I have seen her go from strength to strength; age has had little effect on her.
Ever since I gained consciousness, I have seen her make decisions on her own while running the household, taking care of us, our education, and other matters both inside and outside of the house.
Character and strength have been her hallmark. Yes! I am speaking about my Mother. Her sheer will power and resolve in testing times, especially during her own illnesses would be mind-boggling and frustrating for us. Not only would she insist on taking care of herself on her own, but her priority would be to keep us safe. Like every mother, I assume, there was something extraordinary about her desire to take care of her children first, before herself, which took me years to understand; I could only relate to it after I became a parent.
I believe, it is this pristine human impulse, which reflects our innate Divine origin, which shines best in a mother. But as I understand, Sikhi does not imagine biological parents as ‘Gods,’ an idea which has become quite popular these days. From a Sikh perspective, it is the very human nature of a mother, which rises above personal considerations in her Guru-oriented selflessness, that gives us glimpses of the essential nature of Guru-Vahiguru, our true mother and father.
Guru Ramdas Sahib reminds us:
ਜਿਉ ਜਨਨੀ ਸੁਤੁ ਜਣਿ ਪਾਲਤੀ ਰਾਖੈ ਨਦਰਿ ਮਝਾਰਿ ॥
ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਮੁਖਿ ਦੇ ਗਿਰਾਸੁ ਖਿਨੁ ਖਿਨੁ ਪੋਚਾਰਿ ॥
ਤਿਉ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਗੁਰਸਿਖ ਰਾਖਤਾ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਪਿਆਰਿ ॥੧॥
Just as the mother, having given birth to a son, feeds him and keeps him within sight.
Indoors and outdoors she puts a morsel in his mouth every moment and caresses him.
Similarly, the eternal Guru protects the Sikhs, (bestowing on them) the love of the beloved Reliever.1.
– Guru Granth Sahib 168
I remember the times when she would read sakhis (witnessed narratives) to us in our childhood from old janamsakhis (accounts of the Gurus’ life). I vividly remember how she would read the original text from the janamsakhis and then explain the context and relay the whole narrative. As we grew older, she would also take us along to be part of the sangat (Sikh congregation), where she would also do kirtan (Gurbani musical rendition) along with my father, creating a beautiful engaging environment around us; a memory that I cherish to this day.
The saying that mother is a nurturer and a mentor resonates with me and it reminds me of Mata Khivi. As Bhai Sata and Balwand describe her in Ramkali Ki Var (ballad), Mata Khivi, through her “cool leafy shade,” not only distributed sweet khir (rice pudding) for nourishment, but also empowered people by disseminating Guru’s immortal Sabad (Infinite-Wisdom) as langar (Sikh community kitchen). As one of the most creative Divine forces on earth, Sikh mothers, like Mata Khivi, have been at the center of imparting Guru’s message throughout Sikh history.
I am in awe of Sikh mothers who through the centuries have inspired us to conquer ourselves with the love of the Guru. They taught us to give, share, and remain Guru-oriented forever. They wore garlands of the hacked bodies of their children and remained strong in their faith for the Guru, a legacy that we revere and cherish to this day.
ਧਨੁ ਜਨਨੀ ਜਿਨਿ ਜਾਇਆ ਧੰਨੁ ਪਿਤਾ ਪਰਧਾਨੁ ॥
ਸਤਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਗਇਆ ਗੁਮਾਨੁ ॥
ਦਰਿ ਸੇਵਨਿ ਸੰਤ ਜਨ ਖੜੇ ਪਾਇਨਿ ਗੁਣੀ ਨਿਧਾਨੁ ॥੧॥
Blessed is the mother who gave birth, blessed and exalted is the father [of those who have],
Served the eternal Guru and found peace; thus their pride has banished from within.
Those exemplars of love serve, standing at the Door; they find Treasure of excellence.1.
– Guru Granth Sahib 32
How can I not be moved by another mother who took her two-year-old child along on the forefront of the Akali Movement, at the Jaito morcha (political march; 1924-25). Bibi Balbir Kaur consciously chose to march with her child in the shahidi jatha (band of martyrs), knowing that death was certain while walking directly into the line of fire. It was a decision reflecting her faith in the Guru as well as her priorities. During the march, the child was hit by a bullet and died instantly, yet she continued her march. Tradition informs us that she also took a bullet soon after and attained martyrdom.
Sikh tradition particularly celebrates those mothers who brought up their children singing Guru’s Sabad as a lullaby; who believed that their children’s best interest was served by their surrender to the Guru and their self-annihilation in love and service of the Guru.
ਬਾਬਾਣੀਆ ਕਹਾਣੀਆ ਪੁਤ ਸਪੁਤ ਕਰੇਨਿ ॥
The stories of wise ancestors turn children into able progeny.
– Guru Granth Sahib 951
These mothers have kept the message and spirit of Sikhi alive by passing it on to their children. Their perseverance in passing on the timeless message of Sikhi, kept Sahib Guru Nanak’s sapling lush, green and ever-growing.
Today on Mother’s Day, I celebrate and honor my mother, as I recall all the love, nurturing, direction and teaching she provided me to grow into the being that I am, for her greatness lies in her wisdom to know that my betterment lies in my connection with the Guru.
With love to the superhuman in my life, who taught me,
ਇਕੋ ਭਾਈ ਮਿਤੁ ਇਕੁ ਇਕੋ ਮਾਤ ਪਿਤਾ ॥
The One is my brother, the One is my friend, the One alone is my mother and father.
– Guru Granth Sahib 45
Surender Pal Singh loves to listen to the renditions of Gurbani Kirtan.
He serves as a Research and Content Facilitator at SikhRI.