Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

Bibi Shamsher Kaur

An aged Brahmin (Priest) came crying to Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia at Hansi now in the state of Haryana. The priest told him that Ali Beg, the chief of Hissar, while hunting came to his village and forcibly took his two daughters. He said that he begged and cried a lot, but none of the villagers came to his rescue. The chief also turned a deaf ear to his request and said, “How can I leave such beautiful and young girls? Get me two other beautiful and young girls and take yours.” The priest, who was weeping bitterly, said, “I am losing my eyesight and I would commit suicide if I could not get back my daughters. You are the shelter of the shelter less. Kindly take pity on me.’” The Sardar consoled him and promised that his daughters would be returned to him if they were alive.

At nightfall, the Sardar took a party of Sikh soldiers, rode towards Hissar and surrounded the fort at Hissar within three hours. At that time, Ali Beg was drinking while some slave girls were dancing. The Sikh soldiers broke the door of the fort and challenged Ali Beg. In the ensuing battle, three Sikh soldiers died while Ali Beg was injured and many of his soldiers were killed. Ali Beg appealed for mercy and handed over not only those two girls but three others who were also abducted by him. The Sardar took pity on the queens of Ali Beg and conceded to their request not to kill Ali Beg. He returned to Hansi before dawn. He did not loot the fort ,but warned Ali Beg to behave in the future.

The Sardar called the priest and said, “Take your daughters to your village and marry them after finding suitable matches. I can help you financially if you desire.” The priest thanked the Sardar for saving his daughters from a devil, but expressed his fear that if he took his daughters to his village, none of his relatives would have any dealings with him as the girls have lived in the company of Muslims and taken their food. The Sardar encouraged the Brahmin and said, “ Take the girls with you. I also shall try to find some suitable match for the girls and arrange their marriages.” The Brahmin unwillingly agreed and left for his village.

After a week, the priest came back weeping to the Sardar On being asked, he said, “None in the village is willing to talk to me. They want me to leave the girls to Ali Beg or he would attack the village and abduct the girls again, whenever he finds a chance.” The elder daughter, Shamo, said to the Sardar, “Sardar Ji, I will never go back to the village and live among cowards. Our father has been crying since he left you. Kindly let us live here.” The Sardar said to the priest, “I shall treat these girls as my daughters and marry them when I find suitable matches. They can live among the families of my soldiers and take food from the common kitchen. You may go to your village.”

A new environment and society changed the life of the young girls. They adopted the dress of Sikh girls and their food habits. They served in the common kitchen, prayed with others, and started to learn using arms. Shamo was more intelligent than Ramo. She was quick to learn reading Punjabi, horse riding, and the use of arms. On their request, both the sisters were baptized. The elder one was named Shamsher Kaur and the younger one, Ram Kaur. The Sardar proposed two soldiers for the girls and with the consent of all concerned, they were married.

It was the period of feudalism and big landlords like Ali Beg ruled over certain territories under their control. Might was right. Sikh Sardars like Jassa Singh in the Punjab were also divided into eleven groups called Misls. Every group was headed by a Sardar and controlled certain area. Sardar Jassa Singh was the head of Ramgarhia misal, ruled over area surrounding Batala in the Punjab. He was defeated by the Sardars of Kanhiya, Shukarchakia and Ahluwalia misls and had to flee to Hansi, far away from his territory in 1778. He conquered a large area near Hansi where he saved the two girls of the priest.

In 1785, differences arose between the chiefs of Kanhiya and Shukarchakia misals. Sardar Mahan Singh of Shukarchakia misls invited Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia to the Punjab and promised him to get back his lost territory if he helped him defeat chief of the Kanhiya misl. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia grasped this golden opportunity to get back the lost territory and honor. Shamsher Kaur and her husband insisted on accompanying him to help him against his enemies. Jassa Singh wanted them to stay back and supervise his area ,but he yielded when Shamsher Kaur insisted on going with him. In the fierce battle at Batala, Shamsher Kaur fought like a brave and loyal soldier, and it resulted in the victory of Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. He was so pleased with the active part taken by Shamsher Kaur that he bestowed upon her five villages near Hansi and asked her to go back with a few soldiers and look after the area so that tyrants don’t bother the innocent. She thanked the Sardar for his blessings and with her husband started for Hansi. She dressed like a male soldier and was known as Shamsher. Many did not know that Shamsher was a female. She was a kind and popular ruler of her small kingdom and preached Sikhism. She set right many dacoits and bad characters. She never tolerated female depression and was very popular among the people of the area. The poor thought that God had sent her to save them from the tyrants.

Mohammad Ali, chief of the village Kot Ali Khan in that area, was a lustful young man who secretly planned to forcibly marry Razia, the young daughter of his servant, Haider. Razia and her parents did not like it as Mohamed Ali already had many wives. Razia and her mother left the village at midnight to save themselves from the chief. When the chief came to know of it, he took Haider to task and told him that he was getting a bad name as his daughter and wife had left the village. He ordered him to present them as he wanted to marry Razia. Haider said, “Sir, you have already many wives. We cannot spoil the life of our daughter by marrying with you and my daughter also does not like it.” The chief did not listen and ordered his men to arrest him and put him in the prison. He sent his soldiers to find Razia and bring her and her mother to him. They found the ladies and brought them back to the chief.

Razia was thirsty and requested the soldiers to let her take a watermelon from the field near by. They agreed and allowed her to take a water melon. In the meantime 20 Sikh horsemen with their leader appeared on the scene and asked the soldiers about the ladies The soldiers told a lie, but Razia told them the real story. The leader, Shamsher Kaur, ordered the soldier to leave the ladies, go back and tell their chief to release Razia’s father or the chief and his whole family will be killed. The soldiers surrendered their arms and went back to their chief. Shamsher Kaur took Razia on her own horse, gave her mother a separate horse and with her soldiers left for Hansi. She took both the ladies to her house. When she changed her clothes, the ladies were surprised to find that their savior was a lady.

Mohammad Ali did not release Razia’s father. One night when he was busy in drinking and watching the dance of a beautiful girl, his watchmen cried that enemies had surrounded them. At once, Shamsher and her soldiers climbed the tree near the walls of Mohamad Ali’s house and raised slogans of long live Shamsher . Mohammad Ali and his soldiers were taken aback when the Sikh soldiers with their leader jumped into the house from the tree. Those who resisted them were killed. Mohammad Ali drew his sword, but soon his sword was broken and he surrendered. He handed over the keys of the prison. Shamsher rescued Razia’s father and brought him to her headquarters. She set Mohammad Ali free when he requested for forgiveness and promised not to repeat such actions in the future.

Ali could not tolerate this insult. He held a meeting of the Muslim chiefs of the area and said “It is a matter of shame that a Sikh lady should rule over us. She has a lot of money in her fort. If you help me, we can catch her. You may take the money and leave her for me” They agreed and brought their forces to help him. They had about 3,000 mercenaries. Shamsher and her husband left the fort and faced them in the open so that they might not be surrounded in the fort. There was a lot of bloodshed and many from both sides were killed. Ali challenged Shamsher to come forward and fight one to one. She raised the slogan of Bole So Nihal,Sat Sri Akal and with a stroke of her sword cut the right arm of Ali. With the second stroke ,she separated his head from his body .Her husband was also badly injured in the battle. Now the remaining Muslim soldiers took to their heels. Her husband could not recover in spite of the available treatment and breathed his last. She treated it as the will of God and did not cry.

Now she was left alone, but she did not lose heart. Next year, Marathas from the west India conquered Agra and after subduing many petty chiefs, they sent a message to Shamsher to hand over her territory to them and leave her fort. They had an army of many thousands, but she had only one thousand soldiers. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia or any other Sikh chief could not help her as they were far away. She decided to prefer death to subordination. She with her soldiers fought bravely against the enemy. Many soldiers from both sides died fighting. It is said that her dead body had about thirty injuries. Her name is still mentioned in folklores and old persons of the area remember her with respect.

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