Let’s take a broader view of “Mother’s Day.”
It honors all mothers; therefore, by definition then, the honorees are necessarily all females of the species. Yet human history tells us that with the exception of some limited societies that are matriarchal, women have had a largely precarious existence.
Even now, in this modern era, women have generally been denied some basic rights. In economically poorer societies women are denied healthcare and education. To many parents in such a bind, girls are a drain on limited resources and a man will have to be paid a dowry to take her off the parents’ hands.
In many parts of the world, girls and women are bought and sold like cattle.
As progressive a country as the United States is, women did not get the right to vote until 1920 without a protracted struggle — this is roughly 150 years after the country was founded. Until the 1970’s, medical school admissions showed no more than a handful of women.
Luckily things have changed and today we are debating the possibility of a woman President but inequities still remain. Women at top echelons of the business world make about 30 percent less than men despite the same level of education and experience.
We know that this in general is the standard operating policy for all immigrants. Does this mean that all women – Americans to their bones and birth – are a priori all aliens?
In pre-Sikh India a widow had no life; ideally she was expected to self-immolate by joining her dead husband in his funeral pyre in a ritual called satee. If allowed to live she was to wear white attire and no jewelry for the rest of her life and not even consider remarriage.
Female feticide and infanticide are widespread all over in the developing world. Even today one can see such attitudes and practices in from Nigeria to Afghanistan, including India.
In many religions women may not play the central role of the clergy. A woman may not become a priest in some faiths, may not be counted in the minion that determines the minimum number of worshippers for worship, may not attend the religious service during her menstrual period, and so on. The list of humiliations and slights is endless.
The Sikh scripture – Guru Granth – rejected all these absurd practices and expectations. Women have equal rights promised to them by a merciful Waheguru (God) but when we sit down to interpret the divine command we diminish it with our biases and whims. So, Sikh practice does not deliver what Sikh teaching promises.
How then to celebrate Mother’s Day that is dedicated to the noblest role of a woman in human society?
I offer you selected citations from Guru Granth on women without further comment (just plain translation).
- Bhand janmeeai bhand ninmeeai bhand mangan veeaahu || Bhandahu hovai dosatee bhandahu chalai raahu. Bhand muaa bhand bhaaleeai bhand hovai bandhaan || So kio mandaa aakheeai jit jammahi raajaan || || … (Of a woman we are conceived, To a woman we are born, To a woman we are betrothed and married, It is a woman who is friend and partner for life, It is a woman who keeps the race going, We seek another woman when the life-partner dies,
Through woman are established social ties, Why should we consider woman cursed and condemned, When from woman are born leaders and rulers?) …. (sggs 473).
- Aradh sareeree naari na shodai …: (Woman is the other half of a man’s body … and she never leaves him)… (sggs 477).
- Slaok Ma: 3 Sateeaa ehi na aakheean jo marriaa lag jalannih. Nanak sateeaa jaaneeanih ji birahe chot marannih ||1||. Ma: 3 || Bhee so sateeaa jaaneean seel santokh rahanih. Sevan saaee aapnaa nit uth samhaalanih ||2||….. (Slok Ma: 3. Do not call them “Satee”, who burn themselves along with their husbands’ corpses. O Nanak, they alone are known as “Satee”, who die from the shock of separation (from their Husband Lord) ||1||. Ma: 3.They are also to be considered as “Satee” who abide in modesty and contentment. And cherish the Lord ever and call on Him ||2||) ….. (sggs 787).
- Dhan pir ayhi na aakheean bahan ikthay hoyi. Ayk jot dui mooratee dhan pir kaheeai soyi: Bride and groom are not the ones who just sit (and do things) together; bride and groom are they who are two bodies with one soul) ….. (sggs 788).
- Purakh mahi naar naar mahi….(The female is in the male, and the male is in the female (from the male semen, the woman is born and from the woman, the male is born)…. (sggs 879).
Keep in mind that Sikhi looks at God as not just the Father but as both Mother and Father. Note two brief citations:
- Har ji Mata har ji Pita … (God Almighty is the Mother and Father too) … sggs 1101
- Too maaat pita hum barak tere … (You are the Mother and Father; we are just your offspring)… sggs 268
On Mother’s day be a mother – nurture someone or some cause bigger than the self. Happy Mother’s Day to all.
|Author expresses his sincere gratitude to I. J. Singh, an iconic author, for his insightful guidance in shaping this article.|