"Everybody has to die. Why not die like a brave person?"
If there's one thing I hope this website has taught you about the Sikhs, it should be that they don't really get along with the Mughals. I'm not an expert on Indian history, but it may have something to do with the descendents of Tamerlane rolling into town, conquering the hell out of everything, subjugating the people, and actively trying to exterminate all traces of their religion. The fact that the Mughals had a standing cash bounty on severed Sikh heads probably didn't help diplomatic relations much either.
Well in 1704 the Galactic Mughal Imperial Empire decided that they were going to wipe out Sikhism once and for all. They freaked out, crushed a couple soda cans on their heads, and dispatched the Mughal Darth Vader to surround the city of Amritsar, lay siege to the Guru of the Sikhs, and destroy the entire religion by killing it's head honcho in a ridiculously over-the-top violent manner.
(The fact that there are currently 20 million Sikhs in the world should give you some indication of how successful the Mughals were in their endeavors. It just took them a while to realize that you don't fuck with these people unless you want to be on the receiving end of a Macho Man Randy Savage-style top-rope elbow drop to the nutsack.)
Now the afore-mentionedleader of Sikhism was a man named Guru Gobind Singh. Think of this dude kind of like the Sikh Pope (though perhaps the Sikh Buddha would be a more appropriate analogy). There are only ten Gurus in the entire history of Sikhism, so yeah, you can be pretty sure that this guy was a pretty big deal. He was a pretty serious assbeater in his own right, but to make things worse for the Mughals he was also constantly surrounded by a badass bodyguard of fighters known as "warrior-saints". These dudes were kind of like the Apostles, only if Saint Peter went around shooting sword-swinging Centurions in the balls with RPG launchers and liberated his people from the chains of the Roman Empire. These righteous soldiers were like Sikh Paladins with muskets and totally sweet beards, and they sure as shit weren't going to just let the Mughals waltz into Amritsar and decapitate the Holiest man in their religion. They took up arms, fortified the city, and dared the Mughal Empire to step to them.
This battle that ensued was completely off the chain. It was like the Alamo with turbans. The Mughals hurled wave after wave of soldiers at the walls of Amritsar, but failed to break through the ranks of the battle-hardened Warrior-Saints and their wide assortment of pointy death-instruments. After several days of increasingly brutal fighting, however, the Mughals slowly began to wear down the town's defenses. Eventually, a small group of shell-shocked, war-weary Sikh soldiers decided they'd had enough. Forty once-stalwart soldiers called it quits, publicly renounced their faith, and peaced out to the nearest place that didn't have pissed-off Muslims stabbing people in the faces with scimitars every ten seconds.
The Duchess Camilla watching a demonstration of Sikh martial arts.
Well there was one badass chick that wasn't going to stand for that weak sauce bullshit. Mai Bhago was a tough-ass babe from a town near Amritsar who had spent most of her adult life training in the fine arts of awesomeness and studying about badassitude, and she wasn't about to just sit around and let a bunch of ex-Sikh warrior-saints slack off in the facial destruction department - especially when they could be out there dishing out chokeslams and shooting arrows into peoples' eyes with enough velocity to puncture plexiglass. Almost immediately upon hearing that there was a group of guys heading towards town who had "gotten bored of fighting the Mughals" and decided they "didn't feel like" slicing peoples' necks in half anymore, she go super-pissed off and rode out to meet them.
Mai Bhago came across this sad, disgraceful group of ex-Sikhs not long after she left her town. As soon as she saw this sorry lot moping around mumbling shit like, "Game over man - game over!", she jumped off her horse, confidently strode up to the closest guy, and then, out of nowhere, she hauled off and open-hand pimp-slapped the dude in the face really really fucking hard. While the rest of the astonished group stood around with their mouths hanging open, she looked each of them in the eye, one by one. Then, in a tone of voice that only thinly veiled her seething rage, she said something to the effect of, "If you're going to act like bitches, then I'm going to fucking treat you like bitches." Then she spit, kneed another dude in the junk, and told everybody they needed to sack up and start conducting themselves like the fucking badass Sikh warriors that they were.
Through a delicate, subtle mix of taunting, insults, and hardcore professional wrestling-style pump-up speeches, Mai Bhago made these jerks realize that they had a job to do, and they just needed to pop a couple Zoloft and fucking get out there and do it. The Guru was badass and all, but he wasn't exactly going to flash-fry the entire Mughal army by firing a matching set of Proton Torpedoes into the exhaust port of the Taj Mahal while screaming overhead at Mach 2 - he needed his warrior-saints at his side; not to bail out on him right when he was in the middle of what could potentially have been his last stand.
After getting slapped around verbally, physically, and emotionally by our take-no-bullshit, fresh-to-death heroine, the forty ex-Sikhs realized that they needed to snap out of it and get back to the business of violently lacerating the tracheas of their much-hated enemies. Of course, Mai Bhago wasn't the sort of hardcore warrior-chick who was just going to be happy to go back to town knowing that she'd done her good deed for the day - no, she fucking put on her wargear, grabbed a sword and a musket, and rode out there at the head of this company of Sikh hardasses to cause a little estrogen-fueled havoc of her own. She was going to show these guys how it was done.
Well without forty of his toughest hombres, the Guru's situation in Amritsar eventually became untenable. He (and what little was left of his bodyguard) withdrew from the town, and decided to make a mad, desperate dash for safety. The entire Mughal Army pursued them across India for a couple days, harassing them at every turn, and shit was looking pretty fucking bleak for Guru Gobind Singh and the proponents of Sikhism.
It was at this point that the Guru saw Mai Bhago riding up at the head of a small battalion of re-devoted tough-as-shit Sikh warriors.
Mai Bhago led her men out past the Guru, and right into the face of the entire fucking Mughal Army. At the Battle of Mukhtsar in 1704, she and her warriors charged into the enemy lines, hacking, slashing, and popping peoples' heads off with muskets at point-blank range. Even the Guru got in on the action, sending a golden shower of auric-tipped arrows down on the enemy from a sniper's nest on a nearby hill. Mai Bhago herself was credited with taking down something like a half-dozen dudes herself in the exceedingly bloody fighting that ensued. Like I said, this chick meant business.
I came across several conflicting reports of how the battle transpired, ranging from "The Mughals got tired and ran away" to "God came down and smote the entire Imperial army", but the outcome is always the same - the Mughals were driven from the battlefield, the Guru lived to fight another day, and every member of the Sikh contingent was killed in action. Well, every Sikh except Mai Bhago. When Guru Gobind Singh went down to survey the epic carnage, he found her lying on top of a heaping pile of dead Mughals, barely clinging to life. The Guru forgave the forty Sikhs for their moment of weakness, and was so pumped up about how hardcore Mai Bhago was that he gave her a healing potion, restored all of her Hit Points, and brought her into his service as one of his personal bodyguards. She spent the rest of her life traveling with the Guru, serving as a warrior-saint of the Sikh Religion, and the Sikh Joan of Arc is now revered among her people as a holy warrior who offered disgraced warriors a chance at redemption and fought bravely in the defense of her people.
To this day, the Sikhs still celebrate the anniversary of the battle.
Sikh Forum Post
Gandhi, Surjit Singh. History of the Sikh Gurus. Atlantic, 2007.
Holm, Jean, and Bowker, John. Women in Religion. Continuum, 2000.
Ralhan, O.B. The Great Gurus of the Sikhs. Anmol, 1997.
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