Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the First Guru, gave equality to women. There is no hierarchy. No one is great and no one is small.
Long before Women’s Lib, long before women gained the right to vote in the Western world, over 500 years ago, Guru Nanak spoke of the importance and value of women. Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru, denounced purdah, the veiling of a woman’s face in public, and sati, the tradition that expected a widow to burn herself on her husband’s funeral pyre, a practice that Guru Nanak himself had condemned
The traditional Sikh prayer, the Ardas, recited by Sikhs all over the world, begins with this invocation: “After first worshipping the Adi Shakti (the ‘Primal power’)….” Shakti is God’s power in manifestation. It is the feminine, creative aspect of God. Every woman is a goddess, a “Shakti.”
Sikh history is rich with stories of courageous and noble women. When 40 of Guru Gobind Singh’s soldiers decided that they didn’t want to fight anymore, and literally ran home to their wives, their women sent them back into battle. The fighting to overcome the Mughal invaders on December 29, 1705 had been hard and desperate. In spite of their overwhelming numbers, the Mughal troops failed to capture Guru Gobind Singh and had to retire in defeat.
The major part in this battle was played by this group of forty Sikhs who had deserted the Guru at Anandpur during the long siege, but who, scolded by their wives at home, had come back to redeem themselves under the leadership of a brave and devoted woman, Mai Bhago. Fighting desperately to stop the enemy’s advance toward the Guru’s position, they fell. The Guru blessed them, calling them the “Forty Liberated Ones.” The site is now marked by a sacred shrine and a pool of water infused with the sound current of Gurbani. The town which has grown around them is called Muktsar, the “Pool of Liberation.”
Guru Gobind Singh had a great reverence for the feminine creative power (Adi Shakti). When he created the Khalsa in 1699, he said that Khalsa “has no gender.” He asked his wife, Mata Sahib Kaur, to prepare the amrit (sweet nectar) to balance the strength of the steel used in the ceremony.
In Sikh Dharma, no one is better than another. Women hold important roles throughout Sikh organizations and excel in executive positions. The office of President of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) has been held by a woman. Women also hold the highest positions of religious office and in many Sikh businesses.
~ This information was originally shared in the books Heroes, Saints and Yogis compiled by Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa (available for purchase through the SDI Marketplace) and Guruka Singh Khalsa and Living Reality (1994) by Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Khalsa.