Status of Women in Sikh Religion
Guru Nanak Dev Ji, founder of Sikh religion, said men and women are equal and therefore women cannot be considered socially or spiritually inferior.
Of woman are we born, of woman conceived. To woman engaged and married. Woman are befriended, by woman is the civilization continued. When woman dies, woman is sought for. It is by woman that the entire social order is maintained. Then why call her bad? From her Kings are born – SGGS , p.473.
Therefore, a Sikh woman can participate in all religious activities without being discriminated on the basis of her sex. Rather, in Sikh religion, the credit of blessing the world with a bhagat or a noble person is given to the mother. Also, every morning and evening, in their prayer, Ardas, Sikhs recount the courageous role played by Sikh women and their contribution to the community.
In Sikh religion, veil/ purdah is not appreciated
Purdah system, the custom in certain societies of secluding women from men, is of ancient origin. The Sikh Gurus advocated equal participation of both sexes in all spheres of life.
I walk with my face unveiled – SGGS, p. 931
O daughter-in-law, do not use a veil – SGGS, p. 484
Sati was banned in Sikh Religion by mid-1550s by Guru Amar Das Ji
Sati was a practice where the widow offers herself to the fire of funeral pyre of her husband. It was considered a religious necessity, as widowhood was considereda curse. In Sikh religion, Sati was banned and as a practical step towards discouraging the practice of Sati, Sikhism encouraged widow–remarriage.
A Sati is not she who burns herself on the pyre of her spouse – SGGS, p. 787
Sikh woman bringing the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Gurudwara (right side)
Dowry is banned in Sikh religion
In India, parents of the bride give expensive gifts, the dowry, to the bridegroom and his family. But in Sikhism, the Gurus have banned the practice of dowry.
O my lord, give me thy name as dowry; all other things are display of pride – SGGS, p. 78-9.
Women Sikh Missionaries
Guru Amar Das Ji appointed 52 women missionaries in 1550s, out of a total of 146 missionaries, to spread the concept of Sikh religion across the world.
Woman expected to be strong
In Sikh religion women has been asked to be brave and strong. Guru Nanak Dev Ji mentions that
Women have become too meek and submissive – SGGS, p.1243
As a result, women have been encouraged to become independent. In the times of the Second Guru, Mata Khivi Ji was incharge of Langar and by the time of Tenth Master, many women were serving in the Khalsa Army.
During late 1700s women were playing a key role in Misls and even heading the Misl. In modern times, Sikh women have been successful parliamentarians.
ਮਃ ੧ ॥ मः १ ॥ Mėhlā 1. First Mehl:
ਭੰਡਿ ਜੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਨਿੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਮੰਗਣੁ ਵੀਆਹੁ ॥
भंडि जमीऐ भंडि निमीऐ भंडि मंगणु वीआहु ॥
Bẖand jammī ai bẖand nimmī ai bẖand mangaṇ vī āhu.
From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.
ਭੰਡਹੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਚਲੈ ਰਾਹੁ ॥ भंडहु होवै दोसती भंडहु चलै राहु ॥
Bẖandahu hovai ḏosṯī bẖandahu cẖalai rāhu. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come.
ਭੰਡੁ ਮੁਆ ਭੰਡੁ ਭਾਲੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਬੰਧਾਨੁ ॥
भंडु मुआ भंडु भालीऐ भंडि होवै बंधानु ॥
Bẖand mu ā bẖand bẖālī ai bẖand hovai banḏẖān.
When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.
ਸੋ ਕਿਉ ਮੰਦਾ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਤੁ ਜੰਮਹਿ ਰਾਜਾਨ ॥
सो किउ मंदा आखीऐ जितु जमहि राजान ॥
So kio manḏā ākẖī ai jiṯ jamėh rājān. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.
ਭੰਡਹੁ ਹੀ ਭੰਡੁ ਊਪਜੈ ਭੰਡੈ ਬਾਝੁ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥ भंडहु ही भंडु ऊपजै भंडै बाझु न कोइ ॥
Bẖandahu hī bẖand ūpjai bẖandai bājẖ na ko e.
From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.
ਨਾਨਕ ਭੰਡੈ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਏਕੋ ਸਚਾ ਸੋਇ ॥
नानक भंडै बाहरा एको सचा सोइ ॥
Nānak bẖandai bāhrā eko sacẖā so e.
O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman.
ਜਿਤੁ ਮੁਖਿ ਸਦਾ ਸਾਲਾਹੀਐ ਭਾਗਾ ਰਤੀ ਚਾਰਿ ॥
जितु मुखि सदा सालाहीऐ भागा रती चारि ॥
Jiṯ mukẖ saḏā salāhīai bẖāgā raṯī cẖār. That mouth which praises the Lord continually is blessed and beautiful.
ਨਾਨਕ ਤੇ ਮੁਖ ਊਜਲੇ ਤਿਤੁ ਸਚੈ ਦਰਬਾਰਿ ॥੨॥
नानक ते मुख ऊजले तितु सचै दरबारि ॥२॥
Nānak ṯe mukẖ ūjle ṯiṯ sacẖai ḏarbār. ||2||
O Nanak, those faces shall be radiant in the Court of the True Lord. ||2||