Saturday, January 12, 2008

Kada Seller at Sees Ganj

Outside the Sees Ganj Gurudwara, I saw this woman selling iron bracelets. The bracelets are kadas, worn by the Sikh community as a symbol of strength and self-restraint. All Sikh men wear them, and I've seen women wear them too.

Sikhism is among the world's most progressive religions, with respect to women's rights. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, stated quite clearly that all men and women are equal. Sikh women are expected to participate in daily and religious life in the same way as men. All occupations are open to a Sikh woman, including participation in congregation, academics, healthcare and military.

But what fascinates me about Sikhs, actually, is that they have gender-neutral first names. Sikh women use the same first names as men. Further, Sikh women dont have to take their fathers' or husbands' name. In 1699, the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikh women the last name 'Kaur' which means Prince. So Sikh men and women have similar first names, and Sikh women add Kaur to signify that they are female (men add Singh', which means Lion).

Since traditional Indian surnames reveal a person's caste as well as community, the common surnames were Guru Gobind Singh's attempt to end the social stratification and caste apparatus of Hinduism. The Kaur was also an attempt to give women an identity independent of their fathers and husbands.

And while there's a difference between intent and reality, you gotta hand it to the Sikhs for standing up and making the effort!


Roopa said...

Didn't know this. India is really a land of surprises.

Anonymous said...

Actually,good post. thx