The Development of the Early Sikh Tradition

Doris R. Jakobsh

in Relocating Gender in Sikh History

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195679199
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081950 | DOI:
The Development of the Early Sikh Tradition

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This chapter describes gender construction in the Sikh tradition from the fifteenth to the early eighteenth century. While Guru Nanak grieved the rape of women during the time of Babur, he did not censure the social order on the whole, and could be described as being accepting of patriarchal structures in general. While otherwise ignoring them, his janam-sakhis show the women of Guru Nanak's family as playing a significant role only in the acknowledgment and development of his guru status. The chapter traces the evolution in the attitude to gender in the writings of subsequent gurus, noting how the growing militarization of Sikh males in the later guru period led to the demotion of the status of women. This tendency increased during Guru Gobind's time and his creation of the Khalsa brotherhood which denied admission to females. Moreover, his Dasam Granth contains 404 tales, many of which focus on the ‘wiles of women’ in a pejorative way. The author discusses how in Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama, or the codes of conduct that evolved from the time of Guru Gobind Singh, women are not included in the regular discipline of the Khalsa. The author concludes by citing the problematic story of Mai Bhago whose bravery is validated by the soldiers by making her wear male attire. By the end of the seventeenth century, femaleness came to be considered the direct antithesis of manliness within the Sikh understanding of gender relations.

Keywords: gender construction; Guru Nanak; Janam sakhis; gender differences; Sikh tradition; Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama; Mai Bhago; Khalsa Brotherhood; Guru Gobind Singh; Dasam Granth; ‘wiles of women’; Sikh women

Chapter.  11385 words. 

Subjects: Sikhism

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