Saturday, March 25, 2017

Who is Mai Bhago?

I have been trying to expand my knowledge and learn more so I wanted to share a bit about Mai Bhago.

Mai Bhago (Mata Bhag Kaur) born in Jhabal (present-day Amritsar). Her uncle, Bhai Langaha helped Guru Arjan Dev Ji in the construction of Harmandir Sahib and was martyred in Lahore. Thus, she grew up learning to be brave and courageous from her family's example. She was baptized when she visited Anandpur Sahib in 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh Ji started the Khalsa. Although she wanted to stay to train as a soldier, her father denied her as she was a woman and there were no women soldiers at the time. She started to learn warefare and horseriding anyways. She went on to marry Nidhan Singh. 

It is during this time in our history that the Mughals, under the guidance of Aurangzeb laid siege to Anandpur Sahib for 8 months. The Sikhs were dying due to lack of supplies like food. The Mughals said they would spare anyone who declared they were not a Sikh and thus 40 Sikhs, led by Mahan Singh, signed a document and told Guru Ji that they were not Sikhs anymore and returned to their villages.

The Mughals then offered a deal that the Sikhs could leave in peace from Anandpur Sahib. As the Sikhs left, however, Aurangzeb broke his promise. It is during this time that Mata Gujri Ji and the young Sahibzaade were separated from the older Sahibzaade and Guru Ji. The sahibzaade were martyred. Guru Ji and his accompanying Sikhs travelled, pursued by about 16,000 in the Mughal army. Guru Ji set up camp near Khidrana. The Mughals headed there for water, not knowing that the lake was dry.

Meanwhile, as the 40 men returned to their homes, Mai Bhago rallied their wives. They refused to talk to their husbands and kicked them out of their houses, disappointed in how they had deserted Guru Ji. Mai Bhago said that the women would go into battle if the men did not. They prepared their gear. They were ready to fight against injustice. Finally the 40 men, including Mai Bhago’s husband, were able to see their mistake. They headed to Khidrana to apologize to Guru Ji.

At Khidrana, they spread out shirts onto the bushes in order to look as if they had a larger group of Sikh forces, camping in tents. This is now the site of Gurwara Tambu Sahib. On December 29, 1705 a battle ensued. Guru Ji supported the fight from an area above. The Sikhs were martyred and the Mughals retreated, assuming that Guru Ji had died in battle. Mai Bhago and Guru Ji were the only survivors- Mahan Singh lay critically wounded and all else were martyred. Guru Ji took care of Mai Bhago, who was wounded, and Mahan Singh. He asked Mahan Singh his last wish. Mahan Singh asked that the 40 be forgiven, and thus they are remembered as the 40 Mukhte (liberated ones) in the ardas daily. The town of Mukhtsar (“pool of salvation”) was built in this location.

As Mai Bhago’s brother and husband had been martyred, she stayed with Guru Ji as his bodyguard until he merged with God. Then she lived in Jinvara, immersed in meditation and this hut is now called Gurdwara Tap Asthan Mai Bhago. Thus, Mai Bhago was a brave warrior and the first female Sikh soldier to fight in battle. She set an amazing example for all of us, Singhs and Kaurs, to stand up and fight against injustice no matter what the odds are.


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