Sunday, July 8, 2018

Program Reminders

I am very excited that there has been some new programs at our Gurdwara Sahib. The Gurdwara Sahib now has a page called "Guru Nanak Darbar" on facebook. The youth did an excellent job of organizing TurbanUp to educate the public about turbans on Canada Day. This Sunday we also had free books being given out at the front table from a Veerji from Calgary. There are leftovers in the bookshelf if anyone wasn't able to come. They are English and Punjabi. I saw a little girl excitedly carrying a nitnem book in English and I was really happy to see that.

Gatka classes are 5-7 pm in the Punjabi school building on Fridays and Saturdays.
There is morning simran and nitnem starting at 3 am everyday.
Simran is also 1-2 pm on Sundays.
Kirtan classes happen on Saturdays.
I recently posted dates for Sarab Rog Ka Aukhad Naam Camps across Canada- the closest to us would be Edmonton or Surrey.
Sadly this year the Punjabi camp is not happening in the summer, but hopefully next year it will come back. The Rainsbhai kirtan has also been shortened from 6 pm -12 am and the date is TBA.

I have updated the CPR course page. The date is now August 11th. There is a wedding at the Gurdwara Sahib but we will have the CPR course in the Punjabi school building at 9am -12 pm for the first group, and 1-4 pm for the second group. Thanks to those who registered- we still have room especially for morning group so feel free to register. For international students, please speak to us about the fees because we can make adjustments.

Thanks to all those volunteers who make these programs possible. I am excited at the programs and initiatives being taken on by the youth and for the youth. Now it will be up to us to take advantage of opportunities for our personal growth. Even without our own homes, the internet provides us with so many resources that we can use to advance our Sikhi. Each day we wake up we should single-mindedly remember that our purpose of this life is to merge with God. Like the droplet of water merging into the ocean, we must fulfill this purpose. It is easy to get busy and lose sight of why we are here, but this is the importance of sangat and having people in your life who remind you again and again, and practice with you.

From time to time in the past I have visited a larger Gurdwara Sahib and felt like I wished we had the types of programs they are able to have like history classes (crash course Sikhi), Gurmat Sangeet in raags, etc. I also realize now that conversely, there is the ability to make more changes because we are a smaller center. My cousin from Brampton came to visit a couple of months ago. He was so excited to get to play tabla on stage on a Sunday morning. He said that you would have to drive for a few hours at least to a small Gurdwara Sahib to be able to get a chance to go on stage, and even then it is during Rainsbhai. Because of the jathas that are booked, the kids don't get the same opportunity to do kirtan like we do here. That was interesting to learn because I also remember talking to a friend one day about how the Nagar Kirtan here is also very special because it is very focused on the purpose of singing kirtan and remembering God. I've noticed that slowly as different jathas have come to visit it has taught the sangat a lot and I've seen an evolution as people are slowly learning and changing as they absorb what Sikhi is about. We used to have programs just for specific people at the Gurdwara for example, and now we actually started having Akhand Paaths that remember our Guru Jis and our history. Even though we don't have as much sangat, there are advantages in how we shape things for our youth and our community. If each of us contributes and helps to run the langar, organize programs for youth, and starts looking at what we need and fill those gaps, it would be really great sewa. If you have ideas, bring them forward and start to actually implement and shape them yourselves instead of leaving it to others. Ultimately though if we can at least even just focus on changing our own lives that would be a lot as it would help to inspire others.

Instruments Arrived!

The Rabab and Surmandal have arrived. It has been interesting trying to practice the sitting position for the rabab and trying to balance the instrument with the right hand. I also realized that since it has no frets, that means you have to tune Saregamapa by ear or having a teacher mark them. Hopefully I can figure out how to play with some help. The left picture is from Canada day after TurbanUp on my sister's Manja. I didn't expect the Surmandal to be so large (and heavy!). It is a beautifully crafted piece.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Banda Singh Bahadur

This weekend we remembered the Shaheedi of Banda Singh Bahadur. When we remember the shaheedi we should of course remember his whole life and the impact on us today. Here is the history. 

Banda Singh Bahadur was originally born with the name Lachman Dev on October 16, 1670. He was born into a Rajput family. One day, while hunting he shot a deer and realized afterwards that she had been pregnant. He became very sad and became an ascetic. He was then known as Madho Das. He travelled extensively with Sadhus and settled in a hut near Nanded. In 1708 Guru Gobind Singh Ji was travelling and came upon Madho Das’ hut in his absence. Guru Ji asked the Sikhs to prepare langar as they had been hungry from many days. Madho Das returned to find this and became angry, trying to use his magical powers against Guru Ji. After they did not work, Guru Ji asked who he was, and defeated Madho Das replied “I am your banda.” Banda means slave. He then joined the Khalsa and became Gurbaksh Singh, also known as Banda Singh Bahadur. 

Guru Ji sent him on a special mission. Some people incorrectly call this as a revenge mission but Sikhism is not about revenge (In fact Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji saves Jahangir after he tortures his father Guru Arjan Dev Ji). Rather, he went to end continued persecution. Sawan Singh Gogia explains “The mission of Banda Singh has been generally misunderstood by historians who think that he was commissioned by Guru Gobind Singh to avenge the murder of his sons. Had it been so, his work should have been over after the defeat and death of Wazir Khan. In fact, the Guru entrusted to him the noble task of continuing war against the tyranny of cruel rulers and oppressors” (Sikhnet). Guru Ji gave him political and military powers and gifted 5 gold tipped arrows and drum as symbols of this authority. He was also given Guru Ji’s sword, green bow, and a Nishan Sahib. He was sent with 5 Singhs, Baj Singh, Ram Singh, Binod Singh, Kahan Singh, and Fateh Singh as council. There was another 25 Singhs who also went. A handwritten Hukamnama told the Sikhs to join Banda Singh Bahadur wherever he travelled to. During the year-long journey to Sirhand, where Wazir Khan was living, Guru Ji became Jyoti Jot (merged with the Eternal Light). More Sikhs joined Banda Singh as he travelled and fought oppressors. They conquered a lot of area. Money that was acquired from government treasuries was redistributed to the poor. The old Zamindari system (feudal system) was destroyed so that farmers could own their own land. He appointed his own police officers. Thieves were now scared and order and justice was restored.
 
He then created a headquarters in 1710 at Mukhlispur (changed to Lohgarh), the capital of the first Sikh state. The battle of Chappar Chiri then occurred just outside Sirhand a few months later. While his largely untrained followers had no elephants, few horses, and fought with spears, swords, and arrows, Wazir Khan had a fully trained army with artillery, horses, and elephants. Wazir Khan was killed in that battle, and Sirhand was conquered. Baj Singh was appointed Governor and the other four Singhs in the council that accompanied him were also put in charge of other duties. Bandha Singh went back to Lohgarh. Bandha Singh made an official seal and coin in the name of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji. His rule was fair and a Muslim reported to Emperor Bahadur Shah that Banda Singh does not oppress muslims- he gives them a daily wage, looks after them, allows them to do their own religious prayers. Since this destroyed the oppressive system set up under the Mughals, the emperor turned against the Sikhs, setting up laws against the Sikhs and orders for the Sikhs to be killed. The large number of Mughal forces pushed the Sikhs back into the hilly areas. Here Banda Singh got married in 1711 to Shushil Kaur and settled for a few years, having a son Ajai Singh in 1712. Bibi Ji continued the langar. In the meantime, Emperor Bahadur Shah died in 1712, proceeded by Jahandar Shah and then Farrukhsiyar in 1713. 

In 1715, Banda Singh tried again to fight against the Mughal forces but Emperor Farrukhsiyar sends 20,000 forces against the Sikhs. Banda Singh’s Hukamnama issued to the Sikhs at the time can be found in the references. It encourages the Sikhs to follow the rules of the Khalsa. A group of Sikhs led by Bandha Singh made their way to a village Gurdas Nangal which was sieged. There was a force of 100,000 Mughal troops and yet the Sikhs survived 8 months of siege living off of tree bark for food. Even Muslim writers who witnessed what happened at the time spoke highly of the courage of the Sikhs in facing these conditions. Bandha Singh's own wife and child were with him through this. At that time, Binod Singh wanted to evacuate, but Bandha Singh did not and so Binod Singh was allowed to leave with a group of Sikhs. The Mughals offered the Sikhs could leave unharmed but once the gate opened, they speared 300 Sikhs, and the only 200 remaining were arrested. Banda Singh was chained and put in an iron cage on top of an elephant, with special guards. On the way to Delhi, more Sikhs were confined and many were martyred. 700 cartloads of slaughtered heads and hundreds on spears were brought to Delhi. Banda Singh was dressed up in a gold turban with a bright shirt, and other Sikhs were chained on the back of camels with faces blackened and sheepskin put on their heads. Despite the attempts at humiliation they remained in Chardi Kala as written by those witnessed this time. There were now 740 prisoners who were confined for just over 3 months from the end of February to the beginning of June of 1716. 

On June 9, the Sikhs were offered their lives to be spared if they converted to Islam. As documented by the English ambassadors of the East India Trading Company, not a single of the 740 Sikhs converted and all chose death. They were martyred and their heads placed around Bandha Singh. The executioner killed his 4 year old Ajai Singh with a knife down his body, and thrust his heart into Banda Singh’s mouth. His eyes were gouged out, hot pincers pulled away his flesh, arms and legs cut off, and the rest of his body cut to pieces. Through the torture until his martyrdom, Bandha Singh Ji remained calm. As Gyani Ji said in katha today, those who have Naam do not feel physical pain.

Meanwhile Bibi Ji was separated from the prisoners as the emperor wanted to marry her. The other queens tried to get her to embrace Islam and attempted to bribe her with jewels and promises of a comfortable life. When that didn’t work, she was told that 100 Sikhs were murdered daily due to her refusal. She stuck to her faith. She stated, “Time of our death is fixed and none but God can prolong our life. My religion is dearer to me then my or my son’s life” (sikhiwiki). 

We have so much to learn from the life of Banda Singh Bahadur. He restored justice and fairness under Sikh rule and did not give in despite being tortured. I hope he inspires each of us to stand up for what is right and just, and to carry the values of the Khalsa.

References
http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Bibi_Shushil_Kaur 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Respect for Women

I thought of writing this post after I got a disrespectful message from a Punjabi guy on social media (different time from my example in the internet safety post). Of course this has happened countless times, but there was something particularly different about this message that it struck a cord for me and I needed to speak about this topic. I know I am not alone in this as many people have come forward to tell me their similar stories. It can be very hurtful, and as an Aunty Ji mentioned, fearful for younger ladies who don’t know how to respond. Our Punjabi and Bollywood media also incorrectly show that harassing a woman until she gives in to marrying you is love. There is usually also a scene where the hero beats up another so called “evil” guy for bothering his sister, when the hero does the exact same thing to the heroine and its considered fine. This felt like the right time, then, to talk about what respecting women actually means and how we can show it. 

When the Guru Jis saw something wrong happening, they taught people through singing Gurbani. I don’t want to want issues to become a spiral of negativity, where instead of focusing on solutions we focus continually on more examples of the problem. Blame and anger doesn't get us very far- they cut off all future conversations and ability to fix the problem. Passing on education about Sikh teachings gives us a way to move to a solution. As we bring these topics of conversation into our families and relationships, we can change our thoughts and behaviors and focus on prevention of inequality and respect for all. Prevention beforehand is always better than enforcement when its too late.  

In order to understand why what Sikhism introduced is so important, we need to understand what the life of a woman in India was like prior to Guru Nanak Dev Ji. I thought the simplest way for us to see the dramatic difference under Sikhi was making a table. So here is my homemade table, made with the help of the research I did from the references at the bottom. 
Life of women prior to Sikhi
Sikhi
Women are inferior and given status of low caste sudra, husband has rights over woman
Women are equal, have their own rights including property rights. Allowed to keep last name Kaur if she doesn’t want to take man’s last name
Position is in the home only. 
Take on political roles, warriors, sewadaars and missionaries 
Not allowed to read religious texts or attain spiritual salvation. 
Women are allowed to read prayers, be a Granthi, sit in sangat, and do anything a man can spiritually. The gender is just a costume. Women can attain Jeevan mukhti. God is genderless. All humans are mentioned in Gurbani as a “soul bride” to the “husband Lord.”
Not allowed to get an education
Women learn Gurmukhi and get an education 
Dowry, sati (burning herself in the fire at husband’s cremation), female infanticide are carried out 
All these are removed
Restricted activities due to menstruation, seen as polluted after childbirth 
Respect for female body and ability to carry a child. Guru Ji discusses impurity in extent on Ang 472, explaining “If one accepts the concept of impurity, then there is impurity everywhere.” Talking specifically about periods, Guru Ji explains that the impurity of the MIND must be washed with spirituality.  
Pardah and separate female living quarters (Muslim women) 
Women live with their families. Removing pardah puts onus on men to control their minds, not women’s looks. 5 K’s give dress code to both men and women. 
Raped by soldiers when they are captured in battle. Some women are not accepted back into their homes after kidnapping or sexual assault due to stigma.  
Sikh soldiers ensured the safe return of the women on the side they were battling against. Many Muslim writers have talked about the respect the Sikhs showed their women. Hindus and Muslims often came to Sikhs to bring back their daughters that had been kidnapped. Women Sikh soldiers also went to rescue other women. 
Women are temptation to man and barrier to his spiritual pursuit. Priests, pandits and monks practice celibacy to attain spiritual salvation 
Life of a householder (grist marag) is emphasized. Men and women live together to travel their spiritual journey together while still having a sexual relationship, removing the idea that women are evil/sinful and tempting men away from their spiritual path. Bhai Gurdas Ji writes in Vaar 5 Pauri 16, “From a temporal and spiritual point of view, woman is half man’s body and assists to the door of deliverance. She assuredly brings happiness to the virtuous.” ਲੋਕ ਵੇਦ ਗੁਣੁ ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਚਿ ਅਰਧ ਸਰੀਰੀ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰੀ।  ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੁਖ ਫਲ ਨਿਹਚਉ ਨਾਰੀ 

From the above table I am so impressed at what Sikhism introduced 500 years ago, long before the feminist movements of the western world in the 1800s. Perhaps over time we have started forgetting some of these Sikhi values and got them confused by the strong influence of both western and Indian culture. In fact, I’m realizing how unfair it is to say that western culture is “forward thinking” or “progressive” and that other countries aren’t. Western society also traditionally had similar values to the ones we see on the left side of the table where woman is inferior, “temptress”, no rights over land or voting, her role is in the kitchen/bedroom only, and not allowed an education; and those effects have not entirely disappeared. We too are influenced by those dual effects from both cultures then. For example, I realized while reading this that the stigma around talking about menstruation is this thing that I have learned while living in western culture. It doesn’t exist in our religion, and the Guru Jis openly talked about it as the menstrual cycle is a key part of how human life is created. The stigma around sexual assault, disrespect for a woman’s body, the idea of men not being able to control themselves, are all different than what our religion teaches. (I talked about these more in the post about three Kaurs). Even the idea of “unholiness” around sex is different as there isn’t the expectation for celibacy but rather a balance in life and in the mind. While our Kaurs were fighting battles as armed soldiers hundreds of years ago, many modern-day policies restricted women from these types of roles. For example, the US Army’s combat exclusion policy which restricted women’s roles in the army was only lifted in 2013 and wasn’t fully implemented until 2016! For Canada it was 2000. 

We can see from our table that we can also learn a lot about respecting women from our teachings. Respect is in fact defined as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements.” I think a natural consequence of walking the path of liv, is that when we love God then we also see God in all of God’s creation and love and admire that creation too. We need to remind each other of our teachings and cut the stigma around important issues. All women want and deserve to be respected. Bhai Gurdas Ji says, ਦੇਖਿ ਪਰਾਈਆ ਚੰਗੀਆ ਮਾਵਾਂ ਭੈਣਾਂ ਧੀਆਂ ਜਾਣੈThe Sikh ought to treat beautiful women of others as his mothers, sisters, and daughters” (Bhai Gurdas Ji Vaar 29 Pauri 11).If we followed this, then men would not see a woman just for sexual attraction or her looks. I feel very disrespected when anyone thinks all that there is to me is my body- all human beings are more than just a body. Looks fade and the body is simply a vessel for this soul’s journey. Perhaps we all need to realize that it cannot be the foundation of love, or a marriage because it will fall apart. This is why falling in love with someone's social media picture does not make sense. Instead, a match of virtues, values, and spiritual direction and life purpose makes sense. Asking a woman to drop her aspirations to fulfill a man's goals and desires is also disrespectful. As a woman, I have also had to learn that compromise does not mean me having to give up who I am. To respect a woman is not to reduce her to just her body, but to appreciate the whole being, body, mind and soul that exists. Respect is also shown as listening and communicating. We might make mistakes and not get things right all the time, but I think the key is that we start having these conversations with each other. When we read the stories such as the ones of the three Kaurs (a few posts down on the page) it inspires us to realize that we do have a long way to go to break all the cultural barriers down that we put in place and revive the Sikhi way of treating women. 

Asa Di Vaar: “From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all. O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman. That mouth which praises the Lord continually is blessed and beautiful. O Nanak, those faces shall be radiant in the Court of the True Lord.” (SGG Ji Ang 473). 

Well I hopefully I've given you lots of posts to read over the next little while! I wrote a lot over the last couple of days as I was inspired. 

References 

Going Through The Motions

I have been watching the “The Why Guru Series” (TWGC) from Basics of Sikhi on youtube. It not only gives us a brief explanation of key events in Sikh history but explains what our purpose is and what Sikhism is really about  I’ve been learning a lot since it joins together parts of knowledge and history I have learned over the last few years. What is really great about this series is unlike many camps which sometimes focus on our external image, Bhai Jagraj Singh Ji focuses on the idea of arming us with knowledge to help us understand how we got here and then we can decide what we want to do with it. 

Resources like these are important because they teach us that Sikhi is about doing and living. Bhai Ram Singh Ji does the same on The Harpreet Singh Show. He teaches us how to get out of just "going through the motions." For example, just booking an Akhand paath and not listening, learning, changing, or following what Guru Ji tells us. Bhai Jagraj Singh Ji especially answers the question of why “just being a good person” isn’t enough and isn’t what we strive for in Sikhi. We have this internal thirst and longing for God that can only be filled by God, and people try to fill it with other worldly pleasures but as he said, this God sized hole can only be filled with God. It is too large an emptiness to be filled otherwise. I think that we are in fact very lucky if we realize that emptiness, and that we are covering it up with other things. If we start to develop and feel that longing and thirst, that restlessness for God it is a blessing. Everyone asks what we did with our time- what did you produce, where did you go, who did you meet, what stories do you have? They want tangible external things to mark your journey and this puts a lower value on the mind’s work which in fact is our whole purpose. That chance that you had waited 8.4 million reincarnations to get, born into a Sikhi household, given all the tools, and now we don’t want to walk that last step. 

I feel like Sikhi is a type of healing that awaited me after having been diseased and hurt for so long without knowing it. That disease affects all of us. For years I knew I was searching for something missing, but it wasn’t until I was gifted this love, this yearning, that I finally started to realize what it was about. In the past, I too was caught in the blindness of just doing things out of the motions. When we start to understand and incorporate Sikhi into our lives we realize how to solve conflicts, relationships change, our families function differently, to marry someone carries a deeper meaning, our thoughts change, our whole entire life seems to flip. Gurbani tells us what changes come about in our life by walking that path. So work actively at your spiritual life. We are lucky we have so many resources at our fingertips- kathas, kirtan, Gurbani, translations are all available online but we also need to use them to live by what Guru Ji taught us. Our Gyani Ji used the example that we have this huge treasure chest, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. We should use that treasure we have been given. That means changing our mindset. 

Resources:
Harpreet Singh Show episodes with Bhai Ram Singh Ji such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fybBchbU714&t=334s

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Shaheedi Guru Arjan Dev Ji

Today we remembered the Shaheedi of Guru Arjan Dev Ji at the Gurdwara Sahib. 

Guru Arjan Dev Ji, our fifth Guru, is known for starting the construction of Harmandir Sahib, starting the compilation of scriptures into one book (now Guru Granth Sahib Ji), and being the first Sikh martyr (1). In memory of Guru Ji’s shaheedi (June 16, 1606), I have written about his martyrdom (2).  


source: 
Prince Khusrau had been captured fighting Emperor Jahangir to the throne, however he managed to escape and received aid from Guru Ji (3). This enraged emperor Jahangir who won the throne and was intimidated by the political threat from the growing numbers of Sikhs (3). There were many individuals who were against the Guru and added to Jahangir’s hatred, fueling him to order Guru Ji to accept Islam or face execution by torture (3). Guru Ji was arrested and tortured for 6 days (2). He was made to sit in a cauldron of boiling water with hot sand pouring on his head, and then later, made to sit on a hot plate with hot sand being poured over him (2). Despite the blistering of his skin and physical torture, Guru Ji remained calm and recited gurbani (2). Guru Ji spoke the words “Whatever you ordain appears sweet. I supplicate for the gift of name” (3). Mian Mir, the muslim sufi saint that laid the foundational stone of Harimandir Sahib, tried to intervene, however Guru Ji told him that this is the will of God (2). Sikhiwiki.org describes this exchange 
“Guru Sahib said, ‘All is happening in accordance with the will of Waheguru. Men who stand for Truth have to suffer often. Their sufferings give strength to the cause of Truth. Go, brother. Pray for me. Pray for the success of my cause. Pray for victory to truth.’
Mian Mir asked, ‘Why are you enduring suffering at the hands of these vile sinners when I possess superpowers?’
The Guru replied, ‘I bear all this torture to set an example to the Teachers of the True Name, that they may not lose patience or rail against God in affliction. The true test of faith is in the hour of misery. Without examples to guide them, ordinary people's minds would tremble in the midst of suffering’” (2)

Guru Ji was taken to the cold River Ravi as it was thought this would bring further torture, however he never emerged from the river (2). Although Jahangir believed that this would put an end to the political threat that the Sikhs posed, he could not have been more wrong because it solidified the resolve of the Sikhs to be saint soldiers under the guidance of Guru Hargobind Sahib, son of Guru Arjan Dev Ji (2,3) 


Canadian Army

Lots of posts today! In this clip from the Harpreet Show, they do some interviews with officers of the Canadian Army. I don't see a lot of youth these days going into careers like RCMP, Army, Paramedics, etc. but I think they are very rewarding careers. As they pointed out the army also accepts those from other professions like doctors, nurses, teachers etc. One of the great things is also the diversity within these careers. I think educating children really young about different careers helps them get excited and have a motivation to do well in school, even if they change their mind many times. It keeps them interested as well and gets them in a mindset towards achieving something. 

Sarab Rog Ka Aukhad Naam 2018

I unfortunately won't be able to attend the camps this year but they are an amazing experience of healing for anyone who does go.
Dixie Gurdwara Toronto June 30-Jul 4
Malton Gurdwara Jul 5-8
Sikh Sangat Regal Rd Brampton Jul 9-12
Dukh Niwaran Surrey Jul 16-19
Darbar Guru Granth Sahib Ji Calgary Aug 2-5
Millwoods Gurdwara Edmonton Aug 6-9

For contact information go to Gurbanihealing.com

Punjabi Community CPR/First Aid Education Event

Update on the CPR course: It will be held by Lifesavers First Aid Training at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara Sahib with Punjabi language translation. The date is to be determined, and registration fee is $25 each to pay for the company’s instructors. Given the number of heart attacks and strokes that have already affected our community, it would be great to spread this education to all individuals and families so that they know how to respond in the case of an emergency. A group of us worked together to organize this event which is designed for those who are new to CPR and first aid. It does not have formal certification. It will cover what to say when calling 9-1-1, how to perform CPR, how to use an AED (a machine used to save lives), and response to choking. Each person will get time to practice. Measures such as CPR can be lifesaving. 

Sign up https://www.facebook.com/events/2060880260900022/ and write your name and phone in the comments or click "Going", or sign up in person by going to the Gurdwara Sahib on Sunday. The Registration forms can be returned and fee can be paid next Sunday at our table at the Gurdwara Sahib. 

Please call us if you already are trained and want to volunteer to help out translating in Punjabi. Thank you to Jesmeen Deo for preparing the poster. 

Update: DATE has been set as August 11th in the Punjabi school building next to the Gurdwara Sahib (Guru Nanak Darbar). Please bring back your forms and money on Sunday July 8th at the Gurdwara table :) If you don't have a form you can fill one out there. Thanks for everyone who signed up. The times are either morning group 9am-12 pm or afternoon 1-4 pm. 

Three Sikh Women

Here are the brief life stories of three Sikh women which I had not previously heard of. All three were warriors.  

Bibi Nirbhai Kaur
She was also a warrior during the times of Ahmad Shah Abdali (Durrani) in the 1700s. Under his direction, Jahan Khan destroyed Kartarpur including the burning of Gurdwara Tham Sahib. In the rampage against Sikhs, Bibi Jis mother was burned in her house. Bibi Ji was amongst four women who were taken captive by the soldiers to be given as a gift to their commander. She had killed two soldiers on the way, which further intrigued the commander. When asking her name, she replied “Death.” He told her to speak nicely in order to save her life, however she defiantly replied that “Death does not wish to live.” The commander wanted to spend the night with the women but left temporarily to go see the destruction of Kartarpur. In the meantime, the Kaurs escaped killing the soldier on guard. She returned with her fiancé to rescue other women we were being raped by the commander, and killed the commander herself. These women felt bad that they would not be accepted by their families after they were abducted, but the Khalsa took them in and they were baptized and married Singhs. This really speaks to the differing attitudes towards sexual assault amongst the Khalsa vs Indian society and culture. Nowadays rape victims face a lot of blame, stigma, and having other people judging them. These women were not blamed but accepted after what they had been through and supported by the Khalsa. I think we have a lot to learn from that since we seem to be moving away from what our Sikhi shows us is right and towards treating victims with shame. Bibi Ji’s story really teaches us about the leadership and bravery of the Kaurs. It also shows us that people are able to heal from their trauma and do not have to be defined by what happened to them. We will see this as well in the next two cases as both Bibi Shamsher Kaur and Bibi Baghel Kaur were kidnapped before they joined the Khalsa.

Bibi Shamsher Kaur
Her life takes place in the 1700s. She was born as Shamo and belonged to a Brahmin (priest) family with her sister Ramo. The sisters were kidnapped by Ali Beg, chief of Hissar, so their father went to Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia (commander of Ramgarhia Misl) for help. The girls were freed by the Sikhs, but their father was afraid to take them back, worried about what people would think after his daughters had been with the Muslims. Sardar Ji reassured him, but later he returned again saying the villagers wanted the girls to return to captivity because they were scared that Ali Beg would return to the village. The girls refused to return to the village of cowards and were raised as Sardar Ji’s daughters. They learned horse-riding, swordsmanship, and Gurmukhi, then took Amrit and became Shamsher Kaur and Ram Kaur. After marriage, Shamsher Kaur fought in a battle at Balata for Sardar Ji which they won. She was bestowed 5 villages to protect and preach Sikhi. Thus she fully fulfilled the role of saint-soldier. As she dressed as a male soldier, many did not know she was a woman. Meanwhile, the chief of a nearby village named Mohammed Ali wanted to forcibly marry a girl named Razia. She tried to escape but was recaptured and her father was put in jail. She convinced the soldiers to bring her out to the fields to get a watermelon, and there Shamsher Kaur approached, leading a group of Sikhs. They found out what was happening and freed the girl (who was surprised to be saved by a woman soldier), then returning to free her father as well. Mohammed Ali begged for forgiveness and was released but later plotted against the Sikhs. A battle ensued and he was killed by Shamsher Kaur herself. This speaks to her high skill level in the battlefield. Her husband was also martyred. The Marathas (a group of castes in India) then came with an army of thousands to take over. Bibi Ji refused to surrender and was bravely martyred with her force of 1000 Sikhs. In her life story, we can learn that despite having been kidnapped as a young woman, she grew into a brave warrior. The fact that the villagers wanted to return the girls to the kidnappers, even after being part of a Brahmin family, speaks a lot about the status of women in the culture. Yet they were fully accepted by the Khalsa. As the leader of those villages, her life was a complete contrast to the life of Indian women at the time who were not allowed any role in spiritual life, political life, or roles outside of the household. As Khalsa Bibi Ji exemplified all of the values that we should carry, including fighting for justice as she went to save the Muslim girl. 

Bibi Baghel Kaur
She was a Hindu bride who was kidnapped on her wedding day by a group of Mughal Soldiers. Her Hindu husband subsequently took Amrit and returned with a group of Sikhs to free her. She also took Amrit and became Baghel Kaur, a soldier. She participated in a battle against Mir Mannu. When his army retreated, she and four other Kaurs were separated from the Sikhs and set up their own camp. When a group of soldiers came to capture and marry them, Baghel Kaur fought them off, cutting off a soldier’s arm and escaping on horseback with the other Kaurs. During the time of Mir Mannu, Sikh women were tortured, having their children speared and cut up, put as garlands around their mother’s necks in order to have them convert to Islam. None of them gave up their faith. After Mir Mannu’s death, they were still being held and Baghel Kaur came with a group of Sikhs to free these women. Unfortunately, then Ahmad Shah Durrani started his own torture and Baghel Kaur sent her husband and son into the forest, while she fought to protect Kaurs from being captured. Eventually she herself was caught by the soldiers and whipped along with other Kaurs. The soldiers tried to torture and bribe the women into converting but they refused. Baghel Kaur was ordered to be tied to a pillar and whipped but she grabbed a soldier’s sword and fought. In this process she and other Kaurs were martyred. The next day a large group of Sikhs successfully freed the remaining women. Her story of being a kidnapping victim and then a warrior of the Khalsa serving to free women from Mir Mannu and Ahmad Shah Durrani’s torture is an amazing story of courage, fighting for the rights of others, justice, and advocacy. Despite the torturous circumstances these Kaurs faced, none of them gave into Islam and rather fought for their rights

Having read these stories, I am very inspired by the Sikh women in our history. For me they raised questions in my mind too about the status of women today, and whether even from our mindsets we are either taught or influenced to limit ourselves from achieving what these women did. I think that everyone can draw from their inspiration and example as they were truly saint-soldiers and exemplified everything that Sikhi is about. We should also pass on these stories to our friends and our children as they build courage and resilience. In the next post I will explore these topics further.  

Reference:
http://www.sikhanswers.com/sikh-history-personalities/name-some-famous-women-in-sikh-history/