673. What is the status of women in Sikhism ?

In Sikhism there's complete equality between sexes. Women can visit a temple, conduct service, lead Sikh armies, vote in elections and claim all rights enjoyed by Sikh men. The Sikh women are not required to observe Parda (veil) or commit Sati (burn on the funeral pyre with the husband). The Sikhs call a wife as Ardhangni (Better half). There is no restriction on their education or movements as long as they follow the Guru's instructions. "Eve" in Sikhism is not regarded as temptation-incarnate but as "the conscience of men." It is on record that Guru Amar Das appointed women as missionaries of the Sikh faith. Guru Tegh Bahadur once remarked that women of Amritsar were nearer to God than men because they accepted "God's will readily" as compared to their counterparts who were "jealous and cunning." In Sikh history the part played by Mai Bhago and others is well-known. They denounced their husbands who had deserted Guru Gobind Singh and formed a women-batallion to make amends for their husbands' folly. They gave a tough fight to the enemy and decimated themselves as a moth on fire.

674. How do the Sikhs solemnize marriage ?

Sikh boys and girls are married according to Anand marriage ceremony recognised under Government of India Anand Marriage Act of 1909. The couple are taken to a Sikh temple and seated in front of the Holy Scriptures (Guru Granth Sahib). The responsibilities and duties of married life are explained to them by the Sikh Priest (the person who officiates at the ceremony). The bride then holds a sash of the bridegroom and the Priest reads the four Lavan (the epithalamium) of Guru Ram Das which explain the four stages of the human life. After each reading the couple bow to the Holy Book in acceptance of the advice contained in the Lavan. After the fourth stanza, the Anand Sahib of Guru Amar Das is recited and the ceremony is over. Since the whole ceremony takes place in front of the Guru (The Holy Scriptures), no document of marriage is considered to be necessary. However there is no objection to anybody asking for such a document. An ideal marriage has been described by the Guru as follows:- "They are not husband and wife who are joined only for physical contact; Rather they are husband and wife who have one spirit in two bodies."

675. Why are marriages arranged in Sikhism ?

There is absolutely no restriction on the question of marriage. The adults have every right to get married without the consent of their parents. Arranging of marriages is traditional and not religious. The practice of arranged marriages is dying out quickly among the Sikhs. Most Sikh children and especially girls like to depend on the expert guidance and help of their parents, in finding a suitable partner.

676. How is Sikhism reacting towards modern science ?

Sikhism is basically a religion of action and human freedom. It is rational and based on moral laws which no science has ever challenged. However much science develops man will still require morality to lead a happy life. Ritualism and formalism suffer owing to the scientific approach of the modern mind to human understanding; and Sikhism is free from them. Another important feature of modern society is its tendency towards democratic and socialistic pattern of life. Sikhism is based on democracy instituted by Guru Gobind Singh at the time of starting the baptismal ceremony. He also demonstrated that his five democrats had the authority to order even him. Modern democracy is similarly responsible to the electorate. Furthermore Sikhism seeks social equality through its philosophy of a classless and casteless society and its institution of the Langar. The Sikh Gurus were not scientists but the ideas expressed by them in the Holy Granth find full support from modern science. "There are millions of moons and suns and many solar systems like ours" said Guru Nanak and modern science has confirmed this beyond doubt. "Na kichh aibo na jaibo, Ram ki dohai re" Nothing comes and goes; Believes me it is the divine law." (Bhagat Pipa-Guru Granth Sahib) This idea has its echo in the law of indestructibility of matter and energy in our modern science. "Jo brahmande soi pinde" "Whatever is in the universe, is in the matter." (Guru Granth Sahib) In order to see how this idea has been discovered and explained by modern science the reader is recommended to read "Vishav Pariche" written by Dr. Rabindra Nath Tagore. Examples can be multiplied ad infinitum. Modern Science is therefore complementary to Sikhism and is in no way opposed to it.

677. What are the ceremonies observed by the Sikhs ?

The Sikhs have very few ceremonies in the strictest sense of the word. Baptism and marriage are the main ceremonies. Baptism is administered by five Sikhs in the presence of the Holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Scriptures). They take some water in a bowl and say the five Sikh prayers and side by side stir the water with a double-edged sword called "Khanda." arriage has already been described in question no.25. The Sikhs usually call their ceremonies as Smagam (functions). Akhand Path (continuous reading of the Sikh Scriptures). Child Birth and Death are other such functions. At each function the hymns are read and the sacred food (Karah Parshad) is distributed at the end.

678. Are there any special days on which the Sikh children must absent themselves from school ?

There is no special day on which a child must be absent and must join a ceremony. However it all depends on one's discretion. The ceremonies are not arranged on any days considered as auspicious.

679. Is there any restriction of dress for the Sikhs ?

There is absolutely no restriction regarding dress but the Sikhs are asked to avoid immodest and gaudy dress. 5 K's and turban are necessary for the baptised Sikhs and they shall in no case wear a cap or a hat.