The Role of Women in Sikhism

In this video I ask Guruka Singh some questions about women, in relation to being a Sikh and being a part of the Panj Piaray. As most of you know, women generally are not "allowed" to be part of the Panj Piaray in most Gurdwaras.  Even inside the Harimandir Sahib (The Golden Temple) women are not allowed to play Kirtan or do certain sevas. In spite of the Guru’s message  of gender equality and the Guru declaring that there is no gender in Khalsa…these practices continue. Watch the video below to hear Guruka Singh’s thoughts on this subject.

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14 Responses to “The Role of Women in Sikhism”

  1. g says:

    Beautifully said. This is what our Guru wants from every human being, that thier thoughts and actions show high status of their spirituality. Sikhism is all about equality. We defend the poor and the weak then why make women weak or inferior. IF someone is trying to put daughters of khalsa down or matter fact any daughter in this world then it would be similar to slapping our mothers on the face and telling them that they are worthless, or inferior to males. I don’t think any human being would do that to their mothers regardless of their religion. Then why put down mothers and sisters.

    Earth is also consider as mother because it nurtures every being. The entire Gurbani is written from the female persecptive because that energy also nurtures every being that comes to this world.

  2. Baljinder Kaur says:

    Thank u for this account, once again explained so beautifully.
    Guruka ji is truly khalsa.

  3. Prabhu Singh says:

    Perfectly stated.
    Has anybody ever noticed, that it’s the same fanatic men that put down women that do other egregious actions? They are the people who are violent, judgemental, narrow-minded, fearful and controlling. You can see it in almost every Gurdwara, except the very few where women are honored and treated with respect. Unfortunately some women have been so degraded that they marry these type of men and raise more children that are equivalent.
    I’ve seen the fanatics complaining how they can’t find wives etc. etc. Yeah, because women are expansive and not into narrow-minded behaviors.
    I’m sure that men doom themselves when they mistreat women. The future of the Khalsa panth requires the honoring of women and men equally.

  4. Harjot says:

    This is so inspirational. I have often questioned my father about these things, and since we both don’t accept these actions, it is great to find an explanation to give to those who do follow through with this train of thought. Women are most definitely equal to men. I told my father that I would be in the Panj Piaray one day. He said he would be proud.

    Now I guess it’s time to show other people in the Gurudwara’s around here that it should be allowed, and it is possible. Time to make a change.

  5. Gurpreet says:

    Thanks for the post.

    I have question Bhai Gurmustusk,

    Is there any ordinance from Akal Takht where is says that women can’t be in panj pyare?
    Because this is the first time I ever seen women in panj pyare..
    Because from what I have seen its usually old 60+ people in panj pyare..

    I believed that women should be treated the same as man and with the same dignity.

    Sometimes I personally agree with women choices such as abortion… which in my personal view is murder…
    I am not saying that men are perfect…But we all have our defects…

  6. Gurpreet, I have never read anything which says women can’t be a part of the Panj Piaray. Though I’m sure you have heard about the whole ordeal of not letting women play kirtan in Harmandir Sahib. It’s just one of those unsaid things that has happened and is not challenged. There are certain cultural aspects which play into this, but for many western cultures which are used to women taking lead roles in all areas it is much easier to stand up and say you think.

    When I was in boarding schools in India, rarely did any of the other Indian kids speak up or go against the “rule”. It was always the foreigners….and this was partly because we grew up with different culture and the mindset of equality and speaking up for what you believe in (even if you get hit by the teacher!).

    I’m sure in time things will change as people get educated and open up. It takes time when people are used to things a certain way.

  7. Manjit Singh says:

    Satnam Gurumustuk Singh Ji,

    I haven’t seen the video yet while on the subject of Sikh women, I re-read the article written by Shanti Kaur Khalsa Ji a few days ago on “Spiritual Strength of Women”, posted on January 18, 2007. It is a beautifully written article that shows what it means to be Sikh woman and urge everyone to read it.

  8. satvinder says:

    I think Guruka Singh ji has articulted the subject of gender equality beautifully.

    I have one concern with the idea “that the woman is the keeper of the sacred space of the home and that there is no higher position”

    I don’t have any issues with the concept but I have concerns with labelling this as the highest position because formerly it was labelled as a inferior role thus questioning the abilities of a woman.

    Being a housekeeper is a job. Like any other. I don’t believe that there should be any occupational status or division. I personally feel that the division of labour should remain flexible and roles need not be assigned to either men or women. People should be allowed to choose their roles independantly and jointly as couples.

    I hope I do not cause any offence by sharing my personal views.

    On a separate note the video showing the interview with Chardi Kala Jatha in punjabi too was inspirational.

  9. Gurdev says:

    Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh

    Beautiful video. It inspired me to do research in bani to what Guru tells us about women. A lot of beautiful and inspiring words are contained within Gurbani on women. Although in essence, i feel the real message is that there is no difference between women and men.

    In my sangat there are many divisions between men and women. Many amritdharhi women are “not allowed” to do the same tasks that the men are allowed to do.

    Guruka, your videos are a source of inspiration. Thank you for this sewa.

    Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh

  10. Sukhvir Kaur says:

    I just have to say that I agree because god thinks everybody is = like good or bad male or female etc so I think women should be in the panj pyare but some peple say it dosen’t look right but god thinks everything looks right so they should!

  11. Ajit Kaur says:

    I was given the clip on womens roles in sikhdom by a friend online and i would like to make the following comments on the result of the talk and please note that I am a woman:

    I agree that from the creation of the Khalsa came the end of the argument of caste. Equality became the power of Dashmesh Pitta.

    But I also think that especially in recent years we are becoming more and more confused of the definitions. The Guru (al) has and still has the right concept however we as women fail to recognise the argument.

    My Point: Men and Women are equal. But they are not the same. The confusion occurs between the words Equality and Similarity. We are all born equal with the power and grace of God. But we are divided as men and women. A man can walk in the street bare chested and not be ridiculed but if a woman did that she would be.

    The Direction of the argument: There is a simple explanation I think of why Women do not act as the Panj Pyare and incidentally there is no restriction that they cannot. The reason why they MAY not is purely because if the big brother is present is there a need for the little brother to step forward? We women, as little brothers of the faith, do not NEED to be a PYARA because the big brother is still present and able to do so.

    There is also a more fundamental and scientific reason. The voicebox. The preparation of the ang-mirith (sacred water- the correct spelling which when analysed now means the ‘to never die’/ the ‘eternally living water’) has to be done by the Panj Pyare. They do this together as one – the embodiment of the Guru.

    If you will note: a woman’s voice box is higher than that of a man. You will also note that the frequency is slightly faster. Why then do i bring this up? Because the simple turning of Jaal into Ang-Mirith is the frequency of the Shabad whilst the latter is prepared. The male voicebox is lower and more consistant in its sound. On stirring the water with the kanda the mool mantra is said in unison. This has two effects 1. it sensitises the hair – the only dead entity that responds to sound. 2. it sensitises the water that is being stirred. Coupled with the heat caused by the stirring of the water increases the waters properties. There is proof to suggest this as normal water and jaal has been tested to check whether there is a difference here in England and found to have an unusually higher amount of static property than ordinary water. This effect did not occur in tests that were done in exactly the same conditions but by five women. Note incidentally that this confirms the analogy of the mool mantra itself that all knowledge is based on SOUND. Including the strength and immortality of the Khalsa.

    I would also like to state that the The Guru has already given women a higher status than men and that is purely through the words Gurudev Maatha Gurudev Pitha aka. The Lord is mother first and father after indeed what higher and better recognition is there that a sikh mother can give birth to Khalsa and in so doing achieve immortality?

    The last thing that I would like to say is that on the creation of the Khalsa when Maharaj stood in the crowd asked if there was anyone who would come forward and give their head to him it was the Pyare – 5 Men who stepped forward. They by doing so are now beyond Gath – motion and the movings of time. No woman stepped forward.

    We forget the miraculous things that sikh women have done or still do lest we forget the women generals and the wars that we have fought – story of women picking up arms against the Moghuls? Indeed Gatka itself was taken when the Guru went to Durga (a female God) – source Chandi Di Vaar and brought it back as a weapon for his Khalsa.

    Women do not need to aspire to the same level as men for we ARE equal and MORE POTENT.

    Sources: Adi Granth, Dasam Pathsha Da Granth and the Sarabloh Granth and of course Chandi Di Vaar – which have still not retained their rightful place since the British removed them form our places of worship to pacify the Sikhs.


  12. Grainne says:

    Sikhism rocks!!!!!!! lol
    but they should put more info on to help with school projects!!!

  13. ... says:

    I'm so glad to hear this. So glad. Finally, the soul is given importance not the body. For how can you tell that a man of today hasn't been in a woman's body in the past lives? Vice-versa.

  14. Jj says:

    Hello Ms Ajit Kaur. I agree that men and women are different but the whole point is Anyone should be capable of being in any position. And there is probably an easy explanation of why five men stepped forward: because in those days women were quite and men engaged in the more outgoing/expressive tasks. In some cases this still holds true and that is what needs to change.

    And yes Sikh women have done amazing things throughout history but we are talking about here and now.

    My point is if a Sikh woman really really wanted to act as a Panj Pyare, then no one has the right to say no.

    Furthermore I believe to suggest that women already encompass the greater role is sort of a limiting idea. It does not encourage expansion and experimentation with ones position in life. A fair analogy would be a company CEO who is told not to try anything else as they are already the richest and most powerful around. So if the CEO wanted to try painting or try working another job, they would be discouraged primarily due to them being in a ‘great’ position already. And if we don’t have freedom in life, what do we have?

    Besdies that it is positively refreshing to read that so many people believe in equality and fairness in everything. :)