Bibi Bhani, the daughter of Guru Amar Das, was destined to play the most central role that any woman and mothers ever played in the history of Sikhi.
Bibi Bani was the:
- Daughter of Guru Amar Das,
- Wife of Guru Ram Das,
- Mother of Guru Arjan Dev),
- Grandmother of Guru Hargobind,
- Great Grandmother of Guru Tegh Bahadar
- Great, Great Grandmother of (Guru Gobind Singh)
- Her two brothers, Bhai Mohan ji and Bhai Mohri ji were not to succeed to the Guruship as her husband Bhai Jetha was to become the 4th Guru, Guru Ram Das. (Interestingly her two oldest sons also were to see the Guruship passed to their youngest brother, Guru Arjan Dev.)
- Bibi Bani also had an older sister named Bibi Dani ji, who was married to a pious Sikh named Bhai Rama.
Bibi Bhani ji (1535 - 1598) was born to Guru Amar Das and Mata Mansa Devi on 19 January 1535 (21 Magh 1591 Bk) at Basarke Gillan, a village near Amritsar. She was married on 18 February 1554 to Bhai Jetha (whose name was later changed to Guru Ram Das), a Sodhi Khatri from Lahore. Bhai Jetha later moved to Goindval which was an upcoming Sikh town and carried out voluntary service (Sewa) in the construction of the Baoli Sahib (sacred well).
Guru Amar Das was very impressed with the Sewa performed by Bhai Jetha and so a marriage was arranged between Bibi Bhani, his daughter and his dedicated devotee, Bhai Jehta. After their marriage, the couple remained in Goindval serving the Guru and the congregation (Sangat).
Later, on the near completion of the Gurdwara at Goindval, Bhai Jetha was deputed by the Guru to establish a new Sikh center at a location that first was known as "Ramdasar". The new center was to be built on a piece of land gifted, according to one version of history, by Emperor Akbar who, after a visit to the Guru, had been so impressed by the Langar of Guru Amar Das that he offered a substantial Jagir to support what he saw as noteworthy and noble cause. That bit of history also tells us that the Guru first, turned down the offer, but the wily Emperor then offered the jagir as a wedding gift for Bibi Bhani. Noticing that the waters of the pond had 'curative' powers, Bhai Jetha expanded the pond into a Sarovar that he named Amritsar. It was in the center of this 'Lake of Amrit that the construction of the Harmandar Sahib was begun. Today the city that took its name from a sarovar, is known around the world as Amritsar.
Her dedication to the Guru
Bibi Bhani is remembered today as a symbol of service. In Sikh history, she is known as an embodiment of service. A popular story mentioned in old chronicles describes how devotedly Bibi Bhani served her father. One morning, it is said, as Guru Amar Das was absorbed in meditation, Bibi Bhani noticed that one of the legs of the low wooden seat on which the Guru sat was about to give way. She at once put forward her hand to support the stool. As the Guru ended his devotions, he discovered how her hand was bleeding from the injury she had sustained in supporting the broken leg of the seat. He blessed her saying that her progeny would inherit the Guruship. Her two older sons, Prithi Chand (1558), Mahadev (1560) did not inherit the Guruship, for it was her youngest son Arjan (born in 1563) who would become the Fifth Guru.
Guru Arjan Dev was, undoubtedly, brought up as a model GurSikh. It was Guru Arjan Dev, who compiled the Adi Granth, by collecting all the writings of the earlier Gurus, to which he added the teachings of several earlier pious teachers of the Hindu and Muslim faiths. On its completion the Granth was installed in the Harimandir Sahib, which was completed by Guru Arjan.
Today the Adi Granth, is known as the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, having been installed as the perpetual Guru of the Sikhs, by the 10th and last human Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh ji, it is now the central and Perpetual guide of all Sikhs.
There is special status of Bibi Bhani in the life of Guru Amardas by the way she cared for her father proving that there was no difference between a son and a daughter. Both can equally serve their parents.
There is a superstition in Punjabi culture that a father does not get any service done from the daughter, but Bibi Bhani used to serve her father before marriage and kept serving him even after her marriage. We can learn a lesson from her way of serving that one can continue doing worldly duties along with daily religious service or worship.
Domestic circumstances never became any obstacles and she kept serving her father humbly and with devotion, even after she became the mother of three sons. She very gladly and regularly kept giving bath to her father and used to keep a watch so that no body disturbed him during his meditation.
So much so that when a leg of that bath-stool was broken, she kept her hand underneath it, so that his meditation was not disturbed. Only Bibi Bhani could do that. She was married in the beginning of 1553. She served Bhai Jetha not only as a husband but also as a saint.
A committed wife and mother
She was so contented that she never complained about the poverty of her in-laws. She kept serving her father even after her marriage, as her in-laws were local. She continued doing her worldly duties along with the service of her father. Her husband continued serving in the common kitchen even after his marriage.
They had three sons, Prithi Chand, Maha Dev, and Arjan Dev. Prithi Chand was arrogant, lazy, and dishonest, but still wanted the Guruship after his father. He wanted that his Mother should recommend him for Guruship. She advised him that the decision made by his father would be on merit and she remained neutral. When Guru Arjan Dev was selected for Guruship, Prithi Chand misbehaved with his father.
Bibi Bhani snubbed Prithi Chand and admonished him. She said to him that the decision made by his father was impartial. This has been the tradition from the time of Guru Nanak. She also said, “Your father was also selected on the basis of his service and humility.” Bibi Bhani always stood for truth.
Her eldest son, Prithi Chand, was ignored due to his haughty nature and the youngest one, Guru Arjan Dev, was made the fifth Guru by his father. Prithi Chand claimed that he was the fifth Guru and through his agents collected the offerings of the devotees before they could see Guru Arjan Dev. He, thus, tried to fail the common kitchen run by Guru Arjan Dev. Bibi Bhani and Bhai Gurdas, a devotee of Guru Arjan Dev, foiled the conspiracy of Prithi Chand and the common kitchen continued as usual. After the death of Guru Ram Das, Bibi Bhani helped her son, Guru Arjan Dev, in every activity undertaken by him and advised him She persuaded Guru Arjan Dev to remarry after the death of his first wife.
Mentioned by Guru Arjan in Gurbani
It seems Guru Arjan Dev has mentioned her blessings and advice in one of his hymns given on Ang 496 of Guru Granth Sahib: Goojaree, Fifth Mehla:
Remembering Him, all sins are erased, and ones generations are saved.
So meditate continually on the Lord, Har, Har; He has no end or limitation. 1
O son, this is your mother's hope and prayer,that you may never forget the Lord,
Har, Har, even for an instant. May you ever vibrate upon the Lord of the Universe. 1Pause
May the True Guru be kind to you, and may you love the Society of the Saints.
May the preservation of your honor by the Transcendent Lord be your clothes, and may the singing of His Praises be your food. 2
So drink in forever the Ambrosial Nectar; may you live long, and may the meditative remembrance of the Lord give you infinite delight.
May joy and pleasure be yours; may your hopes be fulfilled, and may you never be troubled by worries. 3
Let this mind of yours be the bumble bee, and let the Lord's feet be the lotus flower. Says servant Nanak, attach your mind to them, and blossom forth like the song-bird, upon finding the rain-drop. 434
1. Copyright © Harbans Singh "The encyclopedia of Sikhism. Vol III." pages 1 - 4
2. Bhalla, Sarup Das, Mahima Prakash. Patiala, 1971
3. Chhibbar, Kesar Singh, Bansavalinama Dasan Patshahiali Ka. Chandigarh, 1972
4. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Curu Khalsa. Patiala, 1970