Friday, September 30, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

Bibi Basant Lata

A short biography of Bibi Basant Lata will prove that Sikh woman can successfully face all kinds of critical and risky situations. They can undergo the worst torture, shun attractive temptations and sacrifice their lives to save their faith, honor and rights. Sikh women like Sikh men are equally good saint- soldiers.

Basant Lata, a baptized Sikh woman, had no living relative. She spent her time in the service of Mata Sundri and her family at Anandpur. Service was the only mission of her life. She treated every member of the family like her own dear and near one. She was happily living under the shelter of Mata Sundri. She also treated Basant Lata like her sister and loved her from the chore of her heart.

Guru Gobind Singh reluctantly evacuated the fort at Anandpur at the dead of night 20-21 December, 1704 on a written assurance of Aurangzeb for safe evacuation. This assurance proved false and the Mughal forces under Wazir Khan attacked the Guru and the party before they could cross the river Sirsa. It was raining and a swift wind was blowing. The river was in spate. In the midst of rain, cold, darkness and fierce fighting, complete confusion prevailed among the Sikhs. Mata Sundri and Mata Gujri with the princes were being carried in palanquins, duly protected by the Sikhs. Basant Lata was walking along. Mata Sundri asked Lata many times to sit in the palanquins. Basant Late, out of respect, did not like to sit with the Mata and kept on walking in the dark. In utter darkness and confusion, she stumbled and fell down. After a while when she got up, her companions had gone far away. She found herself surrounded by a few Mughal Soldiers. She gave them a good fight, but could not face the armed soldiers and was arrested. Soldiers decided to present her as a gift to their chief. They took her to the chief’s home and presented her to him. She said to the chief, “ I’m a baptized maid servant of Mata Sundri. My faith is dearer to me than my life. I know how to sacrifice my life at the altar of my honor. It would be better for you if you leave me so that I may join my party”.

The chief did not listen to her and offered her a comfortable and respectful life as his senior queen. He also showed her precious ornaments which she could use after becoming his queen”. She did not agree and refused his offers flatly. The chief was attracted to her and ordered that she should be tortured till she agrees. The soldiers threatened and tortured her. She was kept hungry and had to grind wheat for 24 hours at a stretch.

She was dead tired and the chief was hopeful that now she would agree to marry him. He tried to allure her with his sweet talk, but failed. As he turned his face, she secretly took his dagger from his belt and quickly thrust it into her chest. She died in no time and there was nothing but her dead body and blood lying on the floor. Now the chief realized that she meant what she said. He was all praise for the brave Sikh woman. He did not want that the people should know about it. He was also afraid of the Sikhs. He called his Hindu servant and asked him to cremate her secretly according to the Sikh rites.

The servant asked his wife to give the dead body of Basant Lata a bath. She found a piece of written paper in her pocket. It was a letter by Basant Lata to Mata Sundri intimating her that her dear Lata sacrificed her life to save her honor and faith with the hope to meet her in the next world. Lata also requested Mata Sundri to forgive her mistakes, if any, committed by her during the service. .

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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