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The Role And Status Of Women In Sikhism - Book By Dr. M. K. Gill
Foreword To The Book 'The Role And Status Of Women In Sikhism' By Dr. M. K. Gill
The Role and status of woman in Indian society has been somewhat ambivalent. While women enjoyed a high status in Vedic society as equal partner of man in all walks of life, her position deteriorated in the days to come. In the later Vedic period woman was relegated to the background and came to be treated as inferior to man with her Role confined to the four walls of the household. Manu, the first codifier of the Hindu law, wrote, "From cradle to grave, a woman is dependent on man -in childhood on her father, in youth on her husband and in old age on her son". Her position suffered a further setback as a result of frequent invasions and subsequent establishment of the Muslim rule in India and introduction of Purdah and other evils.
However, it goes to the credit of Guru Nanak and the successive Gurus who not only restored to Indian woman the position and dignity which she had lost over the centuries but also condemned those who described her as inferior to man. In an emphatic statement in Asa Di Var Guru Nanak observed: "It is from woman, the condemned one, that we are conceived and it is from her that we are born ... Then why denounce her from whom even kings and great men are born?"
Example in women's equality was set by the Guru themselves. We notice that the Guru Concsorts not only helped the Gurus in building and sustaining the Sikh institutions like Sangat and Pangat but also by fighting against the social evils like Sati and Purdah. At a time when it is becoming fashionable to borrow models from the West it will be worth its while to peep into the rich Sikh heritage and rediscover the glory and strength of Sikh women from the Sikh past. Worth mentioning in this context is the pioneering work of Bhai Vir Singh who tried to restore the lost glory of Sikh women by creating female role models like Sundri, Satwant Kaur, Rani Raj Kaur, Subhagji and Sushil Kaur as paradigms of moral vitues, valour and strength and all that is good in Sikhism.
Mrs. Gill, an educational administrator and scholar of standing, is a crusador for women's cause. Rather than merely criticising the forces which denied women their due, she has adopted a more, pragmatic approach by taking up research projects highlighting Sikh women's contribution in different walks of life. Especially significant have been Dr. Gill's definitive biography of Mata Sundri and her other works on the Guru Consorts. Present monograph not only highlights the contributions made by the Guru Mahals but also other brave Sikh women during various phases of Sikh history. One hopes this pioneering work will provide stimulus to other younger scholars to work in this rather ignored area of Sikh studies.
National Institute of Panjab Studies
Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan,