Guru Nanak sets out on His divine Mission: picture shows his consort Mata Choni (Mata Sulakhni) with their two sons. Mehta Kalu,Bebe Nanki and her husband Jai Ram on the right. Bhai Bala behind Guru Nanak.

The following is an an extract from the book "The Role and Status of Women in Sikhism" by courtesy of Dr. Mohinder Kaur Gill. (Some printing errors and grammatical mistakes have been rectified -Kanwal)


In Sikh religion, no distinction has ever been observed between the male and female. It is another matter that historians have rather delved extensively on the lives of the Gurus but have ignored the lives of the ladies. The social outlook of the Gurus had been well ahead of the time they lived in. Guru history tells us that Guru Amardas had forbidden women to attend the religious assembly in veil (Pardah). He had vehemently opposed the practice of 'Sati'. Bibi Bhani had lived with her son - Guru Arjan Dev Ji like a religious associate, as though in a hermitage, 'Guru Har Rai had trained his daughter Bibi Har Rup Kaur to be the first ever editor of Punjabi literature. The tenth Guru proposed the name of Singh for his men and Kaur for the ladies. In Guru's thinking Singh and Kaur had equal status. The basic sign of equality of the sexes lay in the fact that the Guru gave equal importance to the Singh and kaur: This is also a message of unity and fellowship. If the spirit of unity, equality and fellowship is missing within our own selves how can we make others our own? It is rightly said 'charity begins at home'. The message of equality, unity and fellowship spreads out first from the home itself. Before attempting to illustrate the role and contribution that women played in Sikhism, the author would first like to comment something about their status. Basic reason being, the individuality of a women has a profound role to play in the religious and social context of Sikhism. It is very clear that religious and social values are two sides of the same coin. Religion needs a society and society on the other hand finds a support in religion. The significance of a particular religion can be understood only in the social context. Remarkable it is to note that the status of women in Sikhism has a great relevance in society as well as in context.

In the true realm of Sikh scriptures divine love has been realised only in abstract spiritual terms. The inspiration and model for communication that the Gurus of Sikh scripture sought, while meditating to God and praying for compassion, welfare and express-ing the experience of union and separation was the model of sacred love between man and woman. On the one hand, in the medieval period women had no identity of their own. They were considered a
Commodity, which should be used as and when, desired - whereas even a commodity has its own value and utility but the condition of a woman was worse off. Those days women had to face inequality, discrimination and insults and even class cruelty. Such was the time when divine contemplation of the Gurus transformed the religion and society. In the tradition of Sikh scriptures, the sayings of Gurus, Naths and Saints have an important place. In the compositions of Sidhas, there is the concept of the abstract entities and both of them are conceptual entities. In the Bani of Nathas there is the concept of Shiva and Shakti, these two are abstract conceptual entities but it is worth mentioning one is masculine and the other is feminine. In Nath's compositions these two entities have divine characteristics.

In contrast of this, the Sikh Gurus have expressed their very presence (individuality) through the women only. This fact is well known that any writer or bard will compare himself to such a thing, which he values and respects. In the creative world of Gurbani, even the worldly activities are expressed symbolically. The many facts of practical living are specially illustrated spiritually in Gurbani is dedicated to the concept that their is only one man i.e. God and the rest are women, that is why the spirit of meditation is so sweetly voiced. The love between man and woman is taken up spiritually and the creative flow of Gurbani has given an important place to woman. Thus the mode of expression in Gurbani based on the model of sacred love between man and woman.

We can get insight from the illustration of love between man and woman that the attitude of Gurus was one of respect towards women otherwise no one would have compared himself to the woman image; and even otherwise in Sikh religion, the shade of spirituality has been compared to the ever lasting wedded bliss.

Guru Nanak Dev has commented significantly at various places about the social entity of woman. In that time there were a lot of superstitions associated with woman. Even in Assa Di Vat; Guru Nanak Dev has indicated clearly about Sutak, and Bhand

Such insulting words were used for a woman that her very name had become associated with that insulting language only. It was only in Assa Di Var that woman was accepted as a basic unit of the society for the first time in medieval literature. Guru Nanak spoke for women in such clear tone and history is a witness that his own sister Bebe Nanaki was the first lady to accept the religious doctrines propounded by him. Thus it is quite clear that still a woman was the first one to accept the Sikh religion. The whole womankind enjoys great respect in Sikh religion. When Guru Amardas estab-lished 22 Manjis to preach Sikh doctrines. 'Matho Murari' and 'Sachan Sach' were the first two women to be deputed to preach them. Along with the 'manjis' he established 72 'cradles' also. The factual importance of which was that while rocking the cradles of their little ones, mothers could also preach about Sikhism and housewives could tell about their religion to everyone in the neighborhood. The result being that all the religious ideas propounded by the Gurus were ingrained in the minds of little children along with their mothers' milk. In medieval time, where such an inferiority complex was associated with women, there, at that time, Guru Amardas blessed the women folk with so much respect that he considered them worth preaching his religion and for that he established the Manjis and Cradles. Such respect was not granted to any women in medieval time by any other religion.

In this context another fact is worth knowing that when Guru Gobind Singh blessed the Sikh men with Nectar, he ordained that Sikh men should use the word Singh and Sikh women should use the word 'Kaur'. These two words Singh and Kaur were to be used in the end of the names of the particular person. This does not mean that the words Singh and Kaur were not used earlier, rather they were in practice in other parts of India also. Worth noting fact is that word Singh has always been used with the name of a man and Kaur with the name of a woman; even before the tenth Guru ordained it. Sikh history tells us that the name of the mother of Guru Angad Dev Ji was 'Daya Kaur' and Guru Ram Dass' was also 'Daya Kaur' and the name of Guru Har Rai's daughter was Roop Kaur. It is evident that the use of word Kaur in the end of a particular name has been there even before Guru Gobind Singh used it. 'Singh' and 'Kaur' words were used with masculine and feminine genders respectively. When Guru Gobind Singh started with the process of building up the nation, keeping in view the separate entity, he told, man and woman to use the words 'Singh and Kaur' in the end of their names respectively. The fact then becomes worth knowing that he granted equal status to both men and women, as well as maintained their respective individualities. Till today the words 'Singh and Kaur' are accepted in Sikh religion as a tradition; and this is apparent that they both denote separate genders.

Here a doubt arises about the expression of spiritual love between man and woman as a model for communication, does that mean the condition of women during medieval times was very oppressed and helpless. It has been indicated that the main model for commu-nication in Guru's poetry is the love relationship between the lover and beloved. A symbol is always ambiguous. It is not meant literally but in reality, the entity of a corporal being is helpless and powerless without the entity of God. A body in a proper manner takes birth, experience the happy and sad things of this world without a choice. In fact, a spirit can never be free from the shackles of death. It is clear that a corporal being is bound under the basic concerns of life without concerning itself with any social inferiority complex or a helpless condition. In fact, the Gurus have respectful attitude towards the women folk that is why; they could compare themselves to the image of woman.

Now a brief discussion about the contribution and the role-played by women in Sikh religion.

In the building up of the character of the Sikh nation, not only did the Gurus play a prominent role, but also even the women of the Guru family had a minor role to play. Here we would look into the invaluable contribution made by those women. We take pride in our heritage but are many a time ignorant of its details and nuances.

Bebe Nanaki

The unique identification of the House of Gurus was established right from the time of Guru Nanak Dev. Bebe Nanaki was the elder sister of Guru Nanak Dev. In these days, out of respect, people used to call the elder Sister 'Bebe'. In the gospels of Guru Nanak, Nanaki has always been called 'Bebe Nanaki' The parents of Guru Nanak were aware of the norms and values that started with Guru Nanak. The Great Guru got involved in practical life but never showed any earnestness like the sons of other businessmen. He did take part in business but never lost himself totally in that. And very soon, he left all mundane business and stared the practice of his religious doctrines

And now arose the problem as to who would look after his family. At this juncture, Bebe Nanaki played a wonderful role, and took care of her nephews and sister-in-law for years together. Apart from this, when Guru Nanak started his missionary work, she not only sent Mardana along with him, but also rendered him the money to buy his first musical instrument i.e.the "Rabab".

The first contribution of Bebe Nanaki was to encourage her brother to preach the musical recitation of hymns and also to make the resources available for him. She mentally prepared Mardana to stay with the Guru and also financed him to buy a beautiful Rabab. The boon of musical recitation of hymns has a prominent place in the Guru family, and Bebe Nanaki played the foremost role in its introduction.

Bebe Nanaki admiring the Rabab, which was financed by her. Mardana bought it from Bhai Firanda from Kapurthala, who did not take the money from Mardana but accompanied him to Sultanpur and had the blessing of Guru Nanak instead.
There is another aspect to Bebe Nanaki's contribution and that is that one always helps one's close relatives. It is that precious cultural value which is accepted even to this day in our society. Guru Nanak went all over the world preaching his religion and Babe Nanaki smilingly took care of his family during that period, in every possible way she could. Perhaps, it is because of this that even to this day in Punjabi culture brothers and sisters are the main helpers to each other; they respect each others' feelings and they sacrifice for each other. These three values are deeply engraved in Punjabi culture and the credit goes to Bebe Nanaki.

Another tradition determines itself from the behaviour pattern of Bhaiya Jai Ram. Normally, sons-in-law maintain a difference with the family of their in-laws and deal with them accordingly. Even though Jai Ram was Kalu Ram's son-in-law, but he was always like the elder brother to Guru Nanak. He helped Guru Nanak in every task. So much so, that he even found a suitable match for Guru Nanak. Before and after his marriage, he helped Guru Nanak Dev in the business. When Guru Nanak went on his missionary tours, he helped Bebe Nanaki in looking after his family.

It is apparent, that Bhaiya Jai Ram established this tradition in Punjabi culture that even sons-in-law can behave like sons. On one hand he gave due respect to his parents-in-law and on the other he helped his brother-in-law and his family. Whenever the parents of Guru Nanak felt sad, both Bebe Nanaki and Bhaiya Jai Ram like a wise daughter and son made them understand the mission of Guru Nanak Dev.

Mata Sulakhani (Mata Choni)

In this context, the role played by Mata Sulakhni the wife of Guru Nanak Dev, is also unique. Young Mata Sulakhni stayed alone in a lonely house along with her children. She did not go to her sister-in-law's house, neither to her parents, nor to her in-laws. She brought up her children with great patience and inculcated a feeling of self-respect. Mata Sulakhani did feel depressed because she had to live away from her husband, but she never expressed it. Her life style is a beautiful example in itself. One should sacrifice personal comforts for a nobler mission. Mata Sulakhani agreed to stay with her elder sister-in-law, but she never went to her parents' house. Thus, it is evident that for a married woman the husband's house is of foremost importance. She could maintain her grace, dignity and self-reliance. Maybe that is why, Baba Siri Chand the eldest son of Guru Nanak Dev could lay the foundation of 'Udasi-Sant' tradition. Mata Sulakhani spent her days, without any reproach but rather brought up her sons so well that they did not feel the absence of their father, neither did her husband leave his mission unfinished because of domestic cares and worries. The Great master remained out of his home for years altogether but he had always full faith on the family front. May be that is why even today in Punjabi culture, brothers and sisters are main helpers to each other. Mata Sulakhani had to live in absence of her husband and could establish that unspoken uprightness in the pride of women kind.

Mata Sulakhni (Mata Choni) protesting to Guru Nanak about His treatment of Bhai Lehna (Guru Angad) by making him pick dirty and wet grass, which was soiling his clothes.Guru Nanak replied that this was the suffering of the humanity which Lehna was relieving by carrying it on his head
Mata Choni with their two sons Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das in the presence of her husband Guru Nanak and Bhai Bala.It seems that Mata Choni was the name of Guru Nanak's consort from her parents' side, but after her marriage it was changed to Mata Sulakhni (meaning: comprising of hundred virtues)
Mata Khiwi

Mata Khiwi was the consort of Guru Angad Dev Ji the second Guru in Sikh religion. Guru family progressed immensely after Guru Nanak. She contributed significantly in realising the ideals of Guru Nanak Dev. The traditions and values established by the First Guru were not changed by his descendents. In his later days, Guru Nanak Dev, laid the foundation of the city of Kartarpur and erected a Dharamsala i.e. a temple or Gurdwara at Kartarpur In this Dharamsala a special code of conduct was also maintained. Bhai Gurdas has indicated in his writings also. In this Dharmsala, holy scriptures were recited twice a day i.e. morning and evening and langar (free Community kitchen) was also served. Thus, establishing a religious tradition. Like a good follower, Guru Angad Dev added another feature and started community kitchen (Langar) in that Dharamsala on a large scale It was open for every one and Mata Khiwi used to manage it. From Mata Khiwi, one can learn not to differentiate between guests One should share, whatever one has. In short, any body could come, sit there and partake of langar There was no discrimination on the basis of caste and creed, rather every body used to sit in a line and have it. Langar is a unique feature of the Guru family.

Mata Khiwi preparing langar
Mata Khiwi ditributing langar to the Sangat
Langar is that one tradition in the Sikh way of living, by which they practically end any difference of religion, caste and creed, and a 'bond' of equality and co-operation is established with every one. Mata Khiwi contributed uniquely in setting the tradition of equality. There is a special way of having Langar. The food preparations of the langar are the same for everyone, whether one is small or big; rich or poor. Everyone must sit at the same place and in a row to partake it. Even the Guru used to sit in the row to eat in the community kitchen. Moghal king Akbar specially came to see this special feature of the Guru tradition. Langar does not cater to the demands of any special person and it is always served at the same time. This is a lesson in community living. Here an individual links his desire with the community. Langar does not cater to individual tastes or desires, it teaches the habit of thanking God for whatever is available. The tradition of langar had a unique role in the character building of the nation. In Guru Granth Sahib, this place of pride is attributed to Mata Khiwi only.
Mata Khiwi's life conducted a message that the guest should be cared for to the utmost. Whatever one has, should be shared. May be that is because hospitality is the first cultural identity of Punjabi life style. Langar is a unique ritual of the Guru family. The same regularity of this tradition, which is being maintained by Sikh religion, is hard to find elsewhere. A feeling of co-operation and equality is maintained between high and low, rich and poor etc.
Emperor Akbar enjoying the langar amidst the common people.

Bibi Bhani

Bibi Bhani, the daughter of Guru Amardas, wife of Guru Ramdas and mother of Guru Arjan Dev has a distinct place in Sikh history. Mata Mansa Devi, consort of Guru Amardas, not only maintained her place at home but also helped her husband to work for the religion. There is special status of Bibi Bhani in the life of Guru Amardas by the way she cared for her father proving that there was no difference between a son and a daughter. Both can equally serve their parents. There is a superstition in Punjabi culture that a father does not get any service done from the daughter, but Bibi Bhani used to serve her father before marriage and kept serving him even after her marriage. We can learn a lesson from her way of serving that one can continue doing worldly duties along with daily religious service or worship.

Domestic circumstances never became any obstacles and she kept serving her father humbly and with devotion, even after she became the mother of three sons. She very gladly and regularly kept giving bath to her father and used to keep a watch so that no body disturbed him during his meditation. So much so that when a leg of that bath-stool was broken, she kept her arm underneath it, so that his meditation was not disturbed. Only Bibi Bhani could do that.

Bibi Bhani serving food to her father Guru Amardas Ji, while the infant Guru Arjan, son of Bibi Bhani and Guru Ramdas tries to touch his grandfather.
Guru history is a witness to the fact that Guru Ramdas used to sell fried grams when Bibi Bhani got married to him. She never mentioned about the poverty of her in-laws but rather agreed to whatever her father said. Punjabi culture has also imbibed this tradition of daughters obeying their fathers without question. Even after becoming a mother Bibi Bhani always favoured truth without taking any sides. The eldest son of Bibi Bhani was of a very jealous nature. Prithvi chand the eldest son wanted to secure the royal legacy of the Guru for himself but always kept away from service. History tells us that only those who have served have achieved the legacy of Gurus. Prithvi chand used to think that it was his birthright. But Bibi Bhani, on the other hand; always supported the truth and never co-operated with Prithvi Chand. Has she been an ordinary mother, she would have favoured Prithvi Chand. Bibi Bhani was the staunch follower of the tradition of Sikh Gurus. Bibi Bhani only proved the fact that truth always wins. However, the mother proved the fact that the royal seat of Gurus (Guru Gaddi ) is not a matter of right and it cannot be inherited, it goes only to that one who deserves it and to the one who proves worthy of it by doing service to the Guru.

Bibi Bhani was always a helpful companion to her youngest son, Guru Arjan Dev. Life history of Guru Arjan Dev attests that he did many great things simultaneously. Construction of buildings, editing of Guru Granth Sahib and creation of Gurbani in a very large scale were undoubtedly great works. Very patiently she did contribute in all the works. She was the best consultant of Guru Arjan Dev.

When the time of adversity came, the officials of the King Jahangir arrested Guru Arjan Dev, Bibi Bhani maintained her composure and did not let her daughter-in-law Mata Ganga, lose heart. Instead, she very calmly prepared herself for her son's martyrdom and taught her eleven-year old grandson to abide by God's will. She encouraged her grandson, Guru Hargobind, and kept his morale boosted. Bibi Bhani was an embodiment of service, truth and modesty. She was a mark of respect, endurance and of unique character. She was known as "Bibi". In Punjabi culture 'Bibi' is a word which is used to give respect to the daughter. Even Bibi Bhani was a daughter, wife and mother. But the word 'Bibi' could not be disassociated by her name, the reasons being, the unique service rendered by her to her father. In Sikh history, this privilege has been given only to Bibi Bhani. She is the only 'Bibi' in Guru History.

Mata Ganga

Mata Ganga was the wife of Guru Arjan Dev, and mother of Guru Hargobind. She had her only son that too, after a long time of her marriage. Through Mata Ganga, Guru Arjan Dev got one fact determined that even those who serve have immense powers. Had he wished, he could have himself blessed her a son but rather he sent her to Baba Buddha for this blessing. Moreover, he wanted to make it clear to her that we can achieve blessings only through humility. History tells that Mata Ganga along with her maidservants went to have glimpses of Baba Buddha with a great pomp and show. He was displeased on the behaviour of Mata Ganga. Second time, she was persuaded by her husband to go in a very modest manner, as he (Baba Buddha) was a saintly person. Next early morning she herself ground the flour, prepared the food and went to Baba Buddha, while carrying earthen pet (CHAT!) of "Lassi" - a yoghurt derivative - on her head and reciting the hymns denoting utter humility. Baba Buddha was so pleased that he granted her a boon that she will have a son who will be a peerless warrior. Mata Ganga proved that any woman can be worshipped provided she has that qualities of true service and modesty. Service and modesty are even today two important values in Punjabi culture.

Mata Ganga determined another ideal. Guru Har Gobind was about eleven years old when the king called Guru Arjan Dev to Lahore. Mata Ganga did not lose her equanimity of mind even in adverse circumstances, rather, gladly sent her husband to Lahore to fulfil the ideals of Sikhism. She was so strong that child Guru Hargobind could face the tyrant king with a courage as vast as the sky. Guru Hargobind was bestowed with the Guru seat i.e. Gur Gaddi and was presented the swords of sainthood and warriorship. The boon of Baba Buddha proved to be true.
Mata Ganga Ji receiving a boon from Baba Buddha for a son who would be a peerless warrior and who would break the heads of his enemies like an onion (and he broke an onion with his hands)
The child Guru appeared as a brave Warrior before her. The life of Mata Ganga is a lesson for the future generations that never to lose equanimity even in adverse times. Mata Ganga was a living example of confidence and humility.

Mata Nanaki

Mata Nanaki was the consort of Guru Hargobind and the respected mother of Guru Tegh Bahadur. She got married to Guru Hargobind in the life time of Bibi Bhani and joined the Guru family. Guru Arjan Dev could not join the marriage of his only son because of his martyrdom in Lahore. She had a very tough time during the lifetime of Guru Hargobind. Guru Hargobind did not tolerate the policy of Jahangir the Mughal King He had to fight four wars with the officials of Jahangir. Naturally, Mata Nanaki was to face all those things that
a warrior's wife has to. Sometimes she lived in Amritsar and sometimes in Kiratpur and Baba Bakala in the district of Jalandhar.

After the death of Guru Hargobind, the family of Dheermall becarne the archenemies of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Dheermall was the grandson of Guru Hargobind and the son of Baba Gurdita -the eldest son of Guru Hargobind. Dheermall used to think that 'Gurgaddi' was their heritage right and he should get it; that was the reason he was not in good terms with Guru Tegh Bahadur. Mata Nanki wanted to save her child from the enmity of Dheermall. She brought her saintly son to her parents' house and lived in great poverty. Her son and daughter-in-law was the entire treasure she had at that time. Mata Nanaki used to keep a watch over the meditation basement room and would not let any body disturb her son in his meditation. The life story of Mata Nanaki teaches us that we should abide by the God's will. "If he wants us to rule, we can, but then we do not stand much to gain. We will not lose anything if he wants us to beg." Mata Nanaki availed herself of all the comforts during Guru Hargobind's time but she never lost her composure even in difficult times. She co-operated with her son and when Makhan Shah Lubana announced to the world that he had found the 'Guru', she really thanked God. She lived in a very bad condition, there by illustrating the ideal that one should not be bad equally to bad people because goodness is always rewarded in the end.

Mata Kishan Kaur

The consort of Guru Har Rai was the mother of Guru Harkrishan. She was the younger daughter of Daya Ram, the resident of Anoop city in the district of Bulandshahar in U.P. She belonged to a well-to-do family. Her father was a businessman and an arch devotee of Guru Hargobind. Guru Hargobind went on a tour to preach the ideals of Sikhism in U.P. and agreed upon to marry his son Guru Har Rai to Kishan Kaur, and after marriage he brought his daughter-in-law to Kiratpur. She remained at Kiratpur and followed all the conventions of Guru family. When Guru Har Rai like his father went on his mission towards Malwa, Mata Kishan Kaur had to stay at her in-laws' house and was a great help in managing the affairs of the Gurduara as well as her house. She was a humble and peace loving lady. Her husband died in a very young age of about 32 years. At that time her son Guru Harkrishan was only 5 years old. She looked after her son with love and tender care. Guru Harkrishan was the youngest in Guru's chain. Mata Kishan Kour had to face a very tough time but in all situations she never lost her mental balance and maintained her dignity. When the time came and Mughal king Aurangzeb invited the child Guru, she also accompanied her son to Delhi. She was in Delhi when Aurangzeb and child Guru had some discussions and ex-changed their views. She witnessed the child Guru suffering with smallpox and leaving for heavenly abode. Guru Harikrishan in his young age used to behave like elders and his mother Kishan Kaur would watch him calmly and patiently. She remained in the service of Guru Harkrishan not as a mother but like a devotee and bowed her head before the will of God. Her role as a mother is very peculiar. She was a mother, a companion, a consultant and a devotee from the core of her heart. She never disobeyed the orders of the child Guru and did every thing smilingly.

Mata Gujri

Mata Gujri was the consort of the ninth Guru and the mother of Guru Gobind Singh. When her husband Guru Tegh Bahadur went on a tour to Assam she never lost her spirits. After the martyrdom of her husband she encouraged her son Guru Gobind Singh and was a very helpful consultant and companion to him. Mata Gujri, saw the changes occurring in the Guru family during her life time.

Baba Zorawar Singh & Fateh Singhwith their grandmother Mata Gujri following Gangu the Brahmin
Mata Gujri with her grandsons in the Thanda Burj
Mata Ji and the children being fed milk by mehra during their captivity
Mata Gujri was the only such woman who witnessed the martyrdom of her husband and sees the martyred Head of her husband and the sacrifice of her grandsons, the rout of her family and the making of her young son into a soldier. Mata Gujri followed the Sikh ideals even at the cost of her life. Even the younger grandson faced the king boldly. It was on her advice to them that they never bowed their heads while crossing the threshold of a big house but rather they put their feet forward and later the rest of the body. They did not raise any hue and cry while they were being bricked in the foundations of the wall but rather kept reciting japu. Mata Gujri inspired her young grandsons to follow the path of their grandfather, to sacrifice their lives for the sake of religion. She made her grandsons determined enough to face any cruelty boldly and still keep their morale high. Total trust in God, sacrificing one's life for one's ideals, facing the cruelty of king with bravery were some of the values, which the Sikh martyrs, lived up to.

Mata Sahib Devan

The consort of Guru Gobind Singh established a new link in the chain of Guru history. Whereas Bibi Bhani, Mata Ganga, Mata Nanaki and Mata Gujri helped their brilliant sons and enlightened their husbands in every aspect, Mata Sahib Devan guided the descendants of the Guru in various fields. After the death of the tenth master, the Sikhs passed through crisis after crisis but the Mata with her wise leadership always led them to a safe path.

In history, Mata Sahib Devan has a distinct role and place. She hailed from Rohtas, Distt. Jhelum in West Punjab, now in Pakistan. Her father Bhai Rama was an ardent devotee of Guru Gobind Singh.

Birth house of Mata Sahib Devan at Rohtas -Jhelum

From her childhood, Sahib Devan was a sweet and quiet natured girl. Because of the religious atmosphere at home, she was deeply influenced by the Holy Scriptures during her formative years. It is possible that in her childhood she might have seen Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur during the visit of her family. She had inherited humility, love and sacrifice to mankind and devotion to God. Mata Sahib Devan is known as virgin bride in Guru history. All historians agree that Bhai Rama and family members requested the tenth master in a congregation at Anandpur that they had decided to give away this daughter in marriage to the Guru and if the Guru would not accept Sahib Devan, she would remain unmarried all her life. The Guru while accepting the request of Bhai Rama and the people of Rohtas had stipulated a condition that Bhai Rama's daughter would live in the family chambers but would stay as a virgin bride. He would not have any physical relationship with her. The people of Rohtas were overjoyed on hearing the acceptance of their proposal and she was married to the Guru. When Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa Panth, it was the ideal wife of the Guru who c6uld be bestowed with the honour of eternal motherhood of Khalsa Panth. The Mata guided the descendents of the Guru i.e. Khalsa in various fields. After the death of the tenth Guru, 'Khalsa' passed through a period of crises many a times but the great mother with her wise leadership always pulled them out to a safer path -Mata Sahib Devan determined the ideal of bowing before His Divine Will. Modesty and affection were the unique qualities of Mata Sahib Devan, due to which she ably guided the Khalsa in their times of crisis. Through her decrees, Mata the great inspired the Khalsa to serve the house of Gurus or to help it monetarily for community kitchen (langar). She used to issue edicts in the name of Khalsa to send money for community kitchen. She helped Mata Sundri in compiling the creative works of Guru Gobind Singh. After the death of her husband she lived in the company of Mata Sundri.

Mata Sundri

The ladies of Guru families right from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh played a very significant role. She remained alive for about 39/4O years after Guru Gobind Singh. Mata Sundri passed away in 1747 AD and Guru Gobind Singh in17O8 AD Mata Sundri was the most significant personality of all the wives of the Gurus. Rather if we say that she was the only personality who led Khalsa Panth for a long time after the Gurus, would be more appropriate. Mata Sundri led Khalsa Panth in all respects. She contributed her mite immensely in building up and strengthening the Sikh Panth, and in keeping the community integration. The question of Tatt Khalsa and of Bandai KhaIsa is the solid proof of this.

During Mata Sundri's time, the Sikh nation was passing through a troubled time. This was the time when Banda Bahadur was routing the Mughal kingdom. Banda Bahadur's soldiers in fact wanted to rule the Sikhs of Punjab. It was her wisdom only, which saved the two groups of the Sikhs of destroying each other. She carefully planned to end this infighting. She sent Bhai Mani Singh to carry out her plan. He put two pieces of paper bearing the names of the warring groups in the tank of Harmandir, at Amritsar, and it was decided that which ever piece of paper sank in the water, that group would recede back. It was a sheer stroke of nature that the piece of paper bearing Banda Bahadur's name got drowned. With the result, he along with his soldiers went to Jammu. This incident tells us that we should trust in God even in adverse times. Sikh Sangat could achieve the right path only with her prayers.
Besides that she acted as an impartial mediator in minor disputes and differences and solved them. A reliable local Sikh was sent for solving such disputes where she could not reach personally. This fact is testified from her edicts.During Mata Sundri's time, the Sikh nation was passing through a troubled time. This was the time when Banda Bahadur was routing the Mughal kingdom. Banda Bahadur's soldiers in fact wanted to rule the Sikhs of Punjab. It was her wisdom only, which saved the two groups of the Sikhs of destroying each other. She carefully planned to end this infighting. She sent Bhai Mani Singh to carry out her plan. He put two pieces of paper bearing the names of the warring groups in the tank of Harmandir, at Amritsar, and it was decided that which ever piece of paper sank in the water, that group would recede back. It was a sheer stroke of nature that the piece of paper bearing Banda Bahadur's name got drowned. With the result, he along with his soldiers went to Jammu. This incident tells us that we should trust in God even in adverse times. Sikh Sangat could achieve the right path only with her prayers. Besides that she acted as an impartial mediator in minor disputes and differences and solved them. A reliable local Sikh was sent for solving such disputes where she could not reach personally. This fact is testified from her edicts.

Mata Sundri never forgave such a person who defied Sikh principles and its code of conduct, may be her acquired son or any other person. When Mata Sundri was in Delhi, she received the news of martyrdom of her only son Ajit Singh. The mother's heart cried in pain. She saw a child who resembled her own Son Ajit Singh. She named him Ajit Singh too. However, he was lacking in all those graces, which marked the Guru Family.
She was not only a lady of principles, remaining equal to the task and abiding by her promises, she was very bold and brave too. A woman's heart and especially a mother's heart are very tender. When the adopted son Ajit Singh got his hair removed, she kept the softness at bay, and deprived him of her glimpses forever. It may he possible that Ajit Singh might have thought of repenting and begging for forgiveness, but she did not allow him a chance for that because of his abominable sin. Sikhism was ex-tremely dear to the Mata. It was her heart and soul. One day the starving Ajit Singh came to the threshold of the mother, then though she consented to given him something to live but she never looked at him, never allowed him to come near her. She totally cut off the mother-son relation with him. This incident denotes two characteristics of Mata's conduct, the Mata was very softhearted but of a determined mind. Mata's justice-loving disposition could not forgive a son who had gone astray. When the King of Delhi informed the Mata that men of Ajit Singh had killed an innocent Saint (fakir) and at the same time he added that Ajit Singh had taken revenge of martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, and hence this crime of the Government should be pardoned. The self-respecting mother did not take the side of her acquired son. Had she desired she could have saved Ajit Singh. But the intelligent mother was already aware of its bad effects.

In reality Ajit Singh's hair removing incident amounted to the loosening of religious and social aspects of the Sikh solidarity. In that way there was fear of the abandoning of Sikhism on account of the fear of the Government. Mata Sundri preferred her Sikhs to her adopted son.
She liked those Sikh sons for whom her revered husband had sacrificed his four endeared sons. The religious-minded Mata could bear the death of an irreligious acquired son, but she did not allow Sikhism to be ritualised. The incident of Ajit Singh brings another aspect of her into prominence, and that is to protect those who seek her shelter. The starving Ajit Singh could be fed, but he could not be given the permission to see her. It is, therefore, crystal clear that Mata watched her principles and promises zealously and vigrously. This very quality distinguishes her from other women. An ordinary woman does not hesitate to do everything proper or improper for the sake of her affection but Mata Sundri could strangulate her affection but not dharma The painful death of Ajit Singh had a healthy effect upon the contemporary Sikhs. Losing 'Dharma' meant losing life.

Knowing from the King that her acquired son Ajit Singh murdered Benewa Fakir, the Mata should forgive the Government for the Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur. It brings another fact to light that in those days the Government held the Mata in high esteem The Government considered her a responsible person-ality. Hence, a request for forgiveness was made to her. The Government came to its senses with the reply of fearless and bold mother, and they came to know that the bold and brave daughter-in-law of ninth Great Guru would live with her grandeur of Sikhism who had uttered the following stanza:

"Bhai Kahu Ko Det neh, Nehn bhai manat aan".
(Do not frighten anyone nor be afraid of anybody)
Here' another fact is also worth mentioning, and hence needs attention. The building of Gurdwara Rakabganj, the last resting-place of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur, was constructed under the super-vision of Mata's husband Guru Gobind Singh. So long as Mata lived in Delhi no bigoted Mohammedan could dare keep an evil eye upon this shrine. Compelled by circumstances when she went out of Delhi to Mathura, they became bold and demolished the Gurdwara build-ing and got a mosque erected at its place. But all this happened in the absence of her. In reality both the people and the Government considered the Mata as the central authority of Sikhs and it was true also. During her lifetime the Great Mata did not allow any signs of weakness in the splendour of the Sikhs.

From social point of view also the Sikhs kept the banner of Sikhism high, and maintained its dignity. Their inferiority complex vanished forever. Wherever the Sikhs were, they lived with self-respect and esteem.

The Mata led the Sikhs with ability in spiritual field as well. Her leadership was solid and constructive in this respect too. She persuaded Bhai Mani Singh, and got established the school of interpretation of Gurus' sacred teachings in Amritsar on the pattern of Damdama school. She got prepared more copies of Guru Granth, the sacred scriptures. She strengthened Damdama School with more vigour and capability. Baba Deep Singh prepared four copies of Adi Grandh, and in addition to that he served successfully both as a granthi and the interpreter. Mata's role as an organiser was prominent in all the above-mentioned tasks. Mata's order is luminously apparent to send holy and valiant Baba Deep Singh to his martyrdom. He was the second prominent personality in Guru House next to Bhai Mani Singh. Mata knew that the blood of the martyrs is never wasted. Hence in those days persons with high calibre were sent for sacrificing their lives. The schools of Gurbani interpretation both at Damdama Sahib and Amritsar carried on their work even after the martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh and Baba Deep Singh. Many Sikhs benefited by these schools and became prominent preachers of Sikhism. The credit for founding such a centre of spiritualism goes to Guru Gobind Singh, but it is mainly due to Mata's untiring efforts that these centres progressed speedily. The Mata kept on maintaining the speed of their progress even when Bhai Mani Singh was sacrificed.

The great mother (Mata) not only carried on the leadership of the Sikhs of the Punjab only, she looked after all the Sikhs of the rest of India too. This fact is testified and verified by the edicts of the Mata sent in the name of Bihar Patna Sikh congregation and one addressed to Jamania Sikh Assembly. The Sikhs coming from Kabul and Kandhar also considered it as their proud privilege to see the mother (Mata), to obey her and to serve her.

Mata Sundri maintained the cult and traditions of the Gurus by all means. She maintained the tradition of 'langar' i.e. free kitchen, with special efforts. The edicts of Mata Sundri mostly contain the instructions and permission for the Sikhs to send money for the langar: It is guessed that she herself took keen interest for the arrangement of langar and lodging for the Sikh pilgrim. This fact is fully established through the letter of Bhai Mani Singh also that donated money was spent upon running langar: This task of Mata became still more significant when in those days there was no male member in her 'haveli', her place of abode.

Guru family and her adopted son had all passed away turn by turn, and had taken their abode in the Kingdom of God. On the side it was a time of distress for Mata, then her living place was out of the city, thirdly there was no male member nearby. She was carrying on this whole task through the help of her devout Sikhs.

Out of the three wives of Guru Gobind Singh, Mata Sundri had the significant rank. There is very little mention about Mata Jito in Guru History. The historians mention the name of Mata Jito only when the name of the mother of the Sahibzadas is mentioned, and over the event in which Mata Jito's name is mentioned is when 'Amrit' i.e: nectar, or the water of immortality, was being prepared for the first time. Mata Jito had added sweet 'Patasas' i.e. sugar made round flat pills into the iron utensil of Amrit Mata Jito's name is otherwise very rarely found in Guru history.
Mata Jito Ji sweetening the Amrit by adding Patasas to it.
Mata Sahib Devan is known as 'virgin palanquin'. The Tenth Guru bestowed special title to her by naming her as the 'Mother of Khalsa'. Mata Sahib Devan is depicted as remaining busy in the service of her husband, humble and a woman of a very tender disposition. After the tenth Guru, Mata Sahib Devan remained as the second helper of Mata Sundri offering co-operation whereever needed. Her edicts have also been found. Mata Sahib Devan remained consultant to Mata Sundri, like Bhai Mani Singh. Mata Sahib Devan also got the copies of Gurbani; i.e. Guru's works prepared by Sihan Singh, and also addressed her edicts to the Sikh congregations for the running of langar, i.e. free, kitchen for the community. Mata Sahib Devan mostly lived with Mata Sundri. After leaving Anandpur both the sisters lived together except for a short span of time when Mata Sahib Devan went to Nanded with the Tenth Guru. When the time of separation came, she humbly requested her husband for the glimpses, and in reply she got the arms of the Guru. This is an indication of her keen attachment with her husband.

None else except Mata Sundri accomplished the incomplete tasks of the Tenth Guru. Compared with the rest of the two ladies i.e. Matas: Mata Sundri was wiser and far-sighted, bold, valiant and patient. See the divine will, God equipped her most with intrinsic qualities, and at the same time she had to go through great painful events too. A woman's mind becomes sentimental at times, becomes gloomy, forebears the pangs of distress, but still she did not lose heart, and ever remained in high spirits. Mata Sundri's life history stands witness to this fact that whenever she was in a state of sadness due to circumstances she changed the situation with great wisdom. Going from Delhi to Mathura and vice versa frequently testifies the fact
Mata Jito's life characteristics do not appear to be so glaring. Mata Sahib Devan was very sentimental, possessed tender disposition, had deep-rooted love for her husband, and she often insisted upon accompanying her husband. Her quality of obedience was very significant. It is only Mata Sundri who gives a distinct introduction of her character. Guru Gobind Singh had prophetically uttered a few words about the acquired Ajit Singh, but the way in which Mata had prepared herself to bear that heartrending situation was really appreciable. She did not use a bad word for the boy whom she had accepted as her son. But when this very son displayed his evil acts, she called him a bad boy, and then never addressed him as a good boy. It is evident from this fact that Mata Sundri could take decisions independently and could also face the outcome of such decisions easily In spite of the martyrdom of four Sahibzadas and heart-rending news of Mata Gujri's passing away she obeyed her husband's orders to live alone in Delhi. From this the two qualities of boldness and obedience are seen clearly

The mother Sundri, whose childhood was full of receiving affection and care and who had seen the royal grandeur of her husband and had enjoyed the child like play and games of the four Sahibzadas, had witnessed the hunting expeditions and the wonderful feats of the hawks of her Guru-husband. She enjoyed the devotional love of innumerable Sikhsand had seen the heart-rending sacrifices of warrior Sikhs. The Mata was thoroughly convinced about the poetic capability of her husband and had enjoyed the taste of the spiritual sittings of 52 poets, had to undergo miseries in the last stage of her life. But this high spirited Mata was not carried away by her sentiments. Rather she efficiently led Khalsa Panth in the hours of trials and tribulations. This Mata, the mistress of Guru's royal standing sacrificed her whole family, passed the last ten years in her 'haveli' with the Sikh congregation. But the relieving smile ever remained upon her lip. Before proceeding to her heavenly abode she completed all the duties assigned to her, and with her husband she too occupied the lap of Almighty Lord, Akal Purkh.

In the end, we can aptly say that all the women associated with Guru family did so much work and established so many norms and values that not only helped the immediate generation of the Sikhs but will be useful to the later generation also. The ideals lived by the women of the Guru family are related to family social, political and spiritual fields. Further more literary Contributions are also important. Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib Devan contributed in the editing of the words of the Tenth Guru. Apart from all that, Bibi Roop Kaur, daughter of Guru Har Rai Ji, compiled 32 gospels at one place and emerged as the first woman editor in Guru Family. This compilation of gospels is known as the "Gospels of Bibi Roop Kaur." She is not only the first editor of the literature of Gurus, she is in fact the first editor of Punjabi also.

Other Notable Women

Not only did the women related to the Guru family worked for religion, but blessed by the Gurus, they did missionary work also. According to Guru Nanak Parkash, when Guru Nanak Dev salvaged Noorshah, he made her the main preacher of the areas of Assam In her life time, Noorshah kept preaching the religion of the Guru

For missionary work, Guru Amardas established 22 Manjis (sacred seats used for preaching religion) out of which he granted two manjis to two women. These ladies were Matho Murari and the wife of Sachan Sach. Matho Murari was granted the manji of Lahore. Apart from Manjis the third Guru established 75 Peeras (Cradles) which were the domestic version of Manjis. Sitting on Peeras the housewives along with the domestic chores could as well preach in the neighborhood.
Guru Amardas Ji appointed women to conduct Sikh missionary and parish work

During the lifetime of tenth Guru, Mai Bhago observed the Sikh norms and rituals very strictly. She not only got the forty deserters forgiven by the Guru, but also fought bravely in the battlefield. For the Guru, she sacrificed everything and reached Nanded. In short, the Sikh women did not lag behind where the preaching of religion was concerned. Instead, even in domestic practical things, the women gave religious norms and values a real meaning We can consider their contribution unique in this aspect.

From the above discussion, we can draw out the following conclusions:

1Bebe Nanaki is the first woman to accept religion started by Guru Nanak Dev and she is considered one of the prominent women of the world. Bebe Nanaki helped her brother mon-etarily for buying his first Rabab for recitation of Kirtan. By taking care of the family of her brother Guru Nanak, she proved that not only do the sons help their parents, but also daughters can help and solve their problems. Secondly the relation between a brother and sister can be so understanding, that they fulfil the unexpressed desires of each other, and feel a spiritual enjoyment in helping each other.
2. Mata Sulakhani provided another ideal to the Punjabi tradition that a husband's home is the best after marriage. If we have to sacrifice our personal comforts for social welfare, we should do that gladly. During the religious journeys of Guru Nanak Dev, Mata Sulakhani looked after her sons carefully and waited for her husband. She never put any obstacles in the missionary work of her husband. Rather she agreed to whatever her husband said. The silent dignity of the Mata is a matter of pride for the entire womankind. In the absence of her husband she did not go to her parents or her in-laws house, rather maintained her dignity in her own home.
3. Mata Khiwi Ji's name will be associated with langar in Guru family. Guru Nanak Dev started the tradition of langar at Kartarpur Sahib. Mata Khiwi devotedly worked for this tradi-tion.
4. From Bibi Bhani's service we come to know that we should not differentiate between a girl and a boy. From this aspect, Bibi Bhani has a unique place in Sikh history. Unmarried and married, she kept serving her father devotedly.
5. The children should obey their parents. The parents' blessings can even bestow kingdoms on them. Selling fried-grams Ramdas became Guru Ramadas and Bibi Bhani became Guru's consort and later on mother and grandmother of the Gurus. No other consort of any Guru has had such good luck. Bibi Bhani was an embodiment of service, truth and modesty.
6 Mata Ganga's life and character has proved this fact that those who served the Guru family have been blessed with immense powers That is why the fifth Guru sent Mata Ganga to Baba Budha for blessing Mata Ganga set up another ideals for the coming generations Man sometimes falters due to lack of wisdom. However, one should not despair in adverse times. Instead we should pray to God for patience. Child Guru Hargobind was only about eleven years of age when his father expired. Mata Ganga told him to bear everything with patience and saw her son adopting the path of Mir-Piri.
7 Mata Nanaki was the mother of Guru Tegh Bahadur. She inspired the child Guru to meditate She kept a watch over the basement when the Guru meditated. She did not mind the opposition of relatives Instead she always thanked God for everything. We can get a message from her life and that is, that we should not copy the evil, rather, God always blesses and rewards goodness in life.
8. Mata Kishan Kaur looked after the child Guru Harkrishan and faced gracefully all odds created by her family members or the Mughal King Aurangzeb. She was the embodiment of endurance and solace.
9. Mata Gujri was the consort of the ninth Guru and the mother of the tenth Guru. She had immense patience. She was the only woman in the Guru family who saw the martyrdom of her husband and grandsons. She always encouraged and inspired her grandsons to adopt the path of Sikhism. She always told them to face cruelty with dignity and to never lose their religious feelings and always tried to boost their morale.
10. Mata Sahib Devan kept guiding her descendants and teach them the principles of life. During her life time after the death of her husband the tenth Guru she used to get a special vision of Him from His blessed arms. This was a respect for the arms because they were blessed and were an image of the Guru itself She established a communion of spiritual and worldly feelings.
11 Mata Sundri was an embodiment of Sikh ideals. When her adopted son disrespected the Sikh ideals, she punished him strictly. When the infighting started among the Sikhs, she saved the situation with a novel plan In Arnritsar, she started a Taksal to let people know the meanings of the divine verses of the Gurus which are there in Guru Granth Sahib. She got the divine verses of Guru Gobind Singh edited by Bhai Mani Singh. She guided the Sikh nation for a long time. She maintained the dignity of the Gurus in front of the King. Even if the Sikhs fought with each other, she used to solve their problems and set everything right. That way the Sikh nation maintained its strength. The Sikhs did not separate from each other, rather they were a source of strength of each other.
12. Bibi Har Roop Kaur, the daughter of the seventh Guru was the first woman editor of the Guru family.
13. The women blessed by the Guru family also contributed valuably for the House of Gurus, for example, Noorshah at the time of Guru Nanak Dev. Mata Sabhrai also contributed usefully at the time of coronation of Guru Angad Dev. Guru Amardas established 22 Manjis and 75 cradles. Out of which the women used to serve two Manjis and cradles. The housewives also kept preaching their religion in the neighbourhood. Mai Bhago's contribution at the time of the tenth Guru is well known

In all, the Sikh women not only preached the high and moral values, rather created new ideals and highlighted and established them. Even in domestic and practical life, the Sikh woman displayed these qualities. By preaching Sikh ideals, the women related to and blessed by the Sikh Guru not only expanded the field of the religion but determined an idealistic life style also. These women have enjoyed a great respect. The Gurus didn't maintain any discrimination between men and women and gave both of them equal respect. Even till today the women enjoy great respect in Sikh religion and have a status that is full of pride.

Guru Amardas conferred equal status on men and women and disapproved of gender discrimination