As a little girl, I remember climbing up onto mama’s lap and listening with wonder, as she would tell me saakhis of Guru Nanak, and the Chote Sahibzade, and Mai Bhago. I remember being in awe of them, but they always felt like distant characters that were super-human in some way – characters that I could admire but not relate to.
As I grew older, however, I realized that the reason I felt disconnected to them wasn’t because they were not relatable, but rather because my community was not, as it should be, mirroring their values.
In its essence, Sikhi destroyed all social and cultural norms. Guru Nanak created a revolution: a revolution of thought where we are connected to the divine, Waheguru, from within, as is everyone around us. Guru Nanak saw a society where everyone was equal because they realized that Waheguru was in everyone. Caste, sex, social status, sexual preference, and race – none of these mattered. This was Guru Nanak’s social vision, and it was so incredibly revolutionary for that time and place; in the early 1500s, India was plagued by a caste system, economic divisions, and sexual inequality.
Guru Gobind Singh took Guru Nanak’s vision and made it a reality: any person of any caste, faith, sex, economic background, location, and so forth, could become a part of the Khalsa – and all Khalsa was equal.
This was our Gurus’ legacy.
Today, I’m ashamed to say that instead of taking that vision and building from it, we have fallen so far behind it that it’s barely visible anymore. Instead of taking our Gurus’ message and helping create a more equal society, we have let a destructive culture seep into our lives.
Our Gurus took revolutionary strides in women’s empowerment.
Today, in Punjab, there are 850 girls for every 1000 boys.
Across India, 10 million women were murdered in 1 decade just because of their gender.
Violence against women is a terrifyingly common occurrence in our community.
The transaction of dowries is still part of our culture.
And the attitude towards women in general is problematic: women are seen as temporary members of the family, ones that don’t need to be invested in.
Our Gurus abolished the caste system with institutions like langar.
Today, caste-based Gurdwaras are growing at an alarming rate.
Sikhism is one of the two religions with the most so-called “honor killings.” Sikh men and women are being murdered by their families in the name of honor due to inter-caste marriages.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. I could go on and on.
It pains me to see that our Sikhi is slowly being drowned out by the very cultural and social norms that Sikhi was established to end.
I believe it’s time we pause and take a look at our community and ourselves.
It’s time we go back to Guru Nanak’s vision of humanity – one in which there is only love.
It’s time for another revolution.