March 9, 2016–Mai Bhago
Another badass woman I’ve never heard of before! What follows is a overly-simplified very non-scholarly version of her life.
Mai Bhago was a Sikh woman born in the village of Jhabal Kalan in present day Amritsar district of the Punjab, in the Majha region. Ok, I need to google that.
Bhago was married to Nidhan Singh Warraich of Patti. She was a devoted Sikh by birth and upbringing. In 1705 she was distressed to hear that 40 men of her village neighborhood who had gone to Anandpur Sahib to fight for Guru Gobind Singh Ji against the Mughals, had deserted him when the going got rough.
Bhago tracked down these 40 men and persuaded them to return to the Guru and ask his forgiveness and that he reinstate them as Sikhs. Bhago went with them to make sure they followed through.
They caught up with the Guru around Malva, near the dhab of Khirdrana, just as the imperial army of 10,000 Mughal soldiers was preparing to attack the Guru. The Guru blessed them and allowed them the chance to redeem themselves. Did I mention he was facing and imperial army?
The Battle of Muktsar began. Certain death was before them, but this did not discourage Bhago. Leading her 40 men, she charged into the Mughal force, fighting until nightfall and inflicting so much damage the enemy was forced to retreat to a nearby woods to attend to wounds.
Bhago is the first woman of Punjab to fight on a battlefield. The Guru watched from afar (wha? he wasn’t down in the thick?) and had his archers rain down a storm of arrows perforating the Mughal fighters into pegboard. After awhile, nothing moved on the battlefield now bristling with arrows. The Guru went to investigate.
The 40 men had perished. The Guru forgave all that had come before and blessed them as the Forty Liberated Ones, the Chali Mukte. The only person to survive the battle was Mai Bhago, though she was wounded. The Guru took her into his care. She healed and afterward continued to serve him as a bodyguard, still wearing her warrior attire.
She served the Guru until his death in 1708. She retired at Jirvana and immersed herself in meditation, living well into her old age. She is considered at saint to the Sikhs. Her hut in Jinvara has been converted into a holy site known today as Gurudwara Tap Asthan Mai Bhago–“Shrine of the place of meditation by Mai Bhago.”