Guru Amar Das and Equality

The 3rd Sikh guru, Guru Amar Das ji, proclaimed that no one would be allowed into his presence until that person had eaten in the Guru’s Kitchen, or Guru ka Langar. Of course, it was a wonderful service to make sure that everyone had this basic need for food taken care of before seeing the Guru. But Guru Amar Das had another goal in mind. When you eat in the Guru ka Langar everyone sits on the same level, on the floor or ground and everyone eats the same food. This practice ensures that each person coming to see the Guru would be reminded that they were neither above nor below anyone else.

Equality of all people is one of the primary principles of Sikh Dharma introduced by the 1st guru, Guru Nanak. From his first utterance after his moment of liberation, Guru Nanak taught that, as there is only One God, then we are all equal, regardless of how we worship. He was a visionary in the way he encouraged people to rise above any socially imposed limitation.

Guru Nanak was also a social revolutionary in the way that he addressed the rights of women. At that time women were treated like property, but Guru Nanak elaborated on his concept of equality by unequivocally declaring that women are equal to men.

Guru Amar Das extended the importance of treating women with equality even further by declaring that women should not veil their faces (Purdah) in public. He also banned female infanticide and the practice of voluntary or forced self-immolation of the widow on the funeral pyre of her husband (Sati), and encouraged widows to remarry. It was during the reign of Guru Amar Das that women were included in the “Manji and Piri” programs of spiritual stewardship, where Guru Amar Das chose 146 leaders, of which 52 were women, to carry the light of Sikh Dharma teachings to people far and wide.

~ Pritpal Singh Khalsa, “Equality: All One Before God,” Sikh Dharma International (