The Akali movement
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 India's 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
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. 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
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. Singhnias were not allowed to proceed
on this Jatha. But how could they remain behind and not participate
in such a holy endeavor? They successfully sought permission to
accompany the Jatha for organizing langar along the way.
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 VaahGuru."
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.
It become evident from the first rest-stop that
the services of Singhnia, who had accompanied the Jatha for organizing
langar, were not needed. Jathedar asked with them to return. Many
did. However, several wanted to continue with their brave brothers
and they did not return. Our Balbir Kaur was among this group. When
Jathedar asked her 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 reluctant gave permission, especially when
faced with the 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 a goddess of purity or an angel. She was not alone. She was
accompanied by an 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 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
"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 serve
the Panth, what greater deeds could be beyond this." Saying
this, Balbir Kaur again hugged her child who burst out laughing.
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
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 VaahGuru."
Every GurSikh in the Jatha was projecting calmness.
Hindu, Muslims, and Sikhs 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
Now it was turn for people serving the British
to extend their welcome. They too welcomed these braves GurSikhs
with rifle and gun fire. They showered them with rain of bullets.
Gurus non-violent force was prepared for such a welcome. They accepted
this welcome with "Satnaam Sri VaahGuru's" Hukam and continued
the sweet walk towards their goal without any interruptions. Witnessing
the scene it appeared that the Jatha was playing holli (festival
of colors). After all martyr's holli is a holli of blood. If someone's
face was colored with blood, someone else's head, chest, or thigh
were colored. Blessed were the GurSikhs, for no one's back was visibly
colored. 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 reached and accept. Let us focus
our attention on her condition. She continued her march while hugging
to her child. She loved 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 VaahGuru"
while her child played with the flowing blood on her face. It was
all a game for the child.
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 place his body on a nearby
platform saying "VaahGuru 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 VaahGuru,"
she kept her pace with others. On the other hand, the bullets had
not stopped raining. They continued showering as if their thirst
for blood had not yet mellowed.
Surprisingly, 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,
her beautiful body fell to the ground. But not her soul. 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.