Battle of Sri Muktsar Sahib
In 1704 Anandpur was under an extended siege by the allied forces of the Mughals and the hill chiefs. Provisions were completely exhausted and the Khalsa lived on leaves and the bark of trees. The Jats of Majha made up their mind to go home. The Guru would not let them leave unless they signed a disclaimer saying that they were no longer the Sikhs of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Out of hundreds of Sikhs, only forty put their thumb impression on the disclaimer; they were then permitted to leave Anandpur. This was during the siege of Sri Anandpur Sahib, which lasted eight months long, resulting in about 10,000 Sikh Soldiers under the 10th Master, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji giving a devasting defeat to the one million mughals who had invaded the holy city. Each of the Hill Rajas, except about three groups were fighting along side the Mughal Imperial Army.
The forty deserters from Anandpur lived in the Majha region in the district of Amritsar. In one of their villages, called Jhabal, there lived a brave woman named Mai Bhago. She was known for her faith and courage, and she had a great zeal to serve the Guru. Her blood boiled at the timidity of those who, beaten by the ravages of the prolonged siege of Anandpur, disclaimed Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji to return to their homes. She was smitten at the ignominy shown by these forty deserters. Mai Bhago charged them with cowardice and lack of faith. She was determined to wipe out this stain of infamy on Majha Singhs.
She went around the neighbouring villages and exhorted the women folk not to be hospitable to the deserters who had disclaimed the Guru. She shamed and censured the Singhs for their cowardice and eventually brought them back to the path of devotion and sacrifice. She, donning a man's dress, inspired them to return to the fold of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Feeling ashamed for their act of cowardice, they followed her banner and joined in the famous battle of Sri Muktsar Sahib, which was fought against the Mughal forces at Khidrana in the district of Ferozepur.
Mai Bhago vowed to suffer death on the blood-stained battlefield on behalf of the Guru. She fought so well in their ranks that she disposed of several Muslim soldiers. The "Chali Mukte" led by the great female general Mai Bhago had brought such damage onto the Mughal force of 10 000 strong, they had no option but to retreat. This battle can be found inside the British War History Wonders. At the end of the battle, when Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji was looking for survivors, Mai Bhago, who was lying wounded, greeted him. She told him how the forty deserters had valiantly laid down their lives fighting in the battlefield. Guru Saheb was greatly touched by her sense of remorse, self-sacrifice, and heroism. Mai Bhago recovered and remained in the Guru's presence after the battle of Sri Muktsar Sahib.
When Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji along with his Sikhs was collecting the dead bodies for cremation, he found one of them named Mahan Singh still clinging to life. On seeing the Guru, he made an effort to rise, the Guru at once took him in his embrace, and sat down with him. Mahan Singh tearful and exhausted, requested the great Master to destroy the Bedahwa the letter disclaiming his being a Sikh of the Guru. Before Mahan Singh died his merciful Guru took the document and tore it up. Showing infinite mercy towards his followers he named the 40 deserters who had fought until there last breath, after returning to Sri Anandpur Sahib and fighting for their beloved Guru, the Chali Mukte (40 liberated ones).
CHALI MUKTE, lit. forty (chali) liberated ones (mukte), is how a band of 40 brave Sikhs who laid down their lives fighting near the dhab or lake of Khidrana, also called Isharsar, on 29 December 1705 against a Mughal force pursuing Guru Gobind Singh are remembered in Sikh history and daily in the Sikh ardas or supplicatory prayer offered individually or at gatherings at the end of all religious services. Guru Gobind Singh, who had watched the battle from a nearby mound praised the martyrs' valour and blessed them as Chali Mukte, the Forty Immortals. After them Khidrana became Sri Muktsar Sahib - the Pool of Liberation.
Etymologically, mukta from Sanskrit mukt means 'liberated, delivered, emancipated,' especially from the cycle of birth and death. Mukti (liberation, emancipation) in Sikhism is the highest spiritual goal of human existence, and mukt or mukta is the one who has achieved this state of final beatitude. Mukta, also means a pearl, and the word would thus signify a title or epithet of distinction. It was probably in this sense that the five Sikhs, who on 30 March 1699 received the vows of the Khalsa immediately after the first five Panj Piare (q.v.), were blessed with the title mukta, plural mukte.
The term Chali Mukte is also used sometimes for the martyrs whom were attacked by a huge army, which had been in pursuit of the 40 Sikhs, their Guru and the two older Sahibzadas since the evacuation of Anandpur by Guru Gobind Singh during the night 5-6 December. Encircled and hopelessly outnumbered at Chamkaur on 7 December, they engaged the enemy in small sorties throughout the day. Two of those sorties were led by their Guru's two oldest sons the Sahibzadas.
The Guru had previously created the Khalsa making his men his equal. Now Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji told the survivors of his plan to challenge his attackers the next morning joining his sons, the Sahibzadas, in Sach Khand. The five remaining Singhs were Bhai Dharam Singh, (the two remaining Panj Pyare), Bhai Man Singh, Bhai Sangat Singh and finally Bhai Sant Singh. They begged Guru Ji to escape, they said, "At Kesgarh Sahib we watched you beseeching the five beloved ones to initiate you with Amrit. You had said then, I am of the Khalsa, and the Khalsa is mine. Today we ask in the capacity of the Khalsa beseeching you to leave Chamkaur and escape to a safer place."
Guru Saheb had no choice now but to accept their demands. It was decided that Guru Ji, Man Singh and the two Panj Pyare would leave the fort and that they would dress Sant Singh to look like Guru Ji because he had an uncanny resemblence to Guru Saheb. Guru Ji killed the few soldiers that were on watch. Then they left in the pitch dark the Guru clapped his hands three times saying "PeerÚ Hind Rahaavat" ("The "Peer" of India is Leaving").
They all shouted Sat Sri Akal and scattered in different directions. The mughals who couldn't see where anyone was, ended up killing several of their own while Guru Ji and the three Sikhs escaped.
Wazir Khan, the faujdar of Sirhind, denied the next day of the prize he had so eagerly and treacherously hounded, must have been furious. He would soon release that fury on the Guru's remaining sons and their grandmother who, betrayed by their old family cook Gangu, soon fell into his hands back at Sirhind.
While there is no unanimity over the names of the martyrs of Sri Muktsar Sahib and Chamkaur Sahib, the five Muktas who comprised the first batch of Sikhs to receive amrit at the hands of the Panj Piare are given in Rahitnama by Bhai Daya Singh as Ram Singh, Fateh Singh, Deva Singh, Tahil Singh and Isar Singh. No other details of these five are available except that an old manuscript of Bhai Prahlad Singh's Rahitnama is said to contain a note associating Ram Singh and Deva Singh with the village of Bughiana, Tahil Singh and Isar Singh with Dall-Van and Fateh Singh with Kurdpur Mangat.
According to Bhai Chaupa Singh, his Rahitnama or code of conduct was drafted by muktas. The text is said to have received Guru Gobind Singh's approval on 7 Jeth 1757 Bk / 5 May 1700. It appears that the title of mukta was bestowed subsequently also on persons other than the original five. The number of muktas is recorded variously in old Sikh texts. For instance, Kesar Singh Chhibbar, Bansavallnama Dasan Patshahlan Ka, mentions 14, and Kuir Singh, gurbilas Patshahi X, 25.
But the muktas universally celebrated in the Sikh tradition are the forty martyrs of Sri Muktsar Sahib who earned this title by sacrificing their lives for the Guru and who redeemed their past apostasy of having disowned their Guru and deserted him, when driven to desperation by the prolonged siege of Anandpur by the Rajput hill chiefs and Mughal forces by having their disclaimer torn by the Guru.
They were led by Mai Bhago and Mahan Singh Brar.