KISHAN KAUR, MĀĪ (1860-1952), known for her fearless role in the Jaito agitation, was the daughter of Sūbā Siṅgh and Māī Sobhāṅ of the village of Lohgaṛh in Ludhiāṇā district of the Punjab. The family, goldsmith by profession, later migrated to Daudhar in Mogā tahsīl of present-day Farīdkoṭ district. Kishan Kaur was married to Harnām Siṅgh of Kāoṅke village, near Jagrāoṅ, in Ludhiāṇā district. He was a dafādār or sergeant in cavalry who later resigned from the army and migrated to Burma, where he died at the young age of 33. Three children, two sons and a daughter, were born to Kishan Kaur but all of them predeceased their father. Kishan Kaur, now a childless widow, came back to live at Kāoṅke. She took the pāhul or rites of the Khālsā in 1907 and decided to devote the rest of her life to the service of the Gurū. She took a leading part, in 1912, in the construction of historical Gurdwārā Gurūsar, dedicated to Gurū Hargobind, near her village. Already over 60, she took active part in the Jaito agitation of 1923-24. The Government of India had forced Mahārājā Ripudaman Siṅgh, the ruler of Nābhā state known for his independent attitude, to abdicate. The Sikhs of Jaito, which fell within his territory, planned to hold prayers for his well-being and restoration. By order of the British-controlled state administration, a posse of armed police entered Gurdwārā Gaṅgsar, where an akhaṇḍ pāṭh or non-stop recital of Gurū Granth Sāhib was in progress, and not only interrupted the service but also virtually imprisoned the entire saṅgat gathered there denying them exit and permitting no provisions from outside to reach them. Jathedār Dullā Siṅgh and Suchchā Siṅgh of the village of Roḍe organized a band of volunteers, popularly known as Ḍurlī Jathā, who collected the required rations and managed through feint and force to unload them inside the Gurdwārā compound. Māī Kishan Kaur was a member of this band which later arranged rations for the Shahīdī Jathās and the huge crowds that accompanied them.
The first Shahīdī Jathā, lit. band of martyrs, 500 strong and vowed to non-violence, was to reach Jaito on 21 February 1924 in a bid to enter Gurdwārā Gaṅgsar at any cost and recommence the akhaṇḍ pāṭh. The state government was equally determined not to let them do so and had deployed armed police and military contingents with orders to open fire, if necessary. Māī Kishan Kaur and her companion, Bībī Tej Kaur, went to Jaito disguised as ladies of the Hindu trading class, collected intelligence about government's plans and preparations, and re-joined the jathā to convey the information. The jathā accordingly rescheduled their march and instead of going straight to Gurdwārā Gaṅgsar, changed course suddenly and headed for Gurdwārā Ṭibbī Sāhib, half a kilometre to the north. State troops, however, barred entry even to that shrine and opened fire on the jathā. Māī Kishan Kaur, with her small band of volunteers, at once busied herself attending the wounded. She along with 21 others was arrested and prosecuted. The trial commenced at Nābhā on 17 May 1924. Kishan Kaur was sentenced to four years rigorous imprisonment. Released on 30 June 1928, she was accorded a warm welcome the following day at Amritsar, where a siropa or robe of honour was bestowed on her from the Akāl Takht. The Sikhs everywhere acclaimed her courage and sacrifice.
Māī Kishan Kaur continued to serve Gurdwārā Gurūsar at Kāoṅke till her last day. She died there on 10 August 1952.
Gurcharan Siṅgh Giānī