11. ^ Kohli, M. S. (2003). Miracles of Ardaas: Incredible Adventures and Survivals. Indus Publishing. p. 168. ISBN 9788173871528.
  12. ^ Singh, Harjinder. Brave Shaheeds of Chamkaur Sahib. Akaal Publishers. p. 1.
  13. ^ Anand, T K (2005). Essence of Sikhism – 7. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House. p. 37. ISBN 9788125919483.
  14. ^ Singh, Pushpendra (2015). The Hawk Hunters. Mumbai: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd. ISBN 9789352013395.
  15. ^ Randhir, G. S. (2016). Sikh Shrines in India. New Delhi: Publications Division Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. ISBN 9788123022604.
  16. ^ Grover, Parminder Singh; Singh,, Davinderjit. Discover Punjab: Attractions of Punjab. Ludhiana: Golden Point.
  17. ^ Kohli, M. S. (2003). Miracles of Ardaas: Incredible Adventures and Survivals. Indus Publishing. p. 169. ISBN 9788173871528.
  18. ^ Nihang, Nidar; Singh, Parmjit (2008). In the Master's Presence: the Sikh's of Hazoor Sahib. London: Kashi House. p. 54. ISBN 9780956016829.
  19. ^ Singh, Bikram (1950). Prasang Mai Bhago (First ed.). Jodhpur: Hall Malazhem. p. 47.
  20. ^ Fenech, Louis E.; McLeod, W. H. (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism (Third ed.). Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 65. ISBN 9781442236011.
  21. ^ Journal of Sikh Studies, Department of Guru Nanak Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University. 28 (1): 75. 2004. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ Nihang, Nidar; Singh, Parmjit (2008). In the Master's Presence: the Sikh's of Hazoor Sahib. London: Kashi House. p. 54. ISBN 9780956016829.
  23. ^ Nihang, Nidar; Singh, Parmjit (2008). In the Master's Presence: the Sikh's of Hazoor Sahib. London: Kashi House. p. 57. ISBN 9780956016829.
  24. ^ Nihang, Nidar; Singh, Parmjit (2008). In the Master's Presence: the Sikh's of Hazoor Sahib. London: Kashi House. p. 57. ISBN 9780956016829.
  25. ^ Singh, Bikram (1950). Prasang Mai Bhago (First ed.). Jodhpur: Hall Malazhem. p. 49.
  26. ^ "The Calcutta Review". University of Calcutta. 72-73: 75. 1881.
  27. ^ Journal of Sikh Studies, Department of Guru Nanak Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University. 28 (1): 75. 2004. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ Kennick, Victoria; Sharma, Arvind (2012). Spiritual Masters of the World's Religions. SUNY Press. p. 150. ISBN 9781438444994.
  29. ^ Pall, S.J.S. (August 1999). Masters & the Word Divine (Questions and Answers) (First ed.). Amritsar: B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh. p. 219. ISBN 9788176013123.
  30. ^ Nihang, Nidar; Singh, Parmjit (2008). In the Master's Presence: the Sikh's of Hazoor Sahib. London: Kashi House. p. 54. ISBN 9780956016829.

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