Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

 Bibi Amro

Bibi Amro was the daughter of Guru Angad Dev ji, the Second Guru. She was born in 1532 in the village of Khadur Sahib, District Amritsar. She received her early education and training directly from her parents Guru Angad Dev ji and Mata Khivi. Guru Angad spent a lot of time with his children. He taught them the Gurmukhi script that he had revised and simplified which is used in Guru Granth Sahib. When she came of age she was married to Bhai Jasoo son of Manak Chand of Basarke village.

As was the custom of the day she was sent to live with her husband's family. Her father encouraged her to continue doing kirtan and to preach Sikhism to all that she came in contact with. Amar Das who was her husband's uncle was quite taken by her sweet melodious voice when he heard her singing shabads (holy hymns). It was she who first introduced him to the teachings of Sikhism. As his interest grew it was she who sent him to her father to learn more about these teachings. Amar Das was so deeply influenced by Guru Angad Dev ji that he became a devout Sikhs, so much that Guru Angad Dev ji announced him as his Successors. Thus Guru Amar Das ji, the third Guru got to his destiny of becoming a Guru through Bibi Amro ji.

Years laters when Guru Amar Das ji gave structure to the Sikh Nation and organised his preachers into 22 teaching districts he put Bibi Amro ji in-charge of one of these districts that he callcd Manji. What Manji meant was that a person who was leading a Kirtan to be sit on the Manji while whole sangat in front of him. The person occupying Manji was the Sikh preacher appointed by Guru Amardas. This appointmcet can best be compared to the position of Bishop in thc Christian Church today. It was an administrative position, with full responsibility for the equality and content of the preaching. She also would have the responsibility of collecting revenues and making decisions for the welfare of her diocese. Her manji or diocese included Basarke, her husband's village, where they made their home. It is the direct result of the efforts of Bibi Amro and other Sikh preaches that Amritsar today is synonomous with Sikhism. Today, close to the village of Basarke, there is a tank (man made pond) bearing the name Bibi Amro da Talab (Tank of Bibi Amro) in her memory.

from the "Champion of Women" by Alice Basarke.

Bibi Amro, daughter of Guru Angad Dev, the second Master and Mata Khivi, was the noble woman who deserves the credit of attracting Amar Das, an idol worshiper, to Sikhism and showing him the way to become Guru Amar Das, the 3rd Master. Thus she was and indirect instrument in the development of Sikhism.

She was born in 1532 at village Khadur near Amritsar. She had two brothers, Dassu and Datu, and one younger sister named Anokhi. She received her early education directly from her parents. Guru Angad Dev taught her, along with the other children, to read and write in Gurmukhi script, which he had revised and simplified. She also learnt many sacred hymns from her father. Writer of the Bansawali Namma writes that she had learnt by heart sacred hymns like ‘Sidh Goshat’. She had been gifted by nature with a sweet voice. In short, she was a talented girl.

When she came of age, she was married to Bhai Jasoo son of Bhai Manak Chand, a well-known religious minded person of village Basarke, about eight miles from Amritsar. Bhai Gurdas also belonged to this family. Bibi Amoro’s parents encouraged her to continue singing sacred hymns and to preach Sikhism. Giani Gian Singh, writer of Panth Parkash, writes on page 84 that she was a religious minded and virtuous lady. (Dharmatam Gun Roop Lapeti). Writer of Suraj Parkash also certifies the fact that devotion had manifested itself in the body of Bibi Amro. She was an ideal daughter in law who spent her time in meditation, household affairs and service of her in laws. Amar Das, real brother of Bhai Manak Chand and her husband’s real uncle, lived in the house next to her. He was attracted to the sacred hymn (Shabad) of Guru Nanak sung by her in her sweet melodious voice early in the morning when she was churning curd. He was in a receptive mood and in search of a Guru. The sacred hymn touched his heart. Two last lines from this hymn written on page 990 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib along with their meaning are given below:-

bhaeiaa munoor ku(n)chun fir hovai jae gur milai thinaehaa || eaek naam a(n)mrith ouhu dhaevai tho naanuk thrisuttas dhaehaa || The mind turned into rusted iron is again transformed into gold if it meets with the ( philosopher’s stone of ) the Guru. He blesses the mortal with the Ambrosial Name of the One Lord, and then, O Nanak, cease therewith ( the wanderings of)the mind He approached Bibi Amro through her mother in law, Bibi Bhago, and wanted her to repeat that hymn once more. She hesitated, but being encouraged by her mother, she sang it once again. Ram Das asked her who composed it and where he lived. She said, “It was composed by Guru Nanak Dev, the first Sikh Guru, the predecessor of my father. I have learnt it from my father, Guru Angad Dev, the second Guru who lives at Khadur”. She also explained to him the meaning of the whole hymn. His interest grew so much that he wanted to learn more about Sikhism. He asked her to take him to her father. She did not want to go uninvited and more over she had been there only a few days ago. On being asked by her mother in law, she accompanied Amar Das to Khadur the next day. Amar Das was 62 and Guru Angad Dev was only 37 at that time. In spite of that Guru Angad Dev stood up out of respect to embrace Amar Das as he was the uncle of his daughter’s husband. Amar Das fell at the feet of Guru Angad Dev and said, “ I have come not as a relative, but as your disciple and follower”. Amar Das become a devoted Sikh and Guru Angad Dev made him his successor, ignoring his own sons. Thus through Bibi Amro, Guru Amar Das got the chance of becoming the Guru and leading the Sikhs . This also raised the prestige of Bibi Amro in her family.

Some writers have written that Guru Amar Das had made Bib Amro in-charge of one of his 22 teaching districts called Manjis (cots). It means that such a person would sit on Manji while the other Sikhs sat on the ground and listened to his/her preachings. He/she guided the Sikhs of his/her area in religious matters and accepted their offerings for the Guru. This appointment can be compared to the position of Bishop in the Christians Church. Bibi Amro’s district included Basarke, her husband’s village, and surrounding few villages. It is due to the efforts of Sikh preachers like Bibi Amro that Sikhism spread so rapidly in that area.

There is a tank (man made pond) near the village Basarke and it is called Bibi Amro Da Talab (Tank of Bibi Amro). It reminds everybody that a noble soul, Bibi Amro who occupies a special place in the Sikh History once lived there.

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