Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reflection on Mata Gujri Ji

Reflection on Mata Gujri Ji 

Mata Gujri was a perfect woman, a Puran Istree. The word "Stree" originates from Sanskrit and means "expansion."2 In a physical sense women expand by being mothers. In a spiritual sense, women give their children the ideals and values to live by; they nurture a sense of security; and they have the power to construct or destroy their families and their generations to come.

So, it is only pertinent to say that Mata Gujri was a Puran Istree in both the physical and spiritual realms. She completed the life and mission of Guru Teg Bahadur; raised the extraordinary child Gobind; managed the affairs of the Sikh Panth while the Guru was still a child; and inspired and prepared her young grandsons for the extraordinary courage, grace and sacrifice that would be required of them at such tender ages.

Let us look at her life and the different roles she plays as a perfect woman.
z As a Daughter: MataJi was brought up with the consciousness of the Guru's light; she fulfilled her parent's aspiration of serving the path of the Guru beyond their expectations by growing into a perfect role model of grace, strength, persistence and sacrifice.

z As a Wife: She supported Guru Tegh Bahadur when he was deep in meditation for years, again while he was on his missionary tour, and finally, when the Guru left for Delhi to make the supreme sacrifice.

z As a Leader: After Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom, she and her brother, Kirpal Chand had the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Panth. She also organized the langar (community kitchen) and played an important role as the administrator of the army. She had an important role inspiring the Khalsa armies during the battles Guru Gobind Singh had to fight. Her role in the battle of Bhangani is especially remembered.

z As a Mother: She molded the father of the Khalsa, the great Guru Gobind, raising him as a single mother after the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadurji.

z As a Grandmother and inspiration to the young martyrs: When Mata Ji and the sahibzadas were arrested and confined in Sirhind Fort, and as the children were summoned to appear in court each day, she kept urging them to remain steadfast in their faith. She constantly reminded the Sahibzadas that their Grandfather and Great-Grandfather had both sacrificed their lives to strengthen the ideals of Guru Nanak. Her support of her grandsons played such an important role in Sikhism that as Sikhs, we probably owe our existence to her. It was due to her role that the seven and nine year old children did not budge from their beliefs and attained martyrdom. If the Sahibzadas had accepted Islam on that winter day, Sikhi probably wouldn't exist as it does today. So, in fact, we stand tall because of the teachings and the inspiration Mata Ji provided to her grandsons and thousands of martyrs who gave their heads and not their faith.

z As a Martyr: While imprisoned on top of an open tower during the cold month of December, Mata Gujri continually did simran with no complaints about her physical being. She attained martyrdom the same day as her grandsons after hearing that her grandsons had been bricked alive rather than give up their faith. Her mission had been fulfilled.

"In a woman man is conceived; from a woman he is born. With a woman he is betrothed and married; with a woman he contracts friendship. Why say she is inferior, the one from who even kings are born? Without woman, there would be no one at all." - Guru Nanak3

A unique aspect of the social status of women in Sikhi is that we did not have to fight for it. The Guru's enlightened ideals and efforts offered equal status some 500 years before most women could even dare to talk about or ask for equality. As suggested in the Gurbani, without women, there would be no one at all; they are the source of the physical existence of humanity. Thus, Gurbani explicitly acknowledges their empowerment, dignity, and strength. A woman's manifestation as a spiritual being as seen by the Guru goes beyond motherhood. For example, approximately one third of the missionaries Guru Amar Das trained were women. Later Mai Bhago served Guru Gobind as a warrior saint.

According to Bhai Gurdaas, Vaar 5, Pauri 16,4
lok vyd gux igAwn ivc ArD srIrI moK duAwrI:
From a temporal and spiritual point of view, woman is the other half of man and assists to the door to final liberation.

Thus, In Sikh thought, a woman is an equal partner to a man in the spiritual advancement of all humanity. Even God is depicted as both man and woman.

z qUM myrw ipqw qUMhY myrw mwqw:
O Lord, You are my Father, and You are my Mother - SGGS P 103

z Awpy purKu Awpy hI nwrI:
You Yourself are the male, and You Yourself are the female. - SGGS P 1020


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sakhi Series :- 116 (Bibi Baghel Kaur )

Bibi Baghel Kaur

If we were to understand the history of Sikh women, we would realize that women were treated equally to partake in any type of activity within the Sikh Panth. Not only were they needed to raise their children as great Khalsas, or take part in preparing Langar for the Sangat, they fought alongside with their brothers…
Bibi Baghel Kaur
A newlywed Hindu girl was returning along with her groom and the marriage party to the village of her in- laws when some Mughal soldiers abducted her and looted her dowry.Her groom and the members of the marriage party who were unarmed were beaten and made to flee. They complained to the Muslim chief of the area, but he did not care and said, "What does it matter if our soldiers enjoy her for a few days? I shall see that she is returned to you as soon as I find a clue of her." Her husband was disappointed and turned to the forest to meet the Sikhs and appeal to them.

In those days, Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India again and again and the Mughal Empire at Delhi and the governor of Lahore had become very weak. Abdali looted Indian cities, forcibly took beautiful Hindu ladies with him, but the Sikhs attacked his army when he was going back to Afghanistan.

The Sikh Warriors recovered the property he was taking with him, and got the ladies, that he was forcibly taking, released. They fought a guerrilla war and slipped back into the forest before they could be caught.

The groom met some Sikhs in the forest. They consoled him and baptized him. Now he was named Teja Singh. One night, a party of Sikhs along with Teja Singh, attacked the same party of plunderers and taught them a lesson. Teja Singh's wife, who was in a miserable condition, was also rescued from them. She wanted to commit suicide, but was dissuaded from doing so. She was encouraged to live and was baptized. Now she was named Baghel Kaur, who wore a turban and not a scarf on her head. She always had a long sword with her. Many ladies like her lived in the wilderness near the pond of Kahnuwan in the company of the Sikhs.

In the wilderness, Baghel Kaur and her party met a few more Sikhs known to Teja Singh. They planned to attack a patrolling party of the Muslim soldiers and snatch their horses and arms for the newcomers. When they reached the village, they found that the soldiers were armed, but asleep. Baghel Kaur and her companions took some guns and two horses from the soldiers and left the village before the soldiers were awake. They killed only those soldiers who resisted them. Baghel Kaur and the party reached back safely and met their companions who were anxiously awaiting them.

All left the pool of Kahnuwan (District Gurdaspur). They had to cross a dense forest and thorny bushes grown on the bank of the river Bias. In fact, these dense, thorny bushes served them as a fort as the Mughal soldiers were afraid of crossing them. Inside this dense forest, the Sikhs had cleared some area and lived in tents there. They lived on the ration they could bring from outside,  and whatever edible they could find in the forest. After a long journey, they met their companions who were there with their leader Nawab Kapur Singh. He exhorted the gathering to be ready to fight against aggression for the sake of justice
Mir Mannu was the governor of Lahore.

His minister Kaura Mal was sympathetic towards the Sikhs, but after the death of Kaura Mal, Mir Mannu turned his attention to finish the Sikhs. He was a tyrant and bent upon converting Sikhs to Islam.

He used every possible punishment to subordinate the Sikhs, who had left villages and started living in thick forests. In those days, Sikhs used to say, "Mir Mannu is our sickle and we are his grass blades. As he cuts, more than two hundred times we grow." Abdali consulted Mir Mannu and sent a challenge to the Sikhs to come out of the forest and fight face to face. Nawab Kapur Singh accepted the challenge.

Th next day, four thousand Sikhs with a few hundred Sikh ladies, includingBaghel Kaur, divided themselves in two parties and, riding on their horses,entered the field, fully armed, with sword and spears. They were opposed by 10,000 Pathan forces. At the end of the day, 500 Sikhs became martyrs, but the Pathans suffered a heavy loss. Second day, Baghel Kaur with a few other ladies fought so bravely and courageously that it would be remembered for ever. In the evening the Pathan army had to retreat, but in the confusion that prevailed Baghel Kaur and four other ladies were separated from the Sikh forces.

These ladies reached a small village, cooked their food and slept on the ground. Turn by turn, one of them remained awake to look after the horses and the arms. They got up before daybreak, performed their morning prayer and started. Soon they found fifty enemy soldiers of a patrolling party coming towards them. Five of them proceeded towards Baghel Kaur and her party. They did not realize that they were going to face a tough enemy. They planned to capture them and marry them.

All of a sudden, Baghel Kaur came forward and cut the
sword of the first soldier with her sword. In the meantime, a companion of her injured him with her sword when he was returning to save himself from the second attack. Another soldier attacked Baghel Kaur with his spear, but her friend checked his attack with her sword and injured him. Now the injured soldiers started returning to their party to seek help.

In the mean time Baghel Kaur and her companions rode away to the thick forest to meet their companions. All the Pathan soldiers started chasing Baghel Kaur and her friends. A Sikh watchman informed the other Sikhs in the forest about the coming Pathans. At once, the Sikhs came out and killed the Pathans in a few minutes.

Three Sikhs were also killed in this fight. Sikhs persuaded Baghel Kaur and her companions to stay in the village but the brave ladies refused, wanted to stay with them, and die fighting.

Mir Mannu was a notorious bigot. He massacred Sikhs and proclaimed a reward of twenty-five rupees per Sikh head. He killed no less than thirty thousand Sikhs. He ordered that any Sikh lady found anywhere should be caught and forced to embrace Islam. Baghel Kaur wanted to save a few ladies who were still in the village and could not leave because two of them had small children. One night Baghel Kaur disguised herself and went back to her village to save the three Sikh ladies who were hiding in the house of a Muslim girl friend. She contacted them at midnight, encouraged them to accompany her early in the morning and leave for the thick forest on the other side of the river Beas.

After a short nap of two hours, she along with three Sikh ladies and two children left the village at 4am. Four soldiers who were sleeping outside the village saw them and followed them to the river bank. Baghel Kaur asked the two ladies to cross the river along with their children and herself along with the third lady faced the soldiers.

She thrust her spear in the chest of the first two soldiers who came forward before they could attack her...

One of her companions tried to attack the third soldier, but his spear injured her arm before she could attack. Baghel Kaur gave her horse to her injured friend and asked her to cross the river at once.

Baghel Kaur took the horse of the injured soldier and fought against the remaining two soldiers bravely and fearlessly.

The soldiers as well as Baghel Kaur were injured and bleeding. She took courage and in the twinkling of an eye crossed the river on her horse. Now all the four ladies with two children started on their horses and soon they were out of sight of the soldiers who were chasing them. After covering a long distance the party reached the destination and met a party of the Sikhs.
Plight of the Sikh ladies detained in the camps of Mir Mannu was miserable. They were tortured and kept thirsty and hungry as they refused to be converted to Islam.

Every one of them was allotted a small millstone to grind a fixed quantity of wheat. It was ordered that the children of these ladies be snatched. One soldier threw a child up in the air and the other killed him with his spear before he could touch the ground. The dead bodies of these children were cut into pieces and the ladies were garlanded with those pieces. Pieces of flesh of the children were thrust into the mouth of their mothers. 

In spite of all that, none of the ladies cried or yielded to
embrace Islam Once this horrible scene stunned Mir Mannu.

When he reached the palace after visiting the camp, he did not talk to anybody. It seemed he repented. He left for hunting with only four soldiers. While he was hunting, his horse was scared, ran very fast and jumped so high that Mir Mannu could not control it. He fell down, and his feet got entangled in strip. Mir Mannu's cries further scared the horse and it ran faster. It was dragging Mir Mannu and none could stop it. Mir Mannu was badly injured and died in the forest. 

Mir Mannu's tragic and sudden death had emboldened the Sikhs and they were settling in their villages. A group of Sikhs, under the command of Baghel Kaur, attacked the Lahore camp at midnight, killed 25 Muslim soldiers who were unprepared, and got the captive ladies released and escorted them to a safer place. After Mir Mannu's death, his queen invited Ahmad Shah to help her and capture the Sikhs. At this time, Baghel Kaur was living in her village along with her four-year old son and her husband. 

She wanted to save the ladies who were forcibly being taken to the camp. She asked her husband to take the child and leave for the forest. She herself started to rescue the ladies being taken forcibly by the Muslim soldiers. She saw one such lady who was being taken to the camp, but Baghel Kaur did not slip away.

All of a sudden, she injured with her spear the two soldiers who were taking the lady, but she was caught by their companions. Now she herself was a captive with the other ladies in the camp.

Every lady in the camp was given a piece of bread. Some injured and hungry ladies were lying half-dead on the ground and their children were crying for food.

Baghel Kaur gave her own piece of bread to the crying
children and she remained hungry...

The ladies in the camp were whipped, insulted, and taunted by the soldiers so that they might embrace Islam to get rid of this hell. Baghel Kaur protested against ill treatment, but she was ordered to grind wheat for the whole night without rest.

At midnight, the camp-in-charge sent for Baghel Kaur, but she refused to move out. The drunken soldier caught her by the wrist and dragged her. She took courage and slapped the soldier. She took his sword, which was tied to his belt, and injured him. The other ladies came to her help and the soldier had to run away. In the morning, all the ladies were assembled at one place, and the camp-in-charge told them that anyone who agreed to marry a soldier of her choice would be set free and allowed to lead a happy and prosperous life.

Baghel Kaur stood up and said that none would agree to be converted as their own religion was dear to them and they would die rather than lead an immoral life of a coward. Her bold and frank talk made the camp commander speechless.

She was taken to a pillar so that her hands should be tied and then whipped to death. On her way to the pillar, she took courage, pushed the soldier who was taking her to the pillar and snatched his sword. Now the whole camp was surrounded by the other soldiers and many ladies were murdered. Baghel Kaur fought bravely, but was killed by armed soldiers who were surrounding her. Next day, about 8000 Sikhs attacked the camp at midnight, killed the camp commander and freed the captive ladies.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sakhi Series :-115 ( Nāme nārā▫in nāhī bẖeḏ )

Naame Naraaein Nahi Bhed 
(Source: Guru granth Sahib ji, Ang 1165)

The Sultan said, ""Listen, Naam Dayv: let me see the actions of your Lord.""||1||
The Sultan arrested Naam Dayv, and said, ""Let me see your Beloved Lord.""||1||Pause||

"Bring this dead cow back to life. Otherwise, I shall cut off your head here and now.""||2||
Naam Dayv answered, ""O king, how can this happen? No one can bring the dead back to life. ||3||
I cannot do anything by my own actions. Whatever the Lord does, that alone happens." |4||

The arrogant king was enraged at this reply. He incited an elephant to attack. ||5||
Naam Dayv's mother began to cry, and she said, ""Why don't you abandon your Lord Raam, and worship his Lord Allah?""||6||

Naam Dayv answered, ""I am not your son, and you are not my mother.
Even if my body dies, I will still sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord.""||7||
The elephant attacked him with his trunk, but Naam Dayv was saved, protected by the Lord. ||8||

The king said, ""The Qazis and the Mullahs bow down to me, but this Hindu has trampled my honor.""||9||
The people pleaded with the king, ""Hear our prayer, O king. Here, take Naam Dayvs weight in gold, and release him.""||10||

The king replied, ""If I take the gold, then I will be consigned to hell, by forsaking my faith and gathering worldly wealth.""||11||

With his feet in chains, Naam Dayv kept the beat with his hands, singing the Praises of the Lord. ||12||
"Even if the Ganges and the Jamunaa rivers flow backwards, I will still continue singing the Praises of the Lord.""||13||

Three hours passed, and even then, the Lord of the three worlds had not come. ||14||
Playing on the instrument of the feathered wings, the Lord of the Universe came, mounted on the eagle garura. ||15||
He cherished His devotee, and the Lord came, mounted on the eagle garura. ||16||

The Lord said to him, ""If you wish, I shall turn the earth sideways.
If you wish, I shall turn it upside down. ||17||
If you wish, I shall bring the dead cow back to life.
Everyone will see and be convinced.""||18||

Naam Dayv prayed, and milked the cow. He brought the calf to the cow, and milked her.||19||
When the pitcher was filled with milk, Naam Dayv took it and placed it before the king. ||20||
The king went into his palace, and his heart was troubled. ||21||

Through the Qazis and the Mullahs, the king offered his prayer,
"Forgive me, please, O Hindu; I am just a cow before you."||22||

Naam Dayv said, ""Listen, O king: have I done this miracle? ||23||
The purpose of this miracle is that you, O king, should walk on the path of truth and humility.""||24||
Naam Dayv became famous everywhere for this. The Hindus all went together to Naam Dayv. ||25||
If the cow had not been revived, people would have lost faith in Naam Dayv. ||26||
The fame of Naam Dayv spread throughout the world. The humble devotees were saved and carried across with him. ||27||
All sorts of troubles and pains afflicted the slanderer. There is no difference between Naam Dayv and the Lord. ||28||1||10||