Of Colony and Gender

Doris R. Jakobsh

in Relocating Gender in Sikh History

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195679199
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081950 | DOI:
Of Colony and Gender

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This chapter analyses how the hyper masculine ethos that underlay the institution of the Khalsa corresponded well with the sexual ethos prevailing in Victorian England. Victorian constructions of masculinity—with its apotheosis in the imperial ‘civilizer’—and the domestication of the female had profound ramifications on the imperial project in India. After the Annexation of Punjab, the British came face to face with a Sikh state, with a complete and fully organized feudal system. The author describes how the British admiration of the defeated Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the Sikh community resulted in their detailed attempts to understand the Sikhs and Sikhism. The military spirit of the Khalsa brotherhood came to be appreciated, and the brave Jat Sikh came to be understood as a fellow Aryan. Analogies between the Christian and Sikh faiths came to be drawn, and Christian missionaries considered that the reforming spirit introduced by Guru Nanak could be fulfilled by the truths of Christianity. While Sikh women were admired for their late marriage age, the absence of purdah, their energy in the fields, and the tradition of the remarriage of widows to brothers of the dead husband (karewa), the British disapproved of Sikh female rulers like Maharani Jindan. They also found Sikh women to be ignorant and lacking in education. The author concludes by describing how this dichotomy of response to the Sikh woman resulted in the Punjab Educational Department being set up in 1856 for the education of females. By the end of the nineteenth century, this project was taken over by the Singh Sabha Reform Movement.

Keywords: Sikhs; Aryan race; karewa; gender; purdah; Punjab; Victorian ethos; British imperialism; Maharaja Ranjit Singh; Maharani Jindan; Christianity; Sikhism; Singh Sabha Reform Movement

Chapter.  13457 words. 

Subjects: Sikhism

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