It is Sunday and I take my usual place in the sangat. It being Vaisakhi, I reminisce all the great things that occurred in 1699 and reflect back on the 10 Gurus teachings and where we are today regarding the status of women in the Khalsa Panth.
Much progress in the world had occurred since then due to the manifold ever-accelerating discoveries of the workings of nature.
Somehow, though the status and identity of women in the Sikh Panth has been lost in a curious fusion of re-emerging values born of middle ages India and a trend of accelerating westernization. Rather than swimming succesfully through both of these divergent currents effortlessly, the Sikh woman is obligingly attaching a stone to her neck, with a smile, at the urging of her friends, family and ambient society, thinking all the while she will float, when the laws of physics dictate a different outcome.
Sikh women have not only forgotten who they are but denied it to themselves since the beginning of this century because it is convenient and the path of least resistance. Their silence on the issues of identity for themselves is lost and they are content living it vicariously through their sons. The rest of Sikh society is complicit in the same when it encourages Sikh turban days for all Sikh children but only sends its sons or when it fights worldwide for turban rights but, for men only.
It is ‘easy’ to fit acceptably into both the Punjabi and Western scenes with trendy trimmed hair, groomed eyebrows and no expectations for themselves for a spiritual life other than, Gurdwara on Sunday with that ubiquitous dupatta that seems to cover for so many weaknesses and somehow convey both piousness and modesty never minding how one really lives the rest of the week . In reality, in the eyes of Sikh society, little is expected of women though it is content trumpeting equality for them but just as so not to practice it.
In the process women have lost their compass. They have fundamentally lost who they were meant to be….The strong Khalsa women….the Kaurs.
Who were the Kaurs? They were exemplified by Mai Bhag Kaur, who in the courageous Khalsa roop of Dastar and shastars embarrassed and saved the men from their doubts. They were like Rani Raj Kaur, a powerful queen who ……….She was also easily identifiable as a Khalsa, like her brothers, with her dastar and led her kingdom competently and kindly as her brothers did.
I look around the Gurdwara and do not see this Khalsa roop and spirit among the women. They now look and act like anyone else whether Indian or Western. In losing this precious ‘form in action’ they do not realize that they have turned their faces from the promise of the Guru to create a Sikh who will stand among thousands. He had created Sikhs both men and women that were as strongly and inseparably identifiable by both their form as by their actions and values…..and of undying courage.
That many ‘Sikh’ women no longer value female pregnancies or their daughters, that they engage in castism, that they not pay head and practice to what the Gurus teach, that they abandon their Guru given identities in the face of life’s challenges instead of standing tall and living the way the Gurus intended is symptomatic of the great weakness at the core of the Khalsa.
Women are the heart, at the core of every civilization. They are the great teachers and nurturers of future generations of both men and women. Forging relationships they forge and fashion civilizations.
Sikh women need to reclaim their powerful place in the court of the Guru, who they are as the powerful, visible Khalsa women of 1699….in charge, adaptable in any circumstance no matter how hard, and as with their brothers in the Khalsa form, fighters for the rights of others and tenderly compassionate to the voiceless. All this is according to the Guru’s teachings. In Sikhi, women are in a position of strength not disadvantage, of queenly command not subjugation by standing out in their master’s Khalsa form and action.
The Guru’s message to all Sikhs?…Be visible and be counted….ALL of you!