Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Role of Women in Sikh History

Throughout history women have been known to have a key role in defining religion and Sikhism is no exception. In the Sikh history ,there have existed women who have given birth to prophets, had to adorn themselves with necklaces of their innocent children’s limbs, restore the passion for their Guru back into men and lead wars for them. These women deserve no less recognition than the men in Sikh history particularly due to the fact that both women and men are given equal status.
In this week's discussion, we were fortunate enough to have uncle ji Sardar Harkinder Singh come and share his knowledge not just about Sikh Women but about his past experiences and bani . Bhai Sahib is a local London High School teacher and has lectured about Sikhism at The University of Western Ontario in the past.

From woman, man is born;within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.
Guru Nanak, Raag Aasaa Mehla 1, Page 473
**(taken from

  • Many women considered as Brahm Giyanees (saints)

  • The reason why we don’t know as much about them is due to the mistake made my all those in that time who failed to document such women.

  • The words from Gurbani say there is only one male in this world and everyone else in this world is female. “Iss jag main …..”

  • Everyone in the world in one form or another is woman and the only male is God himself.

  • Gurbani tries to infuse in the mind of the seeker that we should always attach ourselves with God

  • At a metaphysical level- There is no distinction between man and woman( all are one

  • Since we have lived under the influence of other cultures, females have been looked down upon, our culture celebrates the birth of a boy etc. ( This is the failure of society

  • Emotional passion and desire to love Sikhi much of the time comes from the woman

  • The power of listening to Gurbani from the mother has played a major role in Sikhi

  • The most significant contributions made by women come after Guru Gobind Singh ji when so many atrocities were being committed by the Moghuls. That was when the new generation were being brought up by the women

  • During the beginning of the 18th century, the women who sacrificed their children, etc never lost faith in the Gurbani and the Guru and in fact, this strengthened the faith of the children

  • Arguments:
  • Why can’t women be part of the Panj Pyarey? How do you justify that? How can we become a Global/worldly religion if we discriminate against these things?

  • There are leaders who say that women cannot participate in such things( If we have leaders like these, how are we supposed to progress as a religion?

  • Rebuttal:
  • Apparently, there are cases of women being part of the Panj Pyaray

  • This is something that shouldn’t be used as a grounds to test equality.

  • The background on Panj Pyarey, Guru Gobind Singh is considered “Mard Akamra”( Panj Pyaray are personifying the Guru Granth Sahib who is and has always been male

  • We hold Bhai Nand Laals Bani in very high esteem- He has said Panj Singh Amrit jo Deveh( basicaaly we must make the assumption that the Panj Pyarey will be male.

  • The women who have taken amrit, they wouldn’t necessarily insist on becoming a Panj Pyarey( it would be a question of ego

  • During that time in India, women really did not have any rights to begin with- its not like Guru ji didn’t give females the chance. Guru ji didn’t discriminate among people-( it is the way he wanted it and it is the way he should be accepted.

  • Its not a big issue, if you have love for the Guru then you won’t assert your rights like that

  • Even for example when we look at things like washing the walkways at the Golden Temple, if a woman wants to do it, it creates a big “ruckus.”

  • For example, we can even look at the laavan- the man leads and then the women follows(can we not make an issue out of that as well?

  • Ultimately, it is about self actualization- the body is like the Harimandar

  • It is a tradition- if it is tradition then it is not religion

  • These things happen but no one ever had any objections towards that

  • Its not as major an issue that it is being made out to be, if you have love for the Guru then you won’t assert your rights like that

  • Questions Raised:
  • In today’s society when we go to the Gurudwara, we see women and men sitting separately, could it be alright to get rid of that and have men and women sit together?

  • It is more of a cultural issue

  • All the leaders in our past who have been emphasized are male, why didn’t we emphasize the female leaders?

  • If we read history, there are many women by why aren’t they mentioned?

  • Guru Sahib has left no doubt that we should not distinguish anyone as being male or female, but as being a human

  • Why should we consider the woman who gave birth to Kings as less of a person?

  • In Reference to the Issue of Women becoming part of the Panj Pyarey

  • But then doesn’t it become a question of ego when men assume that they can only take on this role?

  • Isn’t Sikhi about seeking justice? Why shouldn’t those women be allowed to have that right?

  • If we are still not free people, how can we fight for others?

  • Notable Points:
  • In Sikhi, there is no man or woman- in the end the body is of no value and it is all about the mind.

  • No matter how depressed we are or how much trouble we are in, we always turn to Bani in the end

  • Uncle ji’s Choice of topic:
  • Always finds himself that in his destiny he has come across some interesting people in his life who has helped him to grow

  • The depth that good Sangat brings to us is described in Bani as being something that brings us the most grace ( our total mental state is changed and influenced by Sangat

  • At first, uncle ji did not have much interest in Bani but then believes himself to be fortunate to encounter those who were more learned

  • For uncle ji, when he comes across Bani, everyday there is a new meaning and he finds it to be an eye-opener

  • Words of advice: Never be judgemental about things ( Guru Sahib helps us understand Bani

  • We should spend as much time as possible on Gurbani ( there are times when it may look ritualistic from the outside but in essence, it has a very deep impact upon us

  • A Shabad from the Dasam Granth( written in a time of peace

  • Uncle ji shared a Shabad from the Dasam Granth with you which was written during the time of peace. He wanted to emphasize the beauty of the language in our Bani and the fact that we have so many resources to go to for the betterment of ourselves

  • ਛਤ੍ਰਧਾਰੀ ਛਤ੍ਰੀਪਤਿ ਛੈਲ ਰੂਪ ਛਿਤ ਨਾਥ ਛੌਣੀ ਕਰ ਛਾਇਆ ਬਰ ਛਤ੍ਰੀਪਤਿ ਗਾਈਐ ॥
    He is sung as the canopied monarch, the Lord of canopies, a winsome entity, the Master and Creator of the earth and the superb support.

    ਬਿਸੁਨਾਥ ਬਿਸ੍ਵੰਭਰ ਬੇਦ ਨਾਥ ਬਾਲਾ ਕਰ ਬਾਜੀਗਰਿ ਬਾਨ ਧਾਰੀ ਬੰਧਨ ਬਤਾਈਐ ॥
    He is the Lord Sustainer of the Universe, Master of Vedas depicted as Lord having discipline.

    ਨਿਉਲੀ ਕਰਮ ਦੂਧਾਧਾਰੀ ਬਿਦਿਆਧਰ ਬ੍ਰਹਮਚਾਰੀ ਧਿਆਨ ਕੋ ਲਗਾਵੈ ਨੈਕ ਧਿਆਨ ਹੂੰ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ ॥
    The Yogis performing Neoli Karma (cleansing of intestines), those subsisting only on milk, learned and celibates, all meditate upon Him, but without an iota of getting His comprehension.

    ਰਾਜਨ ਕੇ ਰਾਜਾ ਮਹਾਰਾਜਨ ਕੇ ਮਹਾਰਾਜਾ ਐਸੋ ਰਾਜ ਛੋਡਿ ਅਉਰ ਦੂਜਾ ਕਉਨ ਧਿਆਈਐ ॥੩॥੪੨॥
    He is the king of kings and emperor of emperors, Who else should be meditated upon, forsaking such a Supreme monarch.3.42.

  • Guru Sahib is basically describing all of the qualities of Waheguru

  • It is the power of Guru’s words

  • Guru Sahib is telling us how to get rid of ego: Akal Purakh is the King of Kings, you must forget everything else and only remember him

    Otpreka Singh said...

    Interesting Debate, Good points from both sides

    Anonymous said...

    Can someone clarify how God can be male.

    Amneet said...

    The analogy shouldnt be taken literally. God is gender free, however we can only try to understand Gods existance with our narrow intellect and comparisons. I think referring to God as the only male is to demonstrate our relationship with God, and show that we as humans are all the same, that gender is socially constructed.

    Anonymous said...

    In Sikhi we look at God as a male and all people as females. This is noit meant literally but more symbolically. The same way that a wife serves their husband (or the way they used to serve their husband) is the same we should all be trying to serve our husband, God.

    A metaphor is commonly used in bani that once one merges into God they have gotten married to their husband.

    Literally speaking, god is neither male nor female and bani does refer to God in the masculin and femenin