21. Bibi Amro

Bibi Amro, daughter of Guru Angad, the second Sikh Master and Mata Khivi, her mother were the noble women who deserves the credit of attracting Amar Das, a Hindu, to Sikhism; setting him on the path that led to his becoming Guru Amar Das, the 3rd Sikh Master. Thus she was an indirect but important instrument in the development of Sikhism. Guru Nanak as well as Guru Angad and Guru Amar Das were all raised initially as Hindus.

Background

She was born in 1532 at village Khadur near Amritsar. She had two brothers, Dassu and Datu, and one younger sister named Anokhi. She received her early education directly from her parents. Guru Angad Dev taught her, along with the other children, to read and write in Gurmukhi script, which he had revised and simplified. She also learnt many sacred hymns from her father. The author of the "Bansawali Namma" writes that she had learnt by heart sacred hymns, such as the ‘Sidh Goshat’. She had been gifted by nature with a sweet voice. In short, she was a talented girl.

Marriage

When she came of age, she was married to Bhai Jasoo son of Bhai Manak Chand, a well-known religious minded person of village Basarke, about eight miles from Amritsar. Bhai Gurdas also belonged to this family. Bibi Amoro’s parents encouraged her to continue singing sacred hymns and to preach Sikhism. As was the custom of the day, when her attained the right age, she was sent to live with her husband's family in Basarke. Her father, Guru Angad encouraged her to continue doing kirtan and to preach Sikhism to all that she came in contact with. Her father-in-law, Manak Chand had a brother called Amar Das who often visited his brother's house which was just next door So Amar Das was her husband's uncle.

Amar Das Hears Gurbani

Once when he was visiting his brother's home, Amar Das heard Bibi Amro ji singing Gurbani. He was quite taken by her sweet melodious voice and touched by the deep meaning within the words while she sang the holy Shabads (holy hymns). It is narrated that this is how she first introduced Amar Das to the teachings of Sikhism. As his interest grew it was she who sent him to her father to learn more about these teachings. Amar Das was so deeply influenced by Guru Angad Dev ji that he became a devout Sikh, so much that Guru Angad Dev ji announced him as his successor. Thus Guru Amar Das ji, the third Guru got to his destiny of becoming a Guru through Bibi Amro ji.

Bibi ji Heads A Manji

Years later when Guru Amar Das ji gave structure to the Sikh panth and organised his preachers into 22 teaching districts referred to as "Manji" (lit. a type of seat) he put Bibi Amro ji in-charge of one of these districts. The word "Manji" meaning the head of a geographical area or district was derived from the word "Manji" meaning "a platform" or "small bed" on which one could sit. The word was also used to refer to the person who was leading a Kirtan {musical event) or Sangat (congregation) and who would sit on the Manji {a raised platform} while the rest of the sangat sat on the floor in front of him or her. The person occupying Manji was the Sikh preacher appointed by Guru Amar Das. This appointment can best be compared to the position of Bishop in the Christian Church today. It was an administrative position, with full responsibility for the Equality and content of the preaching. (Compare the English term divan, which derives from the word Diwan (a 'Prime Minister) and the seat he sat on. The word Catholic comes from the word Cath (lit. the chair or throne that a Bishop sits upon).) As one of the Guru's representatives, Bibi Amro also would have had the responsibility of collecting revenues and making decisions for the welfare of her diocese. Her manji or diocese included Basarke, her husband's village, where they made their home.

Bibi's Great Contribution to her Manji

It is the direct result of the great efforts of Bibi Amro and other Sikh preachers that Amritsar nowadays is synonymous with Sikhism. Today, close to the village of Basarke, there is a Sarovar (tank or man made pond) bearing the name Bibi Amro da Talab (Tank of Bibi Amro) in her memory.