Redefining The Ritual Drama

Doris R. Jakobsh

in Relocating Gender in Sikh History

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195679199
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081950 | DOI:
Redefining The Ritual Drama

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While the Tat Khalsa position benefitted greatly from the institutional support of the British Raj, not all Sikhs agreed with their assertion that only those initiated into the Khalsa in accordance with their injunctions were true Sikhs. This led the Tat Khalsa to work harder at disseminating their form of Sikhism. The crucial question facing them was whether women also could be initiated into the Khalsa. The most authoritative orthodox voice was that of Baba Khem Singh Bedi. This chapter addresses how feminization of religious identity markers and rituals specific to male Sikhs, particularly those of the Khalsa brotherhood, came to play an important role in the endeavours of the Tat Khalsa and other reformers. At the annual meeting of the Singh Sabha in Ferozpur in 1900, a motion was passed that the form of initiation to be endorsed by the Tat Khalsa was to be identical for men and women. The acceptance of Mata Sahib Devan as the mother of the Khalsa (as opposed to the earlier Devi) is described. The author also discusses how ‘Singh’ and ‘Kaur’ became essential to the naming practices among the Sikhs at this time. An attempt at streamlining the diversity of practices amongst Sikhs by the drafting of a new code known as the Gurmat Prakas came about in 1910. This was not accepted, until the coming of Sikh Reht Maryada drafted in 1950. The latter has remained in acceptance until the writing of this book. The author concludes by showing how differences of interpretations regarding female initiation into the Khalsa, and the use of ‘Kaur’ by a woman, still persist among current historians engaging with Sikhism today.

Keywords: religious identity; Sikhs; Khalsa; Tat Khalsa; Gurmat Prakas; Sikh Reht Maryada; feminization; Baba Khem Singh Bedi; Mata Saheb Devan; Sikh naming; ‘Singh’; ‘Kaur’; Singh Sabha

Chapter.  11428 words. 

Subjects: Sikhism

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