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Images: details from painting, "Mai Bhago" by Kanwar Singh [www.ArtOfPunjab.com]

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Mai Bhago: The Guru's General

A Poem by MICHELE GIBSON

 

 

She settled at Jinvara when He died

Whispering satnam as the day begins

A simple meal, and prayer many times a day,

And a chunni dancing wildly in the wind

 ***

At the tip of her blade the stunned deserters,

Her friends and neighbours, having fled his side

She unleashed a torrent of indignation

And they were suitably chastised

But as her words were streaming from her sword point

To pierce their weakness and their sin

She rose slowly on her mount, head above them

Chunni cast wide around her in the wind

Her straight frame stiffened in the restless stirrups

Her focus broadened as her goal appeared

Her only motivation narrowed to her task

She ceased to see them as her intention cleared

They parted sharply as she flew past them all

Frozen sick from their careless self-protection

She was destined for Khidrana, thinking only of the Guru

And to split the army off from their direction

Leaning into a rising run, dust dared not move

The stallion never touched the shifting earth

Mahan Singh knew that he must follow,

And then every rider flew to charge his worth

Their fortitude ignited and the cause restored

By the banner of the 40, chunni wiping wildly in the air

They set a thundering pace for Khidrana

She moved the very ground to get them there

They landed by a pool, near the battlefield

And cut the Mughal forces off their track

A wave of fury they unleashed, as the Guru

Sent a rain of arrows down to hold the Mughals back

But the 40 died in battle

The dust alone allowed the Mughal remnant then to flee

There on the field the wounded Mai Bhago

And Mahan, alive enough to hear the Guru's plea

The Guru hurries her away to find her aid

And rewards her steady discipline

She is martialed by her faith and sword

With her chunni dancing wildly in the wind

***

She settled at Jinvara when he died.

 

 

August 7, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 07, 2010, 5:10 AM.

There must be some strange prescience at work. Just a moment ago, I mentioned Mai Bhago when commenting on the Sikh Youth meeting President Obama, and there you are, Michele, transporting us to the battlefield and the poignant description. I am tempted to quote the whole shabad about the Guru's wrestler but for the sake of brevity, shall quote just two lines. But, I do urge you, gentle readers, to read the full shabad that would add more colour to Michele's gentle outpouring. "Ha-o gosai-I da pahivanra mai gur mil uch dumalra sabh ho-I chhinjh ikth-a da-yu baitha vekhai ap ji-o" [GGS:74.4] - 'I am a wrestler; I belong to the Lord of the World/ I met with the Guru, and I have tied a tall, plumed turban/ All have gathered to watch the wrestling match/ and the Mericful Lord Himself is seated to behold it'. Bless you, Michele.

2: Zorawar Singh (Richmond Hill, New York, U.S.A.), August 07, 2010, 8:11 AM.

Today I feel proud to be a Sikh, thanks to great Sikhs of the past like Mai Bhago. My humble request to all Sikhs male or female to try to have these great Sikhs as your role models, not some singer or actor, etc.

3: N. Singh (Canada), August 07, 2010, 9:12 AM.

Michele ji: Wonderful and very inspiring! One question: how long ago did she live and die? Any other women in Sikhi we could highlight to make ourselves feel better, despite the discrimination against women, and their own 'lack of will' to better their circumstances?

4: N. Singh (Canada), August 07, 2010, 9:52 AM.

Okay, one more comment at the risk of becoming 'unpopular' on this site. I have never been much of a conformist and don't abide by the popular or majority perspective on things. Would Mai Bhago have worn a 'chunni'? Would not Sikh women in battle at the time (and I believe there were numerous) have dressed like men (i.e., with dastaar and matching clothes) so that they could not so easily be identified on the battlefield by the enemy? Also, how can a woman fight wearing a 'chunni'... I have noticed that most women at the gurdwara have trouble keeping it on when they are going about mundane tasks?

5: Jaimal Singh (Scotland ), August 07, 2010, 3:24 PM.

N. Singh ji: Michele Gibson is a poet and she has offered HER vision of Bhai Bhago in HER own way, in the form of a POEM. The chunni signifies many things - like everything else she refers to in the poem. Interpret it as you will. And try to enjoy it rather than tear it apart, based on your personal, current, limited view of things. I simply loved the poem, especially the chunni - whether historical or not, it wove a wonderful mental image for me. Thank you, Michele, for all your gifts - please keep on writing and sharing your exquisite creations!

6: N. Singh  (Canada), August 07, 2010, 3:37 PM.

Jaimail Singh ji: point taken.

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