responsible for the establishment of the present-day Langar system.
Was the wife of the second Guru, Guru Angad Dev.
Continued to help prefect the langar system until the Guruship of Guru Arjan
is mentioned by name in the Guru Granth
Sahib "Balwand says that Khivi, the Guru`s wife, is a noble woman, who gives
soothing, leafy shade to all.She distributes the bounty of the Guru`s Langar;
the kheer - the rice pudding and ghee, is like sweet ambrosia."
(Page or Ang. 967)
Mata Khivi was born in 1506 to Karan Devi and
Bhai Devi Chand Khatri. Her father was a shopkeeper , and was a popular man
in the neighbourhood. She inherited all his finest attributes of generosity
and congenial spirit. She was married in 1519, when she was 13 years old.
Khivi was married to Lahina for 20 years before he became the second Guru of
is historical evidence that she had 4 children. Dasu, the eldest was born in 1524. Bibi Amro was born in 1532,
followed by Bibi Anokhi in 1535 and son Datu in 1537. The family was content
and doing well. As the wife of one of the town's richest men, Khivi must
have enjoyed a great deal of respect.
life was one of luxury and pleasure. Life would have gone on this way, had
it not been for her coming under the influence of Mai Bhirai, who told her about Guru Nanak's teachings. At
approximately the same time, Lahina also heard of the Guru through Bhai
Jodha, one of Guru Nanak's earliest disciples. Lahina was a seeker of truth,
and his curiosity was aroused.
1532, shortly after the birth of his first daughter Amro, Lahina set out for his annual pilgrimage. On the way, he
broke his journey at Kartarpur to see the Guru. On lislening to Nanak speak,
Lahina begged to be allowed to stay and become his disciple. He had found
the truth he had been seeking, and would never again stray away from it. He
served his master with the greatest devotion.
busied himself, sweeping the visitor's quarters, washing their clothes and
helping with the most menial work in fields. As his knowledee and understanding of the new teachings grew, so did
the Guru's affection and approval of his disciple. This created a problem
for the Guru's sons. Increasingly they grew jealous of Lahina, and took no
pains to conceal their dislike. Without a doubt, this kind of stress and
strain would have been very diflicult for Lahina's wife to deal with. There
are no records of her thoughts or feelings or how she handled the situation.
Had she behaved in a bad manner during this time, you can be sure that
someone would have recorded it.
Lahina was 28 years old at the time, had a
wife and two young children. The Guru he had chosen, spoke of the equality
of women and advocated a normal family life as the best way to attain
salvation. After serving the Guru for some time, he was sent back to Khadur
to see his family. His instructions were to take his time and to spend it
spreading the word of the new faith to all he met.
did this well, and Guru Nanak was pleased with the reports he heard of him.
The reports were so good that Guru Nanak came to his village twice to visit
him and to re-inforce his work with his
own preaching. Khivi also learnt from her husband, and embraced the new
faith whole heartedly. The women in the village taunted her, saying that her
husband was becoming an important holy man, and would, therefore, soon
forsake her. She knew she had nothing to worry about, and gave birth to two
more children in that period of time.
Guru Nanak dev ji left this world, Guru
Angad felt a great need to prepare himself lot the work ahead. Nihali, a
devout woman disciple, made her house available to him, while he prayed and
meditated for six months. He allowed her to supply him with milk, but
otherwise asked to be left alone.
When Lahina became Guru Angad, second Guru of
the Sikhs, life became very busy for Khivi. People were now coming to her
house to see their Guru. She had always been accustomed to a busy social
life, but this was different. There was a purpose to all this coming and
going that had not been there before. Moreover, Sikh teaching was very clear
that one must earn one's living through onc's own labour.
Khivi took these teachings very seriously. She
took upon herself the onerous task of managing every detail of the langar.
Only the best possible ingredients were used, and everyone was treated with
utmost courtesy. Her hospitality has been emulated over the centuries and
has become the first cultural identity of the Sikhs.
helped the Guru in establishing the infant Sikh community on a stronger
footing. She has been described as good natured, efficient, beautiful and
all round perfect. She has the distinction of being the only one of the
Guru's wives to he mentioned by name in Guru Granth Sahib. There she is described as a "good person", "an affectionate
mother" and as "one who provides shelter and protection to others."
Mata Khivi ji did much more than work in the kitchen. She created a loving
atmosphere for all whom she came in contact with. She and Guru Angad dev ji
were very fond of their children. They lavished their love and affection on
not only their own, but on any child in the community. Their commitment was
so strong that it gave a beautiful example to all who witnessed it. The Guru
took great delight in spending time with the children, teaching them a
modified version of the Punjabi script which was easier to learn by the
new script, which was his invention, soon became known as Gurmukhi script. He is credited in popularising this
alphabet, in which the Guru Granth Sahib is written. Each day there was
special time set aside first to teach the children and delight in their
clever ways. Then they would watch the children at play, and often watch
wrestling matches together. From the games, the Guru would draw lessons for
his congregation. Guru Angad, with the help of Bhai Bala and other
disciples, wrote the first "Life" of Guru Nanak, and this work became the
first published prose of the Punjabi language.
Mata Khivi ji lived for thirty years after her
husband's death. She continued to serve the community and remained
associated with the Guru's house in all that time. When Guru Angad passed
the succession to Guru Amar Das, his son Datu was very disappointed.
Encouraged by some of his friends, he tried to declare himself the rightful
heir. He took his following and they sang hymns by themselves.
Khivi was quite upset. When Datu developed
headaches, she was able to persuade him that his responsibility was too much
for him. The only way to cure the headache is to go back to the rightful
Guru and beg his forgiveness. She took her son back to Guru Amar Das, who on
hearing that she was coming, came out to meet her half way. All was
forgiven. Datu's headaches disappeared and Sikhism was spared another
schism, thanks to Khivi's intervention.
Khivi continued to manage Guru Amar Das's
kitchen. She was proud of her children till the day she died. Her daughter
Bibi Amro had married Bhai Jasoo of Basarke village. He was the son of Bhai
Manak Chand and nephow of Guru Amar Das. Bibi Amro had become a preacher of
Sikhism, and it is she who transformed the life of Guru Amar Das by
introducing him to the teachings she had learnt from her father Guru Angad.
when Amar Das organised the teaching of
Sikhism into specific districts and jurisdictions, he gave her a Manji, that
is, he appointed her head ot a diocese. Being appointed to head a Manji
would be the equivalent of being a bishop in the Christian Church. She was
responsible not only tor the quality of the preaching, but also for
collecting revenues and making decisions for the welfare of her diocese. Her
diocese or Manji included Basarke, her husband's village. Today, close to
the modern village of Basarke an old tank (man-made pond) bears the name of
Bibi Amro Da Talab (Tank of Bibi Amro) in her memory.
Mata Khivi ji had the distinction of meeting
five Gurus. She lived to the agc of 75 and died in the year 1582. Guru Arjun
Dev attended her funeral. Her contributions to the Sikh cause can easily be
divided into three parts. The first period was the twenty years of marriage
before Guru Angad succeeded Guru Nanak. This period was a test not only for
Angad, but for her as well. Any decisions he made affected her very much.
Her response would also have affected his actions.
never complained, nor did anything to deter him from his objectives. The
second period of her life as wife of the Guru was extraordinary in its
devotion and dedication to the cause. The third and last period would be
after her husband died. She continued to nourish the Sikh community and to
work tirelessly for that which she now believed in with all her heart.
had a long productive life. She worked hard and was loved by all. Her good humour and pleasant personality made a
large contribution to the spirit of hospitality, which is now considered an
essential trait of Sikh culture. She is quite possibly the first woman of
her era who ever worked outside her immediate family home and obligations at
a time when her children were very young. She handled both roles admirably
well. It is time that Sikhs acknowledge her very important contribution.