Chali (Forty) Muktas – Myths in Sikhism

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Myths in Sikhism                    Chali (Forty)  Muktas

The storey of Chali Muktas is very important in Sikh history. The majority of the Sikh people know this storey. I will only describe it briefly as it is a common knowledge. The purpose of this article is to explore the truth about this famous storey happened during Guru Gobind Singh time.

The traditional Sikh historians, preachers, kathakars, ragies or dhadies described this storey as follow:

This occurred when  Anandpur Sahib was surrounded  by the enemy forces. During the siege food supply and other necessities of life were blocked. The conditions were deplorable such as hunger, sickness, short of weapons and general fatigue. The siege lasted for 7 months. Some of the Sikh soldiers could not stand the hardship and wrote the disclaimer to Guru Gobind Singh. They were forty (Chali) Singhs who wrote the disclaimer and left Anandpur Sahib. When their family members and relatives learnt the reason they were  back, they were all put to shame. They were rallied by Mata Bhag Kaur from their diverse places to help Guru ji against the enemy forces. Doing so they all sacrificed their lives with last wish for Guru ji was to tear away the disclaimer. Guru ji did that and blessed them as Muktas (no more cycle of birth and death).

The above historical tale raised large numbers of questions. However there are two main points this storey has dishonoured.

  1. Guru Gobind Singh’s leadership skills.
  2. Sikh soldiers loyalty to their Guru.

Let us examine the storey by applying process of elimination or exclusion to prove it is a myth or not.

Guru Gobind Singh was an “inspirational leader” who inspired downtrodden with a vision of freedom. He had a panoramic personality, saint soldier and a scholar. One can see no weak point in his leadership skills.

Guru’s Sikh soldiers fought with bravery at all levels. They sacrificed their lives without showing their backs to the enemy. If a Sikh soldier did not show his back to an enemy how did he show his back to his Guru? The above storey has highlighted that the 40 Singhs walked out of Anandpur Sahib and left their Guru behind. These two points proved the storey is untrue and is a myth.

The other points to support that it is a myth:

  1. Any where during the siege, no one was allowed to enter or to get out. How did those 40 Singhs escaped?
  2. Which way they managed to escape ?
  3. Did they dig big long underground tunnel? Or flew by a helicopter?
  4. Did they bribe the enemy?
  5. Were they traitors?
  6. Guru’s family was also there especially the younger (Chote) Sahibzades and advance aged Mata Gujar Kaur ji. The Sikh history did not mention that these individuals suffered due to the harsh conditions of the siege. I am sure there was no preferential treatment for Guru’s own family. So if these three individuals managed the conditions then how the Singh soldiers were not able to handle the situation?
  7. How long before December 4/1705, the disclaimer was signed and given to Guru ji? Was it important document for Guru ji to keep with him, even when left Anandpur?
  8. Guru ji advised the Sikhs, the enemy should not be trusted. This was confirmed by sending a cart full of rubbish, loaded over bullocks was looted by the enemy. So there was no safe passage for those 40 to escape.

All the above points substantiate that no Sikh soldier left Anandpur Sahib without Guru’s order and the storey of 40 Muktas as often narrated in Gurdwaras is a Myth.

The most relevant and logical explanation of the above storey is as follow:

Guru Gobind Singh was on way to Talwandi, stopped at a place called Rohi. There he met a group of 40 men with Mata Bhag Kaur. These men were from Majha region of Punjab. They conveyed their condolences at the death of four Sahibzades and Mata Gujar Kaur. The main objective of their meeting with Guru ji was to offer their services to have a compromise with Mughal authorities. Guru ji told them Mughal atrocities on Sikh Gurus and on Sikhs such as Guru Arjan’s martyrdom, Guru Hargobind’s incarceration at Gwalior, Guru Teg Bhadur’s martyrdom and siege of Anandpur. Guru ji asked them: Where were you all this while? Why you not ashamed to talk the way you did? They did not like what Guru told them.

Bhag Singh Jhaballia was first to say that we would have no faith in the Guru. Guru ji told them that he had not called them and suggested they should write a disclaimer. This was signed by another four, all from Jhabal. Mata Bhag Kaur and the other 35 did not signed the disclaimer.

Guru ji at that moment got information of advancement of enemy forces. Guru ji and accompanying Singhs moved on to take their positions by the side of a mound near Khidraney Dee Dhaab. It was at this stage Mata Bhag Kaur put the 40 men to shame and told them their actions would be a disgrace to Majha. They would not be received with dignity by the society and their families. It was her challenge that made them to face the oncoming enemy forces with bravery. By sunset all 40 had been seriously injured or put to death. But the enemy forces retreated. Of the 40, only three (Rai Singh, Sunder Singh and Mahan Singh) were at their last breath. Mata Bhag Kaur was seriously injured as well. Guru ji blessed those dead and helped the injured(none of whom had signed the disclaimer).Their only request to Guru was to tear away the disclaimer. Guru ji did that and blessed them all. Next day Guru ji cremated all warriors in one pile and after cremation a mud mountain was erected to mark the burial place.

Discussion:

It has been discussed above that 40 Singhs did not leave Anandpur. Now we have to find out if Guru ji really declared them Muktas and renamed the town to Mukatsar. This war took place in April 1705 but the celebration of the their memories in winter. Let us apply the process of exclusion again for clarification:

  1. What would be the difference between this war and one at Chamkaur? There were approximately same numbers of Sikh soldiers died at both places. These both wars were equally dangerous for Guru Gobind Singh’s survival. How did Guru ji bless these 40 dead Sikhs as Muktas and nothing said to those died in Chamkaur? Guru Gobind Singh never showed any favouritism. He considered all equal as his own children.
  2. In our culture Mukta or Mukti word is often applied to a dead person. In other word dead person is already Mukta or attained Mukti. It is a common knowledge that nothing can be done to a dead body. It did not matter that one get blessed or not. In Sikhism we respect Law of Divine(Hukam). Sikh Gurus did not interfere with this law. There fore Guru Gobind Singh did not bless them as Muktas.

3.This war took place near a pond of water(khidraney Dee Dhaab) or best known as Tobha. The nearby town was called Ishersar or Isherpur. It did not seem logical for Guru Gobind Singh to change town’s name to Mukatsar. Over time the Udasies got hold of this place. They turned this site into one of the famous historical place and most likely they renamed the town to Mukatsar.

  1. Why celebrate in winter? There were two reasons: 1. There was shortage of water in that area especially in summer. 2. April being harvest time. It was unanimously decided to have the celebrations in winter. So Mag Sangrand was chosen.

Summery:

The storey of 40 Muktas as commonly described in our Gurdwaras that they left Anandpur proved to be false or a myth. Logically it does not seem right that Guru Gobind Singh bless them as Muktas. If Guru did not declare them as Muktas then he also did not renamed the town to Mukatsar. The real storey of 40 brave Sikhs is briefly described here. I hope this article will help the Sikh sangat to understand the reality of our historical events. In future, I request the Sikh sangat to raise questions if some one tells this mythical storey in Gurdwara.

References:

  1. The Sikhs in History a millennium study by Sangat Singh, Fourth edition , January 2001.
  2. Joginder Singh Dhami, Winnipeg, “Personal Communications”.

 

Ramjit Singh Mann