Here is a beautiful poem and painting by Gurukirin Kaur relating to the longing of women to do seva inside Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple).

It’s really sad to see that this isn’t allowed, and continues to be a political thing. Even though in Sikhi one of our most basic beliefs is equality of Gender. How can we say this if at our most sacred temple it is quite contrary. It doesn’t set a good example for people to follow, and for me gives no confidence in the "leadership" there in Punjab. No wonder most Sikh youth don’t have an interest in being a Sikh! (not to put all the blame on them…but it does have an impact).

I must not understand the issues in India…but it seems like a no brainer. Does anyone know some of the reasons why people appose women doing seva and playing Gurbani Kirtan inside Harmandir sahib? Most of the things I have heard don’t make sense and are so backward. It’s like it is a "Platinum Exclusive Club" and they don’t want others to be able to get in. We have to stand up to this thinking and make our voice heard. At the very least, let others know. Quite a few people I meet don’t even know that women can’t do this seva or play kirtan. When they find out…they can’t believe it!

Anways… here is the poem.

By Gurukirn Kaur Khalsa

Harimandir Sahib longs for the touch of Thy mothers,
Thy sisters, daughters, and all the others,
Who bow each day to Siri Guru Granth,
Following the path of the Khalsa Panth,
Who enter freely through all four doors,
Except when it is time to clean the floors.

In those holiest hours when it is such
A beautiful time to serve and touch
The marble where the saints have walked,
Why must those gilded doors be locked
To women alone, the Guru’s daughters,
Cleansed by Thy Word and Thy Holy Waters?

The women of Bibi Bhani’s line,
And those descended from Mata Sahib Kaur’s time,
Gather as one to utter this prayer:
"O compassionate Guru of infinite care,
Let all Sikhs enact this holy rite,
As all are immaculate in Thy sight."

Download the poem as a wallpaper
Read updates and background info on the seva issue

The above poem and artwork is from the book of poetry titled "Pure Longing Fulfilled" by Gurukirin Kaur Khalsa.

"This is a work of great depth and originality in which Gurukirn Kaur Khalsa combines her inspiring poetry, exquisite paintings and photography for the first time in one volume. Both witty and wise, she brings a refreshing perspective to the expression of the soul’s longing for the infinite. Gurukirn Kaur Khalsa is an Award-winning poet and artist. She is a Sikh, and a juried member of Arizona Artists Guild, and a member of the Interfaith Action Coalition. Available in hardcover or softcover"

15 Responses to “PURE LONGING”

  1. Gurinder says:

    This is not correct, “No wonder most Sikh youth don’t have an interest in being a Sikh!”

    Because even I had no knowlegde that woman are not being allowed to do sewa at golden temple, even though I have put lot of hours reading sikh literature, and have been to boarding school in India for few years. I think this fact was hidden from general public or no one had guts to bring this issue forward.

    Well, speaking of todays youth. I don’t think that they have even touched side of philosophy of sikhism or had any interest in knowing about the history.

    The reasons are many, For last twenty years police and army of india would pick up random sikh youth who ever had turban from the streets and these youth began to disappear slowly somewhere. Actually, they were being murdered! Lot of villages of punjab went empty of youth and only old people are left. for example area of gurdaspur. so, lot of families had fear that their son would be taken away and would be murdered.

    Other reasons are that they want to be like main stream and be accepted by the society at any cost! They think that they are not attracted to girls and lot of other issues are running in their heads.

    Path of Sikhism is NOT easy. But time will change when people will know the significance of sikh dharma and when they will realize how even 6yrs and 8 yrs old shabzaday never gave in their sikhi, though they were walled alive!

  2. Thanks for sharing Gurinder. I am hoping to hear from anyone who knows some of the reasons and justifications as to why women are not allowed to do seva or kirtan in Harmandir Sahib.

    These points are never given. All the news stories don’t seem to ask the obvious. We shouldn’t be asking “Allow women to do seva”. We should be saying “Why are they not allowed!?”.

  3. Sikhi Seeker says:

    My 2 cents are not based on knowledge..its sheer opinion (so no offense neone):

    I can assume that ‘they’ consider it a danger to the centuries of patriarchial constructs of their society and them as individuals. The ‘ideal’ is far from practise…as sad as it is, it, nevertheless, is true, most importantly for Punjab (this is from experience)! I cannot but assume any other reason than the mentality of these people to keep women a step behind, letting men stay the primary ‘karta dharta’. And the refusal to allowing women is only a means to sustain a difference and a distance.

  4. Sikhi Seeker says:

    I forgot to thank Gurumustak ji for bringing such unqiue culmination of art to our notice. This book looks like a must have!

  5. Gurinder says:

    Gurumustuk singh ji,

    I think it is a great shame to sikh dharma, because women are being denied to do sewa. I think the future will change, its just matter of time.

    All these great people have taken the courage and brought these issues before the entire world. The problem is that as long as these Narrow minded uneducated OLD MEN exists sikh dharma will have problems.

    These MEN have made sikh dharma as if it belongs to them only!
    Again its just matter of time, but we have to keep bringing this issue in front every year!!!! Just like we cannot forget what happened during 1984.

    I have high hopes for the future!

  6. Sikhi Seeker says:

    Looks like I’m taking a lot of space here, but GURINDER ji, you have brought some subtle, but very significant points to the table. For the first time, I can see a pattern in the history of disappearance of Turbaned Sikh youth from Punjab, India. It is a highly significant query that you have solved for me..thanks!

  7. isingh says:

    i’m going to be the devil’s or i should say devils’ advocate here. the reasons are as old if not older than religions (of the world) themselves.

    women have a role in “the society” bear children, clean and cook the saag and aalo that the man brings by working.

    another reason women aren’t allowed to do everything men can when it comes to worshiping god in all of the religions is because women are considered dirty (during their periods).

    now, you can ask “i thought sikhism treats men and women equally?”. yes, it does but if it really did then where’re the women gurus in our religion? are you telling me that God couldn’t make one out of ten gurus a woman? AND this is the case with all other (monotheistic) religions as well. you have Marry in christianity and Mata Gujri in sikhi and so forth…

    And i see yet another reason…(people, forgive me for i don’t know much about the Gurudwara politics). Sikhi has been or was doing fine for 400 years and all of a sudden 1984 happened. i can’t speak for anyone else but i’m still shell shocked. we’re just coming out of the fog of war. our youth is cutting hair and beards, our youth is dead or run away and BAM, we don’t know who our leaders are, we don’t know who to trust…AND BAM! someone questions “Why can’t women do sewa at Harmandir Sahib?” and cries of “Women should do sewa at Harmandir Sahib”!!! are going on and we still don’t know who all these people are and why should we trust them? are they one of us?

    so they’re/we’re fighting not because it’s right or wrong because they’re trying to hold on to things the way they were. (before they were bombarded, lied to, raped, made fun of for 20 years). they want to catch their breath. they don’t have time to think about other things because they’re too busy trying to plug every leak in this drowning ship.

    i highly doubt that our religion would have treated this demand this way had it come from a flourishing sikh youth of punjab (the key word is Flourishing and not punjab).

    so i guess, let’s just give them/Sikh brothers of punjab some time to recover. they and you have much much bigger things to worry about. (like how to stop the leaks) they’ll come around. i promise.

    veero atai pehnno pul chuk maaf!

    Sat Nam Wahe Guru!

  8. Gurinder says:

    Isingh ji,

    “ where’re the women gurus in our religion?â€?

    General comment:

    As far as we can go back in history, men have considered women an object for their pleasure and nothing beyond that. Men do show respect to women when they need to fulfill their gratifications, and men were able to suppress their voice for thousands of years because of physical advantage over women. If women would even raise a question she would be battered and abused. Men have made women prostitutes and these prostitutes give birth to their children and again these same men abuse their own female children as prostitutes.

    Men have played a game of reverse psychology with women to fulfill their desires all throughout the history. Women have been suppressed from obtaining education and higher state in a religion, because of a fear that women might take over them!

    Even now men are treating women unfairly in education, salary and other areas as well.

    Now, lets go back 500 yrs back. What kind of mentally did men had that time towards women? Would people (Men) willingly accept women as their religious or spiritual leader or simply a teacher back then? So, the residual of that mentally does exist in India and matter fact in America in the minds of men. But slowly everything will change and when our thoughts are evolved through the teachings of SGGS.

    Guru Nanak ji raised his voice for Women and gave them the Highest respect and status. Guruji stated why we say that women are NOT clean or they are inferior to men, yet they give birth to Great saints, Great kings, Great warriors and even God like Souls! This creation exists because of Women. Family exists because of women. Women have a unique standing in this world of spirituality and we might refute this. Women have played great role and have been strongest pillars (back bone) behind these great souls that came to this earth.

    Starting from Guru Nanak ji mother, then sister Nanakiji and all of other women who have played great roles in Sikhism. Women have sacrificed themselves along with men to keep the pillars of Sikhism strong. If there were no STRONG women in the history then there would be no MALE gurus either….. Women plays a great role in shaping their children…

    They are many steps ahead of men in every aspect of life. Women are symbol of love, caring and compassion. And these same qualities exist in God. Men have one quality, which is EGO and nothing else. Because of this EGO blood shed has taken place since the existence of history.

  9. Gurinder says:

    OOPs I meant “Mentality” where ever I wrote “mentally”


  10. isingh says:

    …Now, lets go back 500 yrs back. What kind of mentally did men had that time towards women? Would people (Men) willingly accept women as their religious or spiritual leader or simply a teacher back then?…

    Gurinder, you can’t be logical; in other words this wasn’t human thinking that brought us these 10 Gurus who just happened to be men. They were the chosen ones by God. If God wanted us to think that men and women are equal then why did he chose 10 men? what I’m saying is that you can’t say “who would listen to a woman at that time?” because in that case don’t you think a woman Guru would’ve been just what we needed to show that men and women are equal. Instead we have God (through a Man) telling us that men and women are equal.

    May be I need to give myself time to grow up a little bit and God will tell me why he chose Men over and over through out the history of earth to deliver his message.

    And also Please don’t assume that I think I know what I’m talking about…(this includes my previous post)

  11. kiran says:


    you love a good arguement…..

    On the subject of seva….well I think it starts at home first. what is the use of arguing about it here? Go to the organisers at Hamandir Sahib and do it with them….!!!!

    lots of pyar


    Ps it was 19* in london today so it wernt too cold

  12. Gurinder says:

    If God wanted us to think that men and women are equal then why did he chose 10 men?

    Logical is derived from past experiences, knowledge, and observation. Again, our minds have limitations to it. No matter how advance we may feel.

    I am assuming that we are trying to think about God’s thoughts now. That’s what Albert Einstein wanted to know about God’s thoughts after years and years of research. Matter of fact, for thousands of years Yogis meditated to know God, but everyone has failed.

    During childhood, when they are about 3-4yrs old children have fascinating attraction towards the fire. The different color of the fire attracts these little kids, and they want to hold that fire in their hands. So, a child may walk towards the fire babbling in excitement, but when a parent see it they will immediately pull back the child from the fire. However, the child will keep on trying to run closer to this fire, but every attempt goes wasted, therefore, they begin to throw a tantrum. A child does not understand why his parent is NOT letting him or her to grab the fire with their hands. Child has no knowledge about the fire and its consequences. But the parent is aware that their child will be BURNED badly and it will cause lot of pain and suffering to the child. But the child consistently throws tantrums because it is beyond his minds grasp.

    Therefore, we are Gods creation and we have limitations of understanding his creation, just like that child.

    It is written in Japji shahib: that we can keep on contemplating up on God for million times yet it will not come to our grasp. Therefore, I cannot describe the thoughts of God. Does God have different standards for gender? Personally I do not think that it is true. Things that do not come to our grasp breeds’ skeptism and thus leave us astray! But definitely there is a reason to that cause. The only way we can come up answers to these kinds of questions is find the provenience of its cause, which could be seen only looking the historical evidence that we have before us.

    If in twenty-first century men are having hard time accepting women to do sewa and nothing more then how one accept women as their spiritual leader or even Guru. I think this idea might have failed many centuries back because of mentality of men. What ever brews in our minds is our own creation and God has nothing to do with it.

    All these Great souls that came to earth, Jesus ji, Mosses ji, and all of Guruji’s endured pain which was afflicted by men. Our fifth Guruji was tortured for five days, then ninth guruji, tenth guru ji and sabhibzaday! God knew about that these great souls would be humiliated and tortured to death by MEN. And what was the reason to torture these great souls?

    If women had come forward then the consequences of tortured could have been worse, such as massive raping and then torturing to death. Again, if there were no women then there would have been any creation. Women might have proven their role to God not to men or society as a whole.

    Maybe God thought that woman already suffers enough pain during their lifetime, which is by being a daughter, sister then mother. The pain mother bears during birth cannot be described with words. Yes, now anesthetics are given but still there is lot of pain. Women have been sacrificing their desires, dreams as a daughter, so that their parents could be proud of them. Then they sacrifice themselves as sisters so that their brothers could excel in life. But the light of hope in their hearts never goes dim. Then they expect that when they get married they might have equality in every aspect of life. Poor naïve women forgot that they are going to marry same men for whom they have been sacrificing themselves in the past.

    Only God knows, we can derive reasons and that’s it.

  13. nj_singh says:

    Please use the resources you have back in punjab – family, relatives, friends and leaders in the community to educate them the importance of the equality of men and women doing seva together.

    I was in Punjab during the SGPC elections time and wanted to find out from people I knew how much they take part in these elections.

    Because I think the Central goverment has taken over the sikh politics and dharma. The government has resources and have literally taken over the affairs of Sikh Dharma. Our people are not educated and lack the knowlege of the importance of the role of SGPC. To me it’s more important than the regular politics of Punjab. Once we have clean sincere religous leaders, we can start preaching SIKHISM and solve most of our DHARMA problems.

    Bhul Chuk Maaf !

  14. isingh says:

    Thanks Gurinder for your effort. It helped. and kiran, it’s called procrastination!

    i will no longer make fun of london/kiran’s weather!…ohh god please let us have sunshine for more than one day a week!

  15. freesikh says:


    sorry for late comments…but let me make one thing clear…The sikh youth ,well most of them dont want anything to do with sikhi..for them it is nothing but a small wish from parents for a small time…

    Coming to what GMS asked …i think it has lot ot do with the mentality of the male species in punjab..you go anywhere else in india and you would find women doing seva…