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Caste And Equality In Sikhi - Historical Perspective


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Is already in a thread, but G. Discussion seems to the most viewed. Many of the debates that have been seen over the past 2-3 days would be resolved with this thread. So as to not post a duplicate, will just post a link and put my post from there as the original post here.

If this is not ok, please feel free to delete, will have no hard feelings. Just want to foster discussion, and have it be seen more. :)

The most radical of the early Sikh writers on the issue of caste is the author of the Prem Sumarag. The Khalsa order, for him, was meant to be casteless. As he puts it, the baran (varna) of the entire Khalsa was pure (pawittar). If anyone asks a member of the Khalsa for his jati, he should reply, I am a Sodhi Khatri.

As in no varna

(chakari). If a Khalsa takes up personal service, it should be soldiering (sipahgari). A Singh soldier should not indulge in plunder in a battle and never think of appropriating the property of another. A Khalsa should not take up petty shop-keeping. It is preferable to work at home as a craftsman, and manufacture articles for sale in the bazar. The most preferable occupation is trade in horses (saudagari). Next to it is agriculture. There is emphasis on honest pursuit, but there is no reference to hereditary calling. In fact, preference implies choice.

Just question tribe of author, as well a farmer would probably not put farming lower (jatt).
They should all eat together, and they should never bother about the (Brahmanical) norms of chauka. And as Christian anti-tribals may note, basically knows what those are today. Meaning much of the anti-‘caste’ stuff they say is irrelevant as it has been dealt with.
The most strongly recommended article of food is meat. It is the great food (maha prasad). A Khalsa must eat meat every day.

Vegetarians take note

A Khalsa should not eat alone; if there is no one to share his meal at the time of eating, he should set apart a meal for a visitor, whether a Sikh, a Hindu or a Muslim.

For the marriage of a son, a Khalsa should have no consideration (of caste or jati), but in the case of a daughter, the first preference should be a Sikh boy of the same caste. But then, within the caste no further distinctions should be made. Furthermore, if a boy from the same caste or jati is not found for any reason, a daughter may also be married to a young man of another caste or jati. No consideration should be given to the caste or jati of the girls mother.

To put this into context this is what it means: 1. There was polygamy 2. It did not mean disregard gotra system which is to prevent incest. It meant that only fathers tribe is considered as mother is considered to have same after marriage. Many did only have kids with the wife from same tribe, but that is different story.
The Rahitnama associated with Chaupa Singh upholds the ideal of equality as much as the norms of varnasharam dharma. The Sikhs of the Guru from all the four barans share the same faith and follow the same ethical principles, but each baran has its own social norms and practices. The Khatris are servants (sewaks) of the Brahmans and not equal to them. In serving others, a Khalsa should give greater consideration to Brahman Sikhs.

Was author a bramin?

A Sikh of the Guru should make a distinction between dhan (what is eaten) and kudhan (what is not eaten), and also between suitable place (thav) and unsuitable place (kuthav). He should not infringe the customary practices (maryada). There is great emphasis on honest occupation (dharam di kirt) for all members of the Khalsa order. There is no suggestion of a hereditary occupation.

Indeed there couldn’t be, as Sikh society was not stable. You cannot do contract labour if there is a price on your head.
A Khalsa should disregard the differences of wealth. It is commendable to forge matrimonial ties with a poor Sikh: it pleases the Guru. Thus, the differences of background are disregarded in matters religious and political, but not all the traditional practices of commensality and connubium. The Khalsa are more equal in religious and political matters than in social matters.

Something which has been pointed out across the centuries, but the wilfully ignorant still ignore it.

Though all the four barans had taken refuge in the Panth of the Guru, rulership was given to the Shudras.

Shudra does not mean, ‘low caste’. It means outside caste, as by default you are a shudra if you break caste or do not have one. A bramin who crosses indian ocean is a shudra. The outsiders like gujjars, tarkhans, and jatts were shudras as they were not hindus in the first place. A hinduisation of India would have occurred under the Mughals similar to the Britihs, because any ruling foreign government is concerned of wealth not the divisions of those from whom they are stealing.

However, Chhibber invokes the authority of Guru Gobind Singh in favour of the sacred mark and the saved thread for the higher castes, and marriage within the caste. But if a Sikh wishes that the conjugal knot should be tied between his son and the daughter of his Sikh sewak, he should not delay the matter; he could seek forgiveness afterwards.

Which is of course, the big difference and the actual separation that neo-‘sikhs’ don’t want to recognize.

On the question of commensality, Chhibber keeps the touchable Sikhs strictly out. He refers in fact to an incident in which a Mazhabi Sikh, who had posed as a Jat and shared food with Sandhu zamindars, was hanged by Kahn Singh Trehan and his action was appreciated by all the Sikhs.

Have heard of this separate dishes practice, don’t know if it existed in langar. I don’t think you should pose as someone else. You should not hang your brother over some bs though.

It may be added that the four categories of Sikhs (didari, mukte, murid and mayiki) mentioned in the Bansavalinama, and in the Chaupa Singh Rahit-Nama, have no bearing on caste or social differentiation.

Need to research meanings so no comment just interesting thing.
A Sikh should marry his daughter to the son of a Sikh. To give ones daughter to a non-Singh was like handing over a goat to the butcher. Bhekh and baran are not dear to the Guru; what is dear to the Guru is the actual conduct in life. However, marriage within the caste is recommended.

Aka the guru is above YOU. There is not tribe for the guru aka the face of god aka SARGUN FORM OF AKAAL PURAAKH. But you are NOT, that. Meaning you do have tribe but you follow orders from Guru.
The only exception in this matter were the Jat Sikhs who presumably would intermarry with non-Sikh or non-Singh Jats.

I have feeling that author is Rajput, and wants to paint Jatts as bastards. Not even because I’m ‘jatt’ but you can see it as not one mention of polygamy is present. That is what it means though,

Nor did the Sikhs eat or drink from the hands of an alien, except from Brahmans for whom they professed the highest veneration. It may be noted that the author is not talking of relations of the Sikhs among themselves but with outsiders.

I strongly suspect that this was only a few tribes of Sikhs. My own grandfather knows much of this bramin stuff, due to being in a bramin village. In bramin heavy areas many tribes especially Jatts being considered the ‘rulers’ would have been following a lot of braminvaad.

The Sikh converts continued to observe the civil usages and customs of their tribes only so long as they did not infringe the tenets of Guru Nanak and the institutions of Guru Gobind Singh. The higher caste of Hindus, that is, the Brahman and Khatri Sikhs, continued to intermarry with converts of their own tribes, but not with Hindus of the caste they have abandoned. This was not true of the Jat and Gujjar Sikhs who preserved an intimate intercourse with their original tribes for both intermarriage and commensality.

Depends on area, suspect more West Punjab as I know it happened but my Doabi grandfather b. 1912 said naw we don’t do that.
The Muslim converts to the Sikh faith intermarried among themselves. At the time of the meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa, the Jat Sikhs and others ate together.

Emphasis again on religious and political but not social.
There were no Khatri, Rajput or Brahman rulers among the Sikhs.

Much of this is because for the most part there are not Rajputs in Punjab, and the other two are very few. The author here Mr/Ms ‘Chodaury’ seems to not have an understanding of titles, tribe, caste, etc that is very deep. However information seems to be on point.

There is no doubt whatever that the lower castes were dominant in the order of the Khalsa. In 1881, there were more than 1,125,000 Jats and more than 145,000 Chamars and Chuhras, with about the same number of Tarkhans, Nais and Kalals, among the Singhs. The Aroras, Khatris and Banias, together, accounted for less than 80,000 Sikhs.

The preponderance of Jats, the outcastes, and the service performing groups is evident from these figures.

but the known Brahman writers are rather conservative and somewhat reactionary in their social stance and the known Jat and Kalal writers are relatively egalitarian.

Possibly due to the one disadvantage of being ‘learning’ you pick up on trends that don’t exist in the general population. Polygamy may also have been more common in the villages, and the bramins were more likely in the cities due to their employers.

There probably was an on-going tension between the new ideology and the social background.
Doubt it, city vs village is always there and conflict creates.

ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਫਤਹਿ | |

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