Mai Bhago (Mata Bhag Kaur)
Mai Bhago, also know as Mata Bhag Kaur, was a sikh woman who led sikh soldiers against the Mughals in 1705. Mai Bhago was born in village of Jhabal Kalan, now known as Amritsar district of Punjab. Mai Bhago was descendant of Bhai Pero Shah, teh younger brother of Bhai Langah a Dhillon Jatt, a chief of 84 villages who had converted to Sikhism during the time of Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563-1606). She had 4 brothers, who were also Staunch Sikhs. She was married to Bhai Nidhan Singh Varaich of Patti. Mai Bhago was a staunch Sikh by birth and upbrining. Her parents took her to Anandpur Sahib, when she was young to have glimpse of Guru Gobin Singh Ji.
Mughals and hilly chiefs had surrounded Anandpur and were demanding it be evacuated. They announced that any Sikh who would say that “he/she is not anymore a Sikh of Guru Gobind” will be left untouched while others will be done to death. A group of 40 Sikhs, led by Mahan Singh Brar told Guru Gobind Singh that they were not his Sikhs anymore. The Guru told them that they will have to write it in a document that says, “We are not your Sikhs anymore” and sign it. All forty Sikhs wrote their names on this document but one of then declined to sign; ‘Bedava’ and left Guru Gobind Singh. 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. Hearing her taunts, these Sikhs were ashamed at their deed. She rallied the deserters persuading them to meet the Guru and apologize to him. she set off along with them and some other Sikhs to seek out the Guru, then travelling across the Malva region.
Meanwhile, Guru Gobind Singh had to evacuate the fort of Anandpur, his children were lost in the confusion. Two youngest one’s Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, went along with their grandmother (mother of Guru Gobind Singh). While elder one’s Ajit Singh and Jhujhar Singh were with their father. Then at battle of Chamkaur Guru’s elder sons attained martyrdom, Guru was saved by five Sikhs and he evacuated Chamkaur and was travelling in Malva region, being pursued by Mughal forces of Aurungzeb. Travelling day and night in the Jungles of Malva region, imperial Mughal forces were in constant pursuit of Guru. Guru Gobind Singh reached village of Khidrana, when Mai Bhago and the men, she was leading stopped near the dhab or pool of Khidrana where an imperial army in pursuit of Guru Gobind Singh had almost overtaken him. They challenged the pursuing host and fought furiously forcing it to retreat. All forty Sikhs attained martyrdom in this pitched battle, in which Guru himself was supporting them with a shower of arrows from a nearby high ground, found all the men except one Mahan Singh, killed when he visited the battlefield. Mai Bhago and Guru Gobind Singh ji were the sole survivors of this fiercely fought battle.
Mahan Singh, who had been seriously wounded, also died as the Guru took him into his lap. Guru Gobind Singh blessed those forty dead as the Forty Liberated Ones. He took into his care Mai Bhago who had also suffered injury in the battle. She thereafter stayed on with Guru Gobind Singh as one of his bodyguard, in male attire. After the death of Guru Gobind Singh at Nanded in 1708, she retired further south. She settled down at Jinvara, 11 km from Bidar in Karnataka where, immersed in meditation, she lived to attain a ripe old age. Her hut in Jinvara has now been converted into Gurdwara Tap Asthan Mai Bhago. At Nanded, too, a hall within the compound of Takht Sachkhand. Sri Hazur Sahib marking the site of her residence is known as Bunga Mai Bhago.
Warrior Princess Mai Bhago and the 40 Liberated Ones:
Guru Gobind Singh was joined by warriors of the Brar clan continued the fight against the Mughals who had mercilessly slaughtered his innocent children and countless other Sikhs. The Guru pressed westward pursued by the Mughals.
Bhag Kaur and her husband Nidhan Singh lived in the Majha region where the deserters of Anandpur had returned home. After hearing of the Guru’s plight, Bhag Kaur urged her husband to accompany her to the Guru’s side. Donning warrior’s attire, mounting her horse and raising her sword high, Bhag Kaur roused the sentiments of the deserters and rallied an eager army. Gathering forces along the way, Bhag Kaur was joined by many Sikhs including Mahan Singh, a Sikh deserter from the village of Sur Singh Wala, and a few influential leaders from Lahore who hoped to negotiate with the Mughals on behalf of the Guru. Bhag Kaur’s army met up with Guru Gobind Singh not far from Khidrana, a natural reservoir.
Forty of the former deserters joined the Guru in the ensuing battle. Greatly outnumbered, every one of Bhag Kaur’s regiment succumbed to the heavy combat and fell around her. The last one standing, Bhag Kaur fought courageously. She managed to procure a lance and speared several of her opponents until, overwhelmed by the enemy, she too fell. After the battle, Guru Gobind Singh found only Bhag Kaur and Mahan Singh alive. The Guru tended Bhag Kaur’s wounds and held Mahan Singh as he died, promising to pardon the deserters and tear up their papers of resignation.
The widowed Bhag Kaur stayed with Guru Gobind Singh’s army in his camp at Nanded attired as one his warriors. She was given a place in his personal body guard of ten soldiers, traveled as part of his entourage and was with him when he recruited Banda Singh Bahadar. Mai Bhago remained in Guru Gobind Singh’s service until the Guru’s death in 1708. She then made her home in Jinvara not far from Bidar of Karnataka where she lived in a humble dwelling.
Mai Bhago passed the remainder of her days in austere meditation living to an advanced age. Her place of residence in Jinvara has been converted into the shrine Gurdwara Tap Asthan Mai Bhago. In Takhat Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib of Nanded, the shrine, Bunga Mai Bhago, has been dedicated to her memory. Mai Bhago’s legacy of warrior princess continues to be an inspirations figure to Sikh women around the world. The deserters that she led in to battle are known as the Chali Mukte, or 40 liberated ones, who achieved spiritual emancipation from the ego based cycle of birth and death with their martyrdom.
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