Saga of gallantry: Mai Bhago-The female bodyguard of Guru Gobind Singh-Ji Maharaj

There are many great female warriors in Indian history. In this article, the author discusses the remarkable gallantry of Mai Bhago (Mata Bhag Kaur) in the Battle of Khidrana in December, 1705. Read the article to know the remarkable gallantry of Mai Bhago and her forty soldiers.

Indian history is replete with incidents which showcase the gallantry of Indian women. Earlier I wrote about Rani Durgavati, the great Gond queen (Reference:Saga of gallantry: Rani Durgavati, the Gond queen). Now let us know about the gallantry of another great Indian woman, Saint warrior Mata Bhag Kaur, who is also known as Mai Bhago. This great warrior displayed her gallantry in the Battle of Khidrana (Battle of Muktsar), which was fought on 29th December, 1705 between Sikhs led by Guru Gobind Singh-Ji Maharaj and mighty Mughal Army who came to capture Guruji Maharaj. Let us know about Mai Bhago and her forty gallant soldiers who have become immortal as 'challi mukte'. After the Battle of Muktsar, this warrior became one of the personal bodyguards of Guru Gobind Singh-Ji, a rarest of rare honour. She was the only female bodyguard of Guruji Maharaj.

Early life

Unfortunately many details are not available about the early life of Mata Bhag Kaur. We only know that she was born in the village of Jhabal Kalan in present Amritsar district of Punjab, which is called the ''Majha'' region. She was the only daughter of Bhai Malo Shah, granddaughter of Bhai Piro Shah. The family had started following Sikhism since the time of Guru Arjan Dev. Mata Bhag Kaur was the only sister of four brothers. She was married to Sardar Nidhan Singh Warraich of Patti. Mata Bhag Kaur was a staunch Sikh by birth and upbringing.

Forty Sikhs who deserted Guruji Maharaj on the eve of Battle of Muktsar

Alarmed by the rising influence of Sikhs under Guru Gobind Singh-Ji Maharaj, the Mughal army along with the rajas of adjacent hill region of present Himachal Pradesh attacked Anandpur Sahib, the seat of the Sikh Guru. Amritsar was under siege.

Forty men had gone to join the ensuing battle from the village of Mata Bhag Kaur, but they later decided to desert the Guru under adverse condition. They asked permission from Guruji to leave Anandpur. The Great Guru asked them first to leave the Khalsa and disavow him as their Guru. These forty men left Khalsa and left Anandpur.

Mai Bhago came to know about the desertion

Mai Bhago came to know about the desertion of these forty men. She persuaded them to come with her and find the Guru, who had by then left Anandpur Sahib. The momentous journey of Mai Bhago started. Those forty men followed her.

Mai Bhago met the Guru-The Battle started

The party of Mai Bhago reached the Guru's main group near Malwa. Mai Bhago and her forty men stopped near the 'Dhab' (pool) of Khidrana. They noted that a contingent of Mughal army was about to attack the Guru.

The Great Guru knew that those forty deserters were not weak and they would again return and get the blessings of Guru-Ji Maharaj. This did happen.

The gallant 'challi mukte' under Mai Bhago entered the Battle

They knew they were facing certain death. But Mata Bhg Kaur and her forty companions attacked 10,000 Mughal soldiers without any fear. Mai Bhago, with a Keski tied around her head, in full Khalsa uniform and with her 'kirpan', plunged into the battle. The great Sikh soldiers caused so much damage to the mighty Mughals that they had to retreat under the cover of darkness.

Guru-Ji came to bless them

The Great Guru had watched the battle from a nearby hill. With deadly accuracy, he rained down arrows on the Mughals. When he noticed very little activity, Guruji himself came to the battlefield.

He found that the group of forty soldiers who had earlier deserted his camp, caused so much devastation among the Mughals. Thirty-nine of them had died by then. Only Mahan Singh Brar was barely alive. Guruji pulled him upright. At that time, the note mentioning their earlier renouncing of Khalsa came out. Guruji tore that note and said to Mahan Singh Brar that all of them were forgiven. He declared all of them martyrs and blessed them as 'challi mukte' (The Forty Pearls). Mai Bhago was herself grievously wounded. Guruji Maharaj took Mai Bhago into his care and she was nursed back to health. After recovering from injury, Mai Bhago served as one of the bodyguards of Guru Gobind Singh-Ji in warrior's attire during Guru's lifetime.

Mai Bhago retired and spent her last days at Jinvara

She joined Guru-Ji on his journey to Nanded. The Guru left the world in 1708 at Nanded. Mai Bhago retired at Jinvara, near Bidar in Karnataka. She left the world at a very old age.

A Gurudwara at Jinvara

The humble hut at Jinvara where Mai Bhago spent her last days has now been converted into Gurudwara Tap Asthan Mai Bhago. At Nanded, a hall in the compound of Takht Sachkhand Sri Huzur Sahib bears the name of this great female warrior.

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