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Mata Basant Kaur Ji

Bijla Singh

Introduction

Details of Mata Basant Kaur Jee’s life are not fully known. There is a common saying that Sikhs have created more history than any other nation but have failed to record it completely. The glorious days of Khalsa were in the eighteenth century but during this time period, the objective of Khalsa was to survive the holocausts which left them no time record any history.

Mata Jee’s date of birth is not known but it is written that she got married to Shaheed Bhai Mani Singh Jee at an early age (when she was in her teens). Her name prior to taking amrit was Seeto Baayee. After taking Amrit her husband’s name was changed from Mani Raam to Mani Singh and her name was changed from Seeto Baayee to Basant Kaur.

Family of Martyrs

Mata Jee belonged to one of the most loyal Sikh families. Mata Jee’s and Bhai Sahib Mani Singh Jee’s family had 63 martyrs in total and it is said that no other family in Sikh history has produced so many martyrs. Following is the list of immediate relatives of Mata Jee, who became martyrs:

8 Sons of Mata Basant Kaur Jee, who became martyrs:

  1. Bhai Chitar Singh Jee
  2. Bhai Bachitar Singh Jee
  3. Bhai Udai Singh Jee
  4. Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh Jee
  5. Bhai Anik Singh Jee
  6. Bhai Ajaib Singh Jee
  7. Bhai Ajab Singh Jee
  8. Bhai Bhagwaan Singh Jee

8 grandsons of Mata Basant Kaur Jee, who became martyrs:

  1. Bhai Kaiso Singh Jee
  2. Bhai Saina Singh Jee
  3. Bhai Haathoo Singh Jee
  4. Bhai Sangraam Singh Jee
  5. Bhai Raam Singh Jee
  6. Bhai Mehboob Singh Jee
  7. Bhai Fateh Singh Jee
  8. Bhai Albela Singh Jee

Eight of her brother-in-laws became martyrs. Her brother-in-laws were of course Bhai Mani Singh Jee’s brothers and their names are as follows:

  1. Bhai Diyala Jee
  2. Bhai Jetha Jee
  3. Bhai Lahina Jee
  4. Bhai Maan Chand Jee
  5. Bhai Roop Chand Jee
  6. Bhai Duni Chand Jee
  7. Bhai Jagat Raam Jee
  8. Bhai Rai Singh Jee

Two brothers of Mata Basant Kaur Jee became martyrs and their names are as follows:

  1. Bhai Jawahar Jee
  2. Bhai Nagahiya Jee

The names of the women of her family are not known but almost the whole family got wiped out in the 17th century. What a great and noble family it was!

Early Life of Mata Jee

Mata Basant Kaur Jee’s father was a famous Sikh – Lakhi Shah Vanjaara – who cremated Siri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Jee’s body in his house. Siri Guru Gobind Singh Jee was very pleased with Bhai Lakhi Shah Jee for this sacrifice. Bhai Lakhi Shah had also burned his house along with the body of Siri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Jee.

It is written in the history books that Mata Jee was a very devoted gursikh woman. Her husband Shaheed Bhai Mani Singh Jee is known in the Sikh Panth to be a Brahmgiyani (one who realizes Vaheguru) gursikh and with her husband’s sangat, she too was not of an ordinary spiritual state. She always stayed imbued in the divine colors of Naam. She was a fully devoted and a chaste wife and never disobeyed her husband. One quality of Mata Jee that stands out is that she always stayed very happy. No one ever saw any tension on Mata Jee’s face. Such was her greatness.

After the arrest of Baba Banda Singh Jee, Khalsa appointed Bhai Mani Singh Jee as the head granthi of Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar and the jathedar of Siri Akal Takhat Sahib. Mata Jee along with her family moved to Siri Amritsar to serve the Khalsa Panth. They stayed there till their shahidi in Lahore in the mid-1700s.

Mata Jee Gets Arrested

When Bhai Mani Singh Jee refused to pay the 10,000 rupees fine, Mir Mannu, the governor of Lahore ordered the arrest of Bhai Sahib Jee. Mir Mannu knew that Bhai Sahib Mani Singh Jee was the most respected gursikh of his time and if he could convert Bhai Sahib to Islam, then it would greatly demoralize the Sikhs. With this intention he arrested not only Bhai Sahib Jee but all his family and other Sikhs staying at Darbar Sahib, Amritsar Sahib.

Bhai Mani Singh Jee got arrested along with his two sons – Bhai Chitar Singh and Gurbaksh Singh, one brother – Bhai Jagat Singh, two cousins – Bhai Sangat Singh, Gulzaara Singh, nephew Bhai Bhoopat Singh Jee and a great grandson Bhai Keerat Singh Jee. His wife Mata Basant Kaur Jee was arrested along with many other women of their family.

At the time of their arrest, it was the height of summer. They were taken to Lahore where Gurdwara Shahid ganj stands today. Men and women were separated and latter were kept in an open compound under scorching heat of sun. They were kept hungry for many days and were allowed very little water.

The infant children who were dependent on their mothers’ milk could not survive. Many starved to death because their mothers who had not eaten anything for days could not breast-feed them anymore. There was no milk in their breasts. Even the stone hearted soldiers’ hearts melted with the cruelty being inflicted on the innocent women and kids but the officials and Mir Mannu enjoyed all this. The cries of little babies did not bother them.

Many officials paid visits to the Sikh women and cajoled them to accept Islam and give up Sikhi but the women stayed strong in their faith. The government wanted to embarrass the Singhs and if the Sikh women had faltered from Sikhi at that time, it would have greatly hurt the Sikh cause.

Mir Mannu Pays a Visit to the Camp of Women

When Mir Mannu’s visit was finalized, all women in the prison had a meeting. In the meeting, no woman was seen crying or demoralized. They were in chardi kala (exalted spirit). They unanimously chose Mata Basant Kaur Jee as their leader and representative to talk to Mir Mannu. All women decided that they were ready to sacrifice their life and everything they had but not the faith of their father Guru Gobind Singh Jee. After their chardi kala meeting, all women ended the meeting with the thundering jaikaaraas (Bole So Nihaal – Sat Sri Akaal).

The next morning all women did paath and ardaas together, in front of Vaheguru and asked for strength in keeping their faith. They asked their father Guru Gobind Singh Jee to not let them fall from Sikhi. They pleaded with Siri Guru Jee to bless them with Sikhi. At no time did they ask for anything else. All they asked for was Sikhi and Naam. After the ardaas, they again did their thundering jaikaaray.

Everyone felt chardi kala after ardaas. It seemed as if Guru Gobind Singh Jee himself was present there. All women felt that they had lost all attachments to the material world. Their swaas swaas naam was going in full force, inside them. All their sorrows and problems vanished. They came in pure chardi kala condition.

The next morning Mir Mannu visited the camp of Women. He was expecting the women to beg him for their release as he had kept them in bad conditions for the last few days. He was used to women and other people begging him for mercy. When he came to see women, he was shocked to see the totally opposite of what he had expected and thought.

At the arrival of Mir Mannu, women did loud jaikaaray to get in chardi kala. Mir Mannu failed to see any sign of weakness on any bibi’s face. He was expecting them to roll in his feet but women were in pure chardi kala.

Conversation between Women and Mir Mannu

Mir Mannu was greatly disturbed seeing the chardi kala of women. He started the conversation as follows:

“I feel pity watching your sorry and wretched conditions. Allah did not give you youth and beauty to waste like this. I feel sorry that Allah gave you birth in the families of infidels and you all are suffering like this. I assure you that if you still wake up and accept the real deen (religion, faith) of Islam, I will give you all the happiness you can ever think of. What is the use of sticking with those wretched Sikhs, who have no houses and no money?”

When the women heard such ninda (slander) of their beloved husbands, brothers and other Singhs, they got filled with Gurmukhi Bir Rass (valor). Bibi Basant Kaur replied back to Mir Mannu with full Khalsa spirit:

“Don’t you dare say anything about the Singhs in front of us. For us, the singhs are the crowns of our heads and a an ideal wife can never hear slander of her husband. We have found all the happiness of this world with our Gurmukh husbands. All the happiness of this world is in the lotus feet of our Guru Jee. We don’t want anything from you. You do what you have to do.”

Mir Mannu was offended and angry at the defiant response from Mata Basant Kaur Jee. He kept his cool and continued, “What singhs are you talking about? They can’t even protect you.”

“Apart from protecting us, they have bigger tasks on hand. They are the defenders of the Khalsa Panth of Guru Gobind Singh Jee. You can kill us but you cannot destroy or eradicate the Khalsa Panth”.

Do you have any idea who you are talking to, you foolish woman? From Kabul to Lahore, I am known and all infidels fear my name”, said Mir Mannu.

We don’t know what Kaafirs (infidels) you are talking about. Khalsa does not fear anyone. You are just an insect in the eyes of Vaheguru and his Khalsa. As for your bravery, what kind of warrior are you, who is inflicting cruelties and atrocities on innocent women and infants?”

Mir Mannu was getting out of control hearing such defiance. He was wondering why these women were not bowing to him like everyone else. He continued as follows:

The Singhs are rebels and anyone who supports the rebels is a rebel in our eyes. The infants who look so innocent are going to grow up and become worse than their fathers. I find nothing wrong in getting rid of this problem before it becomes a bigger problem”. When Mir Mannu said this, his face looked like a demon.

“Then hear this very clearly O Subedaar! That government that commits atrocities on innocent women and children cannot stay in power for too long. Vaheguru will destroy your rule very soon. Your sins will sink you in the ocean of this world”.

Mata Jee’s Shaheedi

Mir Mannu could no longer remain sane and rational. He burst out in anger and started yelling at the women. While he was burning in the fire of anger, women were totally peaceful, yet defiant, because of baani and naam they were reciting.

Mir Mannu asked them for the last time if they were ready to accept Islam. Mata Basant Kaur Jee and other women defiantly refused to yield to his atrocities and accept Islam. They told him that life and death was in the hands of Vaheguru and if it was their time to leave this world, it would be because of the hukam of Vaheguru and not because of Mir Mannu. Mir Mannu was even more angered hearing these kinds of responses from the women.

Mir Mannu thought of giving such punishment to the defiant Sikh women that no one in the future dares to show defiance to him. He declared such punishments that even the stone-hearted soldiers could not carry out. Special soldiers who had personal grudges against the Singhs carried out these punishments.

Mir Mannu ordered that the children and infants be taken away from the women and tortured to death right in front of them. At the order of Mir Mannu, the heartless soldiers snatched the Infants away from the Sikh women and killed them in the most merciless ways. The merciless soldiers took away the crying babies from their mothers and threw them up high in air and caught them on their spears. They did this repeatedly till they stopped crying and attained shaheedi (martyrdom). The vicious soldiers were enjoying all this as if they were playing some sort of game.

The dead bodies of the infants were cut in small pieces and garlands were made out of them. These garlands were put around the necks of Sikh women. Dhan were those Sikh women who they did not cry or beg for mercy. They must have felt the pain and suffering of seeing their loved ones getting cut to pieces but they preferred Sikhi more than worldly possessions. It seemed that their ardaas to Vaheguru, to stay firm in Sikhi had been heard in the darbaar of Vaheguru.

Mata Basant Kaur Jee’s grandson Kaka Bhoop Singh and great grandson Kaka Kirat Singh too were killed along with other children. Mata Jee was forced to wear a garland of her great grandson’s dead body, cut into small pieces. Mata Jee stayed in chardi kala and absorbed herself in Naam and Gurbani. The bairaag that the women got from the separation of their loving children was diverted towards bairaag (crying) for Naam and Gurbani. Mata Jee reached the highest spiritual state during these days.

Women were kept in confinement for the next few days till the trial of Bhai Mani Singh Jee was going on. In the month of Haar (June/July) in the mid-1700s, Bhai Mani Singh Jee was sentenced to be cut into small pieces.

The punishment was carried out swiftly the same day. Along with Bhai Sahib Jee, his sons - Bhai Chitar Singh, Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Jee, and other relatives like his cousins, nephews, grandsons, and great-grandsons were all martyred along with Bhai Sahib Jee. None of them faltered from Sikhi. They stayed firm in Sikhi and attained Shahidi.

Mata Basant Kaur Jee’s and Bhai Sahib Mani Singh Jee’s daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law and other women were martyred by the order of Mir Mannu after enduring countless tortures.

Mata Basant Kaur Jee’s grandson Bhai Bhoop Singh and great grandson Bhai Kirat Singh had been killed earlier, when they killed other infants with their spears. In the end, Mir Mannu, martyred Mata Jee, considering her the leader of all women. All women along with Mata Jee accepted shahidi but stayed firm in their faith on Guru Sahib.

Consequences of This Great Saaka

When the Singhs heard of the shahidi of their beloved leader Bhai Sahib Mani Singh Jee, they decided to teach the government a lesson. They were particularly disturbed by the way they had treated their sisters – the Sikh women. They learned of the bravery of Mata Basant Kaur Jee and other singhnees and were deeply affected by that. So much were they affected by this that they decided to remember these singhnees everyday twice in the ardaas. They included their shahidi in the ardaas from that day onward and to this day, Khalsa remembers the shahidi of the Sikh women in custody of Mir Mannu.

The Qazi (judge) who had ordered the punishment for Bhai Sahib Mani Singh was taken alive by Bhai Ajmer Singh, the nephew of Bhai Sahib Mani Singh Jee, and punished to death. Countless other officials who had taken part in this massacre were sent to the next world by the Singhs. Khalsa Panth went in more chardi kala after this shahidi saaka.