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Heritage Dedicated To All Sikh Women: A Photo Essay From History (by Ranjit Singh 'Freed')


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Photos in this set in order are

*taken from Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Steek (Fareedkot Wala Teeka) - Bhasha Vibhag -4th ed 1992 - page 1005

The birth of Guru Nanak - from a Baba Atal Tower fresco - showing Mata Tripta and Bibi Nanaki

*from Punjab Painting - RP Srivastava - Abhinav - 1983 - plate 130

Guru Nanak rejects the Janao

detail of Bibi Nanaki

Marriage of Guru Nanak

Bibi Nanaki and her husband Jai Ram - Bibi Nanaki is sometimes referred to as the first Sikh

Guru Nanak with his parents returns from his 12 year 'udasi'

The wife of Guru Nanak - Mata Salakhani with their sons Lakhmi Das and Sri Chand

The Guru Sahiban spoke out against Sati (burning of the widow with her husband)and Pardah (the veil)

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh !

This large post was prompted by the visit of my niece. She is starting to learn to read and has become a real book-worm, she loves Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter but she also loves to come to her Mama's house (me) to read my books on Sikh Heritage, especially 'Warrior Saints' 'Sikh Heritage' and 'The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms'.

It was while looking through these that she came out with a very pertinent and cutting question - the way kids do - "where are all the pictures of Sikh women ?"

It then struck me that she was right, many of those books have absolutely no pictures of women. Some may have mythological depictions of Sita and Parbati or Raag Raagnis,some have portraits of Rani Jindan, but many have none at all.


This prompted my wife and me to look through all our books and these pictures represent the collection we found for my niece.

It is our hope this collection will help inspire and educate everyone on the pivotal role of Sikh women.

The list is not exhaustive - it is limited to pictures we could find in our book collection.

This post is dedicated to All Sikh Women - All Mothers, Guru Ke Mahel , Mahaan Shahids, Brave steadfast bahadar Singhaneean. To all Mata-jis, Bee-jis, Respected Grandmothers and mothers, Cherished sisters, soulmate partners and beloved daughters.


In a time when daughters are still murdered in Punjab (and around the world) despite Guru sahib's command - Sikhi is the only dharam that expressly forbids the murder of female children - perpetrators being called 'Kurimaar' and ostracized by the sangat - this crime still persists - before it was done by placing 'Gur' in the mouth of the baby girl and saying ;

"Gur khayeen te puni kateen , Aap na ayeen veeran nu ghateen"
( eat sugar and spin cotton, come not again but send brothers). Now it is murder perpetrated in the sex determination clinic.

Misogyny is still rife in Punjab despite Guru Sahib's Hukums - when Guru Nanak was asked by the Siddhas why he had "added yeast to milk" by leading a householders life he replied that you denounce women but you still rely on women as you go begging for food to them.

The same question was asked to Guru Hargobind he replied that ;

Daulat guzran hai
Aurat Iman hai
Puttar nishan hai

(money is my servant, Wife is my conscience and children keep the race going)

Still today in popular Punjabi culture you will hear that - "a women is like a shoe" that "Janani di matt pichey geechee vich hundi" ( a women's brain is in the back of her head).

Such sexist views are very prevalent as well as many superstitions regarding women. It is my hope that this post will show how women have played a pivotal role in Sikhi and continue to do so.

  • It is mothers who care for and cherish their children's Kesh and show the importance of Kesh.
  • It is mothers who instill the self confidence in their children to wear turbans
  • It is mothers who enshrine beautiful gurbani in the hearts and on the lips of their children
  • It is mothers who place gutkas into the hands of their children , who sing their children to sleep with gurbani "Tati Vao na lagaien" (Bilaval M5).
  • I bow my head to these Mahaan Sikh Women !

Ranjit Singh 'Freed'

reproduced from http://www.tapoban.org/phorum/read.php?f=1&i=111622&t=111622

The pictures to accompany this thread will be uploaded in groups, as only 10 images can be attached to each post. Also...some of the captions will add to the value of this thread.

Stay tuned throughout the day as more pictures with captions are uploaded.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Re: Dedicated to all Sikh Women: A photo essay from history (by Ranjit Singh Freed')


1. Guru Amar Das set up 'Manjian' to do 'prachar' which were like 'parishes' . He appointed men as well as women
Mata Khivi - Mata Khivi the wife of Guru Angad Dev. Mata Ji has the unique honour of being the only contemporary of the Guru Sahib's to be mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib - Her dedication and sewa is recorded in Ramkali Ki Waar

2. from Fareedkot wala Teeka

STTM translation
balava(n)dd kheevee naek jan jis bahuthee shhaao pathraalee ||
Balwand says that Khivi, the Guru's wife, is a noble woman, who gives soothing, leafy shade to all.
la(n)gar dhoulath va(n)ddeeai ras a(n)mrith kheer ghiaalee ||
She distributes the bounty of the Guru's Langar; the kheer - the rice pudding and ghee, is like sweet ambrosia.

This Shabad is by Bhatt Sathaa and Balvand in Raag Raamkalee on Ang 9

3. Bibi Bhani - Bibi Bhani the daughter of Guru Amar Das - has the unique honour of being a Guru's daughter, Guru's wife (Guru Ram Das) , Guru's Mother (Guru Arjan Dev). The mother of the first Sikh Shaheed Guru Arjan , her great grandson was Guru Tegh Bahadar , Great Great Grandson was Guru Gobind Singh.

Tradition says that Bibi Bhani was dedicated to the sewa of Guru Amar Das Ji - her father and in contrast to Punjabi tradition continued this sewa after her marriage to Guru Ram Das

4. Mata Ganga - The wife of Guru Arjan Dev -She received from Baba Buddha the blessing that her son would be a great warrior whose powers no one could tame - Guru HarGobind Sahib
*from Album Central Sikh Museum - P. Satbir Singh - 1996 - pg 34

5. This is the rath (carriage) said to have been used by Mata ji to visit Baba Buddha *from Gurdwaras in India and Pakistan - Mohinder Singh - NIPS- 2004 - pg 57

6. Mata Sulakhani - receives a blessing from Guru Hargobind Sahib - her entire family sacrificed their lives for the Panth
* from Makhan Singh 1995

7. Mata Gujri - wife of Guru Tegh Bahadur, Mother of Guru Gobind Singh Ji

8 .Mata Sahib Devan / Sahib Kaur -- Mother of the Khalsa
*from Gurdwaras Patwant Singh - HB- 1992 - pg 54

9. Gold panel from Baba Atal Tower


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Re: Dedicated to all Sikh Women: A photo essay from history (by Ranjit Singh Freed')

1. Mata Gujri and The Sahibzadas in the Thanda Bur
*from Makhan Singh (1995)

2. Mata Ji and The Sahibzadas receiving milk from Moti Mehra in the Thanda Bur *from P. Satbir Singh 1996 - pg 44

3. Mai Bhago - The Brave
*from Makhan singh 1995

4. The Rifle said to belong to Mai Bhago kept at Nander

Mata Sundari Ji - The wife of Guru Gobind Singh Ji - Mata Ji guided the Panth during the early 1700s . Mata Ji commissioned Bhai Mani Singh to collect the writings of Guru Gobind Singh and compile the Dasm Granth Sahib.
*from Patwant Singh 1992

5. A Hukumnama sent by Mata Sundari
From Dr Daljeet (2004) pg 109

6. The Tradition of the Faithful Bibi Rajni and her leper husband - cured by faith

7. The Brave Faithful Singhneean in Mir Mannu's prison - we remember these brave Sikh women in our ardas - who in the 1700s were imprisoned and tortured made to grind 60kg had their children butchered infront of them but stayed true to the last
*from P Satbir Singh (1996)

8 and 9. Gyani Gyan Singh's description of Sikh Women - When the Khalsa Walked unopposed into Delhi 1781


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Re: Dedicated to all Sikh Women: A photo essay from history (by Ranjit Singh Freed')

1. from Panth Prakash - Gyani Gyan Singh - Bhasha Vibhag - 1987 Ed- pg 1150-4

2. Sketch of Sardarni Sada Kaur - attributed to Kehar Singh
Wife of Gurbakhsh Singh Sardar of the Kanhaiya Misl - fought in battle against Ranjit Singh - though eventually sought an alliance by marrying her daughter to Ranjit Singh. It is said that see was the power behind the throne and that she "was the ladder by which Ranjit singh reached the Summit of power"
*from Punjab Painting - RP Srivastava - Abhinav - 1983 - plate 53

3. Rani Chand Kaur - daughter of Jaimal Singh Kanhaya - married to Maharaja Kharrak Singh , mother of Kanwar Nau Nihal Singh
*from Maharaja Ranjit Singh - Jean-Marie Lafont - Oxford -2002 pg 133

4. Rani Jindan - Rani of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and mother of Duleep Singh.
from a fresco in the Haveli of the Sandhanwalia Sardars of Raja Sans

5. Detail - while Sikh female portraiture is rare - it is even rarer to see depictions of elders
*from Sikh Art - Kerry Brown - Routledge - 1999 plate 9

6.Bhai Vir Singh

7. "The departure of the Heroes" soldiers leaving for a campaign


8 and 9. Depictions of Nihangs and Nihangnis


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004

1. A verse from Prof Mohan Singh's Rani Sahib Kaur - she was a princess from the Patiala Dynasty - who fought the Marathas. This is a famous poem - My Mother would recite it to us as children.
*from 'Rani Sahib Kaur' - Kasumbhrha - Prof Mohan Singh -Lahore Book Shop - pg 53


2. Pilgrims at the Darbar Sahib


3. Pilgrims at Darbar Sahib Amritsar - during the visit of the Prince of Wales 1905


4. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre 1919
Bibi Balbir Kaur - whilst demonstrating in the Jaito Morcha on Feb 21 1923, Bibi Ji was shot at by British Troops - the bullet hit her child -which she was carrying - she laid the child by the side of the road and carried on the march singing Gurbani, eventually she was also shot. Just on that day 100 people were killed.



5 and 6. The Panja Sahib Saka - in 1922 a train carrying Sikh prisoners arrested during the Guru ka Bagh morcha was passing through Panja Sahib railway station - Sikhs gathered to feed them Langar , but the British refused to stop the train.
The Sikhs said if Guru Sahib can stop a rock with his hand his Sikhs can stop a train - so Men and Women sat on the track and stopped the train.
*from Makhan Singh 1995


7. The Cover of Bhai Vir Singh's 'Sundri


8. Cover of "Warrior Princess"


9. Illustration from Bhai Vir Singh's Punjabi Autumn
from Nargas songs of a Sikh - Bhai Vir Singh trans Puran Singh - J M Dent - 1924


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004

1. Portrait of Rani Raj Kaur - from an edition of Rana Surat Singh - by Bhai Vir Singh
*from The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent - Cambridge - 1993


2. Maharani Bakhtavar Kaur - senior Rani of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala - grandmother of Capt. Amrinder Singh CM of Punjab
*from The Unforgettable Maharajas - Paul & Kapoor - 2003.

The Horrors of Partition 1947
This clip is from the 1986 mini series of Bhisham Sahni's novel - 'Tamas'- It is very powerful - it dramatises the events in the Potohar and Bari Doab areas of West Punjab.
In a village Sikhs gather in a Gurdwara to protect themselves from Muslims - The Muslims attack- the menfolk go to fight - the women then gather in the darbar - the singing of 'Gagan Damama Bajeo' sends shivers down your spine .
When the women realise the muslims are coming into the Gurdwara they march to a well and jump in -to save their honour - taking the Singhaneen of mir mannu 's prison as inspiration. At the end you will see that Rababis come into the gurdwara and sing 'Jagat Jalanda Rakh' - the Rababis have been stopped by the Muslims from going to the gurdwara to perform kirtan saying they are 'Kafirs' for singing Gurbani - but also the Sikhs have stopped the rababis from coming saying they are muslims.

The clip is very powerful - and shows the sacrifices of Sikh women during Partition.
Click on this link to see the clip (apologies for the quality !)
Horrors of Partition


3. Morcha for Punjabi Suba 1960
These pictures show women at the forefront of the Morcha for Punjabi Suba - the second picture is of a widow of a protester shot at Patiala courting arrest with her children in Amritsar
*from The Illustrated History of the Sikhs 1947 -78 - Gur Rattan Pal Singh -1979


4. Women at the Forefront of the 'Dharam Yudh Morcha' of the 1980s
Delhi Massacre 1984


5. Dr Inderjit Kaur - who carries on the Great work started by Bhagat Puran Singh at the Pingalwara Amritsar


6. Widows of the Chattisinghpore Masscre in Kashmir


7.Tender Touch
*from Khalsa Panth - Khushwant Singh Raghu Rai - 1984


8. Seva


9. Arpana Kaur , infront of her work depicting the horrors of the Delhi massacre
*from The Sikhs - Khushwant Singh Raghu Rai


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004

1. The closest women have come to perfoming Kirtan Sewa at Darbar Sahib - 1979 Vikram Singh and Jatha


2. The Care and Cherishing of Kesh


3. Taken from Style of the Lion -Jasprit Singh Theresa Singh - Akal - 1998 - pg 93


5. Rehat Pyari
*from Spirit Born Magazine - Vaisakhi 1999


6.A Mother's Poem
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