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OVERVIEW OF CONTENTS OF THE SANTAN SIKH WOMENS TALK


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Sanatan Sikh Women’s Seminar

Overview of the topics discussed

Mirabhai :

- An account of her life through the use of different oral traditions found in different parts of India.

- The use of her writings in the Bhanno Bir of the Adi Granth

- Reflection on her bani compared to the rest of the Adi Granth

- Discussion on how Krishna can be viewed in relation to the Adi Granth writings

- Discussion on Mirabhai's identity as a Sikh vs. Hindu concept (i.e. sanatan tradition)

Historical sources :

- Use of frescos depicting Sikh women

- Discussion on women’s roles and identities as a result

- Quotes from texts (including Adi and Dasam Granths)

- The presentation of women as empire builders, organisers, musicians and poets

- Women and amrit sanchaar (i.e. non-existance of evidence suggesting women took amrit from Guru himself)

- Women and institutions such as 5 k’s

Conclusions :

- Women’s issues such as removal of hair on body, in the context of the plural identities that existed in the past

- Women’s equality (i.e. one of spiritual equality)

- The differences between men and women (i.e. temporal)

- How and why the definitions/roles/identities/practices of women changed and where influenced by the Tat Khalsa Singh Sabhia reformists

This is just a quick overview. I will soon have more in depth article and also written criticisms from those who attended the seminar

Thank you

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"Even He who created this world,

Even He tried to figure out a woman"

- 'Dasam Guru Darbar, Charritar 3'

Meerabhai

[Note: this story was told orally as a legend. Therefore there are discrepancies depending on the area of India in which the story was told. Although parts of the story may seem like myth, it is important to understand that this is how stories were relayed]

Her writings were found in the Bhai Banno Bir --> the most famous and used Bir.

c.1494/1504

Mother died when Meerabhai was 2, so her Grandmother raised her.

Meerabhai would always enquire/annoy her Grandmother as to who her husband would be. Eventually, her Grandmother pointed at an idol of Krishna (that had been passed down to Meerabhai by her mother) and said "Your Groom will be Krishna". It was via this idol of Krishna that she achieved realisation and hence worshipped the all-pervasive God.

She took the idol with her on her wedding (at the age of 8!). Being a Rajput and marrying into a Rajput family, this was highly offensive as higher caste Rajputs traditionally worshipped Durga.

She was steadfast in her rsolve towards Krishna which created many problems within the household. Krishna was seen as an idol of the poor. What compounded matters more was that she was also a follower of Naamdev, Guru to the low castes. This caused her to be shunned by all her family (her own and her in-laws).

For a Rajput, honour is everything. Her in-laws wanted her dead but could not find an excuse to do so. Once, they heard a male voice coming from her room so they (husband and father-n-law) stormed in. They saw Meerabhai playing a boardgame. She was sat on one side, the idol of Krishna on the other. Legend has it that the idol of Krishna stood up and moved a piece around the board. Husband and father-in-law left, petrified.

Meerabhai would sing and dance for the idol all the time. She contemplated the one-ness of Waheguru via that idol (more later).

Her husband died some years later. As was customary at this time, Meerabhai was expected to commit sati. She refused because her real husband was Krishna....not the man that she gave her body to. To the Rajputs, this was absolutely disgraceful. Her father-in-law ordered his bodyguards to kill her. At this point it must be emphasised how loyalty and obedience by a bodyguard to his king was absolute. These men would never refuse a task. If they were told to bring a glass of warm water and brought cold by mistake, they would be killed; such was the level of obedience that they had to adhere to. But Meerabhai was held in such high regard, that the bodyguards refused to kill her.

Eventually, her father-in-law went up to her and ASKED HER something. This in itself was shocking; given the time, space and circumstances of that period. For a father-in-law to ASK for something from his daughter-in-law shows how desperate he had become. He asked her to do one thing for him ----> kill herself. (he did say something else, but I forgot! sorry!) She agreed to do this on the condition that she returned home to say her goodbyes. Upon returning to her family, she was met with a 'frosty' reception. They all told her that she should kill herself to save their honour. Meerabhai went to a river and jumped in. Miraculously, the river carried her to the other side and she survived. It was then that she realised that Krishna was a manifestation of the omnipotent One. From worshipping an idol, she realised the One All-pervasive Lord. She spent the rest of her life preaching/dancing.

(any mistakes then please correct!)

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other women mentioned in the talk by Nihang Niddar Singh:

- Mai Khivi

- Mata Sundri

--> Political advisor after the death of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. She oversaw the collection of Dasam Granth.

- Warrior women

--> extracts from the memoirs of Gyani Gian Singh (I think) where stories of warrior women shooting, hunting and fighting were told.

- Mai Phika Dai --> D/O Baba Bachan Singh. W/O Baba Alum Singh "Nachanwala" (coz he liked dancing!). She died in 1708 engaging the enemy at Anandpur Sahib. Her sons died at Chamkaur. She is mentioned in the Jakara that we do in our Akhara.

- Pictures of the Hukamnamey from Mata Sahib Devi and Mata Sundri Ji (wives of Guru Gobind Singh Ji). Neither signed their name as "Kaur".

- "Kaur" means Prince. It was first used by women around 1756 onwards (by Baba Kapoor Singh)

- Saddha Kaur

--> Ranjit Singh's mother-in-law. It was she that defeated most of the enemies. She was the Empire builder!

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- Rajinder Kaur

--> W/O Talok Chand (Jatt King). Lead the armies of the King of Patiala.

-Sahib Kaur

--> helped her brother Sahib Singh (in battle?)

-Mai Gurcharan Singh

--> Female Nirmala Saint! Her pictue is on www.sarbloh.info

- Excess facial hair on women discussed.

- Rani Mehtab Kaur

--> daughter of Sadha Kaur

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thanks for that beast...

in time along with other talks hopefully the talks will be available on the sarbloh sites

the following is a review written by one of the audience :

(if anyone else wishes to write one who attended please feel free)

The controvesial talk presented by Nadar Singh on 'Sanatan Sikh Women' was both refreshing and illuminatiing. He made some very important points such as the notion of western equality is not the same as the eastern, this is something we all need to understand when we interpret old traditions from the east from western standpoints. His charasmatic character and vast range of archive and research material on Sikh history is umatched in this country.

On can imagine why he is a thorn in the imagination of mainstean Sikh thinkers as he offers a alternative and somewhat more authentic portrayal of sikh history which is supported by sikh scripture and visual representaions. The talk concentrates on Mirabhai A women who's saintly work has been written out of modern Sikh history, which in fact the same process has also happened in Christianity. For Sikh woman and feminist this must be a great point on which to support Nadar Singh 'a man talking about women'. However the talk takes an unexpected turn when he states that none of the gurus initiated woman with amrit into the khalsa, further that woman do not have to wear bana the sikh dress simply for sanatan women a Kara be sufficient as an external identity marker. Immediantly, one is shocked as these are points which differ greatly from the general consensus of the Sikh community. Is he suggesting that women can still be practicing sikhs if they do not take amrit and do the above? if so then he should be catious of the reprecussions of these points, however true they may be!

What Nadar Singh is attempting to do is to re-write Sikh History by undoing the work of colonial and particularly the work of the Singh Sabha reformers, this type of work which has already began with Oberoi's key work something which Nadar Singh has obviuosly read. He presents to the Sikh youth a 'alternative sikhism' which rests upon the revival of 'Sanatan Sikhi'.

However is this simply another sikh sect amoungst others? What are his objectives and aims in plugging 'Sanatan Sikhi'? He seems to deconstruct sikh identity barriers and opens up Mclead's classic Question on who is a Sikh? but at the same time he is creating new barriers and identity by defining who a 'Sanatan Sikh' is! If at the same 'Sanatan sikhi' is about universal and diverse beliefs then according to this ambiguos definition everyone is a 'sanatan sikh'. In my view overall Nadar Singh's Sanatan movement will be the next big thing for Sikhs in the diaspora in the next few years, he is re-introducing the historical battle between Sanatan Sikhs and Tat Khalsa Sikhs once again. His work will no doubt force us to re- evaluate and question our Sikh history. religion and identity. Good luck to him!

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Here is what I think regarding removal of hair for women:

I ll start off with the Hakumnama today:

TODEE, 5th GURU, 5th HOUSE, DU-PADAS:

ONE UNIVERSAL CREATOR GOD. BY THE GRACE OF THE TRUE GURU:

Such is the blessing my God has bestowed upon me. He has totally banished the five evils and the illness of egotism from my body. || Pause || Breaking my bonds, and releasing me from vice and corruption, He has enshrined the Word of the Guru's Shabad within my heart. The Lord has not considered my beauty or ugliness; instead, He has held me with love. I am drenched with His Love. || 1 || I behold my Beloved, now that the curtain has been torn away. My mind is happy, pleased and satisfied. My house is His; He is my God. Nanak is obedient to His Lord and Master. || 2 || 1 || 20 ||

Friday, 14 Phalgun (Samvat 536 Nanakshahi)

Removal of hair from any part of body is direct contradiction of teaching of "Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji" because we as sikhs suppose to over come "Roop mad" along with Raj mad and 5 vices within yourself.

I don't think we singhs have any business telling Sikh women what to do. Sikh women know themselves witihin. It's a intention behind of this act matters.

If she is doing it because she wants to look "pretty" "khubsurat" or to please her husband that will take her steps away from "Vahiguroo" but if she is doing this act(removal of hair via laser etc) in a very harsh circumstances then she should do ardas and move on.

It's a intention of any act that counts and looking "preety" or to please her husband is definately not a justification for this act.

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Removal of hair from any part of body is direct contradiction of teaching of "Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji" because we as sikhs suppose to over come "Roop mad" along with Raj mad and 5 vices within yourself.

This is only a particular interpretation

I don't think we singhs have any business telling Sikh women what to do. Sikh women know themselves witihin. It's a intention behind of this act matters.

The talk wasn't designed to say here is what it means to be a Sikh woman.

It was there to show what the sanatan world was like. And removal of facial hair is acceptable in it. This is NOT just a comment about men or women, it is a general stance (i.e. about sahajdhari identity). Yes NO ONE has the right to say women should remove facial hair or not.

We're only presenting (with respect to modern day sikhism) an alternate and historically based potrait of Sikh women.

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In fact if you are to imply that all GOOD sikh woman should NOT remove facial hair, then I belive that is a serious misinterpretation of Gurbani and Sikh history.

Ok sehajdhari women issue put aside.

Can you name 1 single "Amrit Instituation" who allows amrit-dhari sikh woman to remove facial hair???

Such thing is absurd in budda dal let alone in all the amrit instituations in India.

Also can you name one single historic sikh women from guru's time who have her hair removed from part of her body??

fact you got singhani's in budda dal with full facial hair where removing of any hair is "kurehit" in budda dal maryada proves uk nihang bringing up their own personal views into this NOT any maryada then again you got more pseduo nihangs in india and abroad creating their own dera, maryada selling/buying farla behind of jathedar santa singh ji....

doesnt really surpise me that much. :roll:

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Ok sehajdhari women issue put aside.

Okay... at least thats okay, 90% of work done. To re-emphasize this point for those who are unaware, sahajdhari most generally refferes to Sikhs who are NOT intiated (amrit-dhari), which is a COMPLETELY accepted and EQUAL form of Sikh practice.

Can you name 1 single "Amrit Instituation" who allows amrit-dhari sikh woman to remove facial hair???

on this point i must reffer you to another aspect of the talk,

- Women and amrit sanchaar (i.e. non-existance of evidence suggesting women took amrit from Guru himself)

Guru Gobind Singh (as far as the research shows) did NOT initiate women in the form we are accustomed today.

Let me make this point clear now to avoid confussion. You MUST understand this from the view point of what the (khanda ki pahul) Khalsa represents, and what amrit is. In the sense of Khanda intiation, the Khalsa is a purely militaristic organisation. In this context the issue and history regarding women is understandable.

Khalsa and amrit as DEFINED by the Adi Granth (GURU GRANTH SAHIB) is far more general reffering to those who are lietrally pure and is a spiritual description. This has no physical intiation, and of course men and women can be Khalsa in this sense. With or without facial or any other hair.

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fact you got singhani's in budda dal with full facial hair where removing of any hair is "kurehit" in budda dal maryada proves uk nihang bringing up their own personal views into this NOT any maryada then again you got more pseduo nihangs in india and abroad creating their own dera, maryada selling/buying farla behind of jathedar santa singh ji....

doesnt really surpise me that much.

please don't associate the content of this talk with Buddha Dal or Nihungs. This IS NOT about that, and your view about UK or indian Nihungs (or just modern day Sikh sects) haven't got anything to do with this topic!

So as you often say yourself, stick to the topic !

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  • 2 weeks later...

please don't associate the content of this talk with Buddha Dal or Nihungs. This IS NOT about that, and your view about UK or indian Nihungs (or just modern day Sikh sects) haven't got anything to do with this topic!

So as you often say yourself, stick to the topic !

That's funny, aren't the UK Nihangs affiliated to the Budha Dal? Isn't Nidder the UK Jathedar of Budha Dal? Unless Nidder's talk was about particle physics or quantum theory then I suppose a talk by him about Sikh women would have some connection to the Budha Dal.. unless of course the UK Nihangs are just an unauthorised group which has no connection with the Budha Dal and solely mislead people about the Budha Dal connection to try and gain some respectability and a lineage. Makese sense most Cults such as Radhaswamis and Sant Nirankaris started off by acting like true Sikhs and saying they were promoting Gurbani but in the end they also ended up as Guru ke Dokhi. Looks like the UK Nihangs are headed that way as well.

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