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Mata Khivi Ji

Dr. H.S. Chawla

Mata Khivi Ji was the first Sikh preacher who emerged from the traditional confinement of Indian household and liberated the women and led them to freely participate in the langar maryada initiated by Guru Nanak. She set an example for the coming generations. She is the only female whose name has found an honourable mention in the Holy Guru Granth Sahib. She was the respected wife of Guru Angad Dev Ji. It was due to the Mata Khivi's daughter Amro's association, Mata Ji had come closer to Gurmat (Guru Nanak’s household) and it was due to her (Amro) inspiration that Amar Das Ji came closer to Guru Angad Dev due to his tireless services to his Guru, that he became one with Guru Angad Dev and Guru Nanak. Mata Ji always inspired her children to adopt a noble path. Whenever she saw that they were going astray, she exhorted them to leave that path because by treading on it they would gain nothing except frustration and humiliation. She was the mother of not only Khadoor Shaib, but the entire Panth. The contribution of Mata Ji to the Sikh history will always be remembered reverently.

Mata Khivi Ji was born in 1506 in Sangar Tehsil Taran District Amritsar. Her father's name was Devi Chand Khatri and her mother's name was Karan Devi. Bhai Devi Chand was a shopkeeper and a moneylender. He was a popular man in the neighbourhood. He was well known for his integrity and generosity. She imbibed all these qualities from the congenial surroundings she was brought up in. When she was due for marriage, Mai Varai suggested Pheru Mal's son Bhai Lehna Ji as the prospective. Devi Chand visited Khadoor on business often as was well acquainted with the family of Mai Varai. At the same time Mai Varai being the so-called sister of Pheru Mal, she was familiar with his family. Mai Varai's father Takhat Mai was the headman of the inn of village Matta, and Baba Pheru Mal was employed with him. Bibi Khivi was married to Bhai Lehni Ji in A.D. 1519 (Samat 1576). During this time the Lodis (1451 -1526) were in power in Northern India and Behlol Lodi was the Emperor (1451- 1489) and his son Ibrahim Lodi ruled from 1517 to 1526. Guru Nanak had not yet reached Punjab after his tour of West India. On Kabul, Babur was the ruler and after strengthening his power, he was planning to conquer India.

In connection with some business activities there had arisen some misunderstanding between Pheru Mal and Ch. Thakhat Mai. Bhai Pheru Mal left Mata di Sarai and came back to village Sanghar and made Khadoor his permanent residence.

Firstly he started his business at Hari Ka Patan and then he opened a shop at Khadoor. Bhai Lehna also joined his father in his business. The business was quite prosperous due to their integrity and their good behaviour towards fellowmen when in 1526 Bhai Pheru Mal died, the entire burden of the family fell on Bhai Lehna Ji. In the beginning Bhai Lehna Ji was a worshipper of the Goddess. Every year he would accompany has father to visit the Devi at Jwalamukhi. After the death of his father this practice continued up to 1532. He took pilgrimages to Jwalamukhi, during which his son Dasu (1524) and his daughter Bibi Amro (1532) were born. The other two children Bibi Anokhi and son Datu were born in 1535 and 1537 respectively. The household affairs of Bhai Lehna and Mata Khivi were running quite peacefully.

Changes in the Life of Bhai Lehna

The political conditions had changed when Babur had defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the Battle of Panipat in 1526 and he established the Mughal rule. Guru Nanak Dav Ji had finished his Udasis (tours) and finally settled down at Kartarpur. His preachings on the principles of humanity and his revolutionary thoughts were the talk of the day throughout Punjab. During these days Bhai Lehna had learnt about JapJi Sahib from a Sikh who used to recite Guru Nanak's bani named Bhai Jodha and decided to visit Kartarpur where Guru Nanak Dev was residing while going to Devi Darshan. There was a yearning in Bhai Lehna Ji to have darshan of Guru Nanak. Then Bhai Lehna Ji revealed his thoughts to his wife (Mata Khivi) who in turn nodded in assent and said that the house where you get peace is fortunate and she could have no objection.

Bibi Khivi's First Renouncement

In 1532 when Bhai Lehna Ji met Guru Nanak Devi Ji, the yearning was so intense that he stopped his pilgrimages to the Devi. He felt that his search for truth was fulfilled. He felt that his wondering for so many years had come to an end. At last he had attained peace of mind. He decides to settle down in Kartarpur. He told his fellow pilgrims to tell the people at Khadoor about his decision to settle down at Kartarpur.

One can imagine what the condition of Mata Khivi would have been on hearing this bit of news, especially when Datu and Bibi Amro were still very young. One can only wonder at it. According to historians Bhai Lehna Ji lived at Kartarpur from 1532 to 1539.

At this stage it has become imminent to discuss certain things. Firstly, when Bhai Lehna Ji was preparing himself to be acceptable to Guru Nanak and his way of life, at that time Mata Khivi was shouldering the responsibility of the family, and to provide the path to bliss and making it easier. It was due to her efforts that Lehna Ji could enable himself to transcend to the heights achieved by Guru Nanak. Bhai Gurdas has written in his 38th ‘Var’ and 20th 'Pauri'.

"Sat Guru Nanak Dev Hai Parmesar Sri Guru Angad

Guru Angad Jyoti Jyot Samoi."

There is hardly any difference between Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Angad Dev.

Secondly, when in 1532-1539 Lehna Ji was staying at Kartarpur, he did not renunciate his house, nor did he break ties with Khadoor. Such examples are plenty in number, that he used to come to Khadoor occasionally and he shared those achievements with the people of his village. In this way he was enlightening those people. Mata Khivi Ji had learned the basic principle and the sermons of Guru Nanak from her husband, and she had seen closely the changes in life day by day in his life. When some local people came back from Kartarpur they informed Mata Khivi Ji "Bhai Lehna Ji" has remained at Kartarpur with Guru Nanak (Tappa) and he has devoted himself completely and given up the idea of returning. What will you do now?" At that time Khivi Ji became bold enough to say that "If he wears the robes of a fakir.; I will invariably adorn rags. I will gladly accept whatever condition he keeps me in ". The people who were jealous of her became pale to hear this. It seems that in the mind of Khivi Ji this thought of Gurbani was actively working.

"If you (Oh, God) bestow upon happiness and in adversities also I shall remember you."

Guru Angad Dev Ji had also expressed the qualities of a noble wife as under:

Van Sukh Tan Soh raveo dukh bhi  samaleo,

Nanak Kahe sianeaye aeon Kant miiawa hoe"

(In prosperity remember you Oh, God and in adversity also I take your shelter, Nanak says, "Oh wise female in this way you can nearness of your Swami - God)

Mata Khivi Ji had followed this principle of abiding by the Hukam (obedience) and feel happy. She had loved her husband Lahna Ji too much.

In the Sikh history, she has been regarded as Pati premun (Husband's devotee) and never entered into any controversy with him. So much so that when Guru Angad Dev Ji had decided to pass on Guru Guddi to (Guru) Amar Das instead of his sons, Mata Ji had not raised any objection. She had bowed before the order (Hukam) of her husband and made her sons agree by making them understand that their father's decision was perfectly right, as they were unable to shoulder such a heavy responsibility of Guru Guddi. Thus, she had preferred her husband's decision (Hukam) over her blind love for her sons.

Thirdly, when Guru Angad Dev Ji shifted to Khadoor and took over the responsibility of Guru-Gaddi, Mata Khivi also took the charge of the Langar (Community' Kitchen).

Now it has to be visualized that what was the motto in the view of Mata Ji which had persuaded her to give it an ideal shape. My guess is that during 1532-39 she might have come to Kartarpur with her husband Bhai Lehna Ji several times and there she might have seen and understood the traditional langar and pangat.. There at Kartarpur she might have taken part in doing service in the community kitchen. That is why when the responsibility of guru-gaddi fell on her husband's shoulders she had gladly accepted to take the responsibility of serving langar and look after the Sangat which used to visit Khadoor Sahib. Khivi Ji might have also learnt to break the limitations imposed on the female sex by the society in the older days in the open and peaceful atmosphere. There the females were allowed to live without pardah and do service in the Community Kitchen (Langar). The dignity of females about which Guru Nanak Dev Ji used to talk in his Gurbani practical demonstration was initiated at Kartarpur. Mata Khivi became the first preacher of females' independence after 1539. There is no doubt that Mata Khivi Ji was the first example of bringing independence to the female sex initiated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It was Mata Ji who had helped in breaking the practice of old customs and prepared the female sex to work side by side with the male folks in the restructuring of the society renunciating the pardah system observed by females. Such a bold step could only be taken in the 16th century by Mata Ji had thus paved the way of complete independence (Puran Azadi) for the Sikh females. Later on Guru Amar Das had done a lot of work in this direction. He had intensively opposed customs like purdah and sad. He had saved the female sex from such a tyranny of the males.

Whereas the period from 1532 to 1539 had brought a change in the life of Bhai Lehna Ji, Mata Khivi Ji also got influenced by those changes. She learnt philosophy of Guru Nanak from her husband. She had learnt much of that while being at Kartarpur. It was due to that reason that she did not find any difficulty in sharing the duties of her husband. When Lehna Ji was elevated as 'Angad' by Guru Nanak Ji he was asked by the latter to go to Khadoor. Mata Khivi Ji enquired from Guru Angad Dev Ji about his order for her. She was blessed by Guru Angad Dev Ji telling her "that when his benevolent Guru (Data) ordered him to distribute the wealth of 'Shabad' (God's Name) then food came in your share. You distribute fearlessly. Mat aJi set an eternal example by discharging her duty in an appropriate manner. Sata Balvand while describing this incident in "Rama Kali War" praised Mata Ji's nature in the following words:-

"Balwand Khivi nek jan, Jis bouti chaon patrali,

Langar doulat vadie,  ras amrit kheer ghiali,

Gursikhan ke mukh ujle, manmukh thie parali

Pae Kabool Khasam naal, jha gaal mardi ghali

Mata Khivi Soh soi  Jin goe uthali."

While interpreting this pauri( stanza), Bhai Sahib Singh writes that "He balsoan! (Guru Angad Dev's wife (Mata Khivi Ji)) like her husband is noble. (It means that in her proximity one gets peace and bless.

In the above pauri (stanza) Balvand has stated three points regarding Mata Khivi Ji: (1) She was very noble and good natured. (2) She would give comfort to everyone around (3) A writer has praised the community kitchen run by Mata Khivi Ji as "Mata Ji used to prepare the 'langar' with devotion.

Those who used to take its prashad would enjoy the taste of milk. There was a talk of the town that those who had an opportunity to enjoy the food in Mata Ji's langar did not like to take food at their own house, because of its difference in taste. Residents of nearby villages used to bring vegetables, ghee and wheat for the langar. From the time of Guru Nanak Dev Ji this practice of earning with one's own labour and share the proceeds with others was being followed. Sometimes soldiers used to stop at Khadoor Sahib while going to Lahore from Delhi.

They also used to take their meals in the langar of Mata Khivi Ji. Throughout their journey they used to praise Mata Ji for her good motherly behaviour. This good and homely treatment of Mata Ji was helpful in spreading the religion.

Khadoor was situated on the Grand Trunk Road leading from Delhi to Lahore. That is the main reason of Hamayun's stay at Khadoor when he had fled away after losing the battle against Sher Shah Suri at Chausa (1539 A.D.) and then at Bilgam (Kannoj in 1540). He had also broken his journey at Khadoor to have blessings of Guru Angad Dev Ji.

Guru Ji was busy in teaching the children Gurmukhi script. He did not pay any attention to Humayun, who felt dishonoured and unseathed his sword. Guru Nanak's house which never bowed before emperors, Guru Angad Dev Ji raised his head and told Humayun "Where was your this sword, which you want to use against the Fakirs, when you had fought against Sher Shah Suri". Himayun felt ashamed on hearing the Guru's remarks. He then left for Lahore where he was expecting to receive help from his brother Kamran.

When Guru Angad Dev Ji used to teach children Punjabi language, Mata Ji very often used to prepare sweet food. Guru Angad Dev Ji loved the children very much. People got inspiration from Mata Ji's tireless service, so that they started taking interest in public service. Bhai Mani Singh has made a special mention of Bhai Kidara and Bhai Jodh Cook in his Bhagat Mala. Bhai Mani Singh has written that Bhai Jodh used to live in the presence of Guru Angad Dev Ji. He used to prepare food for the visitors promptly. When (Guru) Amar Das Ji came to visit Guru Angad Dev Ji for obtaining his grace, he also started social service by carrying water and cleaning utensils in the Langar. Mata Khivi Ji became an ideal before the Sikhs of Guru Ji, which Guru Ji's wife could achieve after giving up ego. Then how could he/she felt shy of Samaj.

It was due to service in langar that untouchability had varnished in Sikhism and sense of equality had developed. Brahmins and caste Hindus had opposed tooth and nail this ideology of equality. They (Brahmins) even did not like the freedom of women folk allowed in Sikh brotherhood. Bibi Amro was responsible for bring­ing Guru Amar Das closer to Guru's house and Mata Khivi Ji was feeling proud of the fact that she was the mother of Bibi Amro, who followed in the foot prints of her wise mother and father and brought awakening among the Sikh people.

Bibi Amro got married to Bhai Jasoo of Baserke Village. Bhai Jasoo was the son of Bhai Manak Chand and nephew of Guru Amardas. The intelligent mother had made her daughter understand three points while sending her to her in-laws: (i) Recite paath when starting her daily work - Gurubani. (ii) Obey her mother-in-law and father-in-law. (iii) Not to go to her parents’ home unless she received a call from them. Sehrai has mentioned in his novel Akath-Katha that whenever Bibi Amro came to visit her parents, Guru Angad Dev Ji used to send her back with worldly things and a lot of Gurubani.. Bibi Amro used to distribute a lot of flavour of Gurubani. It was creditable on her part that in the village Basarke the plant of Guru Sikhi (Sikh way of life) got nurtured, blossomed and spread and flowered. One day Guru Amar das got so much inspired to hear Gurubani from Bibi Amro that he immensely desired to see and pay his homage to Guru Angad Dev Ji. Bibi took her husband's (Pateora) to Khadoor. Guru Angad Dev Ji welcomed (Guru) Amar das sin­cerely and respectfully.

A Devoted Wife

Mata Khivi Ji got up early in the morning, took her bath, recited Gurubani and then started her daily routine. During the day she used to serve the pilgrims coming from various places. She used to attend upon the langar and thereafter prepare all kinds of food and then make arrangements for their boarding. Guru Angad Dev Ji had vowed never to take any money from the offerings made to the God by the pilgrims. He would make ropes out of jute and thus make his livelihood. Mata Khivi Ji also helped him in his labour. The children were taught to consider the money offered in the Gurudwara as people's fund and to be used only for their requirements. They were expected to make their own living.

Mata Ji used to look after her husband and he would eat only Chappatis made of barley. Once when Guru Angad's toe was wounded she stayed up nights to take care of it. She was completely and truly devoted to him. She had adopted this shalok as a part of her life.

Aap Gavae Sewa kare taan kich paye maan Nanak Jis Nu laga tis mele laga so pervan. (474)

But if he eliminates his self-conceit and then performs service, he shall be honored. O Nanak, if he merges with the one with whom he is attached, his attachment becomes acceptable. ||1||

Source – Role and Status of Women in Sikhism by Dr. Mahinder Kaur Gill

Article translated by Gurinder Bedi