Bharat is a country where thousands of women protected their faith and motherland even after being involved in warfare. They had lakhs of sons who died to protect the customs, traditions, and country from external invaders. In this piece, I will discuss the role of Mata Sundari, who was not actively involved in the battle but gave up everything to protect religious honour from the Mughals and Afghans. Mata Sundari, also known as Mata Sundari Kaur, was the wife of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru. She is considered as a respected and holy character in the history of India. Mata Sundari is well-known for her services to the Sikh community as well as her leadership in a significant moment of Sikh history.
Mata Sundari was born in Hoshiarpur in 1666 to prominent landowner Ram Saran and Bishan Kaur. Mata Jeet Kaur was her given name at birth, and she was a devoted pious Sikh from childhood who admired the Hindu principles of sacrifice for the religion and motherland.
Mata Jeet Kaur married Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib in 1687. Her parents, who were Guru followers, arranged the marriage. She became the guide of Sikhs when Guru Gobind Singh died in October 1708, issuing her own seral and authority hukamnamas to sangats between 1717 and 1730. Mata Sundari rose to prominence in the Sikh faith following the death of Guru Gobind Singh. She was responsible for upholding Sikh heritage and culture during a period of political unrest and upheaval. The development of the Khalsa in Delhi and other areas was one of Mata Sundari’s most significant efforts. Guru Gobind Singh created the institution in 1699, and Mata Sundari restored it in the early 18th century. This institution was meant to be a centre of learning for the Sikh community, and it played an important role in the preservation of Sikh history and culture.
Mata Sundari was also instrumental in the development of the Dasam Granth, a sacred scripture including Guru Gobind Singh’s works. Bhai Mani Singh, a notable Sikh scholar, prepared the book at Mata Sundari’s request. The Dasam Granth is a sacred scripture in Sikhism and is respected by many Sikhs.
Mata Sundari also made significant contributions to the establishment of the Sis-Ganj Sahib Gurdwara in Delhi. The Gurdwara was constructed on the same place where Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru, was slain in 1675 on the order of cruel orthodox Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. Mata Sundari oversaw the gurdwara’s construction, which is today a popular pilgrimage destination for Sikhs.
With Guru Gobind Singh’s death, the Sikh community was thrown into disarray. The Mughal Empire remained in power, posing a constant danger to the Sikhs, and the Sikh community struggled to retain its identity and autonomy. During this pivotal moment in Sikh history, Mata Sundari emerged as a leader. She worked diligently to preserve Sikh culture and heritage, and she was instrumental in keeping the Sikh community united. Mata Sundari’s choice to designate Banda Singh Bahadur as the head of the Sikh soldiers was one of her most crucial acts of leadership. Banda Singh Bahadur was a disciple of Guru Gobind Singh, and the Guru bestowed the title “Banda Singh Bahadur” on him. Banda Singh’s leadership abilities were acknowledged by Mata Sundari, who chose him as the chief of the Sikh soldiers in 1708.
The Sikhs were capable of organizing a successful insurrection against the Mughal Empire under the leadership of Banda Singh. They conquered numerous significant cities, including Sirhind, the major location between Punjab and Delhi. The younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh were brutally executed. The Sikhs also founded their own autonomous kingdom, led by Banda Singh Bahadur. Banda Singh Bahadur, along with numerous other notable Sikh leaders, was captured and executed.
Notwithstanding this defeat, Mata Sundari remained the Sikh community’s leader. She travelled India extensively, meeting with Sikh leaders and urging them to continue the fight for Sikh rights and autonomy from the Mughals. She was also instrumental in the founding of the Khalsa Panth, an organisation of dedicated Sikh warriors sworn to defend the Sikh community and the motherland from any dangers.
Mata Sundari then relocated to Delhi and dedicated herself to the preservation of Sikh history and culture. She collaborated with Bhai Mani Singh, the Dasam Granth’s compiler, and other Sikh intellectuals to guarantee that the Sikh heritage and the sacrifices of every person were passed down to future generations.
Mata Sundari continues to play a significant role in the Sikh community, counselling Sikh leaders and urging Sikhs to remain committed to Sikhism. She was regarded as a holy person by the Sikh community and was noted for her piety, intelligence, and fearlessness.
Mata Sundari died in 1747 in Delhi at the age of 85. Sikhs regard her as a wonderful leader, scholar, and saint. Her contributions to Sikhism, such as the founding of the Khalsa College, the development of the Dasam Granth, and the construction of the Sis Ganj Sahib Gurdwara, continue to inspire and lead the Sikh community today.
Mata Sundari’s leadership during a critical period in Sikh history was crucial in maintaining the unity of the Sikh community and in ensuring that Sikhism survived and thrived despite the many challenges it faced. Her courage, wisdom, and piety continue to inspire Sikhs around the world, and she is remembered as a great leader, scholar, and saint.
As we look at today’s Punjab, we can see the emerging problem of Pakistan and the west-based Khalistan insurgency, but we must not forget the time of carnage in which foreign forces attempted to destroy Punjab’s harmony by splitting Hindus and Sikhs into two religions. Sikhism is a religious sect within the Hindu religion. Sikh Gurus defended this religion even after they were executed. But, the land of gurus, Punjab, is now at risk of missionary-driven conversion and a rising conflict based on sectarianism. Christian missionaries are converting Hindus and Sikhs to Christianity, and hundreds of new churches are being built in major towns and even in the countryside. There is no regulation in this illicit conversion of common people to the faith of Jesus. The new AAP government is also indirectly assisting by not taking any legal action against them. Punjab would be in the grip of a catastrophic crisis.
It is pertinent to mention here that there is an urgent need for new Mata Sundaris who are willing to sacrifice their sons for the sake of the nation and religion. When we look at history, we found these types of influences, we can see how Maharani Jind Kaur was also highlighting the influence of Christianity on Maharaja Dalip Singh and how he was giving up the traditions of his forefather. But we have to tackle these situations.
(The writer is Research Scholar at the Department of History, University of Delhi)