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The Power of the Khalsa Woman

Discussion in 'History of Sikhism' started by Neutral Singh, Jul 26, 2004.

  1. Neutral Singh

    Neutral Singh
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    Men's stories are public. Women's stories are private. Men commit great feats in a burst of energy that are sung and talked about for hundreds of years. Women slowly and consistently nurture and build their children, their families, their communities, their visions. It is easy to point to a man's accomplishments. It is much more difficult to point to a woman's. Yet, the Gurus understood that men and women both participate equally in the play of Creation- that both are necessary.

    In Sikh history, it is easy to identify the public, male stories that show the power of the Khalsa consciousness. Yet, with every male story there is a hidden side – the private world of the Khalsa woman.

    The Chali Mukte: The 40 Liberated Ones. Forty of Guru Gobind Singh's men deserted him at Anandpur. They were afraid to die, afraid for their lives, desperate and starving. They were so concerned with their own survival, that they willing wrote and signed a letter denouncing their Guru. When they arrived home, rather than finding wives joyful for their return, happy that they were alive, what did they find? Wives who were appalled that they had deserted Guru Gobind Singh.

    The male side of this story is that the men returned to fight for the Guru and died in the battle, liberating their souls in the process. But the hidden story is that the consciousness of their Khalsa wives is what inspired them to do it.

    The Khalsa women consciously chose widowhood. They would have rather born the burden of seeing their husbands dead, of being left with the sorrow of being widowed, of raising their children alone, of having to find their economic security in the absence of a husband - they would have rather endured all this than to see their husbands walk away from their destinies and betray their Guru. These women knew - the duty and role of a Khalsa wife is to serve the soul of her husband and deliver him to his destiny and to God and Guru no matter what. Who liberated these men? Themselves? No - it was the grace, security, wisdom and blessing of their wives that allowed them to be liberated. It was the meditative discipline, the trust in the Divine, the attunement with God’s Will through the experience of their own Spirits that allowed these women to look their husbands in the eye and say - you are dead to us, no matter what. Go back and stand with your Guru or leave. Minus the spiritual understanding of the women, the 40 Liberated Ones would have never returned to their Guru and would have gone through lifetimes of karma to repay the mistake. These Khalsa women understood non-attachment, security in the Divine, living in the Will of God, loyalty to the Guru so well that they could fearlessly send their husbands to their death, knowing that it was better for their husbands to die in service of the Guru than to live any other way. And the pain of loosing their husbands was less to them than the pain of seeing their husbands loose their path to God. Publicly- the valor of the men prevailed. Privately- the wisdom of the women prevailed. And it was this joint consciousness, valor and wisdom, male and female, that displayed the true power of the Khalsa.

    Mata Gujri ji: Wife of Guru Teg Bahadur, mother of Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Gobind Rai assumed the Guruship at the age of 9. During those early years of his life, his father, Guru Teg Bahadur, traveled and taught. The responsibility for training Gobind Rai was left in the hands of his mother, Mata Gujri Ji. What kind of woman must she have been to be chosen by God to teach and guide Gobind Rai so that he would be capable of assuming the Guruship? He was a human boy, but he had the most divine mother who instructed him in the ways of wisdom so thoroughly that he was ready to take on the responsibility for his destiny when he was nine years old. God works through a woman's touch. Man is what woman creates him to be. Gobind Rai was what he was, but the destiny of his soul was entrusted to Mata Gujri Ji's care it was the touch of his mother through which God could awaken him.

    And didn't the Gurus teach us - those who are truly married are one soul in two bodies? If this is Divine Truth, can we possibly say that Mata Gujri Ji and Guru Teg Bahadur were one soul in two bodies? One mission with two faces - the public and the private, the male and the female, the conscious and the subconscious, the power and the wisdom? If marriage creates us as one soul in two bodies - then what is the difference between Guru Teg Bahadur and Mata Gujri Ji except that they had two different jobs to do, two different times and spaces, yet sharing one light between them?

    She was the woman who created the man who created the Khalsa. And so powerful was her touch that Gobind Rai was ready to lead when he was a nine year old boy.

    The Panj Piare: The names of the Panj Piare are inscribed in the heart of every Khalsa. Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh, Bhai Himmat Singh, and Bhai Sahib Singh. Their act of total surrender and devotion, of being willing to give their heads to the Guru, is celebrated every year at Baisakhi. It was through their selfless courage, absolute love, and total fearlessness that the Khalsa came to life. But do we know the names of their mothers and what their mothers did to raise them with such a consciousness? Everyone has the Light of the Divine within them. That is never the question. But to live that Light unto death - that is a matter of training and the mother is the first training ground of the soul. What values did their mothers instill in them? What discipline? What stories? How did their mothers teach them? What did they teach them? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a parenting book for Sikhs based on how these mothers raised these boys? The boys who became the Panj Piare and initiated the order of the Khalsa? Truly, they must have had Khalsa women as mothers, even though the Khalsa had not yet come to life.

    So now we have this debate about women doing seva in the Golden Temple, and I think about the anguish of the Panth: where has our glory gone? Where are the great, selfless acts of valor and courage that show us the Khalsa spirit still lives? Perhaps the simple truth is the public acts of Khalsa men are missing because the importance of the private strength of the Khalsa woman has been forgotten. The stories of the Khalsa women are lost because they are quiet and patient stories, stories of endurance and duty, stories, ultimately, that are difficult to tell, difficult to point to - until a man created by the touch of a Khalsa woman delivers his Spirit in the face of death.

    Those who deny women seva in the Guru's Court and the blessing of leading the sangat in devotional kirtan are creating an unfortunate future, not just for themselves, but for the entire Panth. Those who would keep women in spiritual darkness are the true enemies of the Panth, trying to preserve the reigns of power for their own egos. It was never Guru's will for the daughters of the Khalsa to be enslaved by tradition. Who has the right to tell a Khalsa woman what she can and cannot do for her Guru? Who can determine what spiritual acts will bring her to her full spiritual awakening? What person has the authority to deny her the blessing of seva, of the selfless service that will clear her karma, awaken her soul, and bring her to an understanding of her destiny?

    When the day comes for the Khalsa nation to truly rise in its glory, greatness and spiritual sovereignty, it will be Khalsa women who lead the way. Women who have crowned themselves as Princesses of Guru Gobind Singh and live in the nobility, dignity and grace of the 10th Master. Women who, with their loving touch, transform their homes into the Ghrist Ashram where meditation and practice of the Guru's teachings are the center of family life. Where all who need solace, healing and comfort are welcomed with open arms, warm food and kindness. Women who can train their sons and daughters in meditation and Gurbani so that their children do not become confused by doubt and maya, but have such a clear, direct experience of the Divine that they can fearlessly live to the calling of their Spirit and Destiny, even unto death. For the Khalsa nation to come to life, those who have the destiny to give birth to it must realize their duty. And every Sikh has an obligation to do everything possible to give those Khalsa women a chance to wake up, own their power and change the world.

    Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa,
    Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh.
     
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  3. Arvind

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    Off-way: Recently, these thoughts started coming to my mind about punj pyaras. There is not much mention about them (I mean, I dont know). About their families, MOTHERS, descendants etc. I came across one sect, which maintains sikhism as per maryada of punj pyaras. I am not very convinced behind the idelogy adopted by them, as those singhs remain unmarried, have a different life style. Also they dont allow women in sachkhand. Claim that punj pyaras were never married, and Guru Gobind Singh ji Himself gave the panth responsibility to punj pyaras. Lot of things like that, but some ideas by a few people are just beyond my little knowledge. May be, learned members can throw some light on this!
     
  4. truth_seeker

    truth_seeker
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    The Martial Heritage Of Khalsa Women
    By Shanti Kaur Khalsa

    Late one afternoon I dropped by the house of my old friend, Satwant Singh Khalsa, to return the handgun I had borrowed from him to teach a shooting course at a local martial-arts school. The shiny metal weapon had been cleaned and oiled, and was now carefully wrapped in a cloth and tucked under my arm as I knocked on his door, His smiling face appeared and he greeted me as I walked into his home. I handed him the gun with a profusion of thanks, and turned to leave when his young daughter of six, Amrit Kaur, came up and grabbed her father by the leg.

    "Papa, can I see that?" she asked. "Of course", Satwant Singh replied, and he began to unwrap the gun with great reverence. Her eyes grew as big as blue moons reflecting the glint of the handgun as her father explained to her what it was. She looked at the gun then looked at me, a Khalsa woman in a turban, and her face clouded with confusion. Again she looked at the gun and then up at me and began to smile shyly. Finally she said with expectant wonder in her voice, "Papa, can girls shoot guns too?"

    Actually, Khalsa women have been shooting ever since guns were first introduced to India. Many of the old stories have been lost, and those that remain are scant in detail and description. But the fact is that the Tenth Master, Siri Guru Gobind singh Ji Maharaj, encouraged and promoted women in martial training in the army of the Khalsa. The Khalsa has no gender, neither male nor female, so those women who were inclined to study the martial tradition found their places in the ranks of the Khalsa Fauj (Army). Mai Bhago Kaur is an outstanding example of a woman warrior in the Sikh tradition.

    In 1705 the Mughal forces under the direction of the emperor Aurangzeb laid a deadly seige on the fort of Anandpur Sahib in a desparate effort to destroy Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the Khalsa. As food and water were exhausted, the conditions became unbearable and many Sikhs deserted the Guru. The Sikhs from the Majha area of Punjab, belonged to a tradition of gallant warriors, but they also chose to abandon the Guru and return to their villages. Before he left the fort, Guru Gobind Singh Ji asked them to put their denouncement on paper : they wrote that they were no longer Sikhs of the Guru.

    When the women of the viallage heard that their men were returning home, traitors to the Guru's cause, they were incensed. Bhago, a lady from Jhabal, spoke to the women and together they resolved to reverse the situation. As the men returned, hungry, tired and depressed from their experience at AnandPur Sahib, the women would not let them enter their homes. They said to their husbands and sons, "Either go back and make amends for your cowardly behaviour, or exchange your dress with ours, stay at home act as housewives in our place. Dressed in your clothes we will go and fight for the Guru, lay down our lives for him, and wash away with our blood the shame which you have brought on us all, nay the whole of Majha itself."

    Shamed by the courageous response of their womenfolk, a band of forty Sikhs started back towards the Guru under the leadership of Bhai Mahan Singh and Mai Bhago. Dressed in soldier's battle-gear, Mai Bhago struck a fearsome pose and was respected by the Sikh soldiers for her spiritual clarity and her courageous nature. As they made their way toward the Guru, groups of Sikhs from various villages along the way joined them in support of the great Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

    By that time, Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the Khalsa army had left the fort of Anandpur Sahib with the promise of safe passage from Emperor Aurangzeb. But his promise proved to be a cruel deception and the Khalsa suffered devastating battles in which the two elder sons of the Guru were killed. Now they were being pursued by Wazir Khan, the Nawab of Sirhind with over 5000 Mughal soldiers. Having already captured and bricked alive the two young sons of the Guru, Wazir Khan was eager to kill the Guru himself and gain favour with the Emperor in Delhi.

    The Sikhs from Majha met with the Guru-Master between Ramiana and Khidrana. With Bhai Mahan Singh as their spokesman, the forty Sikhs begged the Guru to forgive their desertion and to bless them with his grace. Together they rode with the Guru to Khidrana where there was a large water tank to slake the thirst of the guru's army. But at this time of May, the plains of Punjab were already scorched by the summer heat, and when they arrived they found the tank nearly dry. Guru Gobind Singh Ji signalled for his army to continue on in search of water. Bhai Mahan Singh proposed that his group stay behind and engage the enemy there, allowing the Guru time to reach a place of safety. Guru Gobind Singh Ji agreed to the strategy, and rode about two miles forward with the bulk of the Khalsa army.

    Big white sheets of Khaddar, the course woven cloth, were spread out on the shrubs so that the Mughal army would think that the full army of Sikhs were camped there in great numbers. Fearlessly, the small band of Sikhs waited in ambush for the huge army of Wazir Khan to approach the tank in search of water.

    The battle of Mukhtsar began on the 8th of May, 1705. Under the leadership of Mai Bhago and Bhai Mahan Singh, the Sikhs from Majha fell upon the advancing Mughal forces with a fury free of petty revenge. Mai bhago was seen fighting in the first rank, firing her long-barrel musket with the skill and precision of a true soldier. The Mughal army rushed forward several times in an attempt to dislodge the Sikhs and capture the tank, but had withdraw each time under the fierce volley of bullets and arrows. When at last the Khalsa's ammunition was all used up, they advanced forward in small groups to engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. When her time came, Mai Bhago charged into the enemy ranks with a long spear, creating havoc and killing many Mughal soldiers.

    They were not fighting for victory that day, as the Mughal army out-numbered the Khalsa by about 500 to one. They had no thought of saving their lives. They only wished to win time, to stall the Mughal forces long enough so that Guru gobind Singh Ji and the rest of the Khalsa might advance to a better field of battle. By day's end, all the Khalsa lay dead in the battlefield.

    Nearly 300 of the Turks lay with them in the same bloody bed. The battle had taken it's toll and now the Mughal Army cried desparately for water. When Wazir Khan advanced forward to take possession of the water tank, he was shocked to find that it was bone dry. Morale had shrivelled in the blistering heat of the Punjabi heat and discipline in the ranks was quickly dissolving. Abandoning the dead and wounded where they lay, Wazir Khan and his army beat a hasty retreat in search of water for his despairing men.

    As evening fell, Guru Gobind Singh Ji rode back to the battlefield of Khidrana. He got down from his horse and surveyed the bloody carnage that stretched before him. With a deep affection that he felt for his Khalsa, he knelt by each fallen soldier and blessed him. Coming to Bhai Mahan Singh, the Guru saw that he was not yet dead. He lifted his head gently and wiped the blood from his face. Mahan Singh opened his eyes and saw the beautiful face of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The Guru asked him if he had any last wishes, and Mahan Sinigh begged him to tear up the document that he had signed renouncing the Guru. The Guru said, "You have done a great deed. You have saved the root of Sikhism in Majha. You are the Muktas, the liberated ones, delivered from the round of birth and death forever." Saying this, he reached in his belt and pulled out the paper they had signed in Anandpur and tore it up into little pieces that floated away on the wind.

    Continuing on, the Guru came to where Mai Bhago lay in the blood soaked grass. Dozens of Mughals lay dead around her where they had fallen in mortal combat. He was surprised to find a woman here on the batlefield. When he knelt to lift her head he saw that she too was barely alive, and he washed her face with cool water. She opened her eyes and saw the Guru's face in all his radiance. Such a beautiful sight, after such a brutal day, lifted her soul into spiritual ecstasy.

    Guru Gobind Singh Ji had her removed from the battlefield and her wounds were tended to by his physicians. When Mai Bhago recovered from her injuries, the Guru gave her amrit from his own hands and she became Mai Bhago Kaur. Having dedicated her life to the Khalsa, she stayed with Guru Gobind Singh Ji and served him as one of his personal guards. Dressed in male attire, she was one of only 10 Sikhs who were permitted to guard the Guru when he slept. She lived to be an old woman and died in Hazoor Sahib (Nanded, India) where she remained after the Guru's death.

    The legacy of Mai Bhago Kaur lives in all of us. She showed the way for feminine strength to be courageous, powerful and dynamic. Her actions turned the course of history, and her courage under fire won her the love and respect of Siri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Mahahraj.

    The wives and daughters of today's Khalsa should be given encouragement and support to pursue martial arts training. It is not always easy for women, as it goes against the social programming and expectations of our culture. It requires building physical strength that women often lack in childhood, and which is often difficult to acquire later on. Yet it is not only possible for women to become proficient in the martial arts, when given the chance we often excel. More importantly, it builds discipline, confidence and a strength of character that serves a women her entire life.

    "Papa", said little Amrit Kaur shyly, "Do girls shoot guns too?" Satwant Singh was surprised at his daughter's question and he looked to me for a reply.

    "Of course", I said with a smile, "Girls shoot the best! When you get older I will teach you myself." On hearing this she put her hand to her mouth and giggled with great exitement and expectation.
     

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