Gurus’ Practice of Polygamy


Some Sikhs have a tendency of criticising Prophet Muhammad’s (upon whom be peace and blessings of Allah) practice of polygamy. [1]

For example, the notorious Bijla Singh, a man known for his outright lies and falsehoods against Islam and Muslims, has said: “Polygamy is not only an unfair practice but a great injustice to women. If Islam is all about equality then the same right must be given to women. Why should men have the right to keep multiple wives for no reason? Had the principle of equality existed in Islam women would’ve been given the same rights with same conditions. It is not as if all women are or were poor. For example, Khadija, Mohammad’s first wife, was a wealthy woman,” before boldly declaring: “Mohammad is perhaps the first and the only ‘prophet’ who did not live the very message he ‘delivered’. Guru Sahib on the other hand lived the lifestyle He preached to humanity.” [2]

While an equally disreputable anti-Muslim Sikh website questions: “Muhammad knew well that marrying more than one woman hurts the first wife. Then, why did he wed so many women causing so much harm to each one of them? Why did he permit Muslims to practice polygamy?” In opines: “The consequences of polygamy such as jealousy, envy, quarrels, and conflict among the wives are evident. A woman has to wait for several days for her turn to enjoy the love and the care of her husband; that is, if he has preserved some of his love for her and for the children. A man who has four wives and numerous concubines begets, of course, many children. So what can he do to please all of them?” [3]

The matter of polygamy versus monogamy among the Sikhs is not straightforward given that two Sikh gurus had more than one wife, and although monogamy is considered the norm, the Sikh Reht Maryada does NOT prohibit polygamy. – Jagbir Jhutti-Johal

There are then those who consider polygamy to be part of the many social ills that Sikhism came to address. In this case, for example, the website maintains: “At the time of the Gurus women were considered very low in society. Both Hindus and Muslims regarded women as inferior and a man’s property. Women were treated as mere property whose only value was as a servant or for entertainment. They were considered seducers and distractions from man’s spiritual path. Men were allowed polygamy but widows were not allowed to remarry but encouraged to burn themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre (sati).” [4]

Despite these perceptions and attacks, however, there are many Sikh and non-Sikh historians, as well as Sikh scholars and academics, who hold some of the Sikh Gurus to have practiced polygamy.

Whilst on the other hand, of course, there are those Sikhs who are squarely against any suggestions of their Gurus having taken for themselves multiple wives. Bijla insists that “Guru Sahib redefined celibacy as marriage to one wife and taught that male and female alike need to practice conjugal fidelity. Having one woman as wife he (the Sikh) is a celibate and considers any other’s wife as his daughter or a sister. (Bhai Gurdas Ji, Vaar 6)”. [5]

This is precisely how Nripinder Singh has understood Bhai Gurdas’ injunction:

Bhai Gurdas’s instruction to the Sikh centres upon two qualities – those of steadfastness and fidelity. The Sikh is enjoined to have one wife and respect other females as sisters and daughters. [6]

S.S. Kohli concurs declaring:

Polygamy: Marriage with several, or more than one, at the same time. The Adi Granth rejects polygamy. It lays down the golden principle of one spouse, which Bhai Gurdas, the chief Sikh theologian, has mentioned categorically in his verses. He says, “One should be a Jati (celibate) with one wife and consider the women of others as daughters and sisters.” Throughout the Adi Granth, the idea of one spouse, especially a chaste woman, is given prominence. (See the hymns entitled Suchajji and Gunwanti on pages 762 and 763 in Raga Suhi…. The first one is composed by Guru Nanak Dev and the second by Guru Arjan Dev). [7]

Yet this debate over the Gurus, as Jagbir Jhutti-Johal indicates, remains inconclusive:

The importance of monogamy in Sikhism may be questioned when we read that Guru Gobind Singh may have had between two and three wives: Mata Jito, Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib Kaur. However, much controversy exists around this assertion. Some Sikhs argue that he was actually only married to Mata Jito Ji, and that the other 2 women lived within his ‘court’ in his care. Others suggest that he was married to Mata Jito and Mata Sundri but not to Mata Sahib Kaur, who was known as the Mother of the Khalsa (Jakobsh 2003, pp. 38-9; Singh, Nikky 2005b, pp. 52-3). Sikhs would generally put this issue in to an historical context but today follow their ‘Eternal Guru’ the Guru Granth Sahib on the matter and not practice polygamy. Monogamy is the norm and encouraged. [8]

And though Jhutti-Johal might have us believe that the Sikh community today has settled on the practice of monogamy, Doris R. Jakobsh considers this far from settled:

The matter of polygamy versus monogamy among the Sikhs is not straightforward given that two Sikh gurus had more than one wife, and although monogamy is considered the norm, the Sikh Reht Maryada does NOT prohibit polygamy. [9] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

Take, for example, the current injunction in the Rehat Maryada which attempts to address this problem. Far from resolving this issue, the present wording as it currently stands only proves how contentious this subject is for it stipulates:

Generally, no Sikh should marry a second wife if the first wife is alive. [10] (bold ours)

What is more, this injunction is said to have been amended from the original compiled in 1945 with the insertion of the qualifying term “generally” at the beginning of the sentence:

The amendment in the Sikh 60-year-old Rehat Maryada by the SGPC has evoked a strong reaction from Sikh intellectuals.

Mr Gurcharnjit Singh Lamba, a Sikh intellectual and Editor of monthly ‘Sant Sipahi’, has said the Sikh Maryada was formulated after marathon discussions and hence any amendment without taking the Sikh Panth into confidence was unacceptable to the sangat. He was here today to pay his obeisance at Harmandar Sahib.

A comparative study of two versions of the ‘Sikh Rehat Maryada’ – one of 1945 and the recent one published by the SGPC – shows glaring discrepancies.

Questioning the wisdom of changing the Article on re-marriage, Mr Lamba alleged the amendment was aimed to benefit certain influential persons who had indulged in bigamy. The original Rehat Maryada clearly mentions that no Sikh could remarry when his wife was alive. However, the amended Maryada has added the word ‘generally’ that reads, “Generally, no Sikh should marry a second wife if the first wife is alive.” [11]

In other words, polygamy has not been prohibited; and this is precisely how R.S. Wahiwala understands the rules of Anand Kharaj as presently found in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s Sikh Code of Conduct:

Polygamy is highly discouraged and the couple is enjoined to be faithful to each other. [12] (bold ours)

Similarly, Amarjit Singh Sethi says that “Monogamy is commended in Sikhism”, though not commanded, while “Islam sanctions polygamy; a Muslim may have upto four living wives at any one time”. (bold, underline ours) [13]

What is well known is that polygamy was certainly permitted and practiced among certain sections of society during the time of the ten Gurus. According to Farooqui Salma Ahmed and Salma Ahmed Farooqui:

Polygamy was a practice pervading both the Hindu and Muslim societies. The practice of getting married to more than one woman was confined only to the richer and higher sections of society. With their affluence and wealth, the rich could afford to become polygamous. It was neither a matter of shame nor sorrow to maintain a harem. Rather it became a matter of pride and social prestige in certain areas. [14]

If it is true, therefore, that some of the Gurus did indeed have multiple wives, then not only does this prove that Sikhs who reject Islam on this very basis (although such a reason entirely fails to negate the evidence of Muhammad’s prophethood and the validity of the message he preached) do so resorting to employment of double-standards, but also presents a major obstacle for those who espouse the impracticable principle of equality between the sexes – a concern already raised on some Sikh forums where this controversial topic has been discussed. [15]

As for the two Gurus who have consistently been recognised as practitioners of polygamy, then they are: the sixth Guru Hargobind, and the tenth and final Guru Gobind Singh.

Guru Hargobind’s Polygamous Exploits

There have been a number of Sikh academics, writers, and publications that have, to a greater or lesser degree, attested to Guru Hargobind’s practice of polygamy.

Hence, although Surinder Singh Johar notes in passing that “Nanaki was a pious and noble lady. She was charming and graceful. Daughter of Hari Chand of Bakaia, she was married to Hargobind at a very tender age”, [16] and that “the Guru’s second wife, [was] Marwahi”,[17] Khushwant Singh succinctly adds Damodari to a simple family tree that lists the Guru’s wives as follows: “Damodari = HARGOBIND = Nanaki = Marwahi“. [18]

Similarly, Balwant Singh Anand not only recognises Marwahi as “the second wife of Guru Hargobind”, but also accepts the “Guru’s first wife Damodri” and “Nanaki, the mother of Tegh Bahadur”. [19]

In addition, Gopal Singh mentions his first wife Damodri, “Marwahi or Mahadevi, the other wife of the Guru”, and his “third wife, Nanaki”. [20]

A more detailed account is provided by Prof J.S. Grewal who, in citing Kesar Singh Chhibber’s Bansavalinama Dasan Patshahian Ka manuscript, states that “Guru Harbobind’s first wife, ‘Mata Madodari’, belonged to a Suri Khatri family”. Later, “after contracting a second marriage in a family of Lamma Khatris” in “Summat 1667 (AD 1610)” with “Mata Nanaki Lamma”, he “contracted his third marriage with a girl of a Marwaha Khatri family of Goindwal”, named “Mata Mahadevi Marwahi … Before he accepted Mata Kaula as his fourth wife.” Nonetheless, we are told that “he refused to accept yet another offer of a bride in Sammat 1683 (AD1626). However, she was accepted by Gurditta without the knowledge of his father. Guru Hargobind was enraged when he learnt of this but he blessed the bride that her progeny would receive great gifts”. [21]

More specifically, the Sikh Review went as far as to publish an article that presented the actual dates of the marriages down to the very day:

Guru Hargobind’s first marriage with Mata Damodari took place on 23rd Bhadro 1660 B.K. viz August 1603 A.D. The second marriage of the Guru with Mata Nanaki was performed on 1 Vasakh, 1677 B.K., viz March 28, 1620. The third marriage with Mata Marwahi was performed on Savan 11, 1677 B.K. corresponding to July 10, 1620. [22]

What is interesting to note is that the marriages of Nanaki and Marwahi are said to have taken place in the same year, a point Harajindara Singha Dilagira repeats more clearly below:

Mata Damodari … was married to Guru Hargobind Sahib on August 21, 1604.

28.3.1620 Marriage of Guru Hargobind Sahib and Mata Nanaki.

10.7.1620 Marriage of Guru Hargobind Sahib and Mata Marwahi. [23]

Sangat Singh, in fact, not only mentions the Guru’s “wife Damodari”, but also the reason behind the two additional marriages occurring within a time span of only four months:

Under the custom then prevalent, on Guru Hargobind’s refusal, those girls would have remained unmarried throughout their life. So he had to marry Nanaki, on March 28, 1620, and Mehrai also called Marwahi on July 10, 1620. [24]

Simran Kaur Arneja provides a breakdown of the Guru’s children as follows:

Guru Hargobind Ji was married to Mata Damodari Ji, Mata Marwahi Ji and Mata Nanaki Ji. He had six children: Baba Gurditta (1613) and Bibi Viro (1615) from Mata Damodari Ji, Baba Suraj Mal (1617) from Mata Marwahi Ji and Baba Ani Rai (1618), Baba Atal Rai (1619) and Baba Tegh Bahadur (1621) from Mata Nanaki Ji. [25]

This is categorised more simply by Prithi Pal Singh:

(i)Damodari daughter of Narain Das of village Dalla. Marriage on 12th Badon Samat 1661 at the age of nine years (1604 A.D.)

(ii) Nanaki daughter of Hari Chand of Village Bakala on 8th Visakh, Samat 1670, Age 18 years. (1613 A.D.)

(iii) Mahadevi (Marwahi) daughter of Daya Ram Village Mandiali (Shekhupura) on 11th Sawan, Samat 1672. (1615 A.D.) [26]

And while the Damdami Taksaal acknowledges Hargobind’s daughter Bibi Viro Jee being born to Damodari; and his sons Ani Rai, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Atal Rai being born to Nanaki, and Suraj Mal to Marvahi, [27] it, nonetheless, resorts to the strange classification of “Wife/consort” in categorising the three women. But this, of course, only raises the obvious question of what this Sikh sect means by the term “consort”. If the intended meaning connotes a non-marital relationship, then this would mean the Guru engaged in intimate relations outside of wedlock. Otherwise, its use is not only confusing, but entirely superfluous.

He [Gobind Singh] was married to Mata Jito ji in 1677, and to Mata Sundari in 1684 …. He married his third wife, Mata Sahib Devan, in Anandpur in 1700.

Guru Gobind’s Nature of Polygamy

In comparison, however, a cursory look at the biographical traditions of Guru Gobind’s life, published both on- and off-line (print), suggest that accounts of his polygamous marriages have gained much wider acceptance within the Sikh community than his predecessor’s.

Nevertheless, there remain a sizeable number of apologists committed to affirming monogamy for the Guru. They contend that this misconception over polygamy stems from the misunderstanding that Mata Sundari and Mata Jito were two separate persons, when in fact these were apparently two names of the same person. This argument seems to originate with the editor of the Encyclopedia of Sikhism, Harbans Singh, and his researcher, Gurbaksh Singh, who patronisingly suggested that this misunderstanding “was created by those writers who were ignorant of Punjabi culture”. They reason that because “[i]n Punjab, there are two and sometimes three big functions connected with marriage, i.e., engagement, Wedding, and Muklawa … [t]he two elaborate functions, one at the time of engagement and the other at the time of the marriage of the Guru, gave the outside observers the impression of two marriages”. They add:

They had reason to assume this because a second name was also there, i.e., Mata Sundari Ji. After the marriage, there is a custom in the Panjab of giving a new affectionate name to the bride by her in-laws. Mata Jeeto Ji, because of her fine features and good looks, was named Sundari (beautiful) by the Guru’s mother. The two names and two functions gave a basis for outsiders to believe that the Guru had two wives. [28]

Similarly, Kartar Singh observes:

[T]here is a tradition that Jitoji was the original name of the Guru’s wife; and that, in accordance with the usual practice which persists to this day, she was, after her marriage, re-named Sundri. As is usual even now in all such cases, some, especially those connected with her father’s family or hailing from that side, continued calling her Jito, while others called her Sundri. In after times, the two names occurring in popular accounts came to suggest two different persons, and it was inferred that the Guru had two wives. [29]

Yet, Kartar’s contention fails to address the question of which name the Guru’s wife would have been popularly known and called by after her marriage. If she was renamed Sundari by her in-laws, i.e. Guru Gobind’s family, then it is plausible to assume that, excluding perhaps her immediate family, this name would have been used by both her husband and, thus by extension, his followers, i.e. the Sikh community, for the rest of her days. If true, then it certainly makes sense to name a place or monument by her most popular name as was done in the case of the following Gurdwara in Delhi:

The Gurudwara commemorates the place from where Mata Sundri Ji along with Mata Sahib Kaur Ji [Sahib Devan] provided religious and spiritual guidance to the Sikhs of Punjab through their edicts for a significant period of about 35 years. She had appointed Bhai Mani Singh Ji as head priest of Harmandir Sahib. [30]

Conversely, however, such a line of reasoning only raises a problem when confronted by a Gurdwara historically attributed to, named after, and built in commemoration of the crematory location of Mata Jito. According to The Encyclopedia of Sikhism:

Gurdwara Mata Jito is one of the shrines at Anandpur, situated outside Agampura village about 2 km from Anandpur. It marks the site where Mata Jito, wife of Guru Gobind Singh was cremated in December 1700 AD. [31] (bold ours)

Hence, it seems highly inconceivable to entertain the idea that a name as seemingly redundant as her maiden name would have been used as an ascription for the very Gurdwara that marks the place of cremation of a Guru’s wife who would have plausibly been known and addressed by everyone, for the vast majority of her life, as Sundari.

Kartar further speaks of “a great conflict in the dates of the first two marriages as given by different writers” where:

Some writers say that the first marriage took place on the 15th of Jeth, Samvat 1730, i.e. when he was only seven years old, and the second, in 1741. Another set, including Macauliffe, say that the first marriage took place on 23rd of Har, Samvat 1734; and the second, a year or two later.

He attempts to solve this apparent discrepancy by speculating that “[w]hat is most probable is that the betrothal ceremony took place in 1730 and the marriage, four or five years later. Both the occasions having been celebrated with great pomp, they became confused in later-day popular narrations, and each came to be regarded as an occasion of marriage”. [32] Such an explanation, however, does nothing to address the vital issue of how Sikhs came to record and attribute these polygamous stories to their Guru. What is more, not only have a fair number of Sikh scholars and academics well versed in the Punjabi culture unashamedly accepted these as fact, but have also recognised Jito and Sundari to be two separate persons.

For instance, prominent Sikh scholar, Kahn Singh Nabha, mentioned in his monumental encyclopaedia, Gurusabad Ratnakar (popularly known as Mahan Kosh), the following:

Jito Mata: Lahore niwasi Harjas Subhikeeye Khatri di sputri, jis da viah 23 harh samat 1734 (1677) nu Guru Gobind Singh ji naal Anandpur pas Guru ke Lahore hoia. Mata ji di kukh ton Baba Jujhar Singh ji, Baba Zorawar Singh ji ate Baba Fateh Singh ji janme. Mata ji da parlokgaman 13 assu, samat 1757 (1700 AD) nu Anandpur hoia. Aap da dehra Agampur vidman hai. Mata ji da shudh naam amrit sanskar ton pichhon Ajit Kaur Nam si.

Jito Mata: Daughter of Harjas, a Subhikhia Khatri of Lahore, who was married on 23 Harh, Sambat 1734 (1677 CE) to Guru Gobind Singh ji at Guru Ka Lahore near Anandpur. Mata ji gave birth to Baba Jujhar Singh, Baba Zorawar Singh ji, and Baba Fateh Singh ji. Mata ji left for the heavenly abode on 13 Assu, Sambat 175 at Anandpur. Her Dehura (monument) exists at Agampur. Mata ji’s correct name was Ajito and became Ajit Kaur after baptism. [33]

The Damdami Taksaal also recognises that “Mata Jito Ji was the first wife of Guru Gobind Singh Ji” [34] while “Mata Sundari Ji was the second wife of Guru Gobind Singh”. [35]

Similarly, Prof J.S. Grewal affirms that “[i]n 1730 (AD 1673), at the age of twelve, he married Sundari” and 12 years later “[i]n Sammat 1742 (AD 1685), Guru Gobind Singh married Jito”. But the Guru had to wait a decade and a half before he became a father: “In Sammat 1745 (AD 1688), Mata Sundari gave birth to Jit Singh”, before Mata Jito gave birth to Jujhar Singh in Sammat 1747 (AD 1690), Jorawar Singh in Sammat 1753 (AD 1696), Fateh Singh in Sammat 1755(AD 1698), before passing away in Sammat 1757 (AD 1700).” [36]

In their collaborative treatise, A Short History of the Sikhs, Profs Teja Singh and Ganda Singh wrote of their Guru:

A few months later his wife, Sundari, gave birth to a son, who was named Ajit Singh. His other sons were born of Jito [37] in the following order: Jujhar Singh in 1690, Zoravar Singh in 1696, and Fateh Singh in 1699. [38]

Likewise, Surinder Singh Johar in his biography of Guru Gobind records:

Guru Gobind Singh had four sons born to his two wives Mata Jito and Mata Sundari. Ajit Singh was born to Mata Sundari on January 7, 1 687. Jujhar Singh, Jorawar Singh and Fateh Singh were born to Mata Jito ji on March 14, 1690 November 17, 1696 and February 25, 1699 respectively. [39]

The same is true of Dalbir Singh Dhillon and Shangana Singh Bhullar who write:

Ajit Singh was born to Mata Sundari ji on the fourth day of the bright half of Magh, Samvat 1744 (A.D.1688). His other sons were born to Mata Jito Ji; Jujhar Singh born on 21 Chet, Samvat 1747 (A.D. 1691); Zorawar Singh born on 6 Maghar Samvat 1753 (A.D. 1696); Fath Singh born on the eleventh day of Phagan, Samvat 1755 (A.D. 1699). [40]

As well as prominent theologian Surindar Singh Kohli:

Baba Ajit Singh, the eldest son of the Guru was born to Mata Sundari, at Paonta. … During this period three sons where born to Mata Jito, Jujhar Singh in 1690, Zorawar Singh in 1696 and Fateh Singh in 1699. [41]

While Dalip Singh provides a more comprehensive background of the Guru’s two wives below:

Guru Gobind Singh married Jito Ji in 1677 A.D. She was the daughter of a devout Sikh, named Bhai Har Jas, Kshatriya by caste, and was a resident of Lahore. Har Jas also expressed the desire that the Guru be Gracious enough to pay a visit to Lahore, where the nuptial ceremonies be solemnised. In order to meet the wishes of Bhai Har Jas, the Guru directed the Sikhs to raise a new town seven miles north of Anandpur. This town was called ‘Guru Ka Lahore’, where the marriage was solemnised in 1677 A.D.

This happy union gave rise to the birth of four sons: – Baba Ajit Singh, born at Paonta in 1686 A.D., Baba Jujar Singh, born at Anandpur in 1690 A.D., Baba Zorawar Singh, born at Anandpur in 1696 A.D., Baba Fateh Singh, born at Anandpur in 1698 A.D. Mata Jito Ji is stated to have died in 1700 A.D. Guru Gobind Singh married Sundari in 1684 A.D. She was the daughter of Bhai Ram Saran of Lahore, Kshatriya by caste. [42]

The Sexually Deprived Virgin Bride

Allah will ask every shepherd about that which was entrusted to his care, whether he took care of it or neglected it, and He will even ask a man about his family Prophet Muhammad

There is then the case of the “Virgin Bride”, Sahib Devan (alternatively spelled Devi; aka Sahib Kaur). She is recognised as Gobind’s third wife by a number of prominent Sikh scholars, academics, and writers including the feminist, Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh, who writes:

He was married to Mata Jitoji in 1677, and to Mata Sundari in 1684, and had four sons with them: Ajit Singh, Jujhar Singh, Jorawar Singh and Fateh Singh. He married his third wife, Mata Sahib Devan, in Anandpur in 1700. [43]

Author Simran Kaur Arneja acknowledges:

Guruji was married to Mara Jito Ji (also known as Mata Ajit Kaur), Mata Sundari Ji and Mata Sahib Devan Ji. He had four sons: Baba Ajit Singh ji from Mata Sundariji and Baba Jujhaar Singhji, Baba Zorawar Singhji and Baba Fateh Singhji from Mata Jito Ji. [44]

As does Bhupinder Kaur in her book, Status of Women in Sikhism, wherein she observes:

Mata Sunder Kaur was one of the second wives of the Tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh. [45]

And Prof Gurinder Singh Mann states:

We also have early reports of Mata Jito, the Guru’s wife, participating in the ceremony by adding “sugar lumps” to the spiritual mix and thereby making it fit for human consumption. [46]

This tradition continued when the wives of Guru Gobind Singh, Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devi wrote to different congregations, reminding them of their responsibility toward the Guru’s family. [47]

However, as Khushwant Singh and Suneet Vir Singh reveal, the circumstances surrounding this marriage were far from normal:

In 1687 Gobind Rai became a father for the first time: a son was born to Mata Sundari. Since the boy was born soon after the battle of Bhangani, Gobind Rai named him Ajit – victor. In the following years the Guru’s second wife Mata Jito bore him three sons: Zorawar Singh born in 1690, Jujhar Singh in 1697 and Fateh Singh in 1699. Sahib Devan, his third wife did not bear any children. According to tradition, her father brought her in a palanquin to Annandpur as a gift to the Guru. Guru Gobind did not wish to take another wife, but since the Sikh had vowed to give his daughter to the Guru, he accepted her. The marriage was NEVER consummated and was described as kuwara dola or virgin wedlock. [48] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

As a matter fact, this descriptive term for Sahib Devan is recorded in Rai Chaturman Saksena’s Chahar Gulshan (Four Gardens c.1759-60 CE), a short history on Mughal India wherein he states vis-á-vis the Sikhs:

Mata Sundari: She was a wife of Guru Gobind. They say she also served him [or kept him company]. … When she died people turned to Sahib Devi.

Sahib Devi also known as Kunwara Doli (virgin bride): They say she is the daughter of one of the hill rajahs. He had sent his daughter for [marriage to] Guru Gobind. Guru Gobind died before her arrival. Thereafter she did not agree to marry anyone and lived in Delhi. After Mata Sundari’s death she succeeded to her spiritual seat. After one year, she too died. [49] (bold ours)

And because, as Nikky-Guninder puts it, “she did not become a biological mother”, [50] the Vice Chancellor of The International School of Sikh Studies and Director Principal of the Khalsa College London, Sukhbir Singh Kapoor, while noting that “Mata Jito Ji was married to Guru Gobind Singh in 1677 and later on Mata Sundari Ji in 1684”, describes “Mata Sahib Kaur [as] Mother of the Khalsa [who] was the spiritual wife of the Guru”. [51]

However, there is more to this betrothal than meets the eye. Harbans Singh reveals that her parents had already resolved to marry her to the Guru:

SAHIB DEVAN is by tradition mother of the Khalsa, was the daughter of Bhai Har Bhagvan alias Ramu, from clan of a Bassi, and his wife, Jas Devi, a devout Sikh couple of Rohtas, in Jehlum district (now in Pakistan). Her parents had from the beginning dedicated her to the service of Guru Gobind Singh. They took her along as they came to Anandpur on the occasion of the Baisakhi festival of 1700, and disclosed to the Guru their heart’s wish to give away their daughter in marriage to him. The Guru, who already had married and was the father of four sons, refused the offer. But when Bhai Har Bhagvan insisted that their daughter had been brought up as a prospective spouse of the Guru and would not countenance marriage with anyone else, he agreed, but made it explicit that she would remain virgin all her life. The nuptials took place at Anandpur on 15 April 1700. Guru Gobind Singh proclaimed Mata Sahib Devan to be the mother of the Khalsa. [52] (bold, underline ours)

Mahindara Kaura Gilla concurs:

Guru would not accept Sahib Devan; she would have to remain unmarried all her life. The Guru while accepting the request of Bhai Rama and the people of Rohtas had stipulated a condition that Bhai Rama’s daughter would live in the family chambers but would stay as a virgin bride. He would not have any physical relationship with her. The people of Rohtas were overjoyed on hearing the acceptance of their proposal. Thus the ceremony of marriage took place. When Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa panth, it was the ideal wife of the Guru who could be bestowed with the honour of eternal motherhood of Khalsa panth. [53] (bold, underline ours)

According to Prof Kartar Singh, this stipulation stemmed from his desire to maintain what is known as Brahmcharya, or Celibacy:

The Guru’s so-called third marriage was performed with Mata Sahib Devi, daughter of Bhai Ramu, Bassi Khatri of Rohtas in the district of Jehlam, now in Pakistan, on Baisakh 18, 1757 Bk. But this was no marriage in the ordinary sense of the term. The Guru created the Khalsa on the Baisakhi day of 1756 Bk (March 30, 1699 A.D.). A good time before that historic event the Guru had been absorbed in thinking and planning about this great undertaking. After the event, he was busier still in organizing and strengthening the new-born Khalsa, and in making preparations for the liberation of his country. More than a year before the creation of the Khalsa, he had adopted a completely continent life; for he wanted to devote all his time and energies, his body and soul, to the heaven ordained task. This VOW OF BRAHMCHARYA he continued to observe even afterwards. In view of this, where was the need for another marriage about a year after the creation of the Khalsa?

But a marriage did take place, all the same. What happened was this. On the occasion of the annual Baisakhi gathering of 1757 Bk, Bhai Ramu of Rohtas came to Anandpur to pay homage to the Guru. He brought with him his youthful daughter in a palki (palanquin) and said to the Guru: “O Gum, since her infancy Sahib Devi has been betrothed by us to you. Be pleased to accept her as your wife and servant.” On the Guru’s refusal, the Sikh said, “Having been dedicated to you since her very birth, she is called Mata or mother by all Sikhs. No one would wed her now. There is thus no place for her except at your feet.”

The Guru then said, ‘Well, let her then be the mother of my Khalsa and serve them with a motherly affection. Let her pass her days in such service and in meditation on God’s name. If she agrees, she is welcome to stay, and you may leave her here.

She readily agreed to remain a virgin all her life. The Guru agreed to take her into wedlock, and did so. She is always referred to as kanwaro dola (virgin wife) in Sikh and non-Sikh literature. She remained with the Guru. To serve the Guru and his Sikhs, and to keep absorbed in divine meditation, such was her ambition. So great was her devotion to the Guru that she would not take food until she had seen him and performed some act of personal service. One day the Guru asked her if she had any desire in her heart which longed for fulfilment. She replied that the only desire she had was for a son. The Guru replied, ‘Cheer up then! I have given thee a son that will live for ever. I have put the whole Khalsa in thy lap as thy son.’ [54] (bold, capitalisation ours)

Bhai Rama’s daughter [Sahib Devan] would … stay as a virgin bride. He [Gobind Singh] would not have any physical relationship with her. – Mahindara Kaura Gilla

What these accounts confirm is that the Guru’s followers were well aware of his polygamous habits. Grewal tells us that following Jito’s death in Sammat 1757 (1700 CE): “Some Sikhs offered him a new bride but he did not accept her. On their insistence, she was allowed to serve the Guru. She remained unmarried.” As such, this unfortunate woman remained in this state of servitude for 31 years before passing away in “Sammat 1788 (AD 1731)”. [55]

Renowned historian, H.R. Gupta, on the other hand, while elaborating further on this episode, places her death much later in 1750 CE, which in effect bumps up the years she spent serving her master to half a century:

Mata Sahib Devi episode

Sahib Devi was the daughter of Ram Basi, Rawa Khatri of Basi Rawan near Rohtas in Pakistan. From childhood she had vowed to be the wife of Guru Gobind Singh. After the death of Mata Jito her father presented her to Guru’s mother. The Guru refused to marry a third time. The girl refused to go back. The Guru accepted her on the CONDITION that she would not have any conjugal relationship, but she was declared the mother of the Khalsa. The marriage took place on April 15, 1700. She accompanied the Guru to Nander and returned to Delhi after the Guru’s demise. She lived with Mata Sundari and died about 1750. [56] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

What is worse is that this absurd marital condition of non-consummation was enforced by none other than the Guru himself.

Yet, part of the blame also lies with her parents. On what moral basis could they have justified pre-arranging her marriage without firstly seeking the permission of the prospective suitor? What is more, how could they have simplistically presupposed that the Guru would acquiesce to their request? Worse still, they resort to what is evidently emotional blackmail by lopsidedly asserting that because she was intended for the Guru, she would remain unmarried if he rejected her.

But, their faux pas pales in comparison to their Guru’s response. Rather than correcting and turning them away from the error of their ways, given his status as the Satuguru, or true teacher, he instead tacitly approves of their parental blunders by accepting her as his wife on a condition that robs her of certain fundamental rights inherent of all women: sexuality and motherhood.

In fact, her motherly instincts are confirmed in an account given by Dalbir Singh Dhillon who divulges:

According to Sikh traditions Guru had three wives, namely Mata Jito, Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib Devan. … Further, the Sikh traditions have unanimously asserted that when Mata Sahib Devi desired for a[n] issue, she was told by the Guru that the whole Khalsa Panth would be her children and as a sequel to it she was considered the mother of Khalsa. [57] Therefore, on baptization [sic] into Khalsa, every Sikh becomes the progeny of his spiritual parents, Guru Gobind Singh and Mata Sahib Devan. [58], [59] (bold ours)

This apparent “vow of brahmcharya” seems to have led Gobind to deny this woman’s right to satiating her naturally occurring sexual urges, while also quashing her unmistakable demand and desire for children. In response, he callously tells her that her children are the Khalsa!

While H.S. Singha says that “Guru Gobind Singh’s wives Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib Devan stayed at Delhi for a long period after the passing away of the Guru” [60], [61] Sardar Harjeet Singh expounds:

Bhai Mani Singh took Mata Sundri Ji and Mata Sahib Devan to Delhi via Ambala.

In 1706, Bhai Mani Singh escorted Guru Sahib’s wife and Mata Sahib Devan to Talwandi Sabo where the Guru was staying. When Guru Sahib left Agra with Emperor Bahadur Shah for Nander in 1707, Mata Sahib Devan and Bhai Mani Singh accompanied him. Afterwards Bhai Mani Singh escorted Mata Sahib Devan Ji back to Delhi where she lived with Mata Sundri Ji for the rest of her life. [62]

What a sad state of affairs and what a life!

The Laws of Polygamy in Sikhism

If some of these Gurus did practice polygamy, and the evidence certainly seems compelling enough for the aforesaid Sikhs, then the questions that arise are:

  • What type of example have these polygamous Satgurus set for their followers?
  • What rules, if any, have been established in Sikhism for those who marry multiple wives to follow and adhere to so as to ensure a level of fairness, justice, and equity?

As we have seen, the example set by Guru Gobind is, to put it mildly, far from ideal. His vow as a husband in permanently refusing to have intercourse with his wife whilst being fully capable of doing so is a condition strictly prohibited in Islam.

Although there exists the option for a Muslim husband to refrain from intercourse with his wife, known in Arabic as al-Eelaa, this cannot extend beyond a period of four successive months, let alone an entire life time. Such an oath is prohibited precisely because it violates the very purpose of the institution of marriage and all that it essentially stands for: a path sanctioned by God which makes it permissible for a man and a woman to satiate and fulfil their physical and emotional desires.

There is a verse in the Qur’an that speaks of said vow as follows:

Those who take an oath not to have sexual relations with their wives must wait for four months, then if they return (change their idea in this period), truly Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur’an 2:226)

In this regard, the companion ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar explicated:

If the period of Eelaa expires, then the husband has to either retain his wife in a handsome manner or divorce her as Allah has ordered [in the Qur’an, 2:226]. (Saheeh al-Bukhari)

Hence, the scholars of Islam have declared that it is impermissible for a man to wilfully and without a valid legislative excuse sexually neglect his wife for longer than four successive months. If he fulfils her right within that time, then he has, as the aforecited verse stipulates, “returned” in fulfilling said right. On the other hand, if he fails to do so; then not only is he sinful, but is at the discretion of his wife who can choose to take whatever legal action she deems appropriate.

In essence, therefore, the institution of marriage has an important purpose to play in the grand scheme of things, and vows and acts similar to those enacted by Guru Gobind Singh are condemnable precisely because they threaten to undermine its legitimacy.

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) constantly reminded his nation of followers to be vigilant in fulfilling the rights made obligatory upon them. In this respect, he said:

Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The ruler is the shepherd of his people and is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock …. (Saheehayn)

Additionally, he said:

Allah will ask every shepherd about that which was entrusted to his care, whether he took care of it or neglected it, and He will even ask a man about his family. [63]

He also declared:

It is sufficient sin for a man to neglect those who are under his care. [64]

And he added:

There is not a man whom Allah appoints to a position of responsibility and he fails to discharge his duties sincerely, except that he will not smell the fragrance of Paradise. (Saheeh al-Bukhari)

These, and many other such narrations, bring into sharp focus the importance Islam places on people fulfilling their designated responsibilities.

Regarding the rights of a husband over his wife, then Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) instructed one of his companions to exercise moderation in his acts of worship so as to maintain a balanced way of life and not fall into neglecting his family’s rights:

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to me, “O ‘Abdullah; have I not heard that you fast all day and pray all night?” I said: Yes, O Messenger of Allah. He said: “Do not do that. Fast and break your fast, pray at night and sleep, for your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, your wife has a right over you and your visitors have a right over you. It is sufficient for you to fast three days of every month. For every good deed you will be rewarded tenfold, so that will be like fasting for an entire lifetime.” But I went to extremes and made things hard for myself. I said: O Messenger of Allah, I can do more than that. He said: “Then observe the fast of the Prophet of Allah, Dawood (peace be upon him), and no more.” I said: What is the fast of the Prophet of Allah, Dawood (peace be upon him)? He said: “Half a lifetime.” After he grew old, ‘Abdullaah used to say: I wish that I had taken the easier option which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) offered me. (Saheehayn)

Compare this advice to the deplorable standard set by Guru Gobind. Hence, this vow, and similar such extreme oaths, carry no weight in Islam. Instead, they are considered acts of disobedience towards Allah. In this regard, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

Whoever swears an oath to commit an act of disobedience, that oath does not count. [65]

While his wife, ‘Aishah, narrated that he said:

Whoever makes a vow to do an act of obedience to Allah, let him do it; whoever makes a vow to commit a sin against Him, let him not do it. (Sahih al-Bukhari)

In a sense, this lifelong vow is nothing more than a type of celibacy; and celibacy is something highly discouraged in Islam. For one, it goes against the example of the last and final Messenger, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). In this case, it was reported:

Sa’d ibn Hisham ibn ‘Amir narrated that he went to ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) and said: “O Mother of the Believers, tell me about the manners of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).” She replied: “His manners were (those of) the Qur’an. Do you not read the Qur’an, the Saying of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He): And Verily, you (O Muhammad are on an exalted (standard of) character.” Sa’d said: “I want to practice celibacy.” She said: “Do not do that. Have you not read: Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow? [66]

There is then the question of the laws and regulations laid down in Sikhism for those who may choose to follow in the polygamous footsteps of their Gurus; where are these to be found?

In Islam, Muslims have a wealth of knowledge to draw on from the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) vis-á-vis the just treatment of his wives. These narrations are explicit and easily accessible precisely because the Islamic tradition openly accepts the Prophet’s polygamous practices. Alas, as is the case with so many other things with this religion, the same cannot be said of Sikhism. Hence, we would be very surprised to find any clear model set by the Gurus, save the irresponsible ones already highlighted, that might serve as an upright and just example for their followers to emulate when there exists a huge religious divide on the subject itself, and for which a resolution seems a far distant reality.


Despite those who entirely reject any and all suggestions that some of the Gurus practiced polygamy, there are a number of prominent Sikh scholars, academics, and writers who openly and unashamedly recognise that at least two of the ten Gurus, viz. the sixth Guru Hargobind and the tenth and final Guru Gobind Singh, had multiple wives.

Nonetheless, a sense of embarrassment and hesitancy does exist on the part of some Sikh apologists who, owing to their preconceived notions and misplaced moral sensibilities, cannot bring themselves to openly accept either Hargobind’s or Gobind’s polygamous nature. This reluctance, for example, can be seen with Kartar who, while readily acknowledging that the Guru married Sahib Devan who “lived in Delhi with Mata Sundri and died earlier than the latter. Her body was cremated near Guru Hari Krishan’s shrine, called Bala Sahib”, apologetically states that “the union with Mata Sahib Devan was not a physical union at all. It was a knitting of two souls in bonds of divine love”. [67] But, unless the good professor is arguing that a woman is not considered a bona fide wife until after marital consummation (Sikhs like Dr Bhagat Singh, for example, refer to her unapologetically as “Guru Gobind Singh’s spouse”), [68] then the marriage not being a “physical union” is entirely beside the point. If one holds that the Guru did marry this woman, who subsequently remained a “Virgin Bride”, then irrespective of how one attempts to slice it, the fact remains that this Guru refused to transform this “knitting of two souls” into the bonds of physical and intimate love which a marriage essentially stands for.

It is worth drawing a parallel between the cruel nature of this marital stipulation and a similar example established by the tenth Guru’s ancestor and founding father, Guru Nanak. We have written in the past of how this unjust Satguru set a bad example by neglecting his wife for decades on end during his long udhasis (missionary journeys). [69] And though Nanak married and sired two children with Sulakhani, his successor Guru Gobind not only acceded to the unfair demands of Sahib Devan’s parents, thereby laying down an historical precedence just as bad if not worse than his predecessor’s, but also permanently deprived her of any physical love and intimacy, and thus robbing her of the opportunity of raising her own biological children.

One should be honest enough to call a spade a spade and not beat around the bush like Surinder Singh Johar does in his chimerical defence of “Prof. Kartar Singh [who he says] remarks that ‘those who associate the Guru’s name with bigamy or trigamy in the modern sense are perpetrating a grievous error and doing a great wrong to the memory of the greatest of the Yogis and Brahmacharis'”. [70] To the contrary, those who refuse to acknowledge and accept the obvious are only committing the grievous crime of compromising on their intellectual integrity and honesty.

[1] The only form of polygamy allowed in Islam is polygyny where a man can have up to four wives concurrently on the condition that they all be treated equally as per the guidelines of the Shari’ah (sacred Islamic law).

Although beyond the scope of this topic, it is worth noting some of the more important reasons why the Law-Giver prohibited polyandry, i.e. a woman having multiple husbands at any one time:

  1. In Islam, as well as in Sikhism, the husband has been made the sole head of the household. Hence, as with any other institution, there would be chaos, disharmony, and conflicts of interest if the wife were expected to obey multiple heads.
  2. Having multiple husbands would certainly lead to potential identity problems with respect to the child’s biological father. In this regard, it is necessary to highlight an important principle connected to the Shari’ah prescriptions of halal (allowances à la polygyny) and haram (prohibitions à la polyandry) which states that these revelatory injunctions were established as normative practices for Muslims to adhere to for all times. It is on the basis of this general rule of law, therefore, that all exceptions are considered unessential and rejected. Thus, the advent of DNA testing in the latter end of the twentieth century, which even today is far from accessible to the vast majority, has not been used because not only is it an exception to said principle, and a rare one at that, but also because it fails to address the many problems that arise out of the practice of polyandry.
  3. This paternal ambiguity would also raise a problem when it comes to the issue of inheritance claims. As Akbar states:The problem of inheritance: This is a problem that results from the inability to identify the father. To which husband’s wealth will a child born in a polyandrous marriage be entitled? It is not possible to assume that the wealth be divided equally amongst the children. For there is every chance that one husband is rich while the other is poor. Which children will be entitled to the wealth of which father in all such situations? Should all children be provided with their inheritance if any one husband meets with his death? Or is it that only his children are to receive the wealth of inheritance? Many such problems abound in the case of polyandry.
    – M.M. Akbar (2002), The Authenticity of Quran, (Niche of Truth, India), p. 144.
  4. It conflicts with Prophet Muhammad’s (upon whom be peace and blessings of Allah) encouragement to be fruitful and multiply. This point is well made by Nancy E. Levine and Joan B. Silk in a paper titled Why Polyandry Fails: Sources of Instability in Polyandrous Marriages wherein they say that “the existence of polyandry is problematic because it appears to limit male reproductive success, defined as the number of surviving offspring produced. Males who share access to a single female are likely to leave fewer descendants than males who monopolize access to their mates. By the same token, a man who marries polyandrously can expect to sire only a fraction of one woman’s children“. This would certainly be a problem if there existed a “disparity in age among husbands and wives …. A man who is much younger than his wife may be concerned about her ability to produce children in the future”. (bold ours)
    – N.E. Levine, J.B. Silk (1997), Why Polyandry Fails: Sources of Instability in Polyandrous Marriages, (Current Anthropology, Vol. 38, No. 3), pp. 376-7.

[2] B. Singh, Falsehood of Islam, (Search Sikhism; accessed: June 16, 2013).
[3] Polygamy, Mistresses and Concubines, (Why I Chose Sikhism … And I didn’t choose Islam; accessed: June 16, 2013).
[4] Women in Sikhism, (; accessed: June 16, 2013).
[5] B. Singh, Blind Inequality, (Search Sikhism; accessed June 16, 2013).
[6] N. Singh (1990), The Sikh Moral Tradition: Ethical Perceptions of the Sikhs in the Late Nineteenth/early TwentiethCentury, (Manohar), p. 34.
[7] S.S. Kohli (1992), A Conceptual Encyclopaedia of Guru Granth Sahib, (Manohar Publishers & Distributors), p. 239.
[8] J. Jhutti-Johal (2011), Sikhism Today, (Continuum International Publishing Group), p. 128.
[9] D.R. Jakobsh (2012), Sikhism, (University of Hawai’I Press).
[10] Anand Sanskar: (Sikh Matrimonial Ceremony and Conventions), (SGPC – The Code of Sikh Conduct and Conventions; accessed June 14, 2013).
[11] V. Walia (2006), Change in Maryada draws criticism, (The Tribune News Service, Mar 05).
[12] K. Singh, G.S. Mansukhani, J.S. Mann (1992), Fundamental Issues in Sikh Studies, (Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh; accessed June 14, 2013), p. 234.
[13] A.S. Sethi (1979), Comparative religion, (Canada Sociological Research Centre, Vikas), p. 116.
[14] F.S. Ahmed, S.A. Farooqui (2011), A Comprehensive History of Medieval India: From Twelfth to the Mid-Eighteenth Century Publisher, (Pearson Education India), p. 396.
[15] The Sikh Awareness forum had a lively thread titled ‘Why did Guru Gobind Singh have more than one wife? in which one member remonstrated: “I would say polygamy does not allow women the equality which is gifted to them by Vaheguru and reiterated by the Gurus.”

While over at the Sikh Philosophy Network, a forum member posted a comment in the thread ‘Polygamy and Sikhismreasoning: “If Polygamy is allowed, [then] by the rule of equality, Polyandry should also be allowed.”
[16] S.S. Johar (1975), Guru Tegh Bahadur: A Biography, (Abhinav Publications), p. 32.
[17] Ibid., p. 60.
[18] K. Singh (1963), A History of the Sikhs: 1469-1839, (Oxford University Press), p. 51.
[19] B.S. Anand (1979), Guru Tegh Bahadur, A Biography, (Sterling Publishers), pp. 78, 79, 81.
[20] G. Singh (1988), A History of the Sikh People, 1469-1988, (World Book Centre), pp. 222-3.
[21] J.S. Grewal (2004), The Khalsa – Sikh and Non-Sikh Perspectives, (Manohar Publishers & Distributors), pp. 64, 65, 66.
[22] The Sikh Review – Volume 42, Issues 481-492, 1994, p. 22.
[23] H.S. Dilagira (1997), The Sikh Reference Book, (Sikh Educational Trust for Sikh University Centre, Denmark), pp. 349, 655.
[24] S. Singh (2001), The Sikhs in History: A Millenium Study, with New Afterwords, (Uncommon Books), pp. 40, 45.
[25] S.K. Arneja (2009), Ik Onkar One God, (Rashmi Graphics, Mumbai), p. 28.
[26] P.P. Singh (2006), The History of Sikh Gurus, (Lotus Press), p. 79.
[27] Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Jee, (Damdami Taksaal – The Official Website; accessed: June 16, 2013).
[28] Mata Sunder Kaur, (Sikhi Wiki; accessed: June 23, 2013).
[29] K. Singh (1998), Life of Guru Gobind Singh, (Lahore Book Shop), p. 92.
[30] P. Kaur, V. Singh (1996), Kar Sewa of Historical Gurudwaras, (Sapra Publications), p. 47.
[31] H.S. Singha (2005), The Encyclopedia of Sikhism (over 1000 Entries), (Hemkunt Publishers Ltd, New Delhi), p. 142.
[32] K. Singh, op. cit., pp. 91-2.
[33] S. Singh (2010), How many times was Guru Gobind Singh Ji married and why?, (Sikh Net forum, Oct 17 (with slight modifications); accessed: June 23, 2013).
[34] Mata Jito Ji, (Damdami Taksaal – The Official Website; accessed: June 16, 2013).
[35] Mata Sundri Ji, (Damdami Taksaal – The Official Website; accessed: June 16, 2013).
[36] J.S. Grewal, op. cit., pp. 68, 72, 74, 75.
[37] Fn. 2: She died in January 1701, and the same year a Sikh from Rohtas (Distt. Jhelum) offered the hand of his daughter, Sahib Devi, to the Guru, who refused to accept her because he already had a wife. He was, however, prevailed upon to take her into wedlock, she agreeing to remain a virgin all her life. She is always referred to as a kanvara doli (virgin wife) in Sikh and non-Sikh literature. See Attar Singh’s Travels of Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh, p. 90; Sunam Gurparnali, under Tenth Guru; Kesar Singh’s Bansavalinama, p. 110; and Chaturman’s Chahar Gulshan, p. 141a. She is called the mother of the Khalsa.
[38] T. Singh, G. Singh (2006), A Short history of the Sikhs, Vol. 1 (1469-1765), (Publication Bureau Punjabi University, Patiala), p. 63.
[39] S.S. Johar (1987), Guru Gobind Singh, (Enkay Publishers), p. 103.
[40] D.S. Dhillon, S.S. Bhullar (1990), Battles of Guru Gobind Singh, (Deep & Deep Publications), p. 28.
[41] S.S. Kohli (2005),The Dasam Granth, (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.), p. xi.
[42] D. Singh (1992), Guru Gobind Singh and Khalsa Discipline, (Singh Brothers), p. 275.
[43] N.-G. K. Singh (2011), Sikhism: An Introduction, (I.B. Tauris), p. 45.
[44] S.K. Arneja, op. cit., p. 51.
[45] B. Kaur (2005), Status of Women in Sikhism, (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar), p. 24.
[46] G.S. Mann (2004), Sikhism, (Prentice Hall), p. 40.
[47] Ibid., p. 104.
[48] K. Singh, S.V. Singh (1970), Homage to Guru Gobind Singh, (Jaico Publishing House), p. 28.
[49] J.S. Grewal, I. Habib (2001), Sikh History from Persian Sources: Translations of Major Texts, (Tulika), p. 167.
[50] N-G.K. Singh (2005), The Birth of the Khalsa: A Feminist Re-memory of Sikh Identity, (SUNY Press), p. 37.
[51] S.S. Kapoor (1999), The Creation of the Khalsa: The Saint Soldier, (Hemkunt Press), p. 158.
[52] H. Singh (1998), The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism: S-Z, (Punjab University, Patiala), p. 16.
[53] M.K. Gilla (1995), The Role and Status of Women in Sikhism, (National Book Shop), p. 38.

Also published in The Sikh Courier International by the Sikh Cultural Society of Great Britain, Vol. 38-42, p. 64.
[54] K. Singh, op. cit., p. 93.
[55] J.S. Grewal, op. cit., pp. 75, 80.
[56] H.R. Gupta (2008), History of the Sikhs Vol. 1 – The Sikh Gurus, 1496-1708, (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.), p. 285.
[57] Fn. 628: Giani Gian Singh, Sri Guru Panth Prakash, pp. 1574-75.
[58] Fn. 629: Ibid.
[59] D.S. Dhillon (1988), Sikhism Origin and Development, (Atlantic Publishers & Distributors), p. 144.
[60] H.S. Singha, op. cit., p. 58.
[61] This is also repeated by Harpreet Kaur who says:

Guru’s two wives, Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Kaur, accompanied by Bhai Mani Singh, went to Delhi.

– S.K. Gupta (1999), Creation of the Khalsa: Fulfilment of Guru Nanak’s Mission, (Punjabi University, Patiala), p. 130.

[62] S.H. Singh (2009), Faith and Philosophy of Sikhism, (Gyan Publishing House), p. 158.
[63] Ibn Hibban; classed saheeh by al-Albaani, Ghaayat al-Maraam, 271.
[64] Narrated by Ahmad and Abu Dawood from the hadith of ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr; classed hasan by al-Albaani, Saheeh al-Jaami’, 827.
[65] Sunan Abu Dawood, 2191; classed hasan by al-Albaani, Saheeh Abi Dawood.
[66] Chapter: The Prophet’s morals, (Portal of the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta’; accessed: June 27, 2013).
[67] K. Singh, op. cit., p. 94.
[68] B. Singh (1999), Creation of the Khalsa: Fulfilment of Guru Nanak’s Mission, (Punjabi University, Patiala), p. 186.
[69] See the Related Articles below for a more comprehensive coverage of this subject.
[70] S.S. Johar (1987), op. cit., p. 103.


  1. It’s wrong to marry more than once unless they pass away or you have to divorce or something???

    That, of course, is predicated upon the acceptance that none of the Gurus committed polygyny!

    All the guru ji’s only had one wife and had children with only one wife. The Gurus refused all other marriage proprosals once they were already married.

    So says you; but who are you to make such a claim?

    What we’re doing is at least quoting the positions of scholars and academics. You, on the other hand, are just making empty claims without even bothering to provide a source or reference. And since you aren’t known for being an authority in this subject, we are not obliged to accept such empty claims.

    The dilemma before the parents of the girls was that, the proposal having become public, no Sikhs would be willing to marry a women who had been betroved to the Guru.

    Firstly, you’re conflating between the terms “proposal” and “betroved [sic]”. These are not synonymous terms, and they mean entirely separate things when referring to marriage.

    Proposal means: a plan or suggestion, especially a formal or written one, put forward for consideration by others.
    Betrothed means: the person to whom one is engaged.

    Since the parents came to the Guru with what conventionally in today’s parlance what be called a rishta (proposal) in that region, the Guru had the option of either accepting or rejecting it precisely because he was not betrothed to her (besides, how can anyone become betrothed to someone before being offered as a proposal?).

    So the Gurus agreed for them to reside in the gurdwara or near by in the same city/district. As Guru Gobind singh Ji made it clear that his relationship with Mata Sahib Devan would be of a spiritual nature and not physical. This was also the case for all other Gurus. All the Gurus are one light.

    Relationship as a what though: friend, enemy, partner, spouse? Are you afraid to use the word “marriage” and “married”?

    If the two of them were betrothed as you put it above, then could this relationship be anything other than marital? I hope you’re not suggesting that he had a non-marital relationship after said betrothal?

    And if he did marry here, then that’s all we are here to prove: the Guru committed polygyny. Hence, when it comes down to the actual crux of the argument, then the question of said marriage being spiritual or physical only becomes scenery.

    although they never contradicted other cultures, in sikh culture, you should only have one wife/husband. guru ji would never contradict his own teachings. its because men and women are equal in sikhism, and it wouldn’t be equal if a man had three wives or somthing!

    Well, there’s plenty of examples where men and women aren’t equal in Sikhism, the obvious one being the 10 male Gurus and the 5 male panj pyarai chosen by Gobind Singh himself. If the Gurus really were all about equality, you’d expect them to at least show this through practice by designating at least one woman as a Guru!

    I have provided further clarification for Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
    Guru Gobind Singh Ji had one wife: at age 10, he married Mata Jito on 21 June 1677 at Basantgaṛh, 10 km north of Anandpur. Later another ceremony was performed on 4 April 1684 at Anandpur known as Muklawa. Mata Jito was later known as Mata Sundari as she was very beautiful and was named by the Guru’s mother as sundari (beautiful). The couple had four sons: Jujhar Singh (b. 1691), Zorawar Singh (b. 1696), Fateh Singh (b. 1699) and Ajit Singh (b. 1687).

    Did you even bother to read our article or not? We’ve more or less addressed this two-for-one person argument above! For instance, if these two names did represent a single woman, then why would there be two monuments built to commemorate a single person and yet be named by seemingly two separate persons? If this wife did later come to be referred to as Sundari, then why name a monument by her pre-marital name?

    But the most obvious one is this: if, as you say, “in sikh culture, you should only have one wife/husband” and that “men and women are equal in sikhism”, then how could so many Sikh scholars and academics go so far as to affirm polygyny for their Guru? Surely most, if not all, would dismiss such claims as outrageous, or try and explain them away in some way as you and Harban have.

    At age 33 Guru Gobind Singh Ji received a marriage proposal Mata Sahib Kaur|Mata Sahib Devan, however as Guru ji was already married he refused. The proposal was brought for discussion to Anandpur, the Guru had already been married. Therefore, the Guru said that he could not have another wife since he was already married. The dilemma before the parents of the girl was that, the proposal having become public, no Sikh would be willing to marry a woman who had been betroved to the Guru. The Guru agreed for her to stay at Anandpur but without accepting her as his wife. They had no children, but she had an influential role in Sikhism. In 1699, the Guru asked her to put pataasas (puffed sugar) in the water for preparing Amrit when he founded the Khalsa Panth. Whereas Guru Gobind Singh ji is recognized as the spiritual father of the Khalsa, Mata Sahib Kaur ji is recognized as the spiritual mother of the Khalsa. People not conversant with the Amrit ceremony mistakenly assume that Mata Sahib Kaur ji was the wife of Guru Gobind Singh ji. As Guru Gobind Singh ji is the spiritual but not the biological father of the Khalsa, Mata Sahib Devan ji is the spiritual mother of the Khalsa, Mata Sahib Devan is the spiritual mother of the Khalsa but not the wife of Guru Gobind Singh. From ignorance of Punjabi culture and the Amrit ceremony, some writers mistook these three names of the women in the life of Guru Gobind Singh as the names of his three wives.

    But who from your scholars has put this forth as an explanation? Or have you just invented this yourself to fit your own preconceived agenda?

    Incidentally, even Harban Singh, whom we make mention of above in our article, and who attempted to argue for the two-for-one argument re Jito and Sundari, nonetheless acknowledged in The Encyclopedia of Sikhism the following:

    Therefore a temporary encampment was raised near the village of Basantgarh, 10 km north of Anandpur, and named Guru ka Lahore where the nuptials were held on 23 Har 1734 Bk/21 June 1684. Mata Jito ji became Mata Sundari ji after marriage as was the custom in Punjabi families.

    The nuptials took place at Anandpur on 15 April 1700. Guru Gobind Singh proclaimed Mata Sahib Devan to be the mother of the Khalsa.

    Hence, even he was forced to accept that both Sundari and Sahib Devan had nuptials done and were, therefore, wives of Gobind Singh.

    This website is a scam and just trying to separate people from sikhi.
    God is watching and telling lie and trying to separate people from waheguru is a great sin and whoever posted these lies will receive their punishment from waheguru

    Sadly, your arguments seem contrived, with not much behind them except empty, unsubstantiated claims.

    Indeed God is watching us all!

  2. Not only is it written in suraj parkash and gurvilas patshahi chevin (6th) that guru hargobind seduced daughter of muslim qazi and secertly run away with her.
    Listen here it being discussed by a sikh sect who themselves reject suraj parkash granth out of shame:

  3. Suraj prakash clearly portrays this as love affair. When kaulan came with hargobind singh why did his mother scold him? Then guru hargobind accepts his wrong doing and says he cud not control his emotions. This episode is discussed by sikhs themselves. Listen it carefully before jumping to conclusions

  4. Here’s a link to an interesting discussion where the invited guest speaks of this incident:

    Also, here’s the story discussed from Gurbilas Patshahi 6:

  5. Brother Abu Adeeba!!!!!!! You did it again and again brother. Love your great work!
    May Allah keep you and your family healthy. Ameen

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