Shaheed Bibi Balbir Kaur
At the age of 22 Bibi Balbir Kaur along with her two year old son in her arms; embraced martyrdom at the hands of British troops(1924)..... Dhan Guru Dhan Guru Pyarai !!!
In this world people die every day, but none knows how to die. Whosoever dies, let them die such a death that they may not have to die again.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji -Ang 1366
The Akali movement (1892-1917) had rejuvenated a new life among GurSikhs. Since the Sikh Raj period, this was the first time GurSikhs had asserted their religious independence and initiated non-violent efforts to seek control of their Gurdwaras. The bloody incident of Nankana Sahib and Guru-Kae-Bagh added fuel to the fire and served to strengthen the movement. As a result, the Sikhs raised slogans of freedom along with slogans for the independence of their Gurdwaras. Unfortunately, the level of commitment and self-sacrifice of Sikhs deeply disturbed the British. They sensed a potential threat to their control from this small community of lions. Expectedly, the British directed their terror machinery against the Sikhs. Along with Akalis, their sympathizers also troubled the British Psyche. As a result, the British forces arrested and confined all Akali sympathizers in the jails.
The Maharaja of Nabha, Ripudaman Singh, was an independent minded ruler. He never considered himself disjoint from his community. When Guru Khalsa Panth observed the eve of Nankana Sahib martyrdom, he too conducted Akhand Path of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Nabha and wore black turban to participate in this Panthic observance. Subsequently, he visited Harimandir Sahib at Amritsar and consulted with Akali leaders who were outside the jails. Maharaja's activities deeply troubled the British. They could not tolerate such activities as they smelled some sort of a rebellion through such participation. The British action was swift. They initiated legal steps to seize control of Nabha rule and expelled Maharaja Ripudaman Singh.
The news of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh's expulsion spread through Guru Khalsa Panth like a lightening rod. It shook the very core of Sikh psyche. Such excesses by the British became unbearable for the Sikhs and the whole Sikh nation galvanized to fight against this injustice. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee (SGPC), working in collaboration with the Shiromani Akali Dal, conducted Akhand Paths at various places to openly express their outrage at this injustice and demanded the reinstatement of Maharaja. Sikhs initiated a Akhand Paath of Sri Guru Granth Sahib at the Jaito Gurdwara as well to express their outrage against this injustice. Unfortunately, it was not allowed to be completed. The agents of British empire, operating under British instructions, dragged and arrested the Granth Sahib who was reciting the Paath. As a result, the Akhand Paath was forcibly interrupted.
This incident was equivalent of pouring salt over open Sikh wounds. The expulsion of Maharaja was a political affair that the Panth was still struggling to grapple with. It hadn't yet resolved on how to best deal with this issue when the forced interruption of Akhand Paath served a deep blow from the rulers to the Sikhs religious sentiments. This was an open challenge to Guru Khalsa Panth's freedom and honor. Akali leaders decided to accept this challenge. They immediately announced a non- violent morcha for the resumption and completion of the interrupted Akhand Paath, this happened in 1924. Thousands of GurSikh Singh, Singhnia, children, and elders started flocking in Amritsar ready to shed their lives for this religious battle. They were all eager to reach Jaito. However, the Akali committee decided to send a Jatha of 500 GurSikhs. The remaining GurSikhs were asked to await the schedule for the next Jatha. Everyone was eager to proceed to Jaito, yet! they had to accept their Jathedar's decision.
Under the echoes of Jaekara, "Jo Bolay So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal," this Jatha left Amritsar after having sought the Hukam from Sri Akal Takhat and pledged to remain non- violent. Thousands of supporters were present on this occasion.
The non-violent march of this Jatha was a unique event for the whole world. Organized in rows of four, these Saint-Soldiers proceeded bare-foot from Amritsar while reciting "Satnaam WaheGuru." Soon they reached their first rest-stop. The dedication and volunteer sewa of the local Sikhs testified to the whole world that the Sikh nation not only understood non-violence and how to die but how to honor its martyrs.
Bibi Balbir Kaur was asked by the Jathedar to return, her eyes were filled with tears. She said, "Veer! Do not stop me from serving the living martyrs of Guru Gobind Singh. Sewa is the only essence of this life. Beside we never know when death will come upon us. I plead for permission to continue for Guru's sake. Let me proceed." Jathedar could not break her heart. He reluctantly gave permission, especially when faced with her utter display of self-sacrifice.
Balbir Kaur was 22 years old, full of youth and utterly beautiful. Guru's faith and feelings of selfless service for humanity had generated such a glow on her face that she seemed like the embodiment of purity. She was not alone. She was accompanied by her two year old beautiful son. The playful happy face of this child was not only Balbir Kaur's joy but the source of amusement for the whole Jatha. He played with everyone in the Jatha along the way.
The journey was nearing completion. Jatha prepared to depart from its final rest-stop. Jathedar stood on a high spot and pleaded for the return of the accompanying congregation. British forces had dug-in with machine gun. This information had previously reached the Jatha. Jathedar did not hide this information from anyone. He said, "With Guru's blessing, a martyr's maela is being organized. However, only those GurSikhs, who have Sri Akal Takhat's Hukam, should proceed further. Others should return and await their turn."
The congregation stopped and let the Jatha proceed. However, not everyone obeyed the Jathedar's instructions. Several GurSikhs, eager to seek the martyrdom, found hidden routes parallel to the Jatha's established route. They advance in hiding, with the view that when the whole program of martyrdom is unveiled they too will participate to seek martyrdom. However, Bibi Balbir Kaur did not seek any hidden routes. She continued marching! with her brothers while her son enjoyed the sight, simply watching people on either side.
When Jathedar learned of Balbir Kaur's continued march with the Jatha, he left his leading position and caught up with her. "Bibi, there is potential of firing ahead. You should not continue any further." Jathedar pleaded. "My Veer! Do not stop me. My quest for sewa has not been quenched yet. Allow me to enjoy this sewa. You tell me of the dangers from the potential firing ahead? Five hundred Veers are with me. Since they are continuing for sure death why shouldn't they be accompanied by a Bahan (sister). I too have partaken Gurus Amrit. I shall consider myself blessed if I too could accept martyrdom along with my brothers and reach Guru Gobind Singh's court. Here my quest has not been quenched by serving my Veers." Balbir Kaur again pleaded with tears in her eyes.
"But .." Jathedar was about to say something when he was interrupted by Balbir Kaur saying, "My child, this is what you wanted to point out. He too is Guru's blessing. If he too is to se! rve the Panth, what greater deeds could be beyond this." Saying this, Balbir Kaur again hugged her child who had a radiant glow on his face.
Jathedar pressured Balbir Kaur to return. Others pressured her too, but she did not budge from her decision to continue her march to death with her brothers. She insisted that the "non-inclusion of a Bahan along with 500 Veers in the pending martyrdom is an insult to the brave daughters of Tenth Guru. How could the Guru, whose amrit turned women into Singhnia, who bestowed equality to women, tolerate that not even a single daughter participate in his holy war?" This is sacrilegious that Balbir Kaur simply could not allow.
The power of her persuasive arguments forced her brothers to accept her position. Even the Jathedar had to bow against her spirit of sacrifice and courage. Who so ever talked with her was perplexed and could not raise a convincing counter argument.
Jathedar having been forced to accept her decision, returned to his lead position in the march. Guru Khalsa's Kesri flag was freely fluttering in the winds. The Jatha exhibited a unique presence while the accompanying band's performance portrayed innocence. Under the guidance of their deeply held faith in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the command of their Jathedar, the brave force of Sant-Sipahis marched toward the Jaito Gurdwara. They were chanting "Satnaam WaheGuru." Every GurSikh in the Jatha was projecting calmness.
People of all religions welcomed the Jatha all along of the way from Amritsar to Jaito, because of their participation in this religious task. They were served with abundant amounts milk, kheer (milk and rice pudding) and other things. Flowers were showered upon these living martyrs along the way. Thousands of rupees were donated.
The British troops awaited the Jatha and opened fire on them. They showered them with rain of bullets. Gurus non-violent force was prepared for such a welcome. They accepted this welcome with "Satnaam Sri WaheGuru's" Hukam and continued the sweet walk towards their goal without any interruptions. Many Veers fell to the ground but would rise immediately to continue their march. The bullets would hit their chest only to fall again. With courage they would either rise again or accept death to reach the Kalgidhar father's lap.
Martyrdom was being openly served by now. It was the same serving that Balbir Kaur had insisted to reach and accept. Let us focus our attention on her condition. She continued her march while hugging her child close. She embraced the rain of bullets that she had eagerly awaited. By now her face was glowing with some unique brightness.
Suddenly, She was hit by a bullet in her forehead. A blood spring burst open. Her whole face was covered with blood, eyes were covered with blood. However, this did not affect her march. She continued with the chanting of "Satnaam WaheGuru" with her son in her arms.
Suddenly another bullet hit Balbir Kaur's child. The bullet pierced the child through his ear and then hit Balbir Kaur's chest. The child died immediately and proceeded to the Guru's court. Balbir Kaur kissed his forehead and placed his body with the other martyrs saying "WaheGuru look after your amanat (temporarily entrusted to me for safe custody)." However, she did not stop. Her face had turned yellow from the loss of blood. She had no strength left to continue. Her walk was wobbly by now, yet her heart's quest had not been quenched. Chanting the tune of "Satnaam WaheGuru," she kept her pace with others. The bullets had not stopped raining. They continued showering as if their thirst for blood had not yet mellowed.
Another bullet came hissing her way. It hit straight in Balbir Kaur's chest, pierced her body and left from the other side. This bullet was the message of death, the one Balbir Kaur had been eagerly awaiting. With this bullet, Bibi Balbir Kaur fell to the ground and embraced martyrdom. Her soul left to join her child in Kalgidhar Father's protection. Her deepest quest was finally fulfilled. Her blood filled face still exhibited peace and dancing valor.
Daughters of the Khalsa
translated by Baldev Singh from "Adarshak Singhnia" by Karam Singh