The World Sikh Organization of Canada extends its warmest greetings on the Gurpurab (birth anniversary) of Sri Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith.
Sikhs across Canada and the world will mark this holiday with celebrations both at home and at local gurdwaras. Many gurdwaras hold akhand paaths or 48 hour non-stop readings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scripture) followed by keertan (singing of verses from the scripture). Gurdwaras are often illuminated with lights on the occasion and also provide langar or a free community meal to all who attend.
Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469, gave the world a beautiful spiritual path that combines personal and community spirituality with selfless service to the world. Breaking down artificial social and cultural barriers, he taught that the realization and experience of God was something that was not restricted to any race or gender but was open to all through meditation on naam.
Last year we wrote about Guru Nanak and the Sikh ideal of activism. This year, Guru Nanak’s Gurpurab falls during the 16 days of activism to end gender based violence. Guru Nanak was a strong advocate for gender equality and raised his voice against discrimination against women.
Perhaps Guru Nanak’s most quoted and well known verses in support of gender equality is the following:
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 whom 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. ||2|| (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, ang 473)
Guru Nanak and the successor Gurus included women as equal members and even heads of the sangat (congregation).
Other discriminatory practices the Gurus spoke out against included:
- Satee or the practice of widow burning
- Ritual impurity during menses and after giving birth
- Veiling of women
Unfortunately, despite the Gurus’ condemnation of these practices, they still persist today.
While marking this Gurpurab with celebrations both at home and at the gurdwara is important, it is equally important to ensure that Guru Nanak’s message of equality is also celebrated and made a reality.
WSO was founded on Guru Nanak’s principals of advocating for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status. May this Gupurab inspire us to redouble our efforts in this regard.
On behalf of the WSO we wish you all a very joyous Gurpurab and pray that we as an organization, community and a Panth can do justice to Guru Nanak’s revolutionary message.