BEDĀVĀ, lit. disclaimer (be =without + dāvā = claim). The term came to be used by Sikh chroniclers in reference to an episode relating to the last days of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's battle at Anandpur during the winter of 1705. As, in consequence of the protracted siege of Anandpur, hardships of the besieged Sikh garrison increased, a few of the Sikhs wavered in their resolution and asked the Gurū's permission to leave the Fort. The Gurū told them that they could go if they were prepared to disown him. A few of them, it is said, recorded a statement disowning him and left. This statement came to be termed as bedāvā. As Sikhs who had deserted Gurū Gobind Siṅgh reached their homes, their womenfolk charged them with pusillanimity, and chided them for betraying their Gurū in the hour of need. They offered to go and take to arms if the men would not re-join the Gurū. One of the ladies, Māī (mother) Bhāgo, of the village of Jhabāl in fact donned a warrior's dress and weapons and exhorted them to follow her if they had still any sense of honour left. The men became remorseful. They were preparing to return to the Gurū when news spread in the countryside of the evacuation of Anandpur. When they learnt that Gurū Gobind Siṅgh had himself survived the holocaust and was re-organizing the Khālsā somewhere in the Mālvā region, they, at once set out in search of him, Māī Bhāgo still with them. They caught up with the Gurū just when he faced a strong force led by the Mughal faujdār of Sirhind, Wazīr Khān, in hot pursuit of him. They challenged the invading host at Khidrāṇā, now Muktsar, but at that time a small pond, the only water reservoir in that vast desert. They fell fighting almost to a man, but forced the enemy to retreat. See MUKTSAR and CHĀLĪ MUKTE.
As quiet prevailed over the battlefield at sunset, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh came down from the high ground from where he had been raining arrows on the enemy to find all the Sikhs lying dead except one, Mahāṅ Siṅgh, at his last gasp. The Gurū sat beside him and, placing his head on his lap, asked him for his last wish. Mahāṅ Siṅgh's only desire was that the Gurū should annul the bedāvā he and his companions had written at Anandpur. As if the Gurū had anticipated the return of the truants, he had kept that deed of renouncement with him throughout those troublous days and months since leaving Anandpur. He now pulled out of his pocket the bedāvā and tore it up to the immense satisfaction of Bhāī Mahāṅ Siṅgh, who then died in peace.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)