Sikh Women: Discourses of Religion, Politics, and Social Activism.


Ravneet Tiwana

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Gender equality is implicit in the belief of "oneness" that forms a central part of Sikh theology since its creation in Northern India in 1469. This project explores the role of Punjabi Sikh Women in the religious text, the Guru Granth Sahib, and in social activism. The scripture suggests that women should not be considered inferior because they give birth to noble and religious leaders. The scripture also proposes that the purification ritual of secluding women during menstruation, as performed by other religions, should be abolished. In Sikhism it is believed that "pollution is removed by true knowledge alone" (Hymn Asa). Even though the Guru Granth Sahib promotes equality men have been the primary interpreters of the religious text. In this context the role of women has been conceived as subservient to men in daily practices. However, the role of Sikh women in a contemporary movement for Khalistan in Punjab reveals a re-interpreting of the scriptures by women to engage in social activism.They have attempted to highlight historical female freedom fighters such as Mai Bhago, who have been generally overlooked by the Sikh population.Sikh women have also engaged in active protest.For example, on April 13, 1991 female members of the Martyrs regiment of Khalistan were led by General Bibi Toofna Kaur to take oaths to fight for the freedom of the Sikh nation.The interpretation and re-interpretation of women's role in Sikhism reveals that religious beliefs do not gain meaning unless they are practiced on a daily basis or challenged.


Movindri Reddy




Anderson/Ford Fellowship

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