Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shaheed Bibi Balbir Kaur Jee...

ਸਲੋਕ || ਕਬੀਰਾ ਮਰਤਾ ਮਰਤਾ ਜਗੁ ਮੁਆ ਮਰਿ ਭਿ ਨ ਜਾਨੈ ਕੋਇ ||
ਐਸੀ ਮਰਨੀ ਜੋ ਮਰੈ ਬਹੁਰਿ ਨ ਮਰਨਾ ਹੋਇ ||੧||
"O Kabeer! In this world people die every day, but none knows how to die. Whosoever dies, let them die such a death that they may not have to die again."
Ang 555


Sikhs under British Raj
During the British Raaj, the Sikh Gurdware were under the control of Nirmala and Udaasi Mahants (caretakers) who had introduced anti-Sikh practices such as consuming meat, drugs, alcohol and even dancing prostitutes in Sikh institutions. Realising the spirit and threat of the Sikhs uprising to seek freedom, the British made the Mahants more powerful and ensured that the Sikhs didn't control or manage their own Gurdware. The Singh Sabha and Akali Movements rejuvenated the spirit, faith and consciousness of the Sikh population, which led to a non-violent movement to free the Sikh Gurdware from corrupt non-Sikh control and re-introduce Gurmat Maryada in Sikh institutions.

The State of Nabha
The Maharaja of Nabha, Ripudaman Singh, was a Gursikh minded ruler. He considered himself a humble servant of the Panth and supported the Akali Movement in freeing the Gurdware from the clutches of the Mahants. In protest against the British oppression of the Sikhs, the Akalis promoted that all Sikhs should wear black dastaars (turbans), as black was a colour of protest. Nabha was the only state in Punjab were Sikhs could freely wear black dastaars, keep their beards flowing and wearing Baanaa (Khalsa attire) without being arrested. Elsewhere Sikhs wearing black dastaars were arrested and put in jail, as they were suspected as troublemakers. Fearing a Sikh uprising with the help of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh, the Maharaja was arrested and taken to Delhi.

Protest against Maharaja Ripudaman Singh's expulsion
In protest the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee (SGPC), working in collaboration with the Shiromani Akali Dal, conducted Akhand Paath Sahibs at various places to openly express their outrage at this injustice and demanded the reinstatement of the Maharaja. Sikhs in Jaito initiated an Akhand Paath Sahib of Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee at the Gurdwara Sahib. Unfortunately, it was not allowed to be completed. Soldiers forcibly arrested the Singhs performing the Akhand Paath and committed sacrilege. This was an attack on the Guru and the Panth. This was an open challenge to Guru Khalsa Panth's freedom and honour.

Protest against Jaito Gurdwara sacrilege
Akali leaders decided to accept this challenge. They immediately announced a non-violent morcha (movement) for the resumption and completion of the interrupted Akhand Paath, this happened in 1924. An Ardaas was done at Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, and the Khalsa vowed to complete 101 Sri Akhand Paaths in response to the sacrilege. Thousands of Sikh men, women and children flocked to Amritsar ready to shed their lives for the respect of Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee. After seeking blessings at Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, a Jatha of 500 Sikhs was sent to march to Jaito. Walking in a column of 4, bare footed, with black dastaars on their head and repeating "Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru..." they vowed to peacefully march to Jaito. The group of peaceful protesters sent from Amritsar were known as "Shaheedi Jathas" (group of martyrs), as they accepted death before they began. Some Singhs did Ardaas at Sri Akaal Takht Sahib that their home, land and money all goes to the Panth after they die and another lady cried out that she is unfortunate that Vaheguru only blessed her with one son, because if she had two, she would send both to attain martyrdom for the respect of Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee.

Bibi Balbir Kaur meets the Shaheedi Jatha
Soon they the Shaheedi Jatha reached its first rest-stop. Although the British had warned that any person serving food or water to the Jathas sent from Amritsar would be punished, villagers in their hundreds flocked to do the seva (selfless service) of the Singhs and Singhnia. One of these villagers serving the Jatha was Bibi Balbir Kaur jee. She joined the Jatha but was asked by the Jathedaar to return. Bibi jee's eyes filled with tears. She said, "Veer! Do not stop me from serving the living martyrs of Guru Gobind Singh jee. Seva is the only essence of this life. Beside we never know when death will come upon us. I plead for permission to continue for Guru's sake. Let me proceed." Jathedaar could not break her heart. He reluctantly gave permission, especially when faced with her utter display of self-sacrifice.

Bibi Jee joins the Jatha
Bibi Balbir Kaur jee was 22 years old, full of youth and beautiful. Guru jee's faith and feelings of selfless service for humanity had generated such a glow on her face that she seemed like the embodiment of purity. She was not alone. She was accompanied by her two year old beautiful son. The playful happy face of this child was not only Balbir Kaur's joy but the source of amusement for the whole Jatha. The journey was nearing completion. Jatha prepared to depart from its final rest-stop. The Jathedaar stood on a high spot and pleaded for the return of the accompanying Sangat. The British forces had dug-in with machine gun. This information had previously reached the Jatha. The Jathedaar did not hide this information from anyone. He said, "With Guru's blessing, our Shaheedi (martyrdom) awaits. However, only those GurSikhs, who have Sri Akaal Takhat's Hukam, should proceed further. Others should return and await their turn." The Sangat stopped and let the Jatha proceed. However, not everyone obeyed the Jathedaar's instructions.

Thirst for Martyrdom
The Jathedaar tried to persuade Bibi Balbir Kaur jee to not continue further, however spirit and courageous words made the Jathedaar accept. The British troops awaited the Jatha and opened fire on them. They showered them with rain of bullets. Whilst peacefully reciting "Waheguru... Waheguru... Waheguru..." Singhs courageously fell to the ground. Suddenly Bibi jee was hit by a bullet in her forehead. Her whole face was covered with blood, eyes were covered with blood. However, this did not affect her march. She continued with the chanting of "Waheguru... Waheguru... Waheguru..." with her son in her arms. Suddenly another bullet hit Bibi Balbir Kaur jee's child. The bullet pierced the child through his ear and then hit Balbir Kaur's chest. The child died immediately and proceeded to the Guru's court. Bibi jee kissed his forehead and placed his body with the other martyrs saying "Waheguru look after your given gift." However, she did not stop. Her face had turned yellow from the loss of blood. She had no strength left to continue. Another bullet came straight in Bibi jee's chest, pierced her body and left from the other side. Falling on the ground she embraced martyrdom and her soul left to join her child in Kalgidhar Father's protection.

Bibi Balbir Kaur jee showed a Gursikh's love, devotion, and fearlessness to maintain the respect of Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee. Bibi jee sacrificed her life and her son's life for the sake of respect of Guru jee and honour of the Panth. The Gursikhs who participated in the peaceful protest showed that the Panth is more important than our lives and personal interests. For the sake of the Panth Gursikhs sacrificed their homes, sons and lives. May Guru jee bless us all with the spirit, love and devotion of serving the Panth and put Guru jee and the Panth before anything else.

Dhan Hai Guru, Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!


Anonymous said...

I don't understand the point in walking into an ambush knowing you will be killed by your enemy? You would expect gursikhs to fight evil not be killed by it knowingly?

Manvir Singh said...

Guru Pyaario,

The Great Gurus have shown that injustice and tyranny can be opposed through peaceful protest, sacrifice, martyrdom, the power of the pen, and picking up the sword.

Guru Arjan Dev Jee Maharaaj sat on the hot iron plate and fought the tyranny by not compromising his faith or principles but instead gave up his life.

The blood of the martyrs revolution and change comes in society. The Gursikhs went to embrace Shaheedi that the British can kill the Sikhs but they cannot rob them of their spirit, faith and principles. The spilt blood of the martyrs paid off the British giving in to the demands of the Sikhs which led to the control of the Sikh Gurdware and institutions in the hands of the Khalsa.

Anonymous said...


Jaswinder Singh said...

Amazing Sikhs!!
Power to Khalsa!!!

...and a zillion thanks to veer Manvir Singh ji for posting a leaf from our history most of us have long forgotten.