Mata Gujri Ji
Mata Gujari was the daughter of Bhai lal Chand Subulikka and Bishan Kaur, a pious couple of Kartarpur, in present-day kapurthala district of the Punjab. Lal Chand had migrated from his ancestral village, Lakhnaur, in Ambala district, to settle at Kartarpur where his daughter Gujari was married to (Guru) Tegh Bahadur on 4 February 1633. The betrothal had taken place four years earlier when Tegh Bahadur had come to Kartarpur in the marriage party of his elder brother, Suraj Mall. Bishan Kaur, the mother, had been charmed by the handsome face of Tegh Bahadur and she and her husband pledged the hand of their daughter to him. After the marriage ceremony, the couple came to reside in Amritsar. Bride Gujari won the appreciation of everyone “Like bridegroom like bride” records Gurbilas Chhevi patshsahi. “Gujari is by destiny made worthy of Tegh Bahadur in every way ” In 1635, Mata Gujari left Amritsar with the holy family and went to reside at Kartarpur, in the Sivalik foothills. After of Guru Hargobind left this world in 1644, she came with her husband and mother-in-law, Mata Nanaki, to Bakala, now in Amritsar district of the Punjab. There they lived in peaceful seclusion, Tegh Bahadur spending his days and nights in meditation and Gujari performing the humble duties of a pious and devoted housewife. After he was installed Guru in 1664, Guru Tegh Bahadur, accompanied by Mata Gujari, went on a visit to Amritsar, traveling on to Makhoval, near Kiratpur, where a new habitation, named Chakk Nanaki (later Anandpur) was founded in the middle of 1665.
Soon after this, Guru Tegh Bahadur along with his mother, Nanaki, and wife, Gujari, set out on a long journey to the east Leaving the family at Patna, he traveled on to Bengal and Assam. At Patna, Mata Gujari gave birth to a son on 22 December 1666. The child was named Gobind Rai, the illustrious Guru Gobind Singh of later day. Guru Tegh Bahadur returned to Patna in 1670 for a brief stay before he left for Delhi, instructing the family to proceed to lakhnaur, now in Haryana.
Mata Gujari, accompanied by the aged Mata Nanaki and young Gobind Rai, reached, on 13 September 1670, Lakhnaur where she stayed with her brother Mehar chand, until she was joined by her husband. An old well just outside Lakhnaur village and reverently called Matta da Khuh or Mata Gujari DA Khuh still commemorates her visit. From Lakhnaur the family proceeded to Chakk Nanaki where Guru Tegh Bahadur rejoined them in March 1671 after spending some more time traveling through the Malva region and meeting sangats. At Chakk Nanaki, 11 July 1675 was a momentous day when Guru Tegh Bahadur left for Delhi prepared to make the supreme sacrifice. She showed courage at the time of parting and bore the ultimate trial with fortitude. Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed in Delhi on 11 November 1675, and, Guru Cobind Singh then being very young, the responsibility of managing the affairs at Chakk Nanaki, initially, fell to her. She was assisted in the task by her younger brother, Kirpal Chand.
When in face of a prolonged siege by hostile hill rajas and Mughal troops Chakk Nanaki (Anandpur) had to be evacuated by Guru Gobind Singh on the night of 5-6 December 1705, Mata Gujari with her younger grandsons, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, aged nine and seven year respectively, was separated from the main body while crossing the rivulet Sarsa. The three of them were led by their servant, Gangu, to the latter’s village, Saheri, near Morinda in present day Ropar district, where he treacherously betrayed them to the local Muslim officer. Mata Gujari and her grandsons were arrested on 8 December and confined in Sirhind Fort in what is referred to in Sikh chronicles as Thanda Burj, the cold tower. As the children were summoned to appear in court from day to day, the grandmother kept urging them to remain steadfast in their faith. On 11 December they were ordered to be bricked up alive in a wall, but, since the masonry crumbled before it covered their heads, they were executed the following day. Mata Gujari ji were imprisoned on top of a tower which was opened from all sides without any warm clothes in very cold month of December. She continued the tradition of Sikhism and without complaints give her body singing guru ki Bani. Mata Gujari ji attained martyrdom the same day as her grandsons. No doubt Guru Nanak Dev ji had said “Why isn’t woman equal to man when she is who gave birth to kings, and protectors of Dharma”. Mata Gujari ji through upbringing of her grandsons played such an important role in Sikhism that as Sikhs, we can owe our existence to her. It was due to her teachings that 6 year old and 9 year old did not bulge from their Dharma and attained martyrdom. Thus continuing and emphasizing the institute of martyrdom in Sikhism. Seth Todar Mall, a kindhearted wealthy man of Sirhind, cremated the three dead bodies the next day.
At Fatehgarh Sahib, near Sirhind, there is a shrine called Gurdwara Mata Gujari (Thanda Burj). This is where Mata Gujari spent the last four days of her life. About one kilometer to the southeast of it is Gurdwara Joti Sarup, marking the cremation site. Here, on the ground floor, a small domed pavilion in white marble is dedicated to Mata Gujari. The Sikhs from far and near come to pay homage to her memory, especially during a three-day fair held from 1113 Poh, Bikrami dates falling in the last week of December.
Trilochan Singh, Guru Tegh Bahadur. Delhi, 1967
Mata Gujri was the first Sikh Martyr lady in the Sikh history. She is also distinguished by being the wife of a martyr (Guru Tegh Bahaar), mother of a martyr (Guru Gobind Singh), grandmother of four martyr Sahibzadas (Ajit Singh, Jujhar Singh, Zorawar Singh, and Fateh Singh), sister of a martyr ( Kirpal Chand) and aunt of five martyr sons of Bibi Viro, sister of Guru Tegh Bahadar.
Mata Gujri was born to Bhai Lal Chand and Bibi Bishan Kaur, a pious couple, at Kartarpur, near Jullundur in Punjab. Tyag Mal (Great Sacrificer) visited Kartarpur with the marriage party of his elder brother, Suraj Mal. Gujri’s parents were attracted to Tyag Mal and engaged their daughter to him. Her marriage took place at Kartarpur in 1633 as child marriage was the custom in those days.
She won the appreciation of every member of the Tyag Mal’s family after marriage. A historian has written, “Like Bridegroom, like bride.” People said “Gujri is by destiny made worthy of Tyag Mal in every way.” She was a noble soul, beautiful, cultured, sweet tongued, humble, ever happy, tender hearted , devoted wife and daughter- in-law. It was at Kartarpur in 1635 that she herself saw her husband fighting bravely against the Mughal forces that had attacked Guru Hargobind who was so much pleased with the Tyag Mal’s bravery that he conferred on him the title of Tegh Bahadur (Lord of the Sword). By which name he came to be known in history afterwards.
From Kartarpur Guru Hargobind moved to Kiratpur near Anandpur. After the death of Guru Hargobind in 1644, Tegh Bahadur with his mother and wife shifted from Kiratpur to village, Bakala near Amritsar where the family stayed for twenty-one years. The family owned some land there and lived a comfortable life on its income. The family had a cell dug into the floor to avoid oppressive heat of the summer. Tegh Bahadur meditated in the cell (Bhaura) in solitude when free . Mata Gujri performed the humble duty of a devoted housewife and served her husband and mother-in-law. In 1664 when Guru Tegh Bahadur was installed the ninth Guru, he along with his mother, wife and some followers went to Hari Mandar at Amritsar to pay his respect and from there he went to Kiratpur. In 1665 Guru Tegh Bahadur purchased a large tract of land and founded a new town, Chakk Nanki, named after his mother. Now it is called Anandpur Sahib (Abode of bliss). The family left for east India to spread Sikhism and avoid intrigues of selfish and frustrated relatives.
When the party reached Gaya, a famous city, Ram Singh, a Rajput prince, requested Guru Tegh Bahadur to accompany and help him negotiating a settlement with the king of Assam, a state in the East, as Ram Singh was assigned this job by Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor. The guru agreed, left the family at Patna, Bihar state, in the care of his brother-in-law, Kirpal Chand and his devotees, and himself accompanied Ram Singh. On his way to Assam Guru Tegh Bahadur wrote letters to his followers at Patna to take special care of Mata Gujri and the family. It shows that Mata Gujri was dear to her husband. In 1666 Mata Gujri gave birth to Gobind Rai, Guru Gobind Singh of later days, at Patna and the happy news was conveyed to Guru Tegh Bahadur when he was on tour. Gobind Rai was born after thirty three years of Mata Gujri’s marriage, so everybody was overjoyed. Now Mata Gujri was busy caring for the child Gobind Rai .She distributed alms among the poor and thanked God for fulfilling her long cherished desire. Guru Tegh Bahadur returned to Patna in 1670 and after a few days stay at Patna, he returned to the Punjab leaving the family at Patna as his son Gobind Rai was still young and the conditions in Punjab were unsettled. In due course of time, the family with Bhai Kirpal Chand left Patna and on the way stayed for a few days at Lakhnaur near Ambala with the brother of Mata Gujri in 1671. A well at Lakhnaur called, Mata Gujri Da Khuh, still commemorates her visit. The whole family reached Chakk Nanki in 1671 and was received by the people with open arms.
A deputation of the Pandits of Kashmir complained to Guru Tegh Bahadur against the policy of their forced conversion to Islam adopted by the Governor of Kashmir as desired by Aurangzeb in 1675. At that time 8 ½ years old Gobind Rai appeared there and asked the cause of the sadness of the visitors. The guru replied that the nation needed a holy man to sacrifice his life to save these Pandits from forcible conversion. Gobind Rai exclaimed, “Revered father, there cannot be a holier person that you.” The guru was struck by these remarks of his child. He told the Pandits that they should tell the governor that if Guru Tegh Bahadur was converted first, they would follow.
The Guru nominated Gobind Rai as a successor as he knew that his end was near. In July, 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur was arrested for supporting the Pandits. He along with three companions was taken to Delhi for the supreme sacrifice. Mata Gujri showed great courage at the time of parting. During his absence, she slept on the floor, took food once a day, and prayed. Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed and his companions were tortured to death in Delhi in November 1675 as they refused to give up their faith . She bore the ultimate trial with fortitude.
A Sikh named Jaita picked up the head of Guru Tegh Bahadur secretly at midnight and brought it to Guru Gobind Rai at Chakk Nanki. Mata Gujri kept calm treating it as the will of God. Now she took the responsibility of managing the affairs as Gobind Rai was very young. She brought him up like a prince, arranged for his education, and military training. Thus she prepared him for the great mission ahead. From 1675-1684 the whole family stayed at Chakk Nanki. Her letters written to Masands (Preachers who preached in their respective areas and collected offerings for the Guru.) during this period show that she was very strict with the dishonest Masands. Her wording of the letters shows that she was kind hearted but determined to set things right. She celebrated the marriage of Gobind Rai in 1677 with Jito, whom she named Sundri with great enthusiasm. In 1699 when Gobind Rai decided to create a nation of Saint Soldiers and demanded five Sikhs who could offer their heads to him. This was more than many could endure. Some of them went to complain to Mata Gujri. She consoled them and remarked that her son could not kill his Sikhs. At that time, she was grandmother and encouraged her grandson to be baptized. When Guru Gobind Singh abolished the institution of Masands and punished the notorious ones, some of them approached Mata Gujri to interfere. She refused as she knew the nature of corrupt Masands.
In December 1704 Guru Gobind Singh had to vacate the fort at Anandpur due to the prolonged siege by the Mughal troops. Mata Gujri with her younger grandsons, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, ages 8 and 5 respectively, was separated from other members of the family while crossing the rivulet Sirsa which was in flood.The three of them were led by their cook, Gangu, to his village, Saher, near Ropar. At night, he stole
their bag containing money. When it was pointed out to him, he showed ignorance and protested for being blamed. He informed the village headman. Mata Gujri and her grandsons were arrested, and were taken to the governor of Sirhind who confined them to the fort known as Thanda Burj, the cold tower. It was a summer resort for officers but most uncomfortable for eighty years old lady and two children without any warm clothes in the month of December. Mata Gujri foresaw what was going to happen to them. She advised her grandsons not to give up their faith under any circumstances. She told them how their grandfather, Guru Tegh Bahadur had sacrificed his life and preferred death to conversion. She also related to them the sacrifice of Guru Arjan Dev and prepared them to face the governor boldly and not to bow before him.
Governor Wazir Khan was the bitterest foe of the Guru. He was biting his lips in rage for his failure to capture the Guru. He was determined to exercise his power on little children. The children were summoned to the court. They refused to bow before the governor and uttered “Waheguru ji ki Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh.” He was annoyed and threatened to torture them if they did not embrace Islam. Both of them refused to give up their faith. They were given twentyfour hours to think and promised many gifts and comfortable lives if they agreed. They were warned that they would be bricked alive if they refused. When they told Mata Gujri all, she kissed them and advised them to remain steadfast in their faith. Next day the governor made the tempting offers again but they rejected all of them. They wer ordered to be bricked alive. The chief of Malerkotla state, Sher Muhammad Khan, who was present there pleaded for them, but of no avail. \ When they were being bricked alive, in anger they pushed down the temporary structure built in mud and bricks. Therefore they were beheaded on December 27, 1704. When Mata Gujri was told about the martyrdom of her grandsons, she thanked God for giving them a dignified death. She closed her eyes and breathed her last meditating. She kept the tradition of Sikhism and gave her body singing Gurbani without any complaint. Thus she attained martyrdom on the same day as her grandsons. These days there stands a Gurdwara Fateh Garh Sahib.
Todar Mal, a rich business man, cremated the three dead bodies by purchasing the land at a huge price. Gurdwara, Joti Sarup, was erected later on at that place where the Sahibzadas were beheaded. Two tombs in white marble for the Sahibzadas were built within the four walls while the one dedicated to Mata Gujri is on the ground floor. It shows the grandmother is still watching her grandsons. At Fateh Garh Sahib near Sirhind, there is a shrine called Gurdwara Mata Gujri (Thanda Burj). Here she spent the last three days of her life. Every year, devotees from far and near come to pay homage to her memory in the last week of December.
The life story of this unforgettable lady, Mata Gujri, is a lighthouse for the generations. Her name is uttered with respect as she preferred faith to a comfortable life. Due to her teaching and upbringing, her young grandsons set an example for others. We Sikhs owe our existence to her. She continued and emphasized the institution of martyrdom in Sikhism.