The Sikh Gurus not only preached for the equal status of women, but also revolutionised their social life. History is full with examples where women who did not step out of house without covering their faces, performed wonderful daring deeds in life. After being baptised, they faced the enemy courageously and preferred death to an immoral comfortable life. Life story of martyr Anup Kaur is a golden example worth narration. She was born in 1690 in village Jalopur Khere, near Amritsar. Her father’s name was Lachchman Das Sodhi. In those days, Sodhis were divided in two opposite groups.
One group favoured Guru Tegh Bahadur for Guruship, while the other group led by Dhir Mal claimed that Guruship belonged to them. Many members of the Sodhi dynasty, like Lachchman who favoured Guru Tegh Bahadur, left the central Punjab to avoid daily bickering and friction, and settled far away at Anandpur. Anup Kaur was only five years old when her parents migrated to Anandpur. She was an attractive, very happy, sweet-tongued and beautiful girl. She used to play with the Sahibzadas (Guru Gobind Singh’s sons) and was liked by Mata Sundri. Anup Kaur spent most of her time with the Sahibzadas and was treated like a member of the Guru’s family. She acquired religious education and learned reading and writing Gurmukhi in their company. In 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh created Saint- soldiers, she along with her father who was now named Lachchman Singh was also baptised. It brought a wonderful change in her life and she rapidly grew physically as well as spiritually. Now she was regular in the performance of her daily prayers and visited Gurdwara daily. She collected other baptised girls and started learning fencing and other martial arts. They also used arms like sword, shield and spear. These girls also learned horse riding. This armed group under Anup Kaur was well-versed in self defence and became famous in the area.
Anup Kaur with her group took part in the battle with the Sikhs against the hill chiefs. Victory in this battle created self-confidence among the young girls. The hill chiefs requested the Mughals at Delhi for help. As desired by Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor, governor of Sirhind along with governor of Lahore and the hill chiefs besieged the Anandpur fort with a huge force. The Sikhs met the Mughal forces with fire from their guns. Sikh girls under the leadership of Anup Kaur played a very important part in this battle. They took responsibility of looking after the Guru’s family and taking the cooked food from the common kitchen to the Sikh soldiers in their trenches. They also helped in fighting wherever the Sikh soldiers needed help and showed feats of bravery. The siege continued for some days. The governor of Sirhind assured the Guru for the safety of all if the fort was vacated. The Guru did not rely on this assurance, but he knew that the effective defence was impossible owing to lack of food and other supplies. So the Guru agreed reluctantly to vacate Anandpur on the night of 20th December 1704. Anup Kaur’s group took care of the Guru’s family. The assurance proved false and the Sikhs were attacked outside the fort. Sikh soldiers and girls under Anup Kaur continued their march towards the rivulet Sirsa while fighting the enemy. While crossing the flooded Sirsa, Anup Kaur was separated from the Guru’s family in confusion. After crossing the river, she met five Sikh soldiers who told her that Guru Gobind Singh fought a battle with the Mughal forces at Chamkaur where the two elder Sahibzadas died fighting and the Guru had left Chamkaur. She was also told that the younger Sahibzadas were arrested at Sirhand. They all started towards Sirhand, but on their way they met a patrolling party of the Mughal soldiers. In the fight with them two Sikh soldiers were killed and Anup Kaur was injured, but the Mughal soldiers took to their heels.
Anup Kaur came to know from someone that Mata Gujri and her two younger grandsons had been martyred, so they started to find the Guru. They were on their way when the chief of Malerkotla state with two hundred soldiers surrounded them. Anup Kaur’s companions died fighting but Anup Kaur’s horse stumbled, she fell down and broke her arm. She was arrested and taken to Malerkotla. When the chief came to know that the young charming girl was Anup Kaur about whose bravery he had heard a lot, he decided to marry her and instructed his soldiers to treat her respectfully and get her arm treated. She saw through their trick and realised that she would be forced to embrace Islam and marry the chief. She was a helpless prisoner, but she made up her mind to commit suicide to save her faith and honour.
At Malerkotla she was under strict watch. Her maid servants told the chief that she was always meditating and remained in a serious mood. The chief persuaded Anup Kaur to marry him, as there was no other way for her to save herself. He also promised her a comfortable life in the royal palace, but she refused. One day he called the Kazi (Muslim cleric) to forcibly convert and marry her, but they found only her dead body as she had thrust a dagger into her chest. She was buried quietly according to the Muslim rites.
Professor Ganda Singh, on the basis of his research, writes that Banda Singh Bahadur was moved to hear her story. When he marched upon Malerkotla in 1710, he said that last remains of this brave Sikh lady should not be allowed to rot in a grave. He was not opposed by anybody as the chief of the state had fled before Banda Bahadur reached there. He did not destroy Malerkotla as its chief had advocated mercy for the younger Sahibzadas at Sirhind. Body of Anup Kaur was exhumed and cremated according to Sikh rites as desired by Banda.
Thus the martyr Anup Kaur who sacrificed her life at the altar of her faith and chastity was given a decent cremation she richly deserved. She had not embraced Islam and had died a Sikh. She is still remembered respectfully by the people of the area and her sacrifice will never be forgotten.