Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha
Who is a Sikh?
A Sikh is a seeker of Truth (God). The word 'Sikh' in the Punjabi language means 'disciple'. Any human being is a Sikh who faithfully believes in
1. One Immortal Formless Being – God
2. Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh
3. The Guru Granth Sahib
4. The baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru
5. And follows the Gurmat – the teachings of the Guru.
A Sikh’s Personal life
A Sikh should totally surrender oneself to Gods’ Will and exercise:
• Nam – love, praise and worship of God
• Dan – charity or donations, sharing food with others
• Ishnan – ablution, purification of body and mind
• Sewa – unselfish service of Gurdwara, congregation and mankind
• Simran – prayer – repetition of God’s Nam or Meditation on Nam (God)
• Gurmat living - Leading life according to (Gurus teachings) and Sikh Rehat Maryada (code of conduct).
The founder of the Sikh religion was Guru Nanak who was born in 1469. At the age of 30 years, in 1499, he had a mystic experience. Nanak found himself in the presence of God and God spoke to him thus:
“Nanak I am with you. Through you will my Name be magnified! Go into world to pray and teach mankind how to pray. But be not sullied by the ways of the world. Let thine life be one of praise of the Word (Nam, God) through Akhar (words - Shabad, Bani, Gurbani, Psalms and Hymns) of charity (Dan), ablution (Ishnan, purification), service (Sewa) and prayer (Simran)”.
He preached this message and criticized the blind rituals of the Indian society. The path Nanak advocated was of Bhagti (worship) of the name of God (Nam). After Guru Nanak nine successive Gurus gave the same message. The final living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh died in 1708.
During his lifetime Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa order (meaning 'The Pure'), the soldier-saints. The Khalsa uphold the highest Sikh virtues of commitment, dedication and a social conscious. The Khalsa people are men and women who have undergone the Sikh baptism ceremony and who strictly follow the Sikh Code of Conduct and wear the prescribed physical articles of the faith.
Before his death in 1708 Guru Gobind Singh appointed Sri Guru Granth Sahib as his spiritual successor and Khalsa Congregation as his physical successor.
Guru Granth sahib, the spiritual Guru of the Sikhs, was compiled by the fifth Guru – Guru Arjan Dev. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is unique in the world of religious scriptures. Besides the poetry of the Gurus, it also contains the writings of the saints of other faiths whose thoughts were consistent with those of the Sikh Gurus.
Sikhism does not have priests; priesthood was abolished by Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru felt that priests become corrupt and full of ego. Sikhs only have custodians of the Guru Granth Sahib (granthi), and any Sikh is free to read the Guru Granth Sahib in the Gurdwara (a Sikh temple) or in his home.
The Kingdom of the Sikhs
During the Sikh Gurus, Moguls invaded and ruled India. Moguls were Muslims and they very actively and by all means tried to convert all Indians to Islam. Since Moguls were very cruel to non-Muslims, some Sikh Gurus and many Sikhs were prosecuted and executed. Sikh history is full of martyrs who laid down their lives for the sake of their faith and identity. For many years after the death of the tenth Guru Gobind Singh, it was banned to be a Sikh and carry Sikh symbols of identity. Under this period the Sikhs became guerrilla fighters, formed many groups (Misils) and ultimately took the whole of northern India under their control. In the end of the 18th century and for a period of 40 years, one misil leader, Ranjit Singh, took over the control of northern India and declared himself the Maharajah of the Punjab. He defeated the Afgans, the Pathans and Kashmiris. Maharajah Ranjit Singh died in 1839 and within ten years the kingdom of the Sikhs was lost. The British took over the control of Punjab till the independence of India in 1947.
The Sikh Gurus – the spiritual teachers
“Deep within the self is the light of God. It radiates throughout the expanse of His creation. Through the Guru’s teachings, the darkness of spiritual ignorance is dispelled. The mind blossoms and the eternal peace is obtained as the self merges into the Self”. Guru Amar Das. GG page 126
The word "Guru" is a Sanskrit word meaning spiritual teacher and guide, very honoured person, religious person or saint. The Guru lives in the direct consciousness of God. The honour of being called a Sikh Guru applies only to the ten Gurus who founded the religion starting with Guru Nanak in 1469 and ending with Guru Gobind Singh in 1708. Thereafter it refers to the Sikh Holy Scriptures the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Guru guides the individual to God or to the realisation of God. The unquestioning obedience to the Guru is required. Sometimes Guru is referred as Satguru or Sadguru meaning that it is he who can take you to Sat, Truth or God.
The Sikh Gurus are paragons of the Sikh-thought and Sikh-living. They were saints who had realized God, had mystical experiences and sang about the beauty of God through their poetry called Bani, Gurbani or Shabads (Hymns and Psalms).
Guru is not an incarnation of God. God is the creator of all the visible and invisible world and does never take human form.
The Sikh Gurus
Guru Nanak Dev
1469 April 14
1539 September 22
Guru Angad Dev
1504 April 18
1552 April 16
Guru Amar Das
1479 May 23
1574 September 16
Guru Ram Das
1534 October 9
1581 September 16
Guru Arjan Dev
1563 May 2
1606 June 16
1595 July 5
1644 March 19
Guru Har Rai
1630 January 31
1661 October 20
1656 July 23
1664 April 16
Guru Tegh Bahadur
1621 April 18
1675 November 24
Guru Gobind Singh
1666 January 5
1708 October 21
Sri Guru Granth Sahib –word of God. The Holy Book of the Sikhs
Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the Supreme Spiritual Authority and Head of the Sikh religion. The Sikhs treat and respect Guru Granth Sahib as their living Guru. Guru Granth Sahib is a collection of devotional hymns and psalms which proclaim God.
Guru Granth Sahib begins with Mool Mantra (the basic formula for mystical meditation) as a prologue to Jap, a creation of Guru Nanak. Jap in turn is a prologue to Guru Granth Sahib. Jap describes the indescribable God and means to realise Him. Jap is the most pithy and metaphoric poem in the whole of Guru Granth Sahib. It is considered to be the epitome of the entire Sikh philosophy. Its theme recurs again and again in the whole Granth.
Guru Granth revolves around
• The concept and nature of God
• God in relation to his creation
• Man’s relation to God
• Man’s plight and his purpose of life
• Spiritual evolution of a man and enlightenment. Realization of God through meditation (Bhakti) and prayer.
Guru Arjan Dev the Fifth Sikh Guru compiled the original version of the Guru Granth Sahib. By compiling Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Arjan Dev gave a common platform to all the Sikhs. Guru Granth Sahib is the uniting force for the Sikh congregation (Sikh sangat). On September 1, 1604 it was installed in Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple, Amritsar).
Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the only scripture in the world which was compiled by one of the founders of a religion himself and whose authenticity has never been questioned.
In a metaphor of food, Guru Arjan Dev sums up the contents of the Granth in the epilogue:
"Three things are placed on the platter (in the Granth); Truth, contentment and contemplation. The ambrosial Name of God is placed upon it. The Nam that sustains everyone. He who eats and enjoys these things shall be saved. One must not abandon this spiritual food; and should always keep or relish it in mind. The salvation or Mukti from worldly ignorance or Maya can only be attained if one submits oneself to God, He who is everywhere says Nanak (Arjan Dev)." (Guru Arjan Dev, Mundawani)
Contributors & Layout
Besides the writings of the Sikh Gurus, Guru Granth Sahib contains the compositions of all the medieval Hindu Bhagats (Saints) and Sufi Muslims.
There are 42 authors in Guru Granth Sahib (7 Sikh Gurus, 3 Sikhs, 15 saints and 17 Bhats - brahmins). The writings of the Gurus appear chronologically. Each of the Gurus signed their hymns as Nanak since they proclaimed and confirmed the thought of Nanak, the first Guru. Their compositions are identified by the numerals at the beginning of each hymn, ie. Mahalla 1 is Guru Nanak, Mahalla 2 is Guru Angad and so on. Guru’s writings are followed by other saints (Bhagtas).
The majority of the language of the Guru Granth Sahib is the Punjabi dialect prevalent at that time, some hymns are also found in Persian, Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit and Arabic. All of these hymns are written in the standard Punjabi script known as Gurmukhi, popularized by Guru Angad.
The Guru Granth Sahib is exactly 1430 pages in length. Each page contains in bold print 18 or 19 lines.
The hymns have been arranged according to the melody (Raga) in which they are meant to be sung. There are 31 Ragas in the Granth Sahib.
Prominent Sikh Institutions
Spiritual exercise or spirituality in action is the idea behind the Sikh institutions. They bring a sense of belonging, liberty, equality, fraternity, dignity and honour to the common man.
Guru Nanak Dev founded the institutions of Dharamsala (Gurdwara), Sangat (Congregation of the Sikhs) and Pangat (all people sitting together as equal and sharing food (Langar).
The Sikh Temple - Gurdwara
"True is that place, where the mind becomes pure. True is the one who abides in Truth." Guru Amar Das, Raga Gauri, pg. 158
During the times of the early Gurus, Sikh places of worship were referred to as Dharamsalas. A Dharamsala was a place where Sikhs could gather to hear the Guru speak or sing hymns. As the Sikh population continued to grow Guru Hargobind introduced the word Gurdwara, meaning the gateway to the Guru. Thereafter all Sikh places of worship came to be known as Gurdwaras. Any place where the Guru Granth Sahib is installed and treated with due respect can be referred to as a Gurdwara.
There are thousands of Gurdwaras throughout Punjab and the rest of the world. They serve as community centres for the Sikh's. There are no restrictions on who may enter a Gurdwara for prayer. People of all religions are welcome to attend.
The most significant historical and religious centre for the Sikhs is Harimandir Sahib (The Golden Temple) at Amritsar in the state of Punjab in northern India
The main functions carried out in a Gurdwaras are the celebrations of the special Sikh days and festivals besides the daily worship through:
1. Paath – recitation from Guru Granth Sahib
2. Kirtan - the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib
3. Katha - the reading of the Guru Granth Sahib with explanations
4. Ardas – the common prayer
5. Langar - free community kitchen for all visitors
6. Many Gurdwaras run Sarai (temporary night accommodation), library of Sikh literature and schools.
When entering a Gurdwara one is expected to remove the shoes and cover one’s bare head as signs of respect towards the sovereignty of the Guru Granth Sahib. Hands are washed and in some Gurdwaras there are also feet washes.
A suppliant (worshipper) approaches the Guru Granth Sahib with folded hands and totally surrenders to the Guru and supplicates. This is done by prostrating or bowing down and touching the floor with forehead in front of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Oblation (offering of cash) is usually made at this time. These offerings are voluntary and not compulsory. All people irrespective of their status sit on the floor as a sign of equality.
One may enter or leave the congregation at any time. Men and women can sit together or on separate sides. All people are expected to sit and stand facing the Guru Granth Sahib in a Gurdwara.
Sangat – Sikh Congregation
Sikhism is a congregational religion. The Sikh congregation or Sabha (gathering) in a Gurdwara is called Sangat, Sat-Sangat, Sadh-Sangat, Guru’s Sangat or Guru-Roop Sangat (symbolic temporal Guru). Every Sikh is expected to attend the Sangat.
When talking about the Sikhs as a community it is usually referred to as Sikh-Sangat.
The Sangat gathers in a Gurdwara or at any other place for a collective spiritual exercise - worship, prayer, Kirtan and spiritual bliss. In a Sangat the participants recite, listen and sing Guru's hymns, Bani or Shabad, in praise of God in classical music
No preference is given in the Sangat to an individual, however great. All sit together on the floor, anywhere they like. There is no reservation of seats. This implies removal of caste distinctions and equality. After prayers everybody must get exactly an equal quantity of Karah Prasad (sanctified sweet bite).
Sangat is also a democratic based authority to decide on the social and spiritual welfare of the Sikh society. The decision of the Sangat is considered to be as the decision of the Guru. For this reason it is believed that the Guru is present in Sangat and God manifests himself in the Sangat.
Pangat – Guru ka Langar (free community kitchen)
Pangat is an institution in Sikhism which means to dine together sitting in a row or line on the floor in a Langar hall ( Kitchen). Langar (sharing food) manifests the principle that all are equal before God and equally entitled to the nourishment for body and soul. Since God does not discriminate so all are equal in a Sikh Langar. Every body sits in a row irrespective of caste, colour or creed and eats the same food whether rich or poor, prince or a pauper.
Only vegetarian food is served so that no person may feel offended because of any dietary restrictions.
The Golden Temple: Sri Harimandir Sahib
The Harimandir Sahib (meaning Temple of God) is also commonly known as the Golden Temple. It is the Most Sacred Shrine of the Sikhs.§ It is situated in the city of Amritsar in Punjab. The Golden Temple is a living symbol of the spiritual and historical traditions of the Sikhs. It is a source of inspiration to all Sikhs and is their chief place of pilgrimage.
This gold covered shrine stands in the middle of a square tank with each side about 150m with an 18m path on all four sides. The Harimandir Sahib has entrances and doors on all four sides. Guru Arjun Dev exclaimed; "My faith is for the people of all castes and all creeds from whichever direction they come and to whichever direction they bow."
Guru Amar Das the Third Sikh Guru asked Ram Das (who would go on to become the Fourth Sikh Guru) to build a central place of congregation for the Sikhs. Guru Ram Das started excavation work in 1577. Guru Arjun Dev the Fifth Sikh Guru completed excavation of the Tank known as Amritsar (The Pool of Nectar) in 1588.
Guru Arjun Dev then started construction of the Temple building itself which was finally completed in 1601. The foundation stone was laid by a Muslim-Sufi-Saint called Mian Mir.
The first edition of the Holy Book of the Sikh's The Guru Granth Sahib was installed there in 1604.
The Golden Temple has always been a rallying point for Sikhs throughout its history.
Around 1740 Massa Ranghar, the ruler of Amritsar desecrated the Temple by using it as a dancing hall. He was killed by Mahtab Singh. In 1761 Ahmed Shah Abdali blew up the Temple and filled in the Sacred Tank with refuse. The great Sikh martyr Baba Deep Singh laid down his life in revenge.
The construction of the Golden Temple as it appears today was begun in 1764 when Jassa Singh Ahluwalia laid the foundation stone. Many of the doors and domes were overlaid with gold during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
What is a Khalsa?
The word "Khalsa" means "pure". Khalsas are Sikhs who have undergone the sacred Amrit Ceremony initiated by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. The Khalsa order was initially created on Baisakhi Day March 30 1699. At first, Guru Gobind Singh baptized five Sikhs and then in turn asked the five Khalsas to baptize him.
The Khalsa baptism ceremony is undertaken as part of one’s own personal spiritual evolution when the initiate is ready to fully live up to the high expectations of Guru Gobind Singh. All Sikhs are expected to be Khalsa or be working towards that objective.
The Khalsa baptism ceremony involves drinking of Amrit prepared under the recitation of Sikh Hymns, in the presence of five Khalsa Sikhs as well as the Guru Granth Sahib. The initiate is instructed;
1. Never to remove any hair from any part of thy body
2. Not to use tobacco, drugs or any other intoxicants
3. Not to eat meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way (Halal)
4. Not to commit adultery
5. The initiate is required to wear the physical symbols of a Khalsa – Kachh, Kes, Kara, Kangha and Kirpan
The Symbols of Khalsa - the Physical Articles of Faith
Dastar - Turban
Turban is the crown that every Sikh wears. Turban is a symbol of royalty, dignity and self-respect in the eastern and Middle Eastern cultures. Guru Gobind Singh transformed this cultural symbol into a religious requirement so that the Khalsa would always have high self-esteem. It differentiates Sikhs from other religious followers who keep long hair but wear caps or keep matted hair. The turban cannot be covered by any other head gear or replaced by a cap or hat. The turban is mandatory for Sikh men and optional for Sikh women.
Kesh – Long, uncut hair of the head
Long uncut hair is a symbol of spirituality. It is a mark of dedication and group consciousness, showing a Khalsa's acceptance of God's Will. Long hair has long been a common element of many spiritual prophets of various religions such as Mohammad, Jesus, Moses, Buddha and Hindu spiritual persona.
Kangha - Comb
Kanga is a symbol of hygiene and discipline as opposed to the matted and unkempt hair of ascetics. Asceticism is prohibited in Sikhism. A Khalsa is expected to regularly wash and comb their hair as a matter of self discipline.
Kara - Steel bracelet
Kara is a symbol of spiritually and morally approved actions.
Kachha – Drawers
Kachha is a symbol signifying fidelity, self control and chastity.
Kirpan - Ceremonial Sword
Kirpan is symbol of God (protector One) for the Sikhs. It is also a symbol of dignity and the Sikh struggle against injustice. Nowadays it is worn purely as a religious symbol and not as a weapon.
SGPC – Shromani Gurdwara Parbandak Committee
SGPC is the Mini Parliament of the Sikhs. SGPC is an elected organ for the management of the Sikh shrines – Gurdwaras in the whole world. Its main office is in Amritsar.The Sikh Reht Maryada – The Sikh Code of Conduct: A Brief
The Sikh Code of Conduct – Rehat Maryada
The Sikh Rehat Maryada is the official document of the Sikhs that describes the Sikh Code of Conduct.
A Sikh’s way of life should be as per Gurmat – the teachings of the Guru.
The Sikh will worship only God. He will not set up any idols, gods, goddesses or statues for worship nor shall they worship any human being.
The only spiritual Guru at present and for all future is Guru Granth Sahib.
The Sikh will believe in no other religious book other than the Holy Guru Granth Sahib, although they can study other religious books for acquiring knowledge and for comparative study.
The Sikh will not believe in caste system, magic, spells, omens, amulets, astrology, auspicious times, ceremonial hair cutting, fasts, frontal masks, sacred thread, graves and traditional death rites.
The Khalsa (the baptized one) will remain distinct by wearing the Five K's (the symbols of Khalsa) but shall not injure the feelings of others who profess different religions.
The Sikh will pray to God before starting any work. This will be over and above his usual prayers.
Although a Sikh may learn as many languages as he likes, he must learn Punjabi and teach his children to learn to read it.
Every male should add "Singh" after his name and every female should add "Kaur" after her name.
Drugs and Smoking are strictly forbidden for Sikhs.
Sikh women will not wear a veil.
Sikh men will not pierce the nose or ears for wearing ornaments.
Child marriage is taboo for Sikhs.
The Sikhs greet each other by saying – Sat Sri Akal, meaning God is eternal Truth.
Ceremonies and Festivals
Nam Karan – Naming of a Child
As soon as the mother and child are able to travel, the family visits the Gurdwara. There they recite joyful hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib to celebrate the birth of the new child The name is chosen by taking the Hukam. The Granthi randomly opens Sri Guru Granth Sahib to any page and reads the hymn on that page. The first letter of the first word of the hymn is chosen. The child's name is then chosen beginning with that letter and is announced to the congregation.
Amrit Sanskar – Baptism
This is the sacred ceremony for the initiation into the Khalsa brotherhood. It should be taken only by those who are fully mature enough to realize the commitment required and the significance. The initiate may be a man or woman of any caste or previous religion. Generally they are encouraged to start behaving; acting and looking like a Sikh before seeking baptism.
In Sikhism death is considered a natural process and God's will. Any public displays of grief at the funeral such as wailing or crying out loud are discouraged. Cremation is the preferred method of disposal. Worship of the dead with gravestones is discouraged. The ashes are disposed of by immersing them in the nearest river. A non continuous (Sahaj Paath) reading of the entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib is undertaken and timed to conclude on the tenth day. This may be undertaken at home or in a Gurdwara. The conclusion of this ceremony marks the end of the mourning period.
This is the non-stop cover to cover reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib which is undertaken to celebrate any joyous occasion or in times of hardship, such as birth, marriage, death, moving into a new house, and Gurpurbs. The non stop reading takes approximately 48 hours and is carried out by family members or professional readers in the presence of the family. The reading must be clear and correct so that it can be understood by all listeners.
This ceremony evolved in the mid 18th century when there were few hand written copies of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs were fighting for their lives at this time and hiding in jungles. They would all gather to hear whatever portion of a reading they could before Sri Guru Granth Sahib would be moved to another location for another audience. Performance of Akhand Path as a blind ritual is highly disrespectful to Sri Guru Granth Sahib and contrary to the teachings of the Gurus.
Important anniversaries associated with the lives of the Gurus are referred to as Gurpurbs. These are usually marked at Gurdwaras with Akand Path, cover to cover, reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib) concluding on the specific day. There is also Kirtan (musical recitation of hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib) as well as Katha (lectures on Sikhism). Some places also have Nagar Kirtan, where there is a procession with Sri Guru Granth Sahib led by 5 Sikhs carrying Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag). Free sweets and langar are also offered to the general public outside some gurdwaras.
Among the larger Gurpurb celebrations are:
• First installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in the Golden Temple by Guru Arjan Dev
• Birth of Guru Nanak (traditionally celebrated in November)
• Birth of Guru Gobind Singh
• Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev
• Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur
• Martyrdom of The Sahibzadas (the sons of Guru Gobind Singh)
Baisakhi – birthday of Khalsa
Guru Amar Das first institutionalized this as one of the special days when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Guru’s blessings at Goindwal in 1567. In 1699 Guru Gobind Singh gathered thousands at Anandpur Sahib and founded the Khalsa order by baptizing five brave Sikhs who were willing to give their lives for the Guru. The Five Beloved Ones in turn baptized Guru Gobind Singh into the Khalsa brotherhood. This day is celebrated around April 13 and is considered the birthday of the Khalsa order. Sikhs visits Gurdwaras and fairs and parades are held. Many Sikhs choose to be baptized into the Khalsa brotherhood on this day, as well the wrappings of the Nishan Sahib flag post at most gurdwaras are changed on Baisakhi.
The Indian festival of lights held around October 25th. Guru Amar Das institutionalized this as one of the special days when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Gurus blessings at Goindwal. In 1577 the foundation stone of The Golden Temple was laid on Diwali. On Diwali 1619 the Golden Temple was illuminated with many lights to welcome home and celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind from imprisonment in Gwalior fort. Sikhs have continued this annual celebration with lamps being lit outside gurdwaras and sweets distributed to all. The largest gathering happens at The Golden Temple which is lit up with thousands of lights.
Maghi – martyrdom of the Forty Immortals
Sikhs visit gurdwaras and listen to Kirtan on this day to commemorate the martyrdom of the Forty Immortals. The largest gathering happens at Muktsar where an annual fair is held. It occurs on the first day of Maghar Sangrant, around January 13. Forty followers of Guru Gobind Singh who had previously deserted him, fought bravely against overwhelming Mogul army forces and were martyred here. Guru Gobind Singh personally blessed them as having achieved Mukti (liberation) and cremated them at Muktsar.
Hola Mohalla – martial sports day
An annual festival held at Anandpur Sahib. It was started by Guru Gobind Singh as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the Indian festival of Holi. The mock battles were followed by music and poetry competitions. The Nihang Singhs carry on the martial tradition with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding. Hola Mohalla is held around March 17.
Sangrand – start of a new month
This is the time when the sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the next; it is the start of the new month in the Indian calendar. The beginning of the new month is announced in the gurdwaras by the reading of portions of Bara Maha (Song of the 12 Months), by Guru Arjan Dev (pg. 133) or sometimes Bara Maha by Guru Nanak Dev (pg. 1107). This day just marks the beginning of the new month and is not treated as being greater or better than any other day.
Family is the basic structure and unit in Sikhism. Family was most important to all Sikh Gurus. The Gurus believed that the family must procreate to continue the existence of the society.
Family in Sikhism is a training school for social, cultural, political and spiritual makeup of a child. It is a training school for Seva (service) and charity.
Marriage is considered to be a sacrament.
"They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together. Rather they alone are called husband and wife, who have one soul in two bodies." (Guru Amar Das, Pauri, pg. 788
Women in Sikhism
At the time of the Gurus women were considered very low in the society. Muslims regarded women inferior to men. A woman was a man’s property and her only value was as a servant or as an object of entertainment. They were considered as seducers and distracters. Men were allowed polygamy but widows were not allowed to remarry. Child marriage and female infanticide were prevalent and purdah (veil) was popular for women. Women were also not allowed to inherit any property.
In such a climate Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism shocked the entire society by preaching that women were worthy of praise and equal to men. Five hundred years later, the rest of mankind is only now waking up to this fundamental truth.
The Gurus actively encouraged the participation of women as equals in worship, in society, and on the battlefield. They encouraged freedom of speech and women were allowed to participate in any and all religious activities including reading of the Guru Granth Sahib
"We are born of woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman, we are engaged and married to woman. We make friendship with woman and the lineage continued because of woman. When one woman dies, we take another one, we are bound with the world through woman. Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings? The woman is born from woman; there is none without her. Only the One True Lord is without woman" (Guru Nanak Dev, Var Asa, pg. 473)
-written & compiled by Dalbir Singh