Mai Bhago also known as Mata Bhag Kaur, was a Sikh woman who led 40 Sikh soldiers, to fight against the Mughals in 1705 who came back to their hometown from Anandpur Sahib after deserting Guru Gobind Singh Ji during gherao of Anandpur Sahib by the Mughals. She was an exceptionally skilled warrior on the battlefield and is revered as a warrior saint in Sikhism. She was known for rallying the 40 Sikhs (Chali Mukte) who abandoned Guru Gobind Singh at the siege of Anandpur Sahib and bringing them back to fight with the Mughal.
Mata Bhag kaur , who is known by Mai Bhago in Sikh Itihas, was born at her ancestral village of Jhabal Kalan in present day Tarn Tarn district of the Punjab in the Majha region. After her Birth , the family business became more and more flourished day by day and family gave credit to her birth by naming her bhagan wali, bhag kaur or mai bhago. From her childhood Mai Bhago’s inclination was towards doing Nitname and listening Gurbani . She developed into a very tall, 6 1\4 ft. , very strong and beautiful young women.
She was married to Nidhan Singh Warraich of Patti. She was a staunch believer of Sikhism as she had her upbringing in a devout Sikh family . Mai Bhago’s father, Malo Shah, was enrolled in Guru Hargobind’s army and like her father Mai Bhago were also trained in Shaster vidya. Mai Bhago was the granddaughter of Bhai Pero Shah who was younger brother of the famous Bhai Langah the chief of 84 villages who had converted to Sikhism during the time of Guru Arjan Dev (1563–1606), the fifth Sikh Guru. She had two brothers Dilbagh Singh and Bhag Singh. When she was young her parents took her to Anandpur Sahib to do darshan (glimpse) of Guru Gobind Singh.
On around 1704, the Mughal hill chiefs had surrounded Anandpur Sahib and were demanding it be evacuated stopping provisions for food and the siege lasting a few months. They announced that any Sikh who would say that “he/she is not anymore a Sikh of Guru Gobind” would be left untouched while others would be “done to death”. A group of 40 Sikhs (Chali Mukte), led by Mahan Singh Rataul, told Guru Gobind Singh that they were not his Sikhs anymore. The Guru told them that they would have to write a document and sign “We are not your Sikhs anymore” . All forty Sikhs signed on this document, and left Guru Gobind Singh.Co-incidence, that those Sikhs were belonged the nearby village of Mai Bhago.
When Mai Bhago heard it that some of the Sikhs of her neighborhood, had left and deserted Guru Gobind Singh, at that critical juncture, she critizied and taunted them openly and thrown her bangles Infront of them and said ironically,’ Ok you sit at home ,wear bangles, make chapatis for the children and we all women will go and fight with Guru against tyrants. Now they had realized she persuaded them to find the Guru and apologize him. She also set off with them to seek out the Guru, then who were traveling across the Malva.
After eight months of ghirao Anandpur Fort without any outcome , A messenger arrived with an oath signed by Aurangzeb on a copy of the Quran, assuring that if guru comes out of the fort with his forces , permanent peace would be negotiated on honorable terms. The oath of the Emperor was further supported by an oath signed by all the Generals of the Mughal army and the Hill Chiefs. Guru Gobind Singh did not trust these assurances, but to show the real face of the Mughals and the condition of Sikhs with no proper food, the Guru decided to evacuated the fort. But it was the betrayal Mughal army and the Hill Chiefs, who came with all their Army to attack Sikhs.
The two youngest ones, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh, had gone along with their grandmother Mata Gujar Kaur, Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib with Bhai Mani Singh and some Sikhs as trayed towards Delhi, while the elder two, Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Sahibzada Jhujhar Singh, had gone with Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Mughals were after Guru Sehban . At the battle of Chamkaur, the Guru’s elder two sons Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh were killed and attained martyrdom. The Guru left Chamkaur on the order of the Panj Pyare. Guru Gobind Singh’s forces travelled day and night through the jungles of the Malva region with the imperial Mughal forces of Aurangzeb in constant pursuit.
The Guru had reached the village of Khidrana. Mai Bhago and the men reached Khidrana also . She ordered Sikhs with her to stop near the Dhab, or pool, of Khidrana, the only source of water in the area which was overtaken by the Mughal imperial army pursuing the Guru, so that Mughal could not reach Guru Sahib. Mai Bhago and her men attacked the pursuing Mughals , She killed several enemy soldiers on the battlefield. Guru’s forces also showered arrows onto the Mughals from nearby high ground.
Forty (chali) men along with Mai Bhago, waded headlong into the Muslim forces (around 10,000 soldiers) and inflicted so much damage that the Muslims were finally forced to give up their attack and retreat as darkness fell to lick their wounds in the nearby woods. When Guru Gobind Singh visited the battlefield, he found all dead except Mai Bhago and the previous leader of the deserters, Mahan Singh. Mahan Singh, who had been seriously wounded, died as the Guru took him into his lap. All forty of the Sikhs who came to redeem themselves died as well as Mai Bhago’s brothers and husband and attained martyrdom in this pitched battle. Guru Gobind Singh blessed those forty dead as the Chali Mukte, Forty Liberated Ones. He took into his care Mai Bhago, who had suffered serious injury] in the battle.
Mai Bhago stayed with Guru Gobind Singh at Talwandi Sabo. She may have adopted the garb of a Nihang. When the Guru went to Hazoor Sahib she became one of ten other bodyguards of the Guru arming herself with a large lance (weighing about 102 pounds)] and musket and did so in male attire. After the death of Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Nanded in 1708, Mai Bhag Kaur retired further south. She settled down at Janwada, 11 km from Bidar in Karnataka, setting up her Dera where she immersed in meditation and taught Gurmat (The Guru’s way) living a long life. Her hut in Janwada has now been converted into a place of worship and learning, Gurudwara, Tap Asthan Mai Bhago. At Nanded, too, a hall within the compound of Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib marking the site of her former residence is known as Bunga Mai Bhago. Mohan Singh, Jathedar of Hazur Sahib, in 1788 built a Bunga (war tower) in the memory of Mai Bhag Kaur.
Mai Bhag kaur, was a great Sikh women, with a Keski tied around her head, with the Khalsa Uniform, with her Kirpan fighting, she was the first women In the history of Punjab, to fight On a battlefield. When someone dies fighting for their faith or religion, the person is called a Shaheed. The Chali Mukte were also Shaheeds.