CHALI MUKTE, lit. forty (chalf) 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 in chase of 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 Muktsar 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 a huge army, in pursuit since the evacuation of Anandpur by Guru Gobind Singh during the night 56 December, caught up with and encircled at Chamkaur on 7 December, and who engaged the enemy in small sorties throughout the day with the result that the Guru with three other survivors was able to escape during the following night. See CHAMKAUR SAHIB.

While there is no unanimity over the names of the martyrs of Muktsar 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 DallVan and Fateh Singh with Khurdpur 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 7Jeth 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, Barisava/mama Dasari Patshahian Ka, mentions 14, and Kuir Singh, Gurbilas Patshahi X, 25. But muktas universally celebrated in the Sikh tradition are the forty martyrs of Muktsar who earned this title by sacrificing their lives for the Guru and who redeemed their past apostasy of having disowned the Guru and deserted him driven to desperation by the prolonged siege of Anandpur by the hill chiefs and Mughal forces by having their disclaimer torn by the Guru. See MUKTSAR

References :

1. Santokh Singh, Bhai, Sri Gur Pratap Sura/ Granth. Amritsar, 1926-37
2. Padam, Piara Singh, Darban Ratan. Patiala, 1976
3. Chhibbar, Kesar Singh, Bansavalinama Dasan Patshahian Ka. Chandigarh, 1972
4. Vir Singh, Bhai, Sri Kalghidhar Chamatkar. Amritsar, 1963
5. Bhagat Lakshman Singh, Sikh Martyrs. Ludhiana, n.d.