Bibi Shushil Kaur
Sikhs have been fighting for saving their individual existence since long. Sikh women have not lagged behind their men in this holy battle. They have also suffered in- human tortures at the hands of bigots like Mir Mannu. They were kept hungry and forced to grind grain by working heavy stone mills. To break their wills and high spirits, their children were thrown up in the air to fall back on sharp blades of spears in their presence. Pieces of their children’s dead bodies were put up as a necklace around the necks of their mothers, but these great women bore this all without even a sigh on their lips. Writers have not done justice to them. While many writers have praised the achievements and sacrifices of Banda Singh Bahadur, only a few have mentioned the sacrifice of his wife, Bibi Shushil Kaur. Her short biography will reveal that her sacrifice was also important.
In 1708, Banda Singh Bahadur was instructed by Guru Gobind Singh to carry on the national struggle in the Punjab, guide the Khalsa and to punish the oppressors. With the blessing of the Guru, Baba Banda Bahadur left Nander, South India, for Punjab and started his job in right earnest. In 1710, he conquered a large part of the Punjab including Sirhind. The governor of Sirhind, Wazir Khan, murderer of the younger two princes (Sahibzadas). Was killed in the battle an the Mughal army was defeated. Banda organized the Sikhs and established the first Sikh state with its capital at Lohgarh, near the hill state of Nahan, now a part of Himachal state, in the beginning of 1710. He struck coin in the name of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, and issued orders under his own seal. He realized Guru Gobind Singh’s dream of political sovereignty. He can safely be called the first Sikh ruler. Huge Mughal forces from Delhi and Punjab besieged the fort of Lohgarh. Banda and his men escaped to the hill states as they were not able to withstand a long siege.
He conquered many hill states. When he reached near the hill state of Chamba, its ruler, Uday Singh, did not want to fight and offered Banda to marry a princess. Banda said to the ruler, “Why do you offer a princess when I have never made any such demand from you or from any other body?” The ruler said, “It is the desire of the princess. She does not like the hill chiefs who have sided with the Mughal chiefs. Moreover, she has heard of your courageous fight against the oppressors. She is also determined to join you in your fight to achieve your mission. .” After consulting his companions, and satisfying himself about the statement of the ruler, Banda agreed and the marriage was solemnized according to the Sikh rites in the beginning of 1711.
She was baptized and named Shushil Kaur. Macauliffe, a famous writer of the Sikh history, writes, “she had large eyes, her limbs were graceful and delicate.” Historians have described her as the very image of the God of love. After a few more conquests, Banda along with Shushil Kaur and some Sikhs retired to the hills and settled at a lonely place on the Bank of the river Chanab, in the Jammun state. It was called Dera (encampment) Baba Banda Singh Bahahdur. In the beginning of 1712, a son named Ajit Singh was born to Shushil Kaur. Off and on Banda visited different parts of the Punjab to conquer new areas or to restore order and returned to his headquarters. Now Bibi Shushil Kaur nursed her baby, Ajit Singh, and served her husband. Many Sikh Soldiers and Banda’s followers visited the Dera daily. She was also in charge of the Langar (common kitchen) at the Dera. She knew that her husband might leave any time for the plains to fight some battle. She used to listen all about these battles. Ajit Singh was brought up in this war like atmosphere. She prayed for Banda’s success whenever he left the Dera for fighting injustice and thanked God when he returned after suppressing the rebels. She also wished to accompany Banda Singh to help him, but Banda Singh did not agree.
In the beginning of 1715, when Banda Singh and his Sikhs marched towards Kalanaur, near Gurdaspur, he took Sushil Kaur and Ajay Singh with him as she insisted on accompanying him. After conquering Kalanaur, they marched towards Batala which was also captured after a bloody battle. Shushil Kaur was watching these battles and was mentally preparing herself to sacrifice his life if required. Mughal chiefs of the Punjab and Delhi under orders from the Emperor besieged Banda Singh and his Sikhs with a huge force in an enclosure at village Gurdas Nangal, near Gurdaspur.
The siege continued for eight months. Banda Singh and his men fought against heavy odds and held their ground with courage. Their provision had run out as they were attacked suddenly. They had to live on grass and leaves. Bibi Shushil Kaur did not lose heart. She with her innocent child faced these odds boldly. Banda Singh along with his family and famished soldiers, who had survived, was taken prisoners in December,1715. They were brought to Lahore and from there to Delhi. They were humiliated, but there was no sign of sorrow or dejection on the face of anyone. Shushik Kaur was satisfied that she was with her husband at that time when death seemed to be sure. She was meditating and praying to God to give everyone courage to face death boldly.
At Delhi Bibi Shushil Kaur with her child was separated from the other prisoners and taken to the palace where other queens lived. The Mughal Emperor at Delhi, Farrukh Siyar wanted to marry her, so she was not tortured. She was provided with all the comforts. Other queens and maid servants were instructed to induce Bibi Shushil Kaur to embrace Islam and enjoy her life. She was promised high position among the queens and expensive jewellery, but she refused. To discourage her, she was told that 100 Sikh soldiers were being murderers daily because they also refused to feel sorry and embrace Islam. Hearing this, she felt encouraged and hated her life in the palace. She was told that her lovely child would also be killed mercilessly if she did not agree to be converted. She replied without any fear , “ Do whatever you like. Neither I nor my innocent son would like to be converted. We, Sikhs, are not afraid of death”. According to the court reporter, Mohammad Suffi, next day the offer of making her royal queen was repeated to her, but she remained firm and said, “ Time of our death is fixed and none but God can prolong our life. My religion is dearer to me then my or my son’s life”.
According to the same reporter, after two days, she was told that her husband had embraced Islam and he wanted her to follow him. She understood that it was a lie and said to the messenger, “ You are telling a lie. Prove it by taking me to my husband”. At last, they ordered her to give them her child. She understood that the end of her four years old child’s life had reached. She was a helpless prisoner and could do nothing. She kissed and hugged her dear son, overcame her sentiments and handed him over to them. Next day She came to know from a reliable source that the executioner had hacked the child to pieces with a long knife while the child was sitting in the lap of his father. Quivering heart of the child was thrust into the mouth of his father. She also heard the confirmed news that Banda Singh was also cut to pieces. Hearing all these bad news, she thanked God that everyone had been firm in his faith. She was calm and nobleness of her features was visible. She was again induced and pressured to agree to conversion and marry the Emperor. Her maids thought that she would agree as there was none left to support her. When this self-respecting woman realized that his honor was in danger, she decided to end her life. She followed the example set by Bibi Anup Kaur, found a deggar and thrust it into her chest at midnight. She became a mortal on 20th June,1716. Her soul joined her husband’s and her son’s souls.