Guru Granth Sahib Ji – Torchbearer of Gender Equality
Jasbir Kaur Khalsa
This year we are fortunate to be celebrating the 30dh Anniversary of the Gurta Gadee - ascension to the Throne of the House of Nanak - of the Perpetual Guru - Guru Granth Ji.
Apart from the fact that the Guru Granth is a Masterpiece of Poetic thought put to music in the sense of its immense and mind boggling 31 Raags, metres, and various literary ,expressions, vaars, sloks, dupdas, chaupadas, ashtpadees, paurees, etc. etc. No other such Granth exists that can even come near the superiority that Guru Granth ji enjoys in this field of literary genius.
Before I go into my subject, I cannot but must marvel at the way so many varied holy men of varied backgrounds, rich and the poor, low and the high, coming from all parts of the Indian sub continent, all castes, regions, economic backgrounds, languages...religions, etc., are all so well blended in one central theme praise of the One Almighty Creator and how to attain Him - that no two verses ever “contradict” each other in spite of coming from such varied backgrounds and times - this Granth is truly a wonder.
I am a Woman - half the world’s population is composed of my co-gender. Yet each and every religion from time memorial has sought to push the woman back, keep her in check make use of her as booty in war, make use of her body for pleasure, make use of her labour as slavery!! The World Society stands on the bedrock of the family unit – of which the Woman is half partner - yet the man dominated social order backed by the religions and religious texts of all religions, seeks to actively suppress the Woman – as lowly, unclean, unfit to rule.. and much worse just as an object of pleasure and property to be traded as livestock. In Judaism, in Christianity, In Islam, woman has very little say in anything.
The First person to stand up for woman and defend her rights is Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak ji declared... So kion mandah akheayeah..jit jammeh rajaan - with one stroke of His mighty pen Guru Nanak ji lifted the lowly downtrodden woman to raise her up as the equal of man. He encouraged them to take an active role in every sphere of life. He said: “We are born qf woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman, we are engaged and married to woman. We make friendship with woman and the lineage continued because of woman. When one woman dies we take another one. We are bound with the world through woman. Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings? From a woman a woman is born. There is none without her. Only the True Lord is without a woman” SGGS, p. 473).
The cardinal principles of Equality and especially Gender Equality can best be practised while living truthfully as a householder. The Sikh Gurus believed that asceticism and renunciation of the world is unnecessary. The Sikh Gurus themselves were married and lived as householders. The life of a devout householder is favoured. Humanism is the doctrine centred on human interests or values. So is the Sikh scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). It speaks of equality – human and gender – freedom and justice.
Further to reinforce this message of equality among the genders, the Sikh founder Guru says in the Guru Granth that God’s light shines in both men and women thus: “In the earth and in the sky, I do not see any second. Among all the women and the men, His Light is shining. (3)” (SGGS page 223). To further remove the long-ingrained prejudices of the masses, Guru Nanak also says that both men and women are created by the lord thus: “He Himself created all women and men; the Lord’ Himself plays every play.” (SGGS page 304) and again “Women and men, all the men and women, all came from the one Primal Lord God.” (SGGS page 983). Furthermore, to make sure that people of both the Muslim and Hindu religions were listening, Bhagat Kabir say this: “You fashioned all these men and women, Lord. All these are Your Forms. Kabeer is the child of God, Allah, Roam. All the Gurus and prophet are rnine.||5||” (SGGS page 1349), mentioning that “God”, Allah (the Muslim name for God) and Raam (the Hindu name for God) are all honoured.
Guru Amardass Ji carried this line of reform further by abolishing the evil custom of Satee (cremation of living widows), and the demeaning custom of veiling of women. Guru Amardas ji even established several Manjis or Seats of Administration, which were headed by women. Such honoured had never before been given to any woman.
But what is the situation among Sikhs today? Sadly much is left to be desired. Punjab leads in Female embryo foeticide – female to male’s ratio in Punjab is lowest in the world. We also burn brides, we also demand huge dowries. We also treat female children as inferior to male progeny. In Property cases the males get most of the property and in Education the Males get the priority. It is dear that in the land of the Guru, who gave us Gender Equality as a matter of right ordained by the Creator the Sikh of the Guru have closed both eyes to such injustices. The Guru says, ..Bani Guru Guru hai Bani wich Bani amrit sareh.. bani kaheh sewak jan manneh partakh Guru nistarey!! Meaning Obey the Gurbani and have partakh darshan of the Guru. Modern Sikhs rather listen to Fake babas who advice... leave the path and ardas etc to me, you just matha tek... and I will handle the rest (But don’t forget to pay me first) Clearly all the evidence points to the citizens of Guruan dee dhartee as having abandoned the Guru.
In this Third Millennium... and the 300 years of the Guru with us, the least we can do is resolve to sink our differences and attempt to live our life according to the Winning Formula shown us by the Gurbani. The Guru of the Sikhs is the most modern, most complete, the most adaptable, the most wonderful and altruistic Guide available to Mankind today. The Sikh Guru is the only one that promotes sarbatt da bhalla (Doctrine of altruism)- this is the only doctrine that can bring world peace and harmony among all men.