The Guru’s Household-I : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

Now we come to another matter connected with the Guru’s life regardingwhich absence of authentic historical records has given rise to conflictingstatements. It has been stated by some that the Guru had three wives.

His detractors have, on the basis of that statement, been busy inmeasuring him with their own standards of moral values, and insinuatingthat he was swayed by lust.

Now these critics, in their blind zeal to throw mud on greatpersonages, not belonging to their own sect or community, have builtup too wide conclusions from very narrow premises. Three marriages,even if they were proved to be undeniable facts, cannot, in themselves,be taken to be proof of the alleged flaw. His whole life was one ofgreat and steady struggles and sacrifices. It was the most rare andunique example of an idealistic detachment from the world’s pleasures.

It gives a lie direct to the vilifiers who would measure the infinite withtheir finite standards.

There is, besides these hostile critics, another set of sceptics whofeel a good deal of difficulty in reconciling the Guru’s conduct withtheir modern notions of social morality and marriage. Persons of thisclass are invited to study calmly and dispassionately, the followingpages and see if their scruples have any firm basis or justification.

First, there is, as stated already, a deplorable lack of authenticrecords about the Guru’s life. The accounts given by contemporaryMuhmmadan writers are prejudiced and openly malacious. Even thesedo not ascribe three marriages to the Guru. The writers who state thathe had three wives state a large number of other things- which no onecan regard as facts of history, and which discredit their writings as fullof inventions of their own fertile brains.

Secondly, there is a great conflict in the dates of the first twomarriages as given by different writers. Some writers say that the firstmarriage took place on the 15th of Jeth, Samvat 1730, i.e. when hewas only seven years old, and the second, in 1741. Another set, includingMacaulift’e, say that the first marriage took place on 23rd of Har,Samvat 1734; and the second, a year or two later. What is most probableis that the betrothal ceremony took place in 1730 and the marriage,four or five years later. Both the occasions having been celebrated withgreat pomp, they became confused in later-day popular narrations, andeach came to be regarded as an occasion of marriage.

Thirdly, there is a tradition that Jitoji was the original name ofthe Guru’s wife; and that, in accordance with the usual practice whichpersists to this day, she was, after her marriage, re-named Sundri. Asis usual even now in all such cases, some, especially those connectedwith her father’s family or hailing from that side, continued calling herJito, while others called her Sundri. In after times, the two namesoccurring in popular accounts came to suggest two different persons,and it was inferred that the Guru had two wives. Macauliffe also mentionsthis tradition which was brought to his notice by a ‘learned Sikh’.

Fourthly, the reason for the second marriage given by one set ofwriters, the other being silent on the point, is that the first marriagehad, in the past eleven years, yielded no issue. The Guru’s mother, inher anxiety to have grandsons, and despairing of having them fromJito’s womb, prevailed upon him to marry another wife. If we look atthe dates, we find that this set places the second marriage in 174 Bk.,or in the Guru’s 1 8th year Now that is not an age at which any bodymay become despaired of having sons. We should also remember thatthe Guru’s mother had given birth to her only son when her husband,Guni Tegh Bahadur, was over forty five years old. It is inconceivable,therefore, that she should have come to be despaired of having grandsonswhen his son was yet in his teens.

Fifthly, the dates of birth of Guru’s four sons also lead to thesame inference. These are :-

1. Baba Ajit Singh, borne by ‘Sundri Ji’ Magh 1743

2. Baba Jujhar Singh, borne by ‘Jito Ji’ diet 1747

3. Baba Zorawar Singh, borne by ‘Jito Ji’ Magh 1753

4. Baba Fateh Singh, borne by ‘Jito Ji’ Chet 1755

The fairly long interval between the birth of the first and secondsons, and the fact that the first and third sons were born in Magh, andthe second and fourth in Chet, make it probable that Ajit Singh wasborne by the mother who bore the other three.

Sixthly, another tradition has it that the second marriage tookplace after Mata Jito Ji had died. All the four sons are ascribed to JitoJi. If this tradition were accepted as ture, there could be nothing in thesecond marriage which could possibly trouble the scruples of thepresent-day social moralists.

The Guru’s so-called third marriage was performed with MataSahib Devi, daughter of Bhai Ramu, Bassi Khatri of Rohtas in thedistrict of Jehlam, now in Pakistan, on Baisakh 18, 1757 Bk. But thiswas no marriage in the ordinary sense of the term. The Guru createdthe Khalsa on the Baisakhi day of 1756 Bk (March 30,1699 A.D.). Agood time before that historic event the Guru had been absorbed inthinking and planning about this great undertaking. After the event,he was busier still in organizing and strengthening the new-born Khalsa,and in making preparations for the liberation of his country. More thana year before the creation of the Khalsa, he had adopted a completelycontinent life; for he wanted to devote all his time and energies, hisbody and soul, to the heaven ordained task. This vow of Brahmcharyahe continued to observe even afterwards. In view of this, where wasthe need for another marriage about a year after the creation of theKhalsa ?

But a marriage did take place, all the same. What happened wasthis. On the occasion of the annual Baisakhi gathering of 1757 Bk,Bhai Ramu of Rohtas came to Anandpur to pay homage to the Guru.

He brought with him his youthful daughter in a palki (palanquin) andsaid to the Guru: “O Guru, since her infancy Sahib Devi has beenbetrothed by us to you. Be pleased to accept her as a your wife andservant.” On the Guru’s refusal, the Sikh said, “Having been dedicatedto you since her very birth, she is called Mata or mother by all Sikhs.

No one would wed her now. There is thus no place for her except atyour feet.”

The Guru then said, ‘Well, let her then be the mother of myKhalsa and serve them with a motherly affection. Let her pass her daysin such service and in meditation on God’s name. If she agrees, she iswelcome to stay, and you may leave her here.’

She readily agreed to remain a virgin all her life. The Guru agreedto take her into wedlock, and did so. She is always referred to askanwara dola (virgin wife) in Sikh and non-Sikh literature.

She remained with the Guru. To serve the Guru and his Sikhs,and to keep absorbed in divine meditation, such was her ambition. Sogreat was her devotion to the Guru that she would not take food untilshe had seen him and performed some act of personal service. Oneday the Guru asked her if she had any desire in her heart which longedfor fulfilment. She replied that the only desire she had was for a son.

The Guru replied, ‘Cheer up then ! I have given thee a son that willlive for ever. I have put the whole Khalsa in thy lap as thy son.’

The view that the alleged second marriage with Suridri Ji nevertook place, that the union with Sahib Devan was altogether of a uniqueand higher type in which souls and not bodies enjoyed each other’sembraces, is also supported by Dr Gokal Chand Narang. He writes :’The Guru attached a great importance to a continent life which he hadhimself adopted before entering upon his warlike career. His secondwife, Sahib Devan, showed an anxiety for a child but the Guru consoledher by saying that the whole Khalsa would be as a child unto her.

Every convert accordingly is told at the time of baptism that henceforthhis caste will be Sodhi, (Guru) Gobind (Singh)’s caste, and his parents(Guru) Gobind Singh and (Mata) Sahib Devan.” ‘it should be notedthat Sahib Devan is called here the ‘second’ and not the ‘third’ wife.’

So, the union with Mata Sahib Devan was not a physical unionat all. It was a knitting of two souls in bonds of divine love. Up tothis day, on the occasion of their baptism, the Sikhs are enjoined togive Anandpur as the name of their village, Guru Gobind Singh as thatof their father, and Mata Sahib Devan as that of their mother. SahibDevan is, therefore, the Mother of the Khalsa.

On her taking Amrit, her name became Sahib Kaur. When theGuru evacuated Anandpur in December 1704, she got separated fromhim in the confusion which resulted from the Mughals’ and theHill-Chiefs’ treacherous attack near the Sirsa stream. She and MataSundri stayed for a night at Ropar and, on the following day, the twoproceeded to Delhi in the company of a devoted Sikh.

She joined the Guru at Damdama Sahib. Still later, when hedecided to proceed towards the Deccan, she prayed for permission toaccompany him and serve him to the end in accordance with her vow.

She arrived at Nander with him and began to pass her days in servingher lord and maditating on God.

When the Guru felt that the time of his return to his Eternal Abodewas at hand, he prevailed upon her to return to Delhi. He gave herfive weapons which had belonged to his grandfather, Guru HargobindSahib.

She lived in Delhi with Mata Sundri and died earlier than thelatter. Her body was cremated near Guru Hari Krishan’s shrine, calledBala Sahib.