March 8, 1989 marked the 70th anniversary of International Women’s Day. According to an Indian saying, “A culture is judged by the status it gives to its women.”

Sikh religion has played a lead role in recognizing the equal status of women. Guru Nanak Dey Ji was a pioneer in this endeavor. He repudiated the belief that women were inferior or unclean, Jn As a di Var Guru Nanak Dev Ji writes, “Bhand Jamiea Bhond Nimea Bhond Mangan Viah, Bhando Hoven Dosti Bhondo Chale Rah. Bhand Mua Bhond Bhalie Bhond Hove Bandon, So Keon Manda Akhie Jit Jamae Rajon.” (Born of women, brought up by women engaged and married to women why should women be belittled who gave birth to great men.)

Women of Guru’s household also played a very important role in the development of new social order.

Bibi Nanakielder sister of Guru Nanak Dev ji played a significant role in Guru Nanak’s life: She was the first one to recognize the spiritual powers of her brother. She was the first woman follower of Sikh religion. In order to help her brother spread his teachings far and wide by taking charge of his household responsibilities. She looked after his family when he was away preaching Sikh philosophy.

‘Mata Klivi wife of Guru Angad Dev ji is well known for her untiring services of langar where she worked day and night with complete dedication,

Mata Sundri, wife of Guru Gobind Singh ji, dedicated her life to further the tasks of the tenth Guru, She. survived for about 40 years after Guru Gobind Singh ji. She led Khalsa Panth in the hours of trial and tribulations and kept the Sikh community together. Settlement betwe:n Tatt Khalsa and Bandai Khalsa is a proof of this fact.

She established a Sikh religious study school in Amnitsar and strengthened Damdama study center with vigor and capability.

With the help of Bhai Man: singh she compiled “Dasam Granth” which .ciuaes the writings of Guru Gobind Singh ji. Mai Bhago a valiant women stopped the defeated Sikh soldiers from returning home. She persuaded them to return to the battlefield to join Guru Gobind Singh. She led them herself.

Hundreds and thousands of brave Sikh women were persecuted and tortured but the Mogul emperors. Rather than renouncing their Sikh religion, they accepted the torture of watching their children skinned alive; their infants killed piece by piece; their body parts thrown in their laps. These martyrs and brave women are remembered in one daily ardas.

Sikh women played an equally important role in Punjab politics. In fact the very idea of organizing and consolidating the Sikh empire originated with Rani Sada Kaur mother-in-law of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

In middle of nineteenth century after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Maharani Jinda the youngest wife of the Maharaja was the first woman to raise her voice against the high handed measures of the foreign power. She reproached the British authorities a number of times,

Next decade witnesses Kooka movement which advocated equal rights for men and women. Among the prominent Kooka women was Ind Kaur from Sangrur.

She was pulled out of the Jatha and was killed by British soldiers in 1872.

In early twentieth century Gulab Kaur was a prominent member of Ghadar party which was founded in North America. She was one of the passengers of the famous ship Kamagata Maru.

Kartar Kaur an activist during the freedom struggle has a long record of suffering imprisonment and selfless work to her credit. 5

Then there was Amar Kaur who announced Satyagrah in Kasur. She was imprisoned for 16 months and was released in shattered health.

During the same period Amrit Kaur who. left her luxurious life in the palace of Kapurthala and joined the freedom struggle was arrested in Kalka. She lost her brother while she was serving her jail term. Her letter to console her sister-in-law was never delivered.

Then in 1984 scores of innocent Sikh women pilgrims were killed during the Indian army assault at Golden: Temple Amritsar. From Oct 31 to Nov 10, 1984 thousands of Sikh women were tortured and killed by the mobs in the India’s capital. Sacrifices of these women were no less significant.

It is impossible to make mention of each name but these Sikh women are living example of courage and conviction. We salute them all.

Actually struggle for Sikh women is far from over. Despite the teachings of Sikh Gurus: for equality between sexes Sikh women are still suffering from social prejudices, It is a great challenge for her to accomplish the goal of equality spelled out by Guru Nanak Dev ji

Dr. Ranjit Kauris the Vice President of the Sikh Women’s International Organization.

Article extracted from this publication >>  April 7, 1989