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Summary of Question:Why Men Before Women at Anand karaj?
Category:General Sikhism
Date Posted:Monday, 11/15/1999 1:33 PM MST

I am intrigued as to why the women walk behind their man whilst the marriage ceremony is performed, it seems sexist in the sikh marriage. The hindu weddings were they they take it in turn to walk first seems more equal or English marriages. Would it be possible for a Gurduwara to change the tradition?

Your question relates to a cultural tradition. So far as I am aware, there was never any teaching by one of our Guru's that directly stated that a man should walk in front, and the woman behind.

My wife and I had different perceptions about this practice. For our Anand Karaj, she had reservations like the one you raised about the practice being male dominant (sexist). And so, at our wedding we walked side by side, in our process of showing our love and devotion toward Guru ji.

On the other hand, my opinion was that the situation might be more similar to a horse and the driver of a cart. That is, the more intelligent one follows behind, to be the driver. This would suggest that going in front doesn't necessarily mean superiority. That idea of superiority being in front is also just a conventional one that exists in some cultures. A symbolic gesture can be interpreted in many ways, and then simultaneously just as well in an opposite way. If there is a Sat Sangat anywhere in the world where the woman follows the man in Anand Karaj out of a local consensus that it's because of male superiority, then we should all pray for their mental sickness. Fortunately, I don't think that it is so, any place within the Sikh Panth. If it turns out that unfortunately, somewhere, Sikhs believe in male dominance and superiority, then, please, let's start praying for them now.

In a procession in which the Guru is being carried, someone walks in front, carrying the Siri Sahib, to clear the way for the Guru. Because that person is walking in front, doesn't imply superiority to the Guru at all. That seems obvious to any interpretation. So, the point is, that interpretations, perceptions, judgments and reactions about superiority and inferiority, based on cultural norms, don't really mean very much within the context of our Dharma and the Guru's court. Sikh Dharma isn't built upon ideas of superiority and inferiority. Any perception of superiority or inferiority is more in the eye of the beholder, not in the reality of the Dharma. Each being is directly the embodiment of Ek Ong Kar and Wahe Guru, each one is linked directly to the Infinite. Ultimately we are all made in the image of the divine, everyone is the embodiment of Akal Moorat. So then, as Kabir ji said, <How can we call anyone good or bad?>

Our Dharma is not a sexist Dharma. Those who suppress or put down the woman are violating Guru Nanak's own teaching, that the king and the saint are both born of a woman, and that a woman is their first teacher. By this teaching, in Sikh Dharma, woman is elevated to a special role as bringer and communicator of the divine.

By the Grace of the Guru,
Krishna Singh Khalsa

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