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1 DAUGHTERS OF WAHEGURU: EXAMINING POLITICS OF GENDER IN THE GLOBAL SIKH COMMUNITY BY ILENE GILLISPIE A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Religion Under the sponsorship of Dr. John Newman Sarasota, FL May 2012
ii You are my Hope, and You are my Faith. I take Your Name and enshrine it within my heart. (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, 1299)
iii Acknowledgments Professor Newman Thank you for your guidance, which has always been both insightful and kind. Your classes during my first semester at New College were what inspired me to study religion and, ultimately, to pursue the path of ministry, and your great teach ing and stories inspired me to visit India. Thank you for supporting me during this thesis process and for encouraging me to follow my own happiness and interests, wherever they might lead. Professor Marks Thank you for always lifting me up, even while ch allenging me profoundly to grow in sometimes difficult ways. You have been a role model to me as an educator, clergy member, and human being. Thank you for being the impetus for my growth in so many ways. Professor White Thank you for be ing such a supporti ve presence and for encouraging me to pursue my interests. You were the first professor to work with me deeply in my path toward Professor Langston I hope one day to emulate your calmness, gentleness, and pro found wisdom. I have so enjoyed my study with you, which at the beginning seemed so daunting but which has brought me to consider life from so many new perspectives. Professor Portugal Thank you for your support through some of my toughest challenges at Ne w College, and for always being someone in whom I knew I could place my trust. Professor Chad Seales While you may no longer be present here at New College, I want to thank you profoundly for your decision, during my first year, to show a documentary abo ut Sikhs in America. That choice piqued my interest in Sikhism, which has prompted me to travel across the globe, to learn a new language, to study devotional music and scripture, and to reshape my consciousness. My study of Sikhism has truly been one of t he most profound joys of my life. To my mother Lisa Thank you for your generosity, your understanding through so many challenges, and your unfailing support. You have inspired me to follow my dreams, and I hope to one day grow into a person as beautiful as you are. To my father Mike Thank you for your wisdom, your gentleness, and your constant presence in my life. You are one of the kindest people I have ever known. To Allie I meant what I said at one of our UU meetings: I truly thank God that you are in m y life. Thank you for being my friend, for lifting me up, and for always being a person that celebrates life rather than taking it for granted. To Delaney I feel so blessed that our paths crossed here at New College. I know that you will continue to be a b eautiful presence in my life, and I strive to emulate your mildness, understanding, and faith. To Chris Thanks for being my constant companion and for always making me laugh. So many of my memories of these past four years are with you (even down to my fir st afternoon at New College).
iv To Natalie Thank you for making New College feel like my home. You are precious to me and such a blessing in my life. To Heather Thank you for constantly making me smile, and for always offering your help, hugs, and listening ears. To Jenica Thank you for being one of my first friends at N ew College, for i ncluding me in your Bible study, and for teaching me about faith. I am constantly amazed by you and am so glad to have you in my life. To Mara Thank you for being there for m been as beautiful without you. To Gracelena son and I feel blessed to be your friend. To all of my friends at New College Named or unnamed, you have touched my life and made a place for me in your journey. Thank you for celebrating me, challenging me, comforting me, and making me feel at home here. I know these years will go with me, whatever changes I experience and wherever the path leads me. To Hayley Enright and everyone at Open Door Community Acupuncture Thank you for including me, healing me, and being my friend. I have learned and gained so mu ch through your kindness and care. To my professors and classmates at University of Madras, and all the friends I met in India Thank you for welcoming me unanimously and for being there with me through all the many changes that India brought into my life. It was truly the experience of a lifetime to study with and get to know you all. To the sangats of Guru Nanak Sat Sangh Sabha (Chennai), the Sikh Foundation of Virginia, Tampa Gurdwara Sahib, and the Anand Vidya ashrams in America and India Thank you for a ffirming my beliefs, including me, celebrating me, teaching me, and inspiring me. Thank you for being open to me and accepting me as I am, and for sharing your stories with me. You cannot know the difference you have made in my life. To all the women whose testimonies shaped this thesis Your stories inspired me to undertake this research, and I was far from disappointed. Thank you for your openness, and for your patience with me as I have tried to learn what it means to be a Sikh woman. To Waheguru J i Through Your teachings, my wanderings cease. You are the Great Primal Sahib Ji. I am humbled by Your presence in my life and so grateful to be on this journe y toward You.
v ABSTRACT DAUGHTERS OF WAHEGURU: EXAMINING POLITICS OF GENDER IN THE GLOBAL SIKH COMMUNITY Ilene Gillispie New College of Florida, 2012 This work aims to add to the Western scholarship on the Sikh religion which I have found valuable but as of ye t narrow in scope It i s vital that we raise awareness about who Sikhs are and what they believe if we wish to reduce the amount of violence and prejudice Sikhs face which has historically been large In this work, I speak particularly to the lives of female practitioners, because I see their situation as unique but also highly reflective of a current trend in religious scholarship the emergence of feminist theory within and surrounding religious traditions. The info rmation we have only beginning to be heard. While Sikhism was founded upon profoundly egalitarian principles, t here is as of yet a great disparity between the egalitarianism of Sikh scripture and the enactment of these ideals. I identify three main factors as contributing to this disparity: the patriarchal culture of India, concerns of economy, and the political realm.
vi Additionally, I propose that militarism and extremism have had a profound impact on the field of Sikh studies, both in India and in the West. In writing thi s work, I relied heavily on Sikh history, scripture, and the testimonies of Sikh women whose interviews I collected as part of my research. Professor John Newman Religion
vii A Brief Timeline of Sikhism April 15 1469: Guru Nanak born in Talwandi (now located in Pakistan) A round 1500: Guru and traveling 1526 1707: M oghu l rule of Punjab. 1539 1552: Guru Angad is Guru. 1552 1574: Guru Amar Das is Guru. 1574: Harm andir Sahib (Golden Temple) construction begins in Amritsar 1574 1581: Guru Ram Das is Guru. 1581 1606: Guru Arjan Dev is Guru. He is martyred by the Moghuls in 1606. 1604: Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scriptures) first installed at the Golden Temple. 1606: F oundation stone of Akal Takht (Sikh parliament) laid by Guru Hargobind at Amritsar 1606 1644: Guru Hargobind is Guru. 1628: First battle of Guru Hargobind against Moghuls 1644 1661: Guru Har Rai is Guru. 1661 1664: Guru Har Krishan (child guru) is Guru. 1665 1675: Guru Tegh Bahadur is Guru. In 1665 he was imprisoned by Moghuls for a period of months. He is martyred at the order of Moghul emperor Aurangzeb in 1675. 1675 1708: Guru Gobind Singh is Guru. 1699: Baisakhi baptism and establishment of Khalsa (a Singh. 1705: Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scriptures) finalized. 1705: Battle of Muktsar between Moghuls and Sikhs. Forty Sikh men renounce Guru Gobind Singh and later return to his service Mai Bhago (famous Sikh woman) fight s with them. 1708: Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scriptures) given guruship 1947: Partition of British India (creation of Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab). 1950: Rehat Maryada (Sikh code of conduct) issued by Akal Takht (Sikh parliament) June 1984: Indian g overnment storms Golden temple. Several hundred Sikhs are killed and the temple is extensively damaged. October 1984: Indira Gandhi assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards as a reaction to Golden Temple occupation leading to riots and Hindu violence against S ikhs. May 2004: Manmohan Singh sworn in as first non Hindu Prime Minister of India.
viii Table of Contents Dedication ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... ii Acknowledgements ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ iii Abstract ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ v Timeline of Sikh History ................................ ................................ ................................ .. vii Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 1 Chapter 1: Sikh History ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 9 Chapter 2: Sikhism in Modern India ................................ ................................ .................. 27 Chapter 3: Sikhism in the United States ................................ ................................ ............ 44 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 60 Glossary of Foreign Terms ................................ ................................ ................................ 70 Works Cited ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 73 Photographic Insert
1 Introduction In the Sikh scriptures, Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, made a bold proclamation about the role of women: engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another wo man; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. 1 This passage of gurbani (words of the Sikh teachers) was cited again and again in both the academic resea rch I undertook and the personal interviews I conducted in preparing to write this thesis. In my introduction, I would like to explore the origins of this research why I chose it, and its relevance. I was introduced to the Sikh religion during a New Colle ge course called Islam in America. As part of the course, we discussed 9/11 and watched a documentary about the general public, who were fearful and often undereducated. While Muslims were the intended targets for this hatred, it was in fact the Sikhs who bore a large part of it, since their distinct appearances made them highly visible. As a student of religion, I had been aware of Sikhism, but had very limited experience with it. The documentary touched me deeply, and I began to research Sikhism on my own. 1 Guru Granth Sahib, 473
2 The more I explored Sikhism, the more I became fascinated by it. I pored over the books I had found, and uti lized many excellent online resources to learn more about Sikh theology, history, and traditions. I attended a gurdwara or Sikh temple, for the first time in March of 2009, in my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia. I felt profoundly welcomed there, and my i nterest in Sikhism deepened even further. I began attending gurdwara weekly, reading Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scriptures), and listening to gurbani kirtan (Sikh devotional music). My great interest in Sikhism, combined with the coursework I had done in Indian religions, led me to consider studying abroad in India. I decided to attend Madras University in Chennai, and took courses there in the department of Indian Philosophy in the spring of 2011. On my way to Chennai, I spent some time in North India. I had become involved with a Sikh ashram (spiritual community) in the United States, and they had a sister community in New Delhi. The spirit of their founder had been beautifully ecumenical: although he himself was Sikh, he revered the prophets of all reli gions and taught that they had all come from the same source. I spent time at the community in New Delhi during December of 2010, and returned again to the community in January of 2012 to do formal research for this thesis. My experiences in this community were both fulfilling and revealing, and I will refer to the time I spent there later in this work. My interest in Sikhism began to deepen not only in an academic direction, but also in a spiritual one. My beliefs in equality and religious diversity wer e buoyed by spending time with Sikhs. I grew in faith in so many ways visiting Harmandir Sahib gurdwara in Chennai, where I was taught kirtan (devotional music) for free by kind temple employe es. Later I
3 spent a month traveling in Punjab and North India. I was always welcomed, fed, taken care of, and deeply affirmed throughout my various explorations of the Sikh religion. My sentiments about these early forays into Sikhism were echoed in an int erview I conducted in January 2012 with Niranjan Kaur, a Turkish convert to Sikhism. She said this of her introduction to the Sikhs: What I find in the Sikh dharma, and what touched me deeply, is the service to humanity and to G uru (God) Because when I w as first in the Golden Temple, the prasad [sacred food], they want to serve you tea, they want to just take care of you. And the langar (free community kitchen) and everything. This deeply touched me; this made so much you [how it changed me]. That was it. This was initiation for me. Since then I wear the turban. I am happy to wear it; it gives me strength; it gives me direction ; 2 My journey through Sikhism began as a spiritual fascination and developed into an intensive academic exploration. I have primarily developed my background and conducted research on my own because Sikh s tudies is still a relatively small field, not widely represented in American undergraduate or graduate institutions. It seems unfortunate yet not incomprehensible why this is so Sikh studies is an emerging field in the West, and in India its scholarship is usually conducted in the Punjabi language. While there are many Sikhs in the United States (somewhere between 200,000, the most conservative estimate, and 700,000, the most generous), most Americans are woefully devoid of knowledge about the Sikh religion or even oblivious of its existence. While South Asian studies is growing in popularity as an academic discipline, few people outside academia have had the opportunity to become educated about the Sikh religion. 2 Personal Interview with Niranjan Kaur
4 ifth largest organized religion, isolated, ignored, and sometimes in danger. Sikhs around the world have met persecution due to their unique appearance (which I will describe in detail later). Even in their native country of India, they face special chal lenges and, at times, discrimination. This phenomenon is only intensified by the lack of available scholarship and resources about the Sikh tradition. Sikh studies is in every regard an emerging field, but one issue stands out as particularly neglected the role of women in the Sikh tradition. Sikh women not only face challenges based upon their religion; they also meet a unique set of circumstances relating to their position within a tradition which claims to empower them, but which also sometimes devalues them. Sikh studies is indisputably a male centric field, with scholarship in both the West and in India dominated by male authors and usually focusing on the experiences of men. ears a stories have historically been left, for the most part, untold. makes their exper iences distinct from those of other South Asian women? And what larger good can be gained from such an investigation? I aim first to add to the Western scholarship on Sikhism, which I have found valuable but as of yet narrow in scope. My work will fall int o an even smaller subset works about Sikh women, with particular emphasis on feminism. In the West, there are only two well known authors contributing visibly to this field Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh, a feminist scholar whose theoretical and interpretative works I will frequently cite later in this text, and Cynthia Keppley
5 Mahmood, a graduate of New College of Florida who has done extensive work within the Sikh community around issues of gender, militancy, and identity. Before embarking upon any major di scussion of my chosen topic, I believe it is vital to acknowledge the constraints within which this analysis will take place. It cannot be forgotten during an exploration of this kind that the available information about Sikh ways lacking. There is a dearth of objective sociological information about the lives of women in Indian religious communities both past and contemporary, and this distinctly limits my work. Instead of drawing from a wealth of impartial scholarly sources, I have utilized a variety of texts and accounts, ranging from academic to wholly personal. In between lies a huge body of semi scholarly work which is often markedly colored by opinion. Insiders frequently extol the high status of women within the Sikh tra dition, while outsiders have challenged this traditional assumption often to extremes. Neither of these groups has produced much work that is sufficiently objective for use in a scholarly analysis, and so we are left to sift through their work and draw our own conclusions. Luckily there have been a few scholars of Sikhism who have done painstaking and fairly objective research. One of these is W.H. McLeod, who se works I consulted in detail in the process of writing this thesis. McLeod traveled from New Zealand to Punjab in 1958 as a Presbyterian missionary. He became fascinated by the Sikh religion and wrote many texts which have now become mainstays in the field of Sikh and South Asian studies. I believe it is critical to add to the developing field of Sikh studies for two main reasons. Firstly, it is vital that we raise awareness in the West about who Sikhs are and what they believe if we wish to reduce the amount of violence and prejudice Sikhs face.
6 Moreover, this is not only an i ssue for Sikhs, but indeed for all people whose cultures and to cultivate religious tolerance, I also believe that an inquiry into Sikhism could reveal much thought p rovoking knowledge regarding the actual lives of Sikh practitioners. I speak particularly to the lives of female practitioners, because I see their situation as unique but also highly reflective of a current trend in religious scholarship the emergence of feminist theory within and surrounding religious traditions. To investigate this recent phenomenon, we first need to define the terms which shape it. What is religion? And what is feminism? Mary Pat Fisher, eminent author and ok religion to mean a particular response to sacred dimensions as shaped by institutionalized traditions. Religion encompasses beliefs, practices, ritual objects, scriptures or oral traditions, and specialists who administ er and 3 led by men as father figures. The major world religions practiced today have all been 4 Tied deeply to this feminism can be defined as the belief that women should have the same opportunities as men, and that relationships should be based on mutuality rather than oppression and hierarc hy. It is both 5 two terms impeccably fitting for the research I have undertaken about issues of gender 3 Fisher, 12 4 Fisher, 13 5 Fisher, 24
7 and feminism in the Sikh religion, and would advise readers to k eep these definitions in mind throughout this thesis. What have been the goals of feminism in the religious sphere? Fisher asserts that They want to let women speak for themselve s rather than be defined by men 6 This is very much consonant with my aim for this research greatest goals for this work, sa original traditions behind [religious] institutions and often finding them radical, reformist, and inclusive 7 These are the qualities which I ha ve observed as being deeply present in Sikh theology, and which I believe are integral to its practice. I hope that the growing involvement of feminist theorists can contribute to a trend which I have already observed in Sikh studies and which has by no me ans been brought to light by feminists alone the plea by Sikhs from many walks of life that their fellow believers return to the original teachings of their 500 year old hi story. What are the inconsistencies keeping Sikhism from being practiced as its Gurus taught it should be? How have theorists, specifically feminist theorists, spoken to these concerns? I see the overarching issue as this: there currently exists a great di sparity egalitarian theology and its practice. The reasons for this are 6 Fisher, 24 (emphasis added). 7 Fisher, 31 (emphasis added).
8 complex, and their elucidation is my goal in this thesis. I will attempt to analyze this disparity through an examination of multiple facets of Sikhism its origins, i ts recent practice both in India and in the West, the personal research I have conducted in the field of Sikh studies, and the existing scholarship that deals with women in institutionalized Sikhism. Throughout this work, I will rely heavily on gurbani (Si kh scriptures), Sikh history, and the personal testimonies of Sikh women. I hope to illuminate issues that are, while particularly important to Sikh studies, very much relevant to our changing, multi faith world as well.
9 Chapter 1: Sikh Hist ory What is the Sikh religion? How is it distinct from (and yet an amalgamation of) the Hindu, Muslim, Sant, and Bhakti contexts from which it emerged? And how can we Ma In the midst of patriarchal Indian culture, a new religion began developing in the sixteenth century around a wise spiritual master who became known as Guru Nanak (1469 1539 ). His seat of spiritual authority was passed down through a series of nine other enlightened masters, all of them men. The transmission of spiritual power was then given by the Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666 1708), to the scripture that the Guru s had assembled, the Guru Granth Sahib. The movement is now the fifth largest of all world religions, with over 22 million followers It has had an empowering influence on women, as well as on people from lower castes, but the oppressive cultural effects o f patriarchy and casteism still have not been overcome 8 set out to teach people that God pervades everywhere, all beings, all places. No disti 9 evident by examining his vision as transposed against North Indian society at the time. The mo st significant force at the time of Nanak was both cultural and spiritual in nature the Hindu religion, whose traditions and customs have shaped Indian life for thousands of years. During the period in which Nanak lived and taught, Brahmanical 8 Fisher, 270 (emphasis added). 9 Fisher, 270
10 Hinduism exe rted huge influence over all aspects of Indian life. Fisher defines structured way in which only those who 10 Brahmanical Hinduism also supported other phenomena which religious rituals, monetary offerings to deities, and worship of the divine in the form of idols and statues. Nanak development of his new tradition. Sikhism is often perceived to be a fusion of Islam and Hinduism. This seems logical a synthesis, as it were, of the conquered and the conquering traditio Recent scholarship has argued, however, that there is in fact little evidence of Sikhism being a synthesis of Islamic and Hindu religious ideas. Nanak did teach that Hindui sm and Islam had much in common, but this was a commonality of error, not truth; the orthodox practitioners of both systems were denounced as that were indigenous to India i tself, especially the great expressions of devotional Hinduism. The over arching and most pervasive form of such devotion is bhakti which in North India found expression in loving devotion offered to incarnations of Vishnu, especially Rama and Krishna. An other movement that was influential in North India was that of the Nath yogis, which was related to the very ancient tantric yoga tradition. The Nath sect rejected many of the external rules of Brahmanical Hinduism, as well as its scriptures and duties, an d gave special importance to masters, or Naths as the only true spiritual guides. Out of the general bhakti tradition and the Nath sects there emerged in North India a new and distinctive development known as the Sant tradition. The Sants like their bhak ti counterparts, placed an overwhelming emphasis on love as the characteristic emotion of true religion, but they did not direct their devotion to intermediary incarnations, such as Rama and Krishna, but to the eternal, formless God. As in the Nath traditi on, there is a rejection of all Hindu ceremonies, 10 Fisher, 64
11 scriptures, incarnations, food taboos, and caste distinctions, including the role of the Brahmanical priests. God was the transcendent Creator, but He was also immanent in his creation, above all in man him self. So the path to God was by inward meditation upon His name, that is, on the manifestation of Himself that God makes to His devotees. The Sant tradition also places great emphasis on the role of the guru who was at once a human teacher and the voice o f God. The Sants were drawn from the lower castes, not the traditional religious elites, and they taught through a language close to the one spoken by the ordinary summed up the relatio entire vocabulary and philosophic terminology of the Sikh faith stems from Hindu concepts that were often at variance with t heir usage in the old tradition. 11 in its traditional Brahmanical context and in its more esoteric Sant and Nath forms, exerted great influence over all aspects of life since it co nstituted a huge part of Indian cultural tradition. The deeply ingrained traditions of Brahmanical Hinduism, along with the Muslim cultural traditions supported by the Moghuls, left women in a questionable position at the time of Nanak. Ritual purity, so f undamental to the Brahmanical Hindu tradition, spoke directly to the role of women, who were considered ritually unclean and often excluded from formal temple worship. They could not serve as priests, and were subjected to varying types of pitiable treatme nt, including purdah (the seclusion or veiling of women), sati (immolation of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands), and many other unfavorable conditions which will be discussed later. Caste also played a formidable role in Indian soci ety at the time of Nanak. Not only did it dictate who was eligible for priesthood and par ticipation in religious rituals, it also created and stratified rules surrounding marriage, occupation, politics, and many other aspects of life. Caste was another way in which restrictions were placed upon 11 Embree, 494 5.
12 women (and upon Indians in general). The caste system sought to stringently delineate groups from one another, creating deep divisions in Indian society. This phenomenon was particularly true during the time of Nanak who would witness caste inequality directly and preach vehemently against it. We now have a basic outline of the conditions society was facing during the time of Nanak, who was born into an upper class Khatri (Punjabi warrior) family in 1469. H e was born in a North Indian city which was at that time called Talwandi. It is now called Nankana Sahib in honor of his birth, and is located in the modern day state of Pakistan. i. He had one older sister, Bibi Nanaki, for whom he was named. The siblings had a close hielding contemplative nature. Nanak proved to be a very spiritual child early in his life, and many myths tell of peculiar happenings in his childhood (such as a king cob ra giving shade to the sleeping young Nanak). These stories are called the janamsakhis janamsakhis may as born five hundred years ago, but [they] certainly [give] a faithful representation of an image which the janamsakhis bear witness, and herein too lies a considerable m easure of their value. It
13 is an image which testifies to the fact that in history what is believed to have happened can commonly be more importa 12 janamsakhis are important, if only because they remind us of the powerful role of oral tradition in Sikhism. From both the oral and written traditions, we find out that Nanak had a vibrantly spiritual childhood; that women played a great role in his early life; and that he was very different from his peers. The janamsakhis and legends about his life assert that, at the age of nine, Nanak rejected the upanayana ceremony, in which upper caste Hindu boys are endowed with a sacred thread which marks their passa ge into a state considered pure the Name [of God], honor and a true thread are obtained. In this way, a sacred thread will be put on, which will not break, and whi 13 With this proclamation, Nanak renounced the symbolic Hindu ritual, declaring his loyalty instead to a formless God who could not be manifest as a thread, or in any other form. This was one of many examples th roughout his life in which Nanak would speak out divided people instead of promoting unity which he saw as the core aim of spirituality. Around the age of thirty, i t is said that Nanak gained a deeper level of spiritual understanding and began to preach a message distinct from any existing religious tradition. The janamsakhis river Bein, where he went to bathe each morning and where, around the year 1500, Nanak 12 McLeod, 36, The Evolution of the Sikh Community (emphasis added). 13 Macauliffe, 275, Vol. I
14 is said to have reached enlightenment. After experiencing the presence of God, the first words Nanak uttered were these, which were to become the preamble for the important Sikh prayer Japji Sahib: Ek One Universal Creator God, whose Name Is Truth. Creative being personified. No fear. No hatred. Image of the Undying, beyond birth, Self existent. By Guru's Grace. These words, which would later become known as the mul (root) mantra reflect Ek Onkar means not only that God is One, but that we are all One, and that we all exist as part of the Divine. Guru Gobind 14 Nanak implemented this understand ing in deeply transformative ways. From the very beginning of his teaching, he spoke out against injustices which had their origins in caste, class, ould live with his disciples, whom he called Sikhs Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh, the preeminent Western scholar of Sikh feminism, neat horizontal divisions and vertical hierarchies of society were broken down. Three important institutions of Sikhism seva (voluntary service), langar (community meal), and sangat (congregation) evolved in which men and women formerly from different castes and religions took equal part. Together they 14 Personal interview with Jean Ann Clark quoting Dasam Granth, pg. 51.
15 listened to and recited the sacred hymns, together they cooked and ate langar together they formed a democratic congregation without priests or ordained ministers. These institutions were intended to open up a window of opportunity for all women, irrespective of their caste, class, or marital status married and single, widows and wives, were equally validated. Women were no longer confi ned to homes, but could now freely participate in sangat wherever it met. There were no more rules for them to eat apart or after their men: in langar they could sit along with men, cook and serve with men, and eat with them. No longer were menstruation or childbirth stigmatized as pollution; they were regarded as essential natural processes. No longer were women rejected as temptresses to be left behind (as Buddhist monks or Hindu celibates might do); they were celebrated as vital partners in spiritual gro But since they lived within the parameters of an overwhelmingly patriarchal society of northern India, things did not change much for Sikh women. Conditioned for centuries to accept their physical, spiritual, and emotional inferiority, they were unable to utilize the anti structures introduced by the Sikh Guru 15 The above assertion by Kaur Singh (that things did not change much for Sikh women) represents a prominent theme in our discussion of gender issues in Sikhism. It will become evident through o ur exploration of Sikh history that, although the Gurus were at their deepest core social and religious reformers who cared a great deal about the situation of women, conditions for women did not always improve. This has to do with the patriarchal culture of India, as Kaur Singh asserts, as well as other factors which will on the surrounding society, we must examine what exactly these teachings were. We are able to access the teachings of Nanak and his succeeding Gurus through a uniquely preserved medium: Guru Granth Sahib, the compilation of hymns written by the Sikh Gurus as well as by some of their Hindu and Muslim contemporaries (the bhagats or ho ly people/saints). Guru Granth Sahib is unique in several respects. Firstly, its authenticity has been closely guarded it was written by the Gurus, compiled by them, 15 Kaur Singh, 92 93, The Birth of the Khalsa (emphasis added).
16 and copies exist which are written in their own hands. Secondly, it is unique in its curre nt role that of eternal Guru (teacher). After the tenth Sikh Guru passed away, he left the leadership of the Sikh religion to the Granth (scripture) and Panth (Sikh community). The Guru Granth Sahib is thus venerated as a living Guru, just as the human Gur us were. Since the textual integrity of Guru Granth Sahib has been carefully maintained since its origin, it is a rich source of knowledge for modern scholars who wish to examine the teachings of the (human) Sikh Gurus. So what, exactly, did the Sikh Guru s teach? More particularly, what did they believe was their role as social reformers? What were their teachings about equality and gender? Guru Granth Sahib gives us several verses about the importance of equality between men and women. For example, Guru R am Das (the fourth Guru) tells us that He is contained within every woman and man. 16 Here it is important to mention that, in Sikhism, Waheguru (God, literally ale. Instead, as is expressed by the Punjabi language does not have a gender for God. Unfortunately, when translating, the proper meaning cannot be properly conveyed without u sing Him/His/He/Brotherhood, S/He, etc., but this distorts the meaning by giving the impression that God is masculine, 17 We can see that Guru Granth Sahib sh abads (hymns). Guru Arjan says of 16 Guru Granth Sahib, 605 17 Sikh
17 18 After Nanak, the lineage of Gurus was passed down not always according to family lineage; however, each of the following ni ne Gurus is considered to be an incarnation of Nanak, sharing in the light of his wisdom. They all wrote, in the style of Nanak, of a formless God who is unable to be manifest in the physical realm. Guru Granth Sahib and all of gurbani (the writings of th e Gurus) teach the message that God is far too great to be confined by constructs like gender, religion, caste, or country. Jaap Sahib a famous composition of Guru Gobind Singh recited daily by baptized Sikhs, devotes itself to describing the attributes a nd deeds of Akal Purakh the Timeless One (God). In verse 18, Guru Gobind Singh says: Salutations to God who does not belong to any country. Salutations to the Unattired. Salutations to God who is beyond any specified home. Salutations to God to whom no one can give birth. 19 This message is reiterated throughout Jaap Sahib the other Sikh banis (daily prayers), and all of Sikh scripture God is much too great to be containe d by our designations. Not only does Guru Granth Sahib show us that God is witho ut gender and present in each of us; it also speaks clearly about concrete including dowry, sati and the spirituality of women. Guru Granth Sahib clearly speaks out against dowry, a custom present both during the time of the Gurus and in modern other dowry, which th e self willed manmukhs (ones motivated by desire) offer for show, 18 Guru Granth Sahib, 103 19 J aap Sahib, verse 18
18 is only false egotism and a worthless display. O my father, please give me the Name of 20 Guru Amar Das, the third Guru, made clear his view on sati the ritual immolation of widows: Do not call them sati known as sati who abide in modesty and contentment. They serve their Lord, and ands are alive or dead, those wives (who immolate themsel ves) remain far away from them. 21 Guru Amar Das has made it evident that the word sati, been misconstrued. It is clear that ritual suicide is not the way to become un ited with immolation do not have a place in Sikh theology. bani (utteranc es), but even from these it is evident that the Gurus felt passionate about issues affecting women. How did they enact this empowering theology? Most significantly, they gave women prominent positions in Sikh life. This phenomenon began with Nanak himself, who showed an example to his followers at Kartarpur by treating his wife, Mata Sulakhni, with great respect, and encouraging her equal involvement in their emerging community. Her participation as wife, mother, role model, and the first preparer and serve r of langar Khivi, wife of Guru Angad, the second Guru. She was given the responsibility by her husba nd of arranging accommodations for the many pilgrims who came to see the Guru. 20 Guru Granth Sahib, 79 21 Guru Granth Sahib, 787
19 This included management of the langar and organization of sewa (voluntary service) in the community. For these accomplishments, she is mentioned by name in the Guru Granth Sahi 22 Guru Gr anth Sahib, a rare feat for any person, male or female. As Jean Ann Clark, an American living in an Indian Sikh community, said to me Sikh history. We have heroines of gr eat strength to look at. But [also] a lot of people [are] 23 As Sikh history progressed, many examples of strong, si gnificant Sikh women emerged. Three of the most important Sikh women lived during the period of Guru Gobind Singh (1666 1708), whose mission they all helped to advance. Bahadur. He was martyred in 1675 and Mata Gujri took up the responsibility of raising their son Gobind Singh, to whom his father had bestowed the Guruship. It was vital that Gobind be reared by a strong parent who would keep the values of Sikhism alive in his life, si nce he received the responsibility of Guruship at just nine years of age. Mata Gujri was his counselor, spiritual teacher, and later his supremely loyal follower. She took great care of her grandchildren, who are referred to as the Char Sahibzada (four son s), and 22 Guru Granth Sahib, 967 23 Personal interview with Jean Ann Clark
20 who all died in their youth as martyrs to the cause of Sikhism during the years of Moghul invasion. The two oldest Sahibzade died in battle alongside their father, Gobind Singh, while the youngest two were bricked alive (enclosed in bricks) alongsi de Mata Gujri. Thus, she was a martyr for Sikhism, was married to a martyr, was the mother of a martyr, and was the grandmother of four martyrs. Martyrdom is highly respected in the Sikh tradition, and so Mata Gujri holds a place of high regard in the anna ls of Sikh history. The period in which Guru Gobind Singh lived was a turbulent and transformative time for Sikhism. The conflict between Sikhs and Moghuls, which had been present since the birth of Sikhism, had come to a head. Sikhs were assembled into Kh alsa, Guru were threefold: to defend the territory they perceived as belonging to them, to protect their right to practice Sikhism, and to stand up for the rights of ot her non Muslims to their attempts to achieve these goals, and, as we have seen, some of these followers were women. Their presence in Sikh history is crucial to the ena ctment of its egalitarian message. Mai Bhago is another famous Sikh woman who lived at the time of Guru Gobind forces at the battle of Muktsar, helping to defend the right s of Sikhs and Hindus to practice their beliefs freely. The Moghul imperial army had sieged Anandpur Sahib (a Sikh holy city) and Khalsa (the Sikh army) fought against them for eight months, defending their rights to the Sikh holy city and keeping the inva ders at bay. In my interview with Navneet Kaur, an Indian Sikh women living half time in New Delhi and
21 half time in New York, she described the battle of Muktsar as an example in which Sikh In Gu one case ( the battle of Muktsar ) there were forty men. For many days there was s at all, and they went home. And when they returned, and fight. They were so courageous; they were so brave. They said, if you are giving up, we will take over. So they encourag ed those men, and the men went and fought. And they all died [as martyrs]. And Guru Gobind Singh put their bodies in his lap, and he said, I will take these [documents] that you wrote [renouncing me], and I will rip them up, and you are all blessed. And Ma i Bhago was the only survivor; she had fought along with the men. 24 Mai Bhago is celebrated as a courageous Sikh woman for her rallying of the troops at Muktsar, when the Khalsa army was far outnumbered by Moghuls. Later she would become a bodyguard of Guru Gobind Singh, so that she could remain perpetually in his service. Most contemporary Sikhs laud her service to Sikhism as an example of However, as Jean Ann Clarke p Sikh. But even then, in order to stay close to Guru Gobind Singh clothes she was simply allowed to be like a man 25 This phenomenon will surface in many of our later discussions that historical Indian Sikhs, contemporary Indian Sikhs, contemporary American Sikhs, and contemporary theorists will disagree about the feminism or equality that is present in the Returning to our discussion of famous Sikh women, Mata Sahib Kaur was another contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh who is given great respect in the Sikh tradition. As 24 Personal interview with Navneet Kaur 25 Personal i nterview with Jean Ann Clark (emphasis added).
22 she was growing up, Sahib Kaur exhibited constant loving devotion to the Guru (who, at the time, was Gobind Singh). Her father promised her to him in marriage, but Guru Gobind Singh already had a wife (many say two). However, she opted, instead of marrying someone else, to spend her life serving Guru Gobind Singh and helping in his affairs. She was thus considered a friend to his family and lived with them, helping to advance the mission of Sikhism. This aim was brought to its highest fruition in 1699, when she helped Guru Gobind Singh prepare th e baptismal waters for his transformative amrit (nectar) ceremony, in which he inducted members of all castes, classes, and former religions into the order of the Khalsa or pure ones. All were given a code of conduct ( rehit) to follow, and five kakkars (a rticles of faith) to wear. Initiates were also given new surnames ceremony was a huge tur ning point for the Sikhs, who were given a highly cohesive identity through which they were able to form an army and defend the rights of the Sikh and Hindu communities against Muslim invaders. While we are unsure of whether Guru Gobind Singh gave amrit to women in 1699, we do know that he pronounced them all Kaurs and that they participated in the ceremony (as is evidenced by the example of widespread at the time of Gobind Singh, many women take initiation today and choose to live by the strict rules accompanying this rite. What did the creation of Khalsa mean for Sikh women at its establishment? Firstly, their mere presence at the ceremony (of which we can be certain) is encourag ing for such a significant spiritual event, since this would have been uncommon at the time in
23 the other religious traditions of North India. We can be certain also that Gobind Singh this renaming is actually highly significant it would eliminate the pressures associated with familial The giving of the nnihilation of all 26 It also gave Sikhs a cohesive code of conduct, which made it easier to determine how they ought to enact religion in their daily lives. On Baisakhi, Guru Gobind Singh bestowed five kakkars (articles of faith) upon his followers. These were: kara (steel bangle) kacchera (cotton breeches) kanga (wooden comb) kesha (uncut hair) and kirpan (ceremonial dagger). These articles were given to female and male Sikhs alike: while we are uns ure whether or not Gobind Singh baptized women at his first amrit ceremony, we can be sure that they began taking amrit as soon as five years afterward (since Mai Bhago was part of Khalsa, Guru Gobind h practitioners alike assert that these articles, as worn by both men and women, serve as a physical manifestation of the gender equality preached for so long by the Sikh Gurus. But has their role really been one of equalizer? Or, instead, have the Sikh ar ticles of faith further served to deepen the division between female and male practitioners? 26 Kaur Singh, 126 The B irth of the Khalsa
24 Guninder Kaur Singh asserts this about the five kakkars : have been reduced and contracted; they have ended up becoming mere signs of male dominance. 27 Why doe s Kaur Singh claim this? How have these articles of faith, given equally to female and male Sikhs, served to subjugate women instead of bringing them into a state of greater equality with the men whose symbols they share? Kaur Singh, the only notable Sikh theorist writing on issues of feminism in the West, claims that the five kakkars have become symbols of male dominance, in large part due to their identification with the military aspect of Khalsa identity: Instead of symbols of self respect and mutuality as Guru Gobind Singh intended and female roles based on a stereotypical identification of gender char and motivations and make the man who wears them expect to be strong, virile, The woman wears the same five symbols of strength that he does, but in her case they work against her; the very symbols that empower him nullify her through silence invisibility, and oppression. 28 While Kaur interpretation is undoubtedly more extreme than most, I do an indisputably minor role in the battles that were concurrent with the creation of Khalsa, and thus the kakkars given to Khalsa warriors had a different meaning for women than 27 Kaur Singh, 101, The Birth of the Khalsa (emphasis added). 28 Kaur Singh, 101, The Birth of the Khalsa (emphasis added).
25 they did for men, who were most often the ones on the battlefront. While their meanings the daily lives of Sikhs since 1699. Kaur Singh advocates a reinterpretation of the kakkars as gender equalizing objects, and I have seen this reinterpretation being enacted in the lives of Sikh women whom I have interviewed for this project. When asked about the importance of ba na (religious dress, including the five kakkars as well as a turban and modest outfit), Niranjan Kaur said this: It is very graceful, and very royal. And like Guru Gobind Singh said, you cannot hide anymore. So what the bana, the turban, the kirpan everyt hing did to me, is [myself]. So it helps me to be graceful, and it helps me to become stronger. has a meaning. 29 I also asked Niranjan if she found bana to be masculine. Her reply was: An d when I see [Indian] women on the street wearing bana it is the most graceful 30 We can see that, at the time of its inception, Sikhism aimed at having a transformative effect upon the so cietal conditions of North India. The Gurus had, in the empowered mode for everybody, whether they were male or female. I think we can assume they wanted to empower ev 31 But were these aims fulfilled? This will be the focus of my succeeding chapters; this will be my goal in examining Sikh history, past and present. But what can we say about what we have explored thus far? What are we left with; what sort of Sikh theology has been created? In my interviews at a Sikh 29 Personal Interview with Niranjan Kaur 30 Personal interview with Niranjan Kaur 31 Personal interview with Jean Ann Clark
26 community in New Delhi, I had the privilege of speaking with an American woman whom I have quoted above, Jean Ann Clark. She has lived among Sikhs in an Indian ashram since 1990, and worked alongside t through interfaith understanding and service to humanity. I wish to conclude this chapter with a quote from our interview, which I believe leaves us with many important points to consider in going forward in our investigation of Sikhism. To be a Sikh is to be a life program of trying hard to earn your own honest living, and to always be sharin g simple. But remember God and to be a Gursikh, to be following the Gurus, means you give up your own way of thinking, and you try to let yourself be guided by a much higher t your own ideas on things; you let that inner wisdom which they brought forth in us be your guide. And always remembering naam (the name of God), means seeing everything that happens as the will of God. And trying to adjust your thinki hukam ner demands on us, and inner transformation. And everybody in the world, we need to be inwardly changed. So to me, this is a very great program for inner to the greatness of a very powerful path. It requires inner strength, and brings forth inner strength. trying to let the power o f Go d manifest itself in your life. 32 32 Personal interview with Jean Ann Clark
27 Chapter 2: Sikhism in Modern India Sikh religion has grown greatly. It is now considered the fifth ter Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism) with almost 30 million followers worldwide. 33 This is partially due to the travels of Guru Nanak, who Sikhs claim traveled extensively throughout India, Tibet, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iran. W hile sangats (congregations) formed in many of these places, most Sikhs have always lived in and around the North Indian state of Punjab. Punjab is a Sikh majority state the only one in India. Large Sikh communities (over 200,000 members) also exist in the Indian states/territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttaranchal. Battles, pilgrimages, martyrdoms, proselytization, and migrations caused Sikh followers to crop up in northern and southern states alike, but no place holds as much importance in Sikh history as does Punjab. What are the issues that have historically been of significance in Punjab? More specifically, which have affected women? Some have been mentioned earlier in this work, and some have not. Of m ajor significance are sati (ritual immolation of widows), purdah (seclusion and veiling of women), dowry, female infanticide, the remarriage of widows, arranged marriage, and the religious patriarchies of both Hinduism and Islam. It is important to mention that these issues will be discussed in the context of the Sikh religion only when specified. It is crucial to my argument that these customs are not inextricably linked to Sikhism; some are, in fact, counter to its most basic theology. 33
28 Instead, these issues are part of Indian or Punjabi culture with which Sikhism is deeply connected but from which it is certainly not inseparable. This distinction is vital: these phenomena have affected Sikh women for generations, but not because they ar e Sikh rather, because they are Indian. Sati is one of the problems most commonly thought of when considering the situation of women in India. While it is a rare phenomenon nowadays, it was common enough in past generations that the Sikh Gurus wrote of i t in Guru Granth Sahib, as did many Hindu and Muslim historians. Sati self sacrifice, but apparently sometimes forced by their in laws, who could then claim 34 While sati is currently uncommon, it has not been unheard of in modern India, and is related to other issues of modern significance, dowry and female infanticide. Mary Pat Fisher asserts that dowry is inherently tied to issues of equality, including the sex ratio, saying that support daughters that many are still killed as fetuses or infants in Punjab. The current s ex ratio there is only 780 females for every 1000 males, even though the Gurus strongly criticized anti female practices and in 2001 the Sikh leaders issues an order that anyone who aborted female fetuses or killed baby girls should be ostracized from the ruling has been largely ignored; female foeticide and infanticide continue, with Punjab having one of the highest rate s of female foeticide in India. 35 What ties together dowry and female infanticide? And from where do they stem? From 34 Fisher, 66 35 Fisher, 277
29 in religious (Hindu) custom, is currently s eated deep within the realm of economy It is not economically advantageous to raise female children in a culture in which they are a liability rather than a blessing. While the Akal Takhat, the seat of Sikh authority, has issued many edicts which specific ally prohibited anti female practices, we have yet to see an improvement in the sex ratio of Punjab. This would be understandable if the most recent maryada were the first to have been issued (in 2001). However, we have seen that the Gurus spoke out agains t the killing of girl children, and the most comprehensive maryada the Rehat Maryada (published by the Akal Takhat in 1950) speaks directly to Gurus, [the Akal Takh at pronounced in 1950 that there would be] no face veiling no female infanticide, or association with those who practice it equal status for widows, and the right for their remarriage no dowry permitted But, as Kaur Singh later asserts, this propounded 36 This phenomenon extends to the tradition of dowry, which still exerts a strong presence in the lives of Indian and Sikh women. ly would give gifts of supplies and money to the family of the husband. These gifts were not always extravagant, and some scholars believe that they held a dual purpose: satisfying the demands of the net for the new bride. In modern 36 Kaur Singh, 701, Sikh Wom en in North America
30 times, however, the influence of the dowry has grown to a sometimes dangerous level. Here I would like to refer to the transcript of my interview with Jean Ann Clark, an American woman who has lived in the Anand Vidya ashr am in New Delhi for the past twenty years. Tell me about the dowry system. There are all kinds of horror stories that are associated with the dowry system in maintained tha organizations that have made an attempt to cut through that by having sort of mass marriages, and the dowry is st very limited pool of people who are not only in the same relig ion, but in the same sub sub caste as your family. It seems that these problems, such as caste and dowry, are coming from Indian culture, not from the Sikh religion. certainly wou for more and more dowry payments. These horror stories that we hear, [Sikh Gurus would have absolutely nothing to do with]. And certainly the tradition of langar was meant to cut right through all the caste distinctions and make everybody equal; equally respected, if not economically then at least worthy of the same respect as every other human being. I hav e great admiration for the Sikh Gurus and I wish we could follow their program! It would be a tremendous boon to society if their program were really run. 37 Here we see again that the teachings of the Gurus were egalitarian, but for some reason have not bee n fully enacted. 37 Personal Interview with Jean Ann Clark (emphasis added).
31 This disparity extends to other issues as well, such as the remarriage of widows, arranged marriage, and the seclusion of women. All of these phenomena stem from Brahmanical Hinduism and the immense influence it has exerted upon all aspe cts of Indian life. While Sikhs are distinct from Hindus religiously, the deep seated customs of ancient Hinduism are often ingrained far more profoundly than the five hundred year old d by Brahmanical concepts of caste, class, purity, and gender roles. Caste has particular relevance to our discussion, since it has helped to promote the institutions of arranged marriage, dowry, and purdah It is also important that we examine it due to i ts great presence in Guru Granth Sahib. Many of the Gurus preached against caste due to its orthless an 38 39 Guru Angad 40 The Sikh community kitchen, where all people ate the same food side by side, was instituted to fi ght against caste distinctions, and the writings of many bhagats (saints) of low caste (such as Namdev, the caste distinctions. However, all of the Gurus were of Ksha triya (warrior) caste and Khatri (elevated mercantile) rank. While they preached vehemently against caste, its presence was not annihilated from Sikh custom, and continues to play a role in Sikh life, 38 Guru Granth Sahib, 83 39 Guru Granth Sahib, 349 40 Guru Granth Sahib, 363
32 particularly as related to marriage. While religious li fe often aligns with Sikh values (i.e. gestures have been made toward equal rights for women, at least in individual gurdwaras), Sikh life outside the spiritual sphere has oft proved itself an arena for the enactment of discrimination. We cannot ignore the significance of marriage in the Sikh community, particularly due to its status as a field in which caste has retained a deep presence. While many Sikhs abandon it upon moving to the West, a great majority of Sikhs in India have continued the tradition of arranged marriage, so fundamentally tied to customs of Brahmanical Hinduism. In this way, customs of caste have maintained their eschewing traditions. I believe it is quite ard gender equality has been impeded by the continued presence of caste customs. While its presence is undeniable, eminent Sikh scholar W.H. McLeod has this to from be ing a pious myth. Sikhs are above all else loyal to the Guru, [and] the question of 41 While still a We can see examples of caste equality within the Sikh Panth in daily examples of worship and relationship eating langar side by side and regardless of who has prepared it, accepting sacred communion ( karah prasad) from the hands of whomever distributes it, and the presence of the surnames Kaur and Singh as shared by all Sikhs. But does equality get played out within other realms? More specifically, are Sikh women permitted the same sorts of religious rights as men? According to scripture, they should be. Bu t as 41 McLeod, 104, The Evolution of the Sikh Community
33 we have already seen, there is often a great disparity between what is written and what is practiced. This disparity belongs not only to Sikhism, but to many other spiritual poke directly, in writing, to many issues that are still relevant today and their words are often being ignored. It has become evident through our discussion of the dowry that economics play a huge role in the mistreatment of women in India. As Fisher ass erted, the birth of a female child is often seen as a liability, not a joy, for a Sikh family, due to the heavy economic burden that will be placed upon her family when it is time for her to marry. The repercussions of dowry have been huge in modern societ heavily skewed sex ratio. Concerns of economy are quite obviously at play. But what theology and its enactment? I have already introduced o ne such factor the involvement of Brahmanical Hinduism (and, more broadly, Indian culture, which has historically been patriarchal). In the remainder of this section, I wish to explore the influence of culture upon our object of examination, the disparity between the theology of Sikhism and the enactment of this theology. Another factor of significance will be discussed as well: the political sphere, which has exerted influence over this dichotomy, subtly although no less powerfully than have other factors. patriarchal culture of India. While much progress has been made, many deeply rooted patriarchal customs are still present in Indian culture. These customs date back as far as the V edas, ancient Hindu scriptures which are still venerated as divine revelation by
34 many Hindus. Mary Pat Fisher gives a few examples in which the Vedas seem to justify misogyny: Veda VI, 2, 3). One of the Upanishads the latest of the Vedic writings, which otherwise contain enlightened teachings advise that if a wife refuses her he should try to persuade her by coaxing, then by gifts, and finally by beating her with his fists or with rods (Brhad Aranyaka virtue, or seeking pleasure [elsewhere], or de void of good qualities, a husband Smrti IX, 94). maiden of 12 who pleases him, or a man of 24 a girl of 8 years of father, in her youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must n 42 While most contemporary Indians have moved past these particular teachings, the influence they exert upon Indian culture is far from insignificant. There are many more customs with similarly misogynistic underton es which are at play in various parts of restrictions placed upon women during their menstrual cycles, and the prohibition of constitution of independent India was passed in 1947, granting all citizens the right to many women are still malnourished, uneducat 43 There are issues particular to the Sikh religion which affect its female members. While the Sikh Gurus preached total gender equality, issues both subtle and apparent abound in the modern practice of Sikhism. There are no pr iests in the Sikh tradition; 42 Fisher, 66 67 43 Fisher, 70
35 rather, the congregation is led by learned lay members. These people are called granthis gianis of Sikh temples these people, who are neither divinely ordained nor appointed by a teachings) read scripture aloud, lead prayers, or perform kirtan (devotional music) in a Sikh temple, those who fulfill these roles are a lmost always men. Similarly, in Sikh temples, prasad (sacred food) is almost always distributed by men. Gender inequality teachings; neither is it the case across the bo ard. Even during my one month of research Sikh ritual was this: women were given oppor tunities to participate in Sikh congregations both great and small, except for those under institutional political control. This seems to indicate a connection between the involvement of the political sphere and the oppression of women. What evidence do we have for this? The greatest example we have of a Sikh shrine under institutional government control is Harmandir Sahib, o plating both inside and out. The holiest site in the Sikh religion, Harmandir Sahib was conceived and built by the Sikh Gurus, beginning in 1588. The site is located in Amritsar, Punjab, and consists o f a large complex with four entrances, symbolizing that people of each of the four castes are equally welcome to worship there. Inside the complex are many relics, a community kitchen, and the gurdwara itself which lies in the middle of a large pool of hol y water. The Akal Takht, the most supreme seat of Sikh authority both
36 spiritual and secular, also lies within this complex. While Harmandir Sahib is venerated by Sikhs across the globe as their holiest shrine, injustices against women are perpetuated there as well as at the other four Takhts (seats of temporal power) which are located throughout India. However, it is important to mention here that while the Akal Takht (along with the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee, equivalent to the parliament of the Sikhs) holds a large amount of power in theory, the Sikh religion is by no means governed by a top down structure in practice. While the Akal Takht does make official policies and issue edicts in regards to current happenings, the majority of changes occurring within the Sikh religion are happening in individual congregations. The equal rights of women in Sikhism hinge upon congregational policy and small scale practice. This phenomenon is responsible for the lack of large scale visible improvement in the realm of gender equality progress is being made in many congregations, but it is not being institutionalized on a greater scale. We have few accounts of contemporary Sikh women challenging patriarchal structures for the same reason their stories are no t reaching a wider audience, and thus are not being told. religious rituals at any Sikh sites, including the Golden Temple. But some conservative Sikhs from within the Akal Takht have asserted that it does not explicitly allow their pa rticipation, either. Currently, women are prohibited from performing devotional music at Harmandir Sahib. Any group of musicians which is given the coveted opportunity to perform there must be composed solely of male members. This seems in direct contrast to the words and deeds of the Sikh Gurus, who, as we have seen, preached equality for all people. Here I would like to include transcripts of several interviews I conducted at
37 Anand Vidya Ashram in New Delhi, an interfaith farming community in which most m embers identify as Sikhs. Several women there recounted their thoughts on gender equality within Sikh religious practice: In Amritsar, I went, and I wanted to do chaur sahib (ritual fanning of Guru Granth Sahib). And they said no, women are not allowed. It 44 akhand path (continuous reading of scripture) done. And then it was fulfilled what we asked for, and we went and we started doing path (reading scripture). And I started doing path and so many people came, they were so infuriated with path a t home also. I have been doing so no, let them g o. That was long ago. But it can bring a great disturbance to your in all gurdwaras, women have full ri ghts to do everything, you know. Path sahib (reading of scripture aloud) akhand path sahib (continuous reading of the entire Sikh scripture aloud). 45 amrit (be baptized). One sh ould have five of these five articles of faith, everybody should be allowed to sit at Guru Granth Sahib, and preach it, whether they are a man or a woman. 46 ssion exist within Sikhism. But why this disparity between the Sikh theology of equality and its enactment, particularly at its holiest shrine? As many of the women I interviewed asserted, the 44 Interview with Navneet Kaur, 68 year old Sikh woman living half time in India and half time in the United States 45 Interview with Dr. Pushpinder Kaur Bedi, president of a Si 46 Interview with Suman Kaur Sandhu, 25 year old Sikh woman living and working in New Delhi
38 47 (Interview with Jean Ann Clark). It seems that where politics is most at play, there is also businesswoman living jointly in Punjab and Thailand, Na rinder expresses this sentiment as well. women are very strong, whether due to religion, or gender, or environment. I mentally and phys ically also. They do what they want to do. If they decide, they will do [it], and they can do everything nothing is impossible in front of them. But politics are everywhere. That is why women cannot do. They want to, but they cannot, because they are women A lot of pressure is there from male dominance. If we step beyond our place, men have ways of suppressing us. teachings, me n are doing many wrong things. 48 in regards to the role of the political. But I do gurdwaras in India, I have witnessed the introduction of wo men into positions of spiritual power. At Gurdwara Bangla Sahib the largest Sikh temple in Delhi, I saw a group of all women performing kirtan for the many thousands of pilgrims praying there; there were female Nihang (warrior) Sikhs patrolling the Golden Temple during my last visit; I witnessed countless women in positions of leadership both spiritual and secular at the Anand Vidya Ashram making examples of discrim ination seem glaring since they occur in the most important Sikh shrines. Yet there is progress being made, and we must take it into account in our 47 Interview with Jean Ann Clark 48 Fisher, 278 (emphasis added).
39 patriarchal culture and sometimes its politics spur gender discrimination, and that Another prominent theme in my interviews was that contemporary Sikhs are not practicing the message of their Gurus. In the words of theorists (lik e Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh) as well as interviewees, Sikh practitioners are human and fallible Perhaps they need human Gurus to keep them on track, or perhaps societal trends have overtaken the message of the G urus. Whatever the reason, many of the Sikh women I have interviewed seem to agree that if we wish to repair the damages that But how can we implement this; how can we redirect the practices of institutionalized Sikhism back toward its origins? I interviewed Sikh women of hugely diverse backgrounds American born, Indian born, European born, young, old, educated, uneducated, orthodox, liberal, leaders, and followe rs. These women related a great variety of experiences, but all returned again to the Gu rus must be made available and relevant to younger Sikhs. Here I wish to present part of my interview with Dr. Bedi, in which we discuss important, I believe, is her conc lusion that proper education is needed to reform the gender inequalities currently present in Sikh practice. Do you think that the message of Guru Granth Sahib and the teachings of Sikh Gurus could be feminist?
40 think he gave the highest position to woman, because she alone can create kings. Why should you condemn her? And if you go through Asa Di Var (one of the daily Sikh prayers), it says with purdah, sati goes on. And the langar, I believe that Sikh Gurus were very feminist, that they were preaching a very Wi th the passage of time, what Gurus have taught slightly [changed]. Because of the circumstances also, Punjab being on the frontier, there was always an invaders, Afghans and others. So for some time, purdah came back, other things came back. But there were always movements for reform. How much can we To me, it seems that Sikh Gurus and Guru Granth Sahib are very feminist. But, several peop le have said this to me in my interviews, it seems that maybe people are doing it wrong, people make mistakes. Yes. What about in gurdwaras, why are the leaders of congregations always men? Because half the women are illiterate! d properly, they That is our greatest drawback, you know. today in the Golden Temple, they are not preachers and such. They are not Harmandir Sahib, which Gurus w ould never have accepted! Why is this? Again, I tell you, not proper awakening! And the leaders have not gone through the scripture properly have not gone through history properly. Teachers must be awakened and leaders must be awakened first of all. The n they should be willing to accept it. 49 49 Personal Interview with Dr. Pushpinder Kaur Bedi
41 In another interview at the Anand Vidya Ashram, 25 year old Sikh businesswoman Suman added her thoughts to this topic: As per our Guru Granth Sahib Ji, everyone should be treated equally. There is no difference betwe en a boy and a girl, or a man and a woman. But you know, everyone has their own perspective, everyone has their own point of view. We 50 Yes, it is true every Sikh practitioner has their own point of view, as Suman express ed. I doubt that Dr. Bedi would disagree. But what Dr. Bedi would assert, and what many other women expressed in my interviews, is that there can be progress toward empowering women (particularly young women While we can debate contemporary practices and beliefs (since, as Dr. Bedi has asserted, they have historicall y been fluid), it is impossible to negate the importance of the written words of the Sikh Gurus. above all else loyal to the Guru. In the contemporary case, the Guru is not a hum an but rather Guru Granth Sahib, the compilation of the teachings holiest to Sikhs. And in within the Panth offers no exception to this inflexible rule (that Sikhs will obe y the 51 It seems that we can have hope for the future of women in the Sikh tradition. Just as Indian society progresses, so many of us believe will Sikhism and in many ways it has advantages over the society in which it exists. Women are taking on roles of both 50 Personal Interview with Suman Kaur Sandhu (emphasis added). 51 McLeod, 104 The Evolution of the Sikh Community
42 spiritual and secular authority within Sikh institutions, and it would not be unreasonable parts of Indian society. My experience conducting interviews and observing daily life at the Anand Vidya Ashram affirm this: there, Sikh women lead devotional music, recite preachers, teachers, and leaders of rituals. When I asked Jean Ann Clark about her present gap between Sikh theology and practice, this was her reply: S o, my teacher (the founder of the ashram), for whom I have the greatest regard, devoted his whole life to this issue. His whole life was dedicated to trying to bring us back to the message and the practical example of the Gurus and of Guru Granth Sahib. An given to us by the Gurus. And in terms of women, he had the greatest respect for women. He appointed women as the heads of many of his communities. And he tradition, Muslim tradition, or in other traditions. He was always showing us rment. So it takes leadership, and in this case [Sikhism], the leadership is still in the hands of men. So it takes male initiative to a certain extent, just to bring women and other social issues back to the foreground, and show the true picture of that s ociety of equality and respect for everyone that the Gurus were teaching. know if women can have much impact in Indian society doing this themselves; I who in every way showed his great respect for women and was always praising the contribution of women, the ability of women. And never giving any indication that women were inferior to men. So if that kind of thing is modeled, then people naturally will follow that. Theor educated/uneducated. They see fellow human beings, across the board no matter what is their caste, no matter what is their sex, no matter what is their religion. message to us. But only the people who deeply imbibed that message and are
43 living by it can teach it. People who are just regarding theory will never change anything. But I came here (20 years ago) and I stayed here because I saw my teacher deeply transforming people, including myself, and I felt anybody who has such a tremendou sly transformative effect, this is a person to follow. This is a pe 52 We have seen profound examples of discrimination against women in Sikh practice, yet we have also read the empowering words of the Sikh Gurus. We have heard in the voices of Sikh women, that they value the equality advocated by their religion, but have also seen their oppression at the hands of the political, economic, and cultural issues that have been cloaked as religious. A great discrepancy exists; there is much work to be done. It is my hope that this work will be carried out by those who are fortunate enough to have has it been present in other parts of the world? Has S helped catalyze this movement toward equality? This will be the focus of our next or whether similar problems of gender inequality have spatial transition. 52 Personal int erview with Jean Ann Clark (emphasis added).
44 Chapter 3: Sikhism in the United States A sizable Sikh community has developed in North America over the past hundred years. Their presence is greatest in metropolitan areas (particularly in Califor nia, New York, and Washington DC), but Sikhs have formed communities throughout the United States. What has been the experience of Sikhs in the West? Which traditions did they bring with them, and which did they leave behind? And how has a move to the West changed life for Sikh women? In this section, we will examine the lives of Indian Sikhs in the West, and what a move to America has meant for their religious practice. We will also explore a uniquely Western phenomenon in Sikh studies: the development of an American neo West face their own unique set of challenges, it is my opinion that, on the whole, Sikhi equality. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Indian Sikhs began immigrating to the United States. These immigrants were mostly men, who came to America in search of work. As The Sikh immigrants were concentrated in the California valleys. They found this dry, sunny agricultural region similar to the plains of the Punjab. With their background in farming, they quickly adjusted to thei r new habitats. Other Sikhs worked in the lumber mills of Oregon or in 53 Soon, Sikh women joined their husbands and sons, helping to build a nascent Sikh community. This community was fully realized in 1912, when the first gurdwara w as constructed in Stockton, California. The Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan 53 Mann, 109
45 became a thriving community center, helping not only its Sikh members but also many of gurdwara and ate from its free kitchen. The gurdwara provided both legal and illegal immigrants with assistance and shelter, and held many events that benefitted the wider Stockton community. This phenomenon has continued in many cities and towns with sizable Sikh populations the gurdwara becomes the center way to educate neighbors about their religion. Moving to the West has promoted a dichotomy for Sikhs, representative of a larger trend in the sociology of immigrants. A reactionary tendency is sometimes observed, in which practitioners cling to previous traditions or become even more devout. Conversely, many immigrants also begin to assimilate into the host culture, abandoning their previous beliefs and customs. While many Sikh immigrants ha ve undoubtedly assimilated, they have as a group managed to retain a great deal of communal identity. Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh suggests that Sikh women have played a vital role in this s, as it were. She also claims that this imposed role of maintainer of culture has furthered the oppression of Sikh women: How to preserve Sikh identity in the modern West is a vital concern for diasporic Sikhs. To begin with, Sikh society never quite fr eed itself from ancient Indian patriarchal structures. Threatened by the modern West, these patriarchal formulations are carried over the oceans and upheld with even greater urgency by the immigrants. Since women are literally the reproducers of the co mmunity, the Sikh women become subject to strict control. Their Sikh faith provides them with a window of opportunity; they should be doubly free, but many only find th emselves doubly oppressed. 54 54 Kaur
46 Kaur do Sikh women enjoy a greater or lesser degree of equality in America? I see her assertion of I interviewed asserted, it is often up to the mother to keep Sikh values in the lives of their children. And while the reactionary trend of immigrants has certainly been present in the lives of Sikhs in the West, I see the progress being made as more sign ificant than the patriarchal customs which have remained. Sikh women, particularly those born and brought up in the West, are with greater and greater frequency fulfilling roles of significance in Sikh religious life. New College of Florida graduate Cynt hia Keppley Mahmood, now an eminent scholar in Sikh and South Asian studies, wrote a compelling ethnography about the lives student Stacy Brady, Mahmood interviewed Sikh w omen living in the United States and Canada about their perceptions of gender equality in the Sikh religion. Their responses revealed two fundamental facts about the situation of Sikhism in the West that the traditions of Punjabi culture are often conflate d with the teachings of the Sikh religion, and that gender equality is of great importance to contemporary Sikh practitioners. Mahmood focuses particularly on the stories of Sikh women who have begun the project ng turbans. When Guru Gobind Singh baptized Sikhs, he gave bana (religious dress) to them all, regardless of gender. While some aspects of bana have always been maintained (specifically the steel bracelet, which is small and inconspicuous), most Sikh women abandoned turbans as the distinctive
47 many implications for female practitioners, and the eschewal of turbans and bana is only one of many such results. However, the choice by female Sikhs to reclaim turbans is particularly interesting within an examination of gender equality, since it was radical at the time of the Gurus for both men and women to be given the same articles of faith. Thus the choice for contemporary Sikh women to don religious dress, articles of faith, and turbans (as well as to choose to live by the strict Sikh code of conduct) is similarly powerful. Kaur Singh supports this cl 55 the choice to don a turban is thus not inherently a reactionary one, but it does involve a return to tradition. How is this possible; how can one return to tradition while also promoting change and modernity? It is simple: the Sikh religion at its deepest core promotes equality, an d that is what the tradition of the turban symbolizes. Sikh women can thus return to the roots of their religion while also affirming modernity, equality, and progressivism. How is the choice to wear a turban a reaction to modernity, a way of defining one self, and a way of seeking equality? We will begin with modernity. In both Asia and the traditions regarding the body. Maintenance of kesh uncut hair, is seen as fundamenta l in the life of a devout Sikh, symbolizing surrender to the will of God (i.e. we are made keep kesh was formally given by Guru Gobind Singh, and those who undergo his 55 Kaur Singh, 701, Sikh Women in North America
48 cer emony of initiation vow to maintain uncut hair on all parts of their bodies. Technically, amritdhari (baptized) Sikhs should also keep their heads covered at all times, usually with a turban. They are also obliged to wear modest clothing and to abstain fro m the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. These customs conflict tremendously with media ideals of modernity, which promote fashion, excess, and highly defined styles of grooming. Women are most often depicted with smooth, hairless bodies and cut or dyed h airstyles, not with occasional facial hair or wearing turbans. Modern ideas of fashionable clothing for women conflict profoundly with the choice to wear modest amritdhari and to keep one kesh lifestyle often functions as a way of defining oneself. This is true for both men and wome n, and holds particularly true for Sikhs who choose to wear the dastaar, or turban. As Niranjan Kaur, a European convert, asserted in our interview, the prescribed Sikh uniform is an outward image, but contains great inner meaning for those who choose to uphold it. A rationale I have heard cited frequently in regards to wearing religious dress is this: if I do not wear a turban and bana how will others know I am a Sikh? Particularly for baptized Sikh women, there is a great risk of being perceived as belonging to a if a Sikh woman merely covers her hair with a scarf, how is she to be distinguished from a Muslim woman? While bana is usually cited as represent ing an inner discipline rather than an being merely an outward image, we must acknowledge that discernibility is a powerful component in the choice to wear a turban. Finally, equality is another
49 motivating factor for women who choose to wear turbans and religious dress. All baptized men wear turbans, and Guru Gobind Singh gave the turban to all his Sikhs. While it has fallen out of fashion, the reclamation of the turban by Sikh women 56 equality with men. Religious dress was given to Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh ma inly as a way to promote equality, eliminating differences in clothing that reflected caste, class, and, many would say, gender. Contemporary Sikhs both male and female Gi who said: I know for me personally, when I have kids, if I have a boy and a girl I will make co I remember seeing a scene once at a gurdwara, where a young man had two twins, and as he wa 57 Sikh women in the West are reclaiming and r edefining their religious identities, sometimes by choosing to wear religious dress. But what are some other ways in which they are reinterpreting and reenergizing Sikh tradition? Sikh women in the West have both developed new strategies and embraced old t raditions in their quest to make religion gurdwaras are becoming widespread afternoons, weekends, or whole weeks dedicated to women worshiping together. These programs are not unique to the We st (I attended a ladies 56 Kaur Singh, 702, Sikh Women in North America 57 Mahmood, 100
50 program each Friday at Guru Nanak Sat Sangh Sabha, a gurdwara in Chennai, India), but have gained both great popularity and influence in the West. During shorter programs, women will perform devotional music, lead prayers, and read from scripture. Longer programs often include motivational speakers, visiting musicians, and training in diverse subjects. At these programs, women develop and implement the events, gaining agency and creating a space for transformative worship. As Gurinde evolution of Sikhism in the United States has begun to open doors for women, and within the community at large there is growing willingness to listen to the voices that argue for gender equality the equality called for by Sikh sc 58 This opening of doors for women has led them to serve in positions of leadership in gurdwaras and Sikh organizations in the West, giving them new and tangible power. But there also have been wa ys Many movements for religious reform within the Sikh tradition have advocated a such contemporary movement is called Gurmat Sangeet (literally, music performed in the role in Sikh life and worship since the first Guru, Nanak. He sang songs of praise to God and was accompanied by a Muslim musician, Bhai Mardana, who played the lute. D evotional singing ( kirtan ) forms the core of Sikh worship since Guru Granth Sahib was written as hymns ( shabads ) in raag, a classical North Indian musical style. While the Gurus used traditional stringed Hindustani instruments in their performance of kirta n contemporary Sikh musicians most frequently employ the use of a modern instrument of European origin, the harmonium. A modern jatha (musical group) will usually include 58 Mann, 143, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs in Amer ica
51 three musicians two playing harmoniums and singing, and one playing the tablas a p kirtan recordings are produced using this arrangement of musicians. However, the Gurmat Sangeet movement aims to reeducate Sikhs about the use of traditional Indian stringed instruments in their religio us music. The Gurus themselves played these instruments and, in some cases, even created them. Much of popular Sikh music is not played in raag style, and the Gurmat Sangeet movement also aims to change this, claiming that the modes and moods implied withi n the raag The Gurmat Sangeet movement aims not only to change the instruments used and the style in which Sikh devotional music is played rather, it has a holistic goal of a return to the teachings of the Gurus. Musicians wear traditional attire, which often includes turbans for female members. Kirtan groups in the Gurmat Sangeet tradition are usually mixed gender, which is relatively unique: although the Gurus preached total gender equalit y, most contemporary kirtan is performed by single gender groups (usually composed of men). The Gurmat Sangeet movement aims to change this, reflecting a reform movements as well, and its importance was echoed in the testimonies of many Sikh women whose interviews I conducte d or read. As American Jean Ann Clark expressed, in order to reform Sikhism and to come back into its teaching of radical Gurus, and come to our own conclusions. People themselves have to find the spiritual 59 In order 59 Personal interview with Jean Ann Clark
52 practitioners claim that contemporary Sikhs mus t reeducate themselves and educate their youth about the transformative teachings of Guru Granth Sahib. As we have seen, many Sikhs have embarked upon this project through diverse processes: musical training, instruction in scripture, and adoption of relig ious dress are only a few of these methods used for re cultivating equality. Sikh women have played integral roles in the reeducation of their communities about the teachings of gurmat (Sikh knowledge). They are often instructors in Punjabi schools, the equivalent of Sunday school for Sikh children, as well as being the spiritual guardians and shapers of their children. As Kaur Singh asserted, they often bear the benefit vital roles in both the public and private spheres of religious life. While it is true that they have not always been empowered to take on roles of conspicuous leadership, they h ave always held the important responsibility of keeping Sikh values alive in their families. Dr. Pushpinder Kaur Bedi asserted this about the role of a Sikh woman in one of our interviews: Being a Sikh woman means having more responsibilities. Because you have to raise a family, and the children are in contact with mother mostly, you know. A lot of responsibility falls on the woman. Often I say to people at public gatherings, the mother has to be very particular. Because the children are most of the time in your company, especially in childhood. So you have to set your example in the family. Sitting with children, doing path making them do some kirtan or in the morning you cannot leave before, you know, doing Japji Sahib (morning prayer) or maybe first 5 P auris (stanzas) of Japji Sahib or just going before Guru Granth
53 doing Rehras challenging. And very important. 60 Many women have echoed this sentiment in interviews conducted both in India and in the West. When Cynthia Mahmood began to prepare her ethnography for publication, it was read over by several of the women whose interviews she would publish. One of these women, a Sikh living in Canada, said this about the message she hoped the ethnography the world to openly proclaim that men and women are equal. And it should have the message 61 It is this assertion that I wish to examine in the remainder of this chapter. We have examined the attempts of Indian Sikhs to recreate the equality taught by their Gurus upon moving to the West, which are slowly beginning to bear fruit. But another attempt has been made as well, this one born in the West. It is called 3HO diverse backgrounds. It is safe to say, however, that the vast majority of 3HO practitioners are not of Indian origin, but instead usually come from Anglo American backgrounds. This is not to say that Indians (and others) have not embraced this tradition, but that, in North Am erica, nearly all 3HO practitioners are non Indian. Their tradition was conceived and born away from some of the more potent Indian patriarchal customs, and is thus an interesting object of study in our examination of gender equality. I find it most intere 60 Personal interview with Dr. Pushpinder Kaur Bedi 61 Mahmood 106 107
54 usually quite high in keeping with the general trend of converts adhering strictly to their ne wly adopted religious tradition When Harbhajan Singh Puri, a Punjabi Sikh who had stud ied yoga in India, came in which to begin teaching his philosophy. Many hippies gathered around Puri as he traveled throughout the United States, teaching a hybrid of Sikh theology and Tantric yoga. His followers began to call him Yogi Bhajan, the title by which he is known today. Bhajan founded many ashrams (spiritual communities) throughout the United States, most notably the Hacienda de Guru Ram Das in Espanola, New Mexico. Today, Espanola is home to the largest group of non Indian Sikhs in North America. We have been given a profound glimpse into the lives of 3HO women by author and Iden has done extensive research in 3HO communities, and this work has proved very useful thusly: [ whether initiated into the Khalsa or not, also adopted Punjabi names and their own version of Punjabi dr ess. Like Sikhs in the Punjab, most of the women took the middle name Kaur, while the men adopted Singh. Unlike Indian born Sikhs, they took Khalsa as their last name. They began to dress primarily in white (this was their own innovation), and both men and women adopted the turban... Sikh worship was incorporated into the morning sadhana (spiritual practice), which had originally centered upon yoga but may have already been based upon the Sikh practice of daily meditation on the divine Name as a means to ac hieving mystical
55 regular service to the community, hard work, almsgiving, and active but principled involvement in the world. They came to acknowledge both the Guru Granth Sahib ( the Sikh sacred scriptures) and the Sikh community as vessels of the guru, and to appreciate the Sikh vision of God. 62 Since its inception, 3HO members have placed a great emphasis on Khalsa identity. Whether or not they are baptized, they almost without e xception keep the five kakkars Sikh teachings presents us with a question: does their literal interpretation of Sikhism ity? Have they made progress toward a form of Sikhism in which these teachings are more fully enacted? The answers to these questions are complex. 3HO has gone through its own than deeply held Punjabi beliefs about gender, including arranged marriage, modest dressing for women, and traditional gender roles for men and women. While Bhajan was tradi tional in many of his instructions to followers in the West, it seems that, on the whole, 3HO has as an institution paid painstakingly close attention to the teachings of the Sikh Gurus, which has resulted in an overall higher status of women than in most women to be leaders, even gianis and presidents, not merely the preparers of langar as is most common in mainstream Sikh congregations. They have taken leading roles in mus ical processions and religious parades, roles which Indian Sikh women have recently sought and been denied. 3HO women even participate as members of the Panj Pyare (Five Beloved Ones) in administering baptism ceremonies, which is highly uncommon in 62 Elsberg, 3.
56 classic al Sikh tradition. In her twenty years living in a progressive interfaith ashram in India, interviewee Jean Ann Clark reported knowing only one woman who had fulfilled this role in their community. It is common in 3HO gurdwaras for women to read scripture aloud, lead prayers, and to perform kirtan, whether in a group with other female musicians or with men. It is also common to find them as teachers of Kundalini yoga, the branch of yoga that Yogi Bhajan taught his followers. Indeed, teachers seem to be fem ale more frequently than male, as is a trend in many schools of yoga in the West. Women were frequently given roles of leadership in the ashrams founded by Yogi Bhajan, and after his death in 2004 have continued in their vital roles as teachers, secretarie s, preachers, presidents, and musicians in these communities. 3HO women have also begun in recent years to tour the West and even the world as performers of religious music. The religious music created by these women meshes with a greater trend in the West the growing popularity of New Age lifestyles. Through the New Age movement, Westerners are becoming acquainted with Sikhism, often for the first time, through the avenue of 3HO. Thus female 3HO practitioners are in a way becoming the face of Sikhism. This is in opposition to the usually, a turbaned man, since it is so uncommon in the East for a woman to wear this powerfully Sikh symbol. In North America, the trend of women as the face of Sikhism has come to fruition through the persona of Snatam Kaur, a 3HO woman whose music has become immensely turbaned image are sold and played at yoga studios, spiritual gatherings, and meditation centers through out the West. Sikh sacred chant has been popularized by Snatam Kaur and
57 other Western musicians like her, most of whom are women. They perform at Kundalini yoga festivals, which now attract thousands of Westerners each year. Almost all yoga studios now off er Kundalini classes, which usually feature turbaned teachers. These people may or may not be practitioners of Sikhism, but their involvement with Bhajanian Kundalini yoga has led them to embrace some aspects of the Sikh lifestyle and to share it with thei r students. Thus Westerners are gaining a consciousness of Sikhism through the 3HO movement, and are often doing so through the influence of female practitioners. Sikhs often cons ider their strict adherence to Khalsa code to be equally admirable. n ot knowing whether to embrace its followers as unusually devout or to avoid them as perversely unorthodox. Kunda lini yoga seems distinctly suspicious and particularly when [3HO] favors moral absolutes over Punjabi notions of honor ( izzat ). The answer appears to be to let them live their life of ob edience, and Punjabis will live another, seldom the twain meeting in any meaningful way. They are accepted as Sikhs provided they maintain a separate existence. 63 It seems that, yes, 3HO upholds a high level of adherence to tradition, but this tradition i s a fifty year old Bhajanian tradition, not the five hundred year old tradition of classical Sikhism. While the addition of Kundalini yoga an esoteric Hindu tradition of tantra does seem somewhat curious to practicing Indian Sikhs as well as to scholars of Sikhism, it is my opinion that this addition has not radically altered 3HO in such a way as It seems that many Sikhs would agree with me: in her interviews with women about their perceptions of her ethnography, Cynthia Mahmood was told by 63 McLeod, 118 119, Sikhs And Sikhism
58 on the Sikh identity. There is room in our religion for everybody. It should be a generous religion, open to people wearing turbans or not, people who want Khalis tan or not, people who are brown or white or purple. There is no need for us to be stingy about who can or 64 Radical equality has always been a teaching of the Gurus, and is reflected in the general acceptance of 3HO as part of the Sikh c ommunity. unique teachings of Bhajan or from the simple fact of its position and development in the West. 3HO practitioners have chosen for the most part to adhere strictly to the tea chings of the Sikh Gurus, and this is what I believe is the key factor in their dealings with gender. The same phenomenon has occurred in Sikh communities of Indian origin in the West: when their members are educated or reeducated about the actual doctrine s of the Sikh religion (rather than relying on inherited or cultural traditions alone), these communities are transformed into places in which women are beginning to play more and more significant roles of spiritual and secular significance. Formal movemen ts such as 3HO and the Gurmat Sangeet movement are contributing to this shift, as are more diffuse groups of believers and scholars working independently working for gender equality. Great progress has been made in the West, although there is still much to overcome. As this chapter has echoed again and again, in the words of scholars and practitioners alike, it is vital that the Sikh community reexamine the teachings of its Gurus and saints if it wishes to accurately represent their vision. 64 Mahmood, 106 107
59 As Mary Pat who practice them. 65 In consciously returning to the teachings contained in Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhs are beginning to sift through contemporary practices and realize which ones pertain to religion, and which merely to culture. The places in which Sikhism is practiced may still be subject to patriarchal culture: this is true for both India and the West. B ut, as we have seen, a shift away from patriarchy can be observed when it is identified as what it truly is: a part of the cultures that surround Sikhism, rather than the Sikh religion itself. Now that generations of Sikhs are being born and brought up in the West, prevalent social attitudes are evolving within the Sikh community. We have seen small progress in India, and greater progress in the West. And in every place Sikhism is practiced, women and men alike are working toward a deeper understanding of t heir faith one that brings to full fruition the transformative vision of their Gurus. 65 Fisher 25
60 Conclusion Throughout this exploration of Sikhism, we have seen that, as Mary Pat Fisher gious 66 The information we have surrounding begun to be is as of yet a great disparity between the profound egalitarianism of Sikh scripture and the enactment of these ideals. Why this disparity, and what can be done to begin its eradication? It is evident that the Sikh Gurus had a powerful vision of equality for all people, fighting to transcend deeply entrenched inequalities perpetuated by institutions such as religion, caste, and even gender. Their words and d eeds demonstrate a profound commitment to re envisioning the society in which they lived. During the period of the Gurus progress made toward the achievement of their goals: the langar system in which all followers ate together, the baptism of all from a common bowl, the rejection of caste temporal power through their appointments to positions of honor We can see examples of women who made great sacrifices for Sikhism, and w ho have been deeply venerated in the Khalsa army and as leaders of religious districts. 66 Fisher, 24
61 The Gurus lived in a deeply patriarchal society, and there were certainly advances that could have been made that were not, such as the appointment of female Gurus to head the religion, or the inclusion of hymns by women in the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak and his nine successors had powerfully transformative aims for the cult ure in which they lived. They enacted huge changes, but it is my belief as well as that of many scholars that their vision has not been fully realized On this subject, Mary Pat Fisher writes: strengths, patriarchal cultural traditions are still very strongly entrenched in India [even egalitarianism transcends divisions of caste and religion but not of gender. Women do not serve a s granthis Gurdwara management committees usually consist of men; the women are more often in such subordinate roles as making flat breads in the community kitchen. 67 Patriarchal traditions are now, and have always been, a profound part of Indian society. Perhaps the Gurus could have done more in their attempts at its unraveling, or perhaps their vision was too radical for its time and place. We have in the example of modern Sikhism a cacophony of conflicting information regarding the status of women. Th e Gurus taught total gender equality, and now in the 21 st century patriarchal customs are waning with greater speed than ever in Indian government, in Indian social organizations; women are very well represented all around. An d we even had one woman president, as opposed to most Western [state] government 67 Fisher. 277
62 Prabhandhak Committee, th e parliament of the Sikhs, Bibi Jagir Kaur (who served from 2004 to 2006). Women are lauded by Guru Nanak as the creator of all the ones who give birth to kings. The Sikh Rehat Maryada (code of conduct) guarantees completely equal status for women. So why do Sikh wom en still so infrequently hold roles of equal religious status with Sikh men? And why is this issue, which seems to critical to the essential message of Sikhism, so rarely discussed within or outside the Sikh community? We have seen the power of the political, economic, and cultural forces in suppressing change in this matter. The patriarchal social structure of India is deeply ingrained, as are the forces of political and economic power which are present in each and every nation. But two more concerns are salient as well. I believe that part of the power of this particular disparity is that the situation of Sikh women has as of yet been rarely examined. I see two contemporary issues as having great influence in the suppression of this discussio n. In both India and the West, issues of extremism have shaped media coverage and popular discussion of the Sikh religion. September 11 th brought attention to the Sikh community due to the violence they experienced in its aftermath. The American public was on the whole, quite ignorant regarding Sikhism and its practice. This resulted in a huge amount of prejudice, hate crimes, and violence against the Sikh community in America. Sikhs became targets of intense scrutiny in airports, and were even the victims of murder by those who mis perceived them to be of Middle Eastern origin. Sikh studies was an emerging field in the West before September 11 th and whatever progress was made before its occurrence was soon inhibited. The almost sole topic of discussion in the West is now merely that Sikhs are not Muslims, and were not part of 9/11. Any efforts in Western scholarship to explore Sikhism in more
63 depth have been forced to take a back burner to this discussion. For this reason, issues of gender equality in Sikhi sm have only recently become topics of dialogue in the West. As 9/11 is further behind us, this phenomenon is slowly changing but its presence helps to explain why gender equality, such a fundamental topic in other areas of religious study, ha s not been fu rther discussed in West ern Sikh studies A similar phenomenon occurred in India during the 20 th century which impeded s in the Sikh tradition is a vital issue, but took a subordinate role wh en a violent uprising occurred in Punjab in into a territory autonomous from India Pure. Great violence occurred as a result of clashes between Sikh separatists and the Indian government, culminating in anti Sikh rioting and thousands of deaths in 1984, her participation in military occupatio n of the Golden Temple. Since the Khalistani movement began much of Sikh dialogue within and outside the Sikh community has been focused on the issue of Khalistan, leaving other issues to fall by the wayside. The Khalistani movement did not emerge from a vacuum; rather, Punjab has been in a state of upheaval and flux for many centuries. It has been invaded, divided, conquered, and liberated countless times during the five hundred year history of the Sikhs. For this reason, Sikh activism has mainly been foc used on political issues (like Khalistan) because of their immediate importance, rather than on issues of internal reform. Only sporadically have profound inquiries been made into the status of women within the Sikh tradition, and militarization can be ide ntified as one of the primary causes of this
64 phenomenon. Extremism and militarization both in India and the West, have taken a heavy toll on scholarship about Sikh issues. Only now are concerns about gender equality coming to light. Scholars are choosing to explore these issues through diverse avenues such as Sikh history, contemporary practice, scripture, and philosophy. In the capacities of its scripture, historical figures, and philosophical foundations, Sikhism appears to be a movement clearly committ ed to equality. Its most foundational teachings are accessible to us in a uniquely well preserved fashion Guru Granth Sahib, which contains the original utterances of the Gurus, who were also the ones to compile this body of teachings. This is a rare pheno authenticities have sometimes been disputed. For example, Jesus did not sign his name on a copy of the Gospels; neither did Moses impress his seal on the Torah. But the Sikh Gurus themselves were the ones who originally wrote Guru Granth Sahib, guarded its authenticity, and compiled it systematically. We have copies in their own hands, and their words are clear: equality is a virtue worth f ighting for. Inequalities based on caste, class, gender, and religion were all explicitly denounced by the Gurus. of the same clay; the light within all is the same. The One Li ght pervades all the many 68 The many and various forms are always yours, O Lord; they all shall merge again into 69 eart; He is 68 Guru Granth Sahib, 96 69 Guru Granth Sahib, 162
65 70 71 These statements assert that God is within both men and women; God transcend s gender; women and men are both created in the image of the divine. These are powerful teachings As we have read above, the Gurus explicitly included equality in their teachings. Additionally, they performed many acts to further its advancement. So why was the Sikh have identified several factors of significance in sustaining the dichotomy between Sikh theology and practice. These, as I have outlined in this exploration, include: the patriarchal culture of India, economic factors, the intrusion of politics, and the high We have examined disparity between angles. But what has this investigation lent to a contemporary understanding of Sikhism or, indeed, to the study of religion in t he modern world? Firstly, we have discovered which philosophies form the basis of the Sikh tradition and that these philosophies align with modern ideals of progressivism and the promotion of equality. Many Sikhs regard this as fundamental to their faith. In an interview with Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, a and it can fit so well with our day to day lives. There are no strict rules and regulations as to what is supposed to ha ppen. It is a faith of the common people, and it is so simple. 70 Guru Granth Sahib, 605 71 Guru Granth Sahib, 1010
66 72 Many of the women I interviewed echoed this sentiment that Sikhism is a modern religion which grants them equality and empowerment. contain many contradictions. Scripture and historical events clearly grant equal status to women, yet with few exceptions they take a subordinate role in Sikh affairs, both religious and sec ular. The Gurus themselves built the Golden Temple as a manifestation of their vision of equality, yet its governance includes rules which prohibit women from performing certain spiritual duties within its walls. Women are granted equal rights by the Rehat Maryada, yet rarely serve as granthis read scripture in public, or help to govern follow the teachings of their Gurus that are so often cited as making them disti nct from the other spiritual traditions of India. There have been examples throughout Sikh history of great female figures: mothers, wives, daughters, warriors, martyrs, and caretakers of the faith. But there are also the unseen examples of the many Sikh w omen who, as Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh has claimed, are oppressed by the very tradition which claims to empower them. In my interviews with Sikh women at the Anand Vidya interfaith ashram in New Delhi, I asked each participant a distinct set of questions, but made sure that each responded to at least one common question: what does it mean to be a Sikh? Dr. Pushpinder Kaur Bedi replied that: To be a Sikh means to be a righteous person. Absolute right conduct. No difference between theory and practice. And, t o live with a zest and a zeal, and an 72 Mahmood, 12
67 upward thinking always. Whatever may come, you should have high spirits. And only because of that you can contribute to the development of the society. And the basic principle of divinity of labor, sharing your earning and thank Him. Enjoy all things God has given. That is a Sikh. And to die for a cause, that is very important. You are distinct. And you are a learner, throughout your life. 73 To be a righteous person. Absolute right conduct. No diffe rence between theory and practice. These are the goals of Dr. Bedi, but also the goals of Nanak, who taught Sikhs to earn an honest living, help others, and always remember God. As Dr. Bedi reminded and culture, everyone should be treated equal. There is no difference between a boy and a girl, or a man and a woman. But everyone has their own p rescriptions, everyone has their own mind 74 Sikhism is being practiced by humans, who are fallible and frail. They have at times disregarded the words of their inspired teachers; it is even possible that some Sikhs have yet to read these words. The word interviews revealed (just as mine did), many Sikhs are still learning how to fulfill the openly proclaim tha t men and women are equal. And men and women everywhere are 75 In discussing equality with Mahmood, a male 76 Sik hism provides a clear message about equality, but this message can 73 Personal interview with Dr. Pushpinder Kaur Bedi 74 Personal interview with Suman Kaur Sandhu. 75 Mahmood 106 107 76 Mahmood, 103
68 become obscured by the world in which Sikhs live, whether in India or the West. Practitioners everywhere are exploring what it means to be Sikhs; literally, they are learners, throughout th eir entire lives. We too, as scholars of Sikhism, have discovered message is not out of the question for the future of the Sikh tradition. Like Jean Ann Clarke, I am skep tical about the future of institutionalized Sikhism, which seems to be very strongly governed by money, politics, and power, just as many other organized religions are. But the egalitarian message of the Gurus shines forth through Guru Granth Sahib, which serves as the eternal Guru for Sikhs, guiding decisions both communal and personal. Many individuals, congregations, and Sikh organizations are beginning can add to this goal by illuminating what I have identified as key facets in the discourse surrounding gender and Sikhism. old history, which has been so imbued with the promise of progress? For this reason I would like to close with a quote from one of my interviews a t t he Anan words reveal both hope and perspective for the future of Sikhism, as guided by th e vision of Guru Granth Sahib : We have this extraordinar y scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, that has not been tampered with And [no matter what is happening in terms of money, politics, and power], (Guru Granth Sahib) something somebody administer it to you. The nectar of Guru Gran th Sahib, unless people really imbibe it and contemplate it and take it
69 have to be a Sikh to drink that nectar. I discovered Guru Granth Sahib before I ever came to India, and was so deeply touched by it. And you can never come to the end of it. For a person wh find any instit ution that will give you that sweetness, of that direct experience of the presence of God. No institution in any religion can ever do that. People can only be led to that fountain of living water. It can be offered to them in their own language, so they ca n understand it That treasure should be available to But if that treasure is open to the world; then things can change. 77 77 Person al interview with Jean Ann Clark.
70 Glossary of Foreign Terms Akal Purakh Akal Takht highest seat of Sikh authority, located in Amritsar, Punjab akhand path (sahib) continuous reading aloud of entire Sikh scriptures amrit am ritdhari a baptized Sikh ashram a spiritual community bana religious dress of Sikhs (different from bani the utterances of the Sikh Gurus) bhagat saint or holy person chaur sahib ritual fanning of Sikh scripture with a brush made from yak hair bhakti Hind u devotional movement in which worship manifests as love for a personal God Dasam Granth compositions of Guru Gobind Singh, the last Sikh Guru dastaar a turban; worn by Sikhs to represent devotion to God giani layperson with deep religious knowledge who helps to lead a Sikh congregation granthi a ceremonial reader of Guru Granth Sahib; anyone is allowed to perform this duty gurbani utterances of the Sikh Gurus gurdwara gurmat Sikh r eligious knowledge Gurmat Sangeet contemporary movement toward a return to traditional style of devotional music guru an enlightened teacher who is said to teach the message of God on earth Guru Granth Sahib Sikh scripture, which is 1430 pages long and con tains hymns written by the Sikh Gurus as well as Hindu and Muslim saints
71 Harmandir Sahib Amritsar) hukam command of God janamsakhis legends about the life of Guru Nanak kacchera cotton breeches wo rn by baptized Sikhs kakkars articles of faith; there are five worn daily by baptized Sikhs kanga wooden comb worn by baptized Sikhs kara steel bracelet worn by baptized Sikhs karah prasad sweet pudding distributed as a sacrament to all who visit Sikh temples kesh uncut hair, an article of faith maintained by baptized Sikhs Khalistan Sikh state desired by Sikh separatist movements Khalsa d as a Sikh, one becomes part of kirtan devotional music, which forms the core of Sikh worship. One who performs kirtan is a kirtani langar also called guru ka langar, where free vegetarian food is served to all. This institution is present in every Sikh temple maryada edict Nath yogic tradition of North India Panj Piare panth global community of Sikhs path (sahib) reading scripture aloud prasad sacred food purdah seclusion of women raag North Indian classical musical style involving complex sets of rules for constructing melody and mood
72 Rehat Maryada Sikh code of conduct published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee in 1950; includes issues such as who is a Sikh, how gurdwaras should be run, and how Sikhs should conduct themselves sadhu renunciate or saint sangat Sikh congregation Sant North Indian spiritual movement in which religious devotion is expressed as love for a formless God sati ritual immolation of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands seva selfless service, an important Sikh value shabad hymn. All of Guru Granth Sahib is written in shabads. tablas pair of hand drums used in N orth Indian devotional music upanayana sacred thread ceremony in which upper caste Hindu boys are given a thread that marks their passage into a state considered pure enough for participation in religious rituals Waheguru Sikh name for God, literally meani
73 Works Cited and Consulted A Note on Sikh Scripture: In writing this work, I utilized Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji the collection of Sikh holy scriptures Available online only (due to requirements about the housing and treatment of physical copies), I used the online translation by Singh Sahib Sant Singh Khalsa, MD and Kulbir Singh Thind, MD. (http://www.srigurugranth.org/) as well as the Gurbani search engine at http://www.srigranth.org/ which utilized Khalsa and I also consulted Jaap Sahib and Dasam Granth compositions of the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh. I accessed Dasam Granth online ( http://www.sridasam.org/ ), since similar regulations govern its physical treatment. This translation was done by Jasjeet Singh Thind, Bibi Amarjit Kaur, Bhai Baljinder Singh, and Kulbir Singh Thind. I utilized a print copy of Jaap Sahib translated by Shri Surendra Nath. A Dream in Doubt. Dir. T ami Yeager. PBS Independent Lens. 2007. Electronic. http://www.hulu.com/watch/53866/pbs indies a dream in doubt Beck, Guy. Sacred Sound: Experiencing Music in World Religions Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2006. Print. CIA World Factbook Field Listing: Religions CIA. Electronic. 1 March 2012. Electronic. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the world factbook/fields/2122.html Elsberg, Constance Waeber. Graceful Women: Gender and Identity in an American Sikh Community. Knoxville: Un iversity of Tennessee Press, 2003. Print. Embree, Ainslee. Sources of Indian Tradition: Volume 1 2nd ed New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. Print.
74 Fisher, Mary Pat Women in Religion. Pearson Longman, 2007. Print. Kaur Singh, Nikky Guninder The Birth of the Khalsa: A Feminist Re Memory of Sikh Identity Albany: SUNY Press, 2005. Print. --. The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Print. --. An Epiphany of Interconnections. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Vol. 8 No. 2 FSR, Inc., 1992. Electronic. --Sikh Women in North America. Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America, Volume 2 Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2006. Print. --. Sikhism: An Introduction. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011. Print. --minization of Ritual in Sikhism. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Vol. 16 No. 1. FSR, Inc., 2000. Electronic. Macaul iffe, Max Arthur. The Sikh Religion, Vol. 1. London: Oxford University Press, 1909. Electronic. Mahmood, Cynthia Keppley and Stacy Brady. Exploring Gender Equality with North American Sikh Women. Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishing, 2000 Print. Mann, Gurinder Singh. Sikhism Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2004. Print.
75 Mann, Gurinder Singh and John Stratton Hawley. Studying the Sikhs: Issues for North America. New York: State U niversity of New York, New Y ork, 1993. Print. Mann, Gurinder Singh, et al Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs in America New York: Oxford University Press, 20 02. Print. McLeod, W.H. Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print. --. Textual Source s for the Study of Sikhism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Print. --. The Evolution of the Sikh Community New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print. --. Who is a Sikh? New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print. Rajan, Meenakshi. Spiritual Warriors: Eminent Sikh Women. Amritsar: Waris Shah Foundation, 2011. Print. Adherents.com 9 August 2007. 15 February 2012. Electronic. http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html Sandhu, Amarinder. Jat Sikh Women: Social Transformation. Chandigarh: Unistar Books, 2009. Print. SikhiWiki 16 February 2011 5 February 2012. Electronic. http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Sikh
76 Sikh women wearing articles of faith ashram in Sekha, Punjab. shall hold her consciousness ste Guru Granth Sahib, 359.
77 Sikh woman preparing chapatis (flat breads) in outdoor community kitchen ashram in Sekha, Punjab. everything for our Personal interview.
78 Sikh women eating community meal, with gurdwara and Hindu temple in background ashram in Sekha, Punjab. respect to feminism, and everybody is treated equally here. That is what our Gur us Personal interview.
79 at Anand Vidya interfaith ashram in New Delhi. fference between theory and practice. And to live with a zest and a zeal, and an upward thinking always, you know, chardi kala (positive attitude) Whatever may come, you should have high spirits. And only because of that you can contr ibute to the developm ent of society. And the basic principle of divinity o just join with Him and thank Him. Enjoy all things God has given. That is a Sikh. And to die for a cause, that is very important. And nothing should elude you. That makes you distinct. And you are a Personal interview with Dr. Bedi.
80 Niranjan Kaur, Turkish 3HO woman, tying Nihang (warrior) style turban Anand Vidya interfaith ashram, New Delhi. Personal interview.
81 Niranjan Kaur and author, at Anand Vidya interfaith ashram in New Delhi. clay; the light within all is the same. Guru Granth Sahib, 96
82 Sikh woman offers prayers at havan (ritual Hindu fire) Anand Vidya interfaith ashram, New Delhi. our community whatever is written in Guru Granth Sahib Ji, our teacher followed that. And all of those teachings are happening here. You know, whatever is happening here. Lord Shiva, Ganesh Personal interview.
83 Indian Sikh woman visiting Gurdwara Bangla Sahib (largest Sikh temple in Delhi) religion it is the equality that I value the mo st. It is a very free religion and not strict in terms of women not being allowed to do this or that. This is what attracted me to the religion. Punjabi culture, however, is very traditional in terms of women. They have their domestic duties and stuff like that. People confuse the culture page 18