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Warrior Princess Mai Bhago (Bhag Kaur)

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Warrior Princess Legacy of Mai Bhago Sparring In Gatka Sword Dance

Warrior Princess Legacy of Mai Bhago Sparring In Gatka Sword Dance

Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Birth and Lineage:

Mai Bhago was born in the village of Jhabal in district of Amritsar, of modern day northern India, a part of Punjab. She came from a family of stalwart Sikhs. Her father Malo Shah was closely connected with Sixth Guru Har Govind. His father Pero Shah (a son of Abul Kahir) became a Sikh after his elder brother Langah joined the entourage of Fifth Guru Ajrun Dev.

Initiation and Marriage:

Mai Bhaho was raised a devoted Sikh. She visited Anandpur with her family as a girl for darshan (spiritual observation) of Ninth Guru Teg Bahadar. She was also with her family in Anandpur when Tenth Guru Gobind Singh created the Panj Pyara to initiate the Khalsa warriors. Her family accepted initiation that day. Mai Bhago wed initiate Nidhan Singh Patti, and was initiated as Bhag Kaur.

Seige of Anandpur:

Bhag Kaur's brothers were among those who made their way to Anandpur to fight beside Guru Gobind Singh in a series of battles which took place in 1705. Mughal adversaries laid siege to Anandpur for seven months cutting off all supplies of food and water. The Sikhs resources dwindled until many suffered starvation. In desperation, many of his men asked the Guru to be relived of duty so that they might return to their families, and were given written decrees which they signed declaring them to be freed from the Guru's service so that they might escape in safety. Swearing on the Koran (Qur'an), the Mughal forces offered the Sikhs safe passage in exchange for evacuating Anandpur. The Guru suspected treachery but had little recourse as all supplies had been utterly exhausted. Guru Gobind Singh and his people were attacked and pursued as they fled the fortress of Anandpur.

Battle of Chamkaur:

Moghul troupes chased Guru Gobind Singh and about 40 of his warriors from Anandpur to Chamkaur where they engaged in a furious battle on December 7, 1705. The Sikhs ordered their Guru to escape while they provided cover. They Singhs fought valiantly against desperate odds facing a horde numbering more than a hundred thousand. Nearly all were killed including Guru Gobind Singh's elder two sons and three of the Panj Pyare. Only three survived who escaped along with Guru Gobind Singh on foot into a desert region of Malva. Meanwhile the Guru's mother and younger sons were captured by the Mughals and after resisting forced conversion were put to death on December 13, 1705.

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 Baago Historic Shrines:

Gurdwara Tap Asthan Mai Bhago - 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.

Bunga 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.

Have you visited the historic gurdwara Tap Asthan Mai Bhago, Bunga Mai Bhago, or Muktsar shrines honoring the 40 liberated ones? We'd love to hear about your visit. Please share your experience and any photos you may have with our readers, and find out what others have to say about the historic shrines commemorating Mai Bhago and the Chali Mukti.

More:
Guru Gobind Singh and Historic Events Of 1705
Battle of Muktsar (Khidrana) Mai Bhago and the 40 Liberated Ones

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