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The Power Of Kaur: Women In The Eyes Of Gurbani


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
The Power of Kaur: Women in the Eyes of Gurbani

The Sikh faith is the only world religion that continually emphasizes the equal and uplifted status of women. Not only are women praised in various Sikh scriptures (e.g. Bhai Gurdas Ji’s vaars, Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji Maharaj, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib, and Suraj Parkash Granth), but Sikh history is also painted with legacies of Sikh women preachers, warriors, saints, and scholars.

Although Bhai Gurdas Ji remained celibate throughout his life, he greatly appreciated and adored the value that women held in social and religious spheres. Bhai Gurdas Ji had tremendous respect for women, and in his writings, which are referred to as the “key” to Gurbani, he refers to women as “[the] doorway to salvation” (5.16), helping humankind obtain God through her brave and noble characteristics.

“At birth a Sikh girl, in her mother’s home, is fondled and dearly loved by her mother and father.

Later, she becomes admired by her brothers and sisters and favored by her maternal and paternal grandparents.

On attaining to “the bloom of youth” she is wedded with costly gifts and presents.

Now, in her in-law’s house, she is respected and accepted with the title of married wife.

She enjoys with her husband, eating a variety of foods, and remaining bedecked.

From a temporal and spiritual point of view, woman is half man’s body, being regarded as the equal of her spouse in virtue and wisdom. She becomes as a doorway to salvation.

Such is the verbal portrait of a Guru-inspired and blessed, faithful Sikh woman.” (5.16)

During the period that Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s light first emerged, women were being bought, sold, and used like cattle. Common customs during this medieval period in India were Sati (the mandatory burning of living women at their husband’s funeral pyre), Purdah (the mandatory veiling of women’s faces so they would not distract men), along with polygamy, child marriages, and female infanticide. Women had close to no voice in religion, politics, the family circle, business, or education. At this point, other religions also degraded the status of women. The Hindu nation followed laws like Manusimriti, which prevented women from listening to prayer, and identified with a highly divided society, placing women at the end of the spectrum. Menstruating women were also seen as bad, and women were generally seen as cursed for placing lustful thoughts in men’s minds. The Christian faith asserted that Eve was born of Adam’s rib, emphasizing the inferiority of women to man. The Islamic faith prohibited women from leading the congregation in prayer, and also emphasized that the testimony of two women was equal to the testimony of one man. Muslim men were also given the freedom to have sexual rights over women and any slave girls (Hadith, No. 61), and men were allowed to beat their women lightly but never vice versa (Holy Quran, 4:34). In such a misogynistic era, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji came and uplifted the status of women around the world, saying:

From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.

Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come.
When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.
So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.

From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.
O Nanak, only the True Lord is without woman (e.g. not born from a woman). (Ang 473)

Speaking to the common man who likely viewed women as impure, irrational, and cursed, Guru Nanak Dev Ji awoke a new spirit of equality, respect, and benevolence between the sexes. In a society ridden with the belief that women were inadequate and forever inferior to men, Guru Nanak Dev Ji spoke of women’s rights! Throughout Sikh History, several women have lit the path of inspiration and enlightenment, from the times of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s emergence throughout the emergence of all ten Gurus. Mothers like Mata Tripta Ji, who give birth to great souls, are continually praised in Gurbani:

“One who dies in the Shabad and conquers their mind – blessed is the mother who gave birth to them.” (Ang 1286).

Additionally, although various relationships are described in Gurbani (e.g. brother, sister, father, sister-in-law, etc.), the relationship with a Mother is described the most, and God is continually referred to as a female and/or male energy:

“You are my Father, and You are my Mother.” (Ang 103)

“He cherishes all His beings and creatures, as the mother cares for her children.” (Ang 105)

“I have no friend except the Lord; the Lord is my father, my mother, my companion. [Pause]” (Ang 882)

“I am in ecstasy, O my mother, for I have found my True Guru.” (Ang 917)
“Air is the Guru, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of all.” (Ang 8 )

“The earth, being tolerant like mothers, is the mother and is the further base of all the creatures.” (Vaars: Bhai Gurdas Ji, 6)

“Because of His benevolence, God is like a mother to the devotees.” (Vaars: Bhai Gurdas Ji, 10).

With the emergence of Guru Angad Dev Ji, the second Sikh Guru, the tradition of Langar was started, where individuals ate together, regardless of caste, class, age, gender, religion, or race. The wife of Guru Angad Dev Ji, Mata Khivi Ji, is one of the rare Sikhs whose names are actually mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

“Balwand says that Khivi, the Guru’s wife, is a noble woman, who gives soothing, leafy shade to all.

She distributes the bounty of the Guru’s Langar; the kheer-the rice pudding and ghee-is like sweet ambrosia.” (Ang 967)

Lastly, in Sri Guru Gobind Singh’s writings, he alludes to the warrior spirit (bir-rus) through the example of Chandi, emphasizing that women can not only create and give birth, but they can also destroy and destruct. The Sikh religion thoroughly emphasizes the rights and virtuous strengths of womankind, viewing women as equal to men in every regard. Sikh women may become preachers, warriors, scholars, saints, and they may also partake in recital of all prayers alone or in the congregation. Sikh women themselves must realize the benevolence of the Sikh Gurus and embellish themselves in the beautifully revolutionary teachings of the Sikh Faith – if they desire for the future of the Sikh Nation to be fruitful and blessed.

She who meets the True Guru, lives in the Fear of God; she is a woman of noble birth.
- Guru Amar Das Ji, Ang 516



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ੴ / Ik▫oaʼnkār
Dec 21, 2010
spnadmin ji thanks for a wonderful reading treat.

Perfect and accurate article. Let no one take anything away!

Thank you.

Sat Sri Akal.
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