GUJARĪ, MĀTĀ (1624-1705), was the daughter of Bhāī Lāl Chand Subhikkhī and Bishan Kaur, a pious couple of Kartārpur, in present-day Jalandhar district of the Punjab. Lāl Chand had migrated from his ancestral village, Lakhnaur, in Ambālā district, to settle at Kartārpur where his daughter Gujarī was married to (Gurū) Tegh Bahādur on 4 February 1633. The betrothal had taken place four years earlier when Tegh Bahādur had come to Kartārpur in the marriage party of his elder brother, Sūraj Mall. Bishan Kaur, the mother, had been charmed by the handsome face of Tegh Bahādur and she and her husband pledged the hand of their daughter to him. After the marriage ceremony, the couple came to reside in Amritsar. Bride Gujarī won the appreciation of everyone. "Like bridegroom like bride" records Gurbilās Chhevīṅ Pātshāhī. "Gujarī is by destiny made worthy of Tegh Bahādur in every way." In 1635, Mātā Gujarī left Amritsar with the holy family and went to reside at Kīratpur, in the Sivālik foothills. After the death of Gurū Hargobind in 1644, she came with her husband and mother-in-law, Mātā Nānakī, to Bakālā, now in Amritsar district of the Punjab. There they lived in peaceful seclusion, Tegh Bahādur spending his days and nights in meditation and Gujarī performing the humble duties of a pious and devoted housewife. After he was installed Gurū in 1664, Gurū Tegh Bahādur, accompanied by Mātā Gujarī, went on a visit to Amritsar, travelling on to Mākhovāl, near Kīratpur, where a new habitation, named Chakk Nānakī (later Anandpur) was founded in the middle of 1665. Soon after this, Gurū Tegh Bahādur along with his mother, Nānakī, and wife, Gujarī, set out on a long journey to the east. Leaving the family at Paṭnā, he travelled on to Bengal and Assam. At Paṭnā, Mātā Gujarī gave birth to a son on 22 December 1666. The child was named Gobind Rāi, the illustrious Gurū Gobind Siṅgh of later day. Gurū Tegh Bahādur returned to Paṭnā in 1670 for a brief stay before he left for Delhi, instructing the family to proceed to Lakhnaur, now in Haryāṇā. Mātā Gujarī, accompanied by the aged Mātā Nānakī and young Gobind Rāi, reached, on 13 September 1670, Lakhnaur where she stayed with her brother, Mehar Chand, until she was joined by her husband. An old well just outside Lakhnaur village and reverently called Mātā Jī dā Khūh or Mātā Gujarī dā Khūh still commemorates her visit. From Lakhnaur the family proceeded to Chakk Nānakī where Gurū Tegh Bahādur rejoined them in March 1671 after spending some more time travelling through the Mālvā region and meeting saṅgats.
At Chakk Nānakī, 11 July 1675 was a momentous day when Gurū Tegh Bahādur left for Delhi prepared to make the supreme sacrifice. She showed courage at the time of parting and bore the ultimate trial with fortitude. Gurū Tegh Bahādur was executed in Delhi on 11 November 1675, and, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh then being very young, the responsibility of managing the affairs at Chakk Nānakī, initially, fell to her. She was. assisted in the task by her younger brother, Kirpāl Chand.
When in face of a prolonged siege by hostile hill rājās and Mughal troops Chakk Nānakī (Anandpur) had to be evacuated by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh on the night of 5-6 December 1705, Mātā Gujarī with her younger grandsons, Zorāwar Siṅgh and Fateh Siṅgh, aged nine and seven year respectively, was separated from the main body while crossing the rivulet Sarsā. The three of them were led by their servant, Gaṅgū, to the latter's village, Saheṛī, near Moriṇḍā in present-day Ropaṛ district, where he treacherously betrayed them to the local Muslim officer. Mātā Gujarī and her grandsons were arrested on 8 December and confined in Sirhind Fort in what is referred to in Sikh chronicles as Ṭhaṇḍā Burj, the cold tower. As the children were summoned to appear in court from day to day, the grandmother kept urging them to remain steadfast in their faith. On 11 December they were ordered to be bricked up alive in a wall, but, since the masonry crumbled before it covered their heads, they were executed the following day: Mātā Gujarī died the same day in the tower. Seṭh Ṭodar Mall, a kind-hearted wealthy man of Sirhind, cremated the three dead bodies the next day.
At Fatehgaṛh Sāhib, near Sirhind, there is a shrine called Gurdwārā Mātā Gujarī (Ṭhaṇḍā Burj). This is where Mātā Gujarī spent the last four days of her life. About one kilometre to the southeast of it is Gurdwārā Jotī Sarūp, marking the cremation site. Here, on the ground floor, a small domed pavilion in white marble is dedicated to Mātā Gujarī. The Sikhs from far and near come to pay homage to her memory, especially during a three-day fair held from 11-13 Poh Bikramī dates falling in the last week of December.
A. C. Banerjee