Walter Crane, Pomegranate and Teazle design, 1894
Mai Bhago (Late 1600s - Early 1700s)
Born in Jhabal village (now Amritsar, Punjab in India), Mai Bhago grew up in a time when the 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh, fought to defend Sikhs against Mughal forces and hill chiefs. During a great siege in 1705, Mai Bhago rallied 40 deserters and led them into battle herself, sword in hand. They died fighting and became known as the Chali Mukte, the Forty Liberated Ones. Afterward, Mai Bhago became the Guru’s bodyguard, donning a turban and cross-dressing in male warrior attire. Today, she is revered as a saint. (via)
This amazing woman. I wish this community would focus on its rich history of various powerful females and rid itself of this patriarchal bullshit that the Gurus objected and forced out of communities.
On a side note: I’d like to just state that there’s no attire set aside for males and females. I’m not entirely sure what Kaur meant by “male warrior attire” (weaponry?) since the Khalsa appearance is both for females and males so I don’t like the term “cross-dressing”. If you look at the Khalsa’s five articles of faith and the imagery of a Khalsa warrior-saint, it’s meant to be gender-neutral for the purpose of instilling equality even at the level of physical appearance. It brings to life the Sikh principle of God as being faceless, genderless. The Khalsa male has been rigorously propagated by the community especially after imperialist abuse but the Khalsa’s outer appearance (and overall the Khalsa itself) is not just male-oriented; in other words, it’s unisex and was established for all sexes.
I also hope that Mai Bhago will be further researched one day. There is so much we don’t know about her.