Guru Gobind Singh's wife or wives - The encyclopedia of Sikhism

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Gurdwara Guru Ka Lahore at Basantgarh

Article is personal thought of some scholar and is not recognized by Akal Takhat

According to Encyclopedia of Sikhism which is edited by Harbans Singh ji and researched by Dr. Gurbaksh Singh ji, Mata Jito and Mata Sundri, were two separate persons and only one was married to Guru Gobind Singh.

The impression that the Guru had more than one wife was created by those writers who were ignorant of Punjabi culture. Later authors accepted those writings indicating more than one marriage of the Guru and believed that having more than one wife was a privileged or royal act. During those days kings, chiefs, and other important people usually had more than one wife as a symbol of their being great and superior to the common man. Guru Gobind Singh ji, being a true king, was justified in their eyes to have had more than one wife, but Guru Gobind Singh had only one wife.

Background

In Punjab, there are two and sometimes three big functions connected with marriage, i.e., engagement (Karmaee), Wedding, and Muklawa. A big often festive gathering with "gana bajana" (singing and dancing) is held at all three of these functions. In the past in many cases, an engagement was held as soon as the person had passed the infant stage, marriage was often an arranged event to bring together or unite different tribes.

One of the more famous of these weddings was the one arranged for the mother of Ranjit Singh which led to a more cohesive Misl unit (uniting of previously warring tribes) which allowed the 12 misls to eventualy unite under Maharaja Ranjit Singh's rule. Even Shakespeare's tale of Romeo and Juliet would have had a happier ending had the warring families united in a marriage.

Childhood Engagements

Even today engagements at 8 to 12 years of age are not uncommon in some interior parts of India. Now the wedding is performed years later when the engaged couple has reached adulthood. After the wedding, it takes another couple of years for the bride to move in with her in laws and live there. This is called Muklawa.

A dowry and other gifts to the bride are usually given at this time of the ceremony to help the couple to establish a new home. Today the wedding and Muklawa are performed on the same day and only after the partners have become adults. Arranged weddings where a couple grow to love and respect each other over a lifetime is still more common in India than the so called love match more common in the West.

Several big functions

A big function, befitting the Guru and other joyful activities were held at Anandpur sahib, according to custom, at the time of the engagement of the Guru. The bride, Mata Jeeto Ji, resided at Lahore, which was the capital of the Mughal rulers who were not, at that time, on good terms with the Guru.

When the time for the marriage ceremony came, it was not considered advisable for the Guru to go to Lahore, along with the armed Sikhs in large numbers. Furthermore, it would involve a lot of traveling and huge expenses, in addition to the inconvenience it would cause the Sangat, especialy the younger and older members, who wished to witness the marriage of the Guru.

Therefore, as mentioned in the Sikh chronicles, Lahore was 'brought' to Anandpur sahib for the marriage instead of the Guru going to Lahore. A scenic place a couple of miles to the north of Anandpur was developed into a nice camp for the marriage. This place was named Guru Ka Lahore. Today, people are going to Anand Pur visit this place as well. The bride was brought to this place by her parents and the marriage was celebrated with a very huge gathering attending the ceremony.

Wrong impression?

The two elaborate functions, one at the time of engagement and the other at the time of the marriage of the Guru, gave the outside observers the impression of two marriages. They had reason to assume this because a second name was also there, i.e., Mata Sundari Ji. After the marriage, there is a custom in the Panjab of giving a new affectionate name to the bride by her inlaws.

Mata Jeeto Ji, because of her fine features and good looks, was named Sundari (beautiful) by the Guru's mother. The two names and two functions gave a basis for outsiders to believe that the Guru had two wives. In fact, the Guru had only one wife with two names as explained above.

Third wife?

Some historians even say that Guru Gobind Singh had a third wife, Mata Sahib Kaur. In 1699, the Guru asked her to put pataasas (puffed sugar) in the water for preparing Amrit when he founded the Khalsa Panth. Whereas Guru Gobind Singh ji is recognized as the spiritual father of the Khalsa, Mata Sahib Kaur ji is recognized as the spiritual mother of the Khalsa. People not conversant with the Amrit ceremony mistakenly assume that Mata Sahib Kaur ji was the wife of Guru Gobind Singh ji.

As Guru Gobind Singh ji is the spiritual but not the biological father of the Khalsa, Mata Sahib Devan ji is the spiritual mother of the Khalsa, Mata Sahib Devan is the spiritual mother of the Khalsa but not the wife of Guru Gobind Singh. From ignorance of Punjabi culture and the Amrit ceremony, some writers mistook these three names of the women in the life of Guru Gobind Singh as the names of his three wives.

No Anand Karaj ceremony

Another reason for this misunderstanding is that the parents of Mata Sahib Devan, as some Sikh chronicles have mentioned, had decided to marry her to Guru Gobind Singh. When the proposal was brought for discussion to Anandpur, the Guru had already been married. Therefore, the Guru said that he could not have another wife since he was already married. The dilemma before the parents of the girl was that, the proposal having become public, no Sikh would be willing to marry a woman who had been betroved to the Guru. The Guru agreed for her to stay at Anandpur but without accepting her as his wife.

The question arose, as most women desire to have children, how could she have one without being married. The Guru told that, "She will be the 'mother' of a great son who will live forever and be known all over the world."

People came to understand the hidden meaning of his statement only after the Guru asked Mata Sahib Devan to add sweetness to the Amrit by bringing patasas which has forever associated her with the birth of the Khalsa. It is, therefore, out of ignorance that some writers consider Mata Sahib Devan as the worldly wife of Guru Gobind Singh.