By: Riya Mahanta
ਗਗਨ ਦਮਾਮਾ ਬਾਜਿਓ ਪਰਿਓ ਨੀਸਾਨੈ ਘਾਉ ॥
gagan damāmā bājiō pariō nīsānai ghāu .
The battle drum beats in the sky of the mind; aim is taken, and the wound is inflicted.
ਖੇਤੁ ਜੁ ਮਾਂਡਿਓ ਸੂਰਮਾ ਅਬ ਜੂਝਨ ਕੋ ਦਾਉ ॥੧॥
khēt j mānhdiō sūramā ab jūjhan kō dāu .1.
The spiritual warriors enter the field of battle; now is the time to fight! ||1||
ਸੂਰਾ ਸੋ ਪਹਿਚਾਨੀਐ ਜੁ ਲਰੈ ਦੀਨ ਕੇ ਹੇਤ ॥
sūrā sō pahichānīai j larai dīn kē hēt .
He alone is known as a spiritual hero, who fights in defense of the downtrodden.
ਪੁਰਜਾ ਪੁਰਜਾ ਕਟਿ ਮਰੈ ਕਬਹੂ ਨ ਛਾਡੈ ਖੇਤੁ ॥੨॥੨॥
purajā purajā kat marai kabahū n shādai khēt .2.2.
He may be cut apart, piece by piece, but he never leaves the field of battle. ||2||2||
Bhagat Kabir, Guru Granth Sahib, Ang 1106
The aim of Khalsa is to be a Soldier-Saint (sant-sipahi). This Shabad by Bhagat Kabir stresses – resolve, determination, justification and fighting to the last. Sikh History is evident with numerous examples of the bravery of Sikhs whose lives have revolved around these principles. In this edition of Suneha, we want to highlight the courage and sacrifice of Sikh Women who have equally partaken in this mission. Mai Bhago, Mata Khivi Ji and Mata Sundari Ji are some of the many prominent women in Sikh History who have left their mark on generations to come.
Mai Bhago was the first Punjabi woman to fight in battle. Being the only woman, she stood up to 40 male Sikhs who wanted to leave and stop fighting for the Khalsa Army. It was she, that convinced them to go back to battle. She was the only one out of those 40 Sikhs who survived the battle, and later Guru Gobind Singh Ji picked her to be one of his bodyguards. It was unheard of at that time to have a woman bodyguard. Mai Bhago proved her bravery and courage which led her to this position.
Mata Khivi Ji is most well-known for expanding the tradition of Langar. Mata Khivi Ji, married to Guru Angad Dev Ji worked hard and did a lot of Seva towards Langar, 30 years after he passed. She also preached about equality and how women should live an independent life. She is the only one of the Guru’s wives mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, described as “one who provides shelter and protection to others.”
After Guru Gobind Singh Ji passed, Mata Sundari Ji was the guiding light of the Sikh religion for another 40 years. Mata Sundari Ji was the wife of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and the mother of the Chaar Sahibzaade. With the help of Bhai Mani Singh Ji, Mata Sundari became the commander of the Khalsa Army and steered the Sikh Panth towards a righteous path.
Similar to the valor and equivalence of Sikh women, who stood up for the people and against injustice, was another woman icon of current times, namely Ruther Bader Ginsburg. Popularly known as RBG, Ruth was the U.S. Supreme Court Justice who made her mark as a feminist icon and activist. She truly believed that women and men are equal, and she spent the majority of her life fighting for not only women’s rights but men’s rights as well. Being the second woman ever selected for the Supreme Court, Ginsburg started from humble beginnings. She grew up in a low-income working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, and her sister didn’t go to college and worked at a garment factory to help pay for their brothers’ college. Ginsburg was very impressed by this, and she worked hard enough to get into Cornell University, where she graduated top of her class. She then went to Harvard Law School and became the first ever female tenured Professor at The University of Columbia. After college, she served as the Director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Unions (ACLU). During her time there, she argued 6 gender-based cases before the Supreme Court, winning 5. Ginsburg then worked herself up all the way to a seat on the United States Supreme Court, being the second woman ever. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a strong woman role model, raising a family while attending school, fighting for both women and men’s rights, and battling cancer for the later part of her life. Ginsburg sadly lost the fight to pancreatic cancer on September 18th, 2020. Ginsburg was an influential woman figure and role model, setting examples of her fearlessness in fighting for what was right, very similar to the many mothers, wives, and daughters in Sikh History.
All these women inspire young girls all over the world, proving that a woman can do anything that a man can and that she can choose her own path and identity.