Reflection on Mata Gujri Ji
Mata Gujri was a perfect woman, a Puran Istree. The word "Stree" originates from Sanskrit and means "expansion."2 In a physical sense women expand by being mothers. In a spiritual sense, women give their children the ideals and values to live by; they nurture a sense of security; and they have the power to construct or destroy their families and their generations to come.
So, it is only pertinent to say that Mata Gujri was a Puran Istree in both the physical and spiritual realms. She completed the life and mission of Guru Teg Bahadur; raised the extraordinary child Gobind; managed the affairs of the Sikh Panth while the Guru was still a child; and inspired and prepared her young grandsons for the extraordinary courage, grace and sacrifice that would be required of them at such tender ages.
Let us look at her life and the different roles she plays as a perfect woman.
z As a Daughter: MataJi was brought up with the consciousness of the Guru's light; she fulfilled her parent's aspiration of serving the path of the Guru beyond their expectations by growing into a perfect role model of grace, strength, persistence and sacrifice.
z As a Wife: She supported Guru Tegh Bahadur when he was deep in meditation for years, again while he was on his missionary tour, and finally, when the Guru left for Delhi to make the supreme sacrifice.
z As a Leader: After Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom, she and her brother, Kirpal Chand had the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Panth. She also organized the langar (community kitchen) and played an important role as the administrator of the army. She had an important role inspiring the Khalsa armies during the battles Guru Gobind Singh had to fight. Her role in the battle of Bhangani is especially remembered.
z As a Mother: She molded the father of the Khalsa, the great Guru Gobind, raising him as a single mother after the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadurji.
z As a Grandmother and inspiration to the young martyrs: When Mata Ji and the sahibzadas were arrested and confined in Sirhind Fort, and as the children were summoned to appear in court each day, she kept urging them to remain steadfast in their faith. She constantly reminded the Sahibzadas that their Grandfather and Great-Grandfather had both sacrificed their lives to strengthen the ideals of Guru Nanak. Her support of her grandsons played such an important role in Sikhism that as Sikhs, we probably owe our existence to her. It was due to her role that the seven and nine year old children did not budge from their beliefs and attained martyrdom. If the Sahibzadas had accepted Islam on that winter day, Sikhi probably wouldn't exist as it does today. So, in fact, we stand tall because of the teachings and the inspiration Mata Ji provided to her grandsons and thousands of martyrs who gave their heads and not their faith.
z As a Martyr: While imprisoned on top of an open tower during the cold month of December, Mata Gujri continually did simran with no complaints about her physical being. She attained martyrdom the same day as her grandsons after hearing that her grandsons had been bricked alive rather than give up their faith. Her mission had been fulfilled.
"In a woman man is conceived; from a woman he is born. With a woman he is betrothed and married; with a woman he contracts friendship. Why say she is inferior, the one from who even kings are born? Without woman, there would be no one at all." - Guru Nanak3
A unique aspect of the social status of women in Sikhi is that we did not have to fight for it. The Guru's enlightened ideals and efforts offered equal status some 500 years before most women could even dare to talk about or ask for equality. As suggested in the Gurbani, without women, there would be no one at all; they are the source of the physical existence of humanity. Thus, Gurbani explicitly acknowledges their empowerment, dignity, and strength. A woman's manifestation as a spiritual being as seen by the Guru goes beyond motherhood. For example, approximately one third of the missionaries Guru Amar Das trained were women. Later Mai Bhago served Guru Gobind as a warrior saint.
According to Bhai Gurdaas, Vaar 5, Pauri 16,4
lok vyd gux igAwn ivc ArD srIrI moK duAwrI:
From a temporal and spiritual point of view, woman is the other half of man and assists to the door to final liberation.
Thus, In Sikh thought, a woman is an equal partner to a man in the spiritual advancement of all humanity. Even God is depicted as both man and woman.
z qUM myrw ipqw qUMhY myrw mwqw:
O Lord, You are my Father, and You are my Mother - SGGS P 103
z Awpy purKu Awpy hI nwrI:
You Yourself are the male, and You Yourself are the female. - SGGS P 1020