The Punjab Assembly issued a law urging the Akal Takht, the greatest temporal seat of Sikhs, and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to permit bibi ragis (women singers) to perform kirtan sewa at the sanctum sanctorum of Gurdwara Sachkhand Sri Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple) in Amritsar during the special session called to commemorate Guru Nanak At the Golden Temple, only Sikh men currently perform kirtan.
The 41-page Sikh Rehat Maryada was developed in 1932 by a sub-committee of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), then ratified by SGPC through a decision on August 1, 1936, and later revised on February 3, 1945. Nowhere in text does it state that anyone can be barred from conducting kirtan sewa within a gurdwara because of their gender.
“Only a Sikh can perform kirtan sewa in a congregation,” declares Article VI of the document’s Chapter V on kirtan. There are no other conditions or entry requirements, and it does not specify that might or might not conduct kirtan.
Bhai Labh Singh, now granthi of the Golden Temple, was a participant of the first sub-committee that drafted the statement in 1932. As stated in the paper’s preface, the then Akal Takht jathedar Mohan Singh and then leader granthi Golden Temple Bhai Achhar Singh were members of the SGPC Advisory Committee on Religious Matters whenever the text was revised in 1945.
It states this is against Guru’s guidelines for women to sit in gatherings with veils concealing their faces discomfort. “In the existence of Guru Granth Sahib or in the congregation, no Sikh must sit bareheaded.” Attending congregation with their coverings pulled over their faces is against gurmat for Sikh females.
There really is no specific document for the Golden Temple that states that women ragis are not permitted to sing kirtan sewa in the shrine’s sanctum sanctorum.
“It is a non-existent norm,” said the Cabinet minister who introduced the motion in the Assembly. It is a conventional practise that is self-created, conservative, and discriminating. Sikh Rehat Maryada is specified in a single document that applies to all gurdwaras. Golden Temple does not have its own set of regulations. What one has self-created could be erased at any time, and there is no better opportunity than Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday to do so. Women have never been prejudiced against in Sikhism or Sikh history.”
“From women, man is born; inside woman, he is developed; to woman, he is engaged and married,” Guru Nanak stated. Woman becomes his companion, and subsequent generations arrive through her. When his wife dies, he seeks out another lady; he is shackled to her. So what makes you think she’s bad? Kings are born from her. Woman is born from woman; without woman, there will be no one.”
Guru Nanak also disproved the “sutak” myth, as to which a lady who gives birth to a child is “polluted” for several days. Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh leader, was against women wearing veils (purdah) and wrote opposing Sati pratha. Menstruating women are not barred from entering gurudwaras in Sikhism. Sikhism is one such religion where women aren’t considered any low comparative to men in any field.