Celebrating Prominent Sikh Women
Sikhism is a modern faith founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It is a faith that is scientific in its approach and is based on equality and justice. The equality of woman with man is a fundamental principal of Sikhism.
The Sikh woman is regarded as equal with man and has all the rights and privileges as enjoyed by a man. She is considered to have the same soul as man and has equal right to grow spiritually. The Sikh woman is allowed to lead religious congregations, to take part in Akhand Paath, the continuous recitation of the Holy Scriptures, to work as Granthi (priest) or a preacher and to participate freely in all religious, cultural, social, political and secular activities.
The Sikh Gurus totally condemned the custom of “suttee” where the wife was burnt with her dead husband alive on his funeral pyre. Rather a Sikh widow has a right to remarry if she so desires. “Purdah” or “veil”, a tent like contraption was also condemned with which women used to (and still do in some parts of the world) hide themselves from male eyes, However, wearing of clothes which expose the body and breed lustful thoughts are considered dishonourable for a Sikh woman.
Sikh woman have played a glorious part in the history and have proven themselves as equal in service, devotion, sacrifice and bravery. Examples of their moral dignity, service and self sacrifice are and will remain a source of inspiration.
Women are the backbone of Sikh history, culture and tradition yet there has been a void in documentation of Sikh women’s achievements. Our young girls are growing up without any positive images of the achievements of Sikh women and there are very few Sikh women role models.
Sikh Nari Manch U.K. is trying to create positive role models for our younger generation and has produced an exhibition of historical and contemporary prominent Sikh women. This exhibition is the first of its kind in Great Britain and is a positive contribution towards creating Sikh women role models.
We must also celebrate the lives of great women in Sikh history so that we can talk about our great heroines in the congregations to make our younger generation aware of their cotributions. The Sikh Nari Manch celebrates Mata Sahib Kaur’s birthday every year and also produces and distributes ten thousand calendars of one of the prominent Sikh women every year. It also celebrated Mata Gujri Ji’s martyr day and Mata Bhag Kaur’s day by releasing a greeting card in her name. A Keertan Darbar and exhibition was dedicated to women like Balbir Kaur, a martyr of Jaito da Morcha and Upkar Kaur and her companions, martyrs of Blue Star Operation and to those brave women who ground the corn in Mir Mannu’s prison and wore the sheaths of their slain children’s limbs but didn’t flinch from Sikhi. We have more such programmes planned.
The Sikh Nari Manch Choir (ragee jatha) tries to help the Gurdwara committees and Istree Sabhas to celebrate such days in different cities and provides bilingual literature and pictures. The fact that these Sikh heroines faced so much adversity and persecution, is very relevant to us today, because our religion is so new that they belonged to the generation of our own great, great, great grandmothers, and are therefore part of our ancestry, and only until we realise their sacrifices, and the greatness of our heritage, can we educate our own families and children on how fortunate they are to be Sikhs, so that when they face adversity in their school or workplace, they can stand tall and be proud to be Sikhs.
BIBI GURDEV KAUR