Rude Awakening by Anju Kaur


Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, India
Sunday, January 19, 2003

Sikh women have been denied equal rights for a long time, even at Darbar
Sahib. I would have found it unimaginable if I hadn’t experienced this
discrimination first hand.

Back in 1994, my family and I arrived at Darbar Sahib very early in the
morning to watch the Guru Granth Sahib being carried across the sarovar walkway. As
the gates opened and the palanquin arrived, we saw people, only men; take
turns to help carry the palanquin.

I told my mom I wanted to do that too. That was when she told me we were not allowed to. My mom disappeared into the crowd and then I heard her voice telling me to go ahead. I had every right and I did. I pushed my way into the crowd and held on for only a couple of seconds until the crowd swept me away. My mom had managed to do the same. We both got yelled at …whatever. We were both happy for the moment.

The experience was quite a rude awakening. It was painful to see that a basic
tenet spelled out by our Gurus was not being followed, not even at Darbar

This is a problem that cannot be ignored. It is so fundamental that it has
grown tentacles into all kinds of other problems that face Sikh society. Denial
of equal seva at Darbar Sahib is at the surface, but what lies beneath is the
attitude of Sikh society that women are inferior, the practice of dowry, women
cutting their hair, domestic violence, the preference of male babies, and
female feticide.

The equality of Sikh women has become just lip service in practice and Sikh
political and religious leaders are parties to this hypocrisy.

While Sikh leaders admit that gender discrimination is against the tenets of
Sikhi, they stop short of taking action. They can only offer lame excuses like
“orthodox Sikhs will retaliate.” Does “orthodox” mean that one can pick and
choose which tenets to follow? Sikhi-by-committee is a dangerous idea. Sikh
tenets do not need anyone’s approval.

Doing the right thing is not always the popular thing to do, but it has to be
done. This crisis should be looked upon as an opportunity for Sikh leaders
such as Jathedar Joginder Singh and SGPC’s Kirpal Singh to make a real
difference. They must use their positions as bully pulpits to liberate Sikh women and
set an example for Sikhs all over the world.

We can overcome our problems.

Equality is the Guru’s hukam. Live the truth. Start by letting the beautiful
words of the Guru Granth Sahib, sung by the sweet voices of women, resonate
from Darbar Sahib.



Filed under Multicultural, Seva - Helping Others, Sikh Women's Movement, Sikhi

6 responses to “Rude Awakening by Anju Kaur

  1. satnamkaurkhalsa

    Equality is the Guru’s hukam.

    Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa
    Vahiguru ji ki Fateh

    You are so right Anju Kaur that the so called Sikhs often ignore Guru’s hukam. It is partly the lack of education and also that they are caught up in the social fabric of Indian culture.

    I am so thankful to the Guru that I came out of India and was able to compare and contrast the Indian culture with Sikh principals.

    If only more women dare to speak out rather than following in the footsteps of oppressed women. We as women need to educate the male and female members of our own family first and then let the seeds grow and multiply.

    Satnam Kaur

  2. Sat Shri Akal!

    Once Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) said: ” i am so glad i knew islam before i knew the muslims”. (i hope i quote right and not to much out of context)
    Well, for me too, i am glad i knew sikhism before i knew the sikhs. And of course this is a general statement and i should say: some sikhs.
    Sikhism is so clear about being equal, but many sikhs don’t live up to these guidelines. How very sad…

    So (as i wrote on my bloggie today) sisters in the world, fight for your rights with every talent you have! We are different, but we are equal!

  3. Tardeep Singh

    Waheguru ji ka khalsa,
    Waheguru ji ki fateh

    i read sis Anju Kaur’s rude awakening.I think these are not right parameters for judgement of equality.Which rights have been bestowed by Guru ji no one can take it away.

    Regarding denial of sewa of Palki Sahib in Harmandir Sahib, Palki Sahib in itself is a wrong tradition. It all started near about 1947. Before that SGGS was always carried on head as was tradition since fifth Guru ji’s time.So this wrong tradition should be stopped. Demand should be for Keertan Sewa inside Harmandir Sahib and appointment of female Sikh Granthi of Harmandir Sahib.

    We should also strictly stand by the 10th Guru ji’s equality order of tying Keski’s by Sikh Women.But when this question is raised mostly speaker’s of equality cause started giving lame excuses.

    Regarding other issue concerning sikh women no one dares to discuss the question”why Sikh girls involve with non-Sikhs more than compare to other nonsikh girls”? i wish we should openly discuss this problem. This problem is effecting a lagre no. of sikh family’s in India and abroad.

  4. Gurmit Singh

    I am of the view that if all Sikhs – boys & girls, youth and elders starting reading, understanding and obeying the Divine Word contained in the Guru Granth Sahib as well as practicing the Sikh Reht Maryada (1945, SGPC) with devotion and humility, such discrimination would disappear. We need not to be at the mercy of selfish clergies and pujaris, who have been imitating pattern
    of other religions. Let us get up and march forward as per Gurus’ Teachings. The rituals which are contrary to “Gurbaani & Gurmatt” must be stopped whether it is Darbaar Sahib and Akaal Takht Sahib or any other place. Thanks,

  5. Fateh,
    some people may not agree with me…but personally i feel that it is harder to be a practicing Sikh women than a male. It is harder not because of ourselves but of peoples and society’s perception of you. Yes, we should not care about what people say or think, but it can be hard. I’m only 15 and i’ve had to deal with alot of racism and bullying, just for wearing a dastar and my kakaars; just for believing what i believe, from school and outside; it is hard. With guruji kirpa and blessing, guruji is helping me through each and everyday. Without faith nothing can happen. Males tend to have more confidence in themselves and will confront someone who says something to them whereas women tend to say this as gossip and rumours which then makes it harder to confront them as they do not say anything to your face. I think, we should help and show what faith can help us with….without being and showing the example, how can anyone learn. We do need to make our sisters along with ourselves stronger and we need to unite…..but we shouldn’t throw males to the side….at the end of the day they are our brothers and can help us and should help us. We all sri guru gobind singh ji’s khalsa unite and be proud of who we are!
    forgive me if i’ve said anyhting which is wrong or has upset you and please correct me if i have

  6. kamallarosekaur

    Hi Harsimrat Kaur,

    Yes, it is harder being a women, and a women of color and a women wearing a dastar (turban) and it is much harder being in High School than any place on earth.

    There is nothing like male hormones to give people confidence too. Add beer and a fast car and….well maybe it isn’t that great being a young male afterall.

    Personally I love men who love women and like working side by side with women, and even enjoy taking advice from women when it is good advice. Humble men are rare and fabulous. They are a great joy to have around.

    I don’ t really spend time with men who expect me to serve them, or who do not like to get involved with sleeves rolled up. Men who don’t change diapers and give babies baths haven’t properly bonded with their babies so I feel sorry for them. I like good Papas, and Grandpapas, and boys and men who inspire babies to smile, the ones that young children climb on. Nice guys. I really love them as a whole group, the world over.


    Q. What should you do with the male who thinks he is God’s gift to women?

    A. Exchange him.

    So how can we all, men and women here, assist and support High School women?

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