Monday, January 16, 2006


"Know people by the light illuminating them and do not ask their caste; for in the hereafter no one is differentiated by caste."
Guru Nanak Dev Ji

Historical Context
In the times of Guru Nanak Dev Ji as in most cases today people believed in a caste system which argued how people should be split in terms of their roles in society purely based in which caste they were born into. This Hindu belief meant huge inequalities and discriminations existed between human beings as people were divided into upper and lower castes. However this unjustified and unfair system was one of the first things that the Sikh Guru’s as revolutionary’s preached against and tried to stop.

The Guru's Reforms
The teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the succeeding Guru's produced important reforms. Sikhi recognizes no caste. All people are equal irrespective of their calling and social positions. Prince or serf, rich or poor, Brahman or shudra, man or woman, black or white, all as human beings, were considered to be equal. As the tenth Guru Ji stated

"The caste of all mankind is one and the same."

Guru Gobind Singh Ji

In order to counteract the traditions of inequality and the caste system the Guru's introduced langar (common kitchen) where Hindus and Muslims, “high and low caste”, princes and paupers all sat down in rows together (pangat) and took the same food as equals. This remarkable practice was done at a time when it was believed that even having the shadow of a low caste person fall on the food of a higher caste person would make it unfit for consumption. Even Emperor Akbar of Delhi had to sit down and dine with sweepers and beggars in the Guru's kitchen before he was allowed to see Guru Amar Das Ji in person. Sikhi is a great leveller of people and emphatically declares One God for all beings, that doesn’t judge people on the lines of caste or social status.
“He minds not their caste or color, nor family nor lineage, And Blesses them with His Name, in His Mercy, and Embellishes them all-too-spontaneously”
(Guru Granth Sahib Ji)

In reality Sikhi reveals how only a persons actions carry any wait, and how caste is a futile and pointless thing.
Hereafter goes neither caste nor color with thee, And one becomes as are one' s deeds. (Asa, M. 3, Guru Granth Sahib Ji)
Likewise when Guru Gobind singh Ji created the Khasla all people who took Amrit (as is done today) all drank from the same iron bowl to shatter all barriers. Each lost their previous surnames, which identifies a person to a particular caste or tribe and accepted the same surnames of Singh or Kaur. The Guru has enjoined on all who have joined the Khalsa that they should consider any previous 'castes' erased and deem themselves as brothers and sisters; all members of one family. When initiated into the Khalsa order there is no question of so called caste. Even the original Panj Piara's (five beloved) were from different background and places of original.
It is on record how Guru Gobind Singh Ji turned away extremely powerful Rajput Kings from taking Amrit, as they were only willing to join the Khalsa on the condition of being able to drink the Amrit separately from the so called lower caste people who would also drink from the same bowl.
Infact the Sikhs became a completely castles society with historians commenting on how the Khalsa armies for the first time in history had mixes of people from all so called castes as equals; (please read the Jang Nama).
Equality Of All People - The Guru's Basic Teachings
In order to demonstrate practically that the Guru’s meant what they said Guru Arjan Dev Ji (the 5th Guru) included in the Guru Granth Sahib the hymns of Muslim and Hindu Bhagats (Saints), some of whom belonged to the so-called low castes. One of these Saints was Bhagat Kabir Ji, he was born into a Shudra family of cloth weavers in 1398 AD. Kabir worshipped One formless God, led a pious life, preached love of God and fellow beings, as God's light was equally present in all. He raised a powerful voice against caste and challenged the high caste Brahmans:

"How is it that you claim to be a Brahman and brand us as untouchables ? Do you dare call yourself milk-white and label us as polluted blood? If you claim to be a Brahman because you were born to a Brahman woman; Do you also dare to claim that you were born differently?"
Bhagat Kabir Ji (Guru Granth Sahib Ji)

"God created light; His omnipotence gave birth to all; All beings are born from the same light, how can some be good and some bad? Your caste and rank depend on your own actions. Do not be proud of your caste.O ignorant fool, this pride is the root of all evils."
Guru Nanak Dev Ji
Hence there is no doubt that the Gurus created a casteless society in Sikhi. But what is happening today ? Why is it that when you ask a person what he/she is they say :" Oh, I'm a Sikh " but then they also proudly say: " I'm a JAT !! " .. "I'm a Ramgharia !!" .. "I'm a Ravidasi !!" or .. "I'm a Parjapat !!". The Guru's have shown us the way and yet we don't even follow the Guru's basic teachings; have a look at ourselves, are we contradicting ourselves by calling ourselves "Sikh" and then believing and holding onto the caste system. The fundamental assumption of the caste ideology is that people are forever unequal based on birth. Do we want to believe in this? Why as so-called Sikhs are we refusing to accept Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message of equality and instead follow an outdated Hindu practice which our Guru’s fought so hard to end.
How Can We Release Ourselves From The Evil Chains Of Caste?
The previous generation has shown their ignorance of the Guru's teachings by believing in caste marriages and even going to the extent of naming Gurdwaras by caste (what a contradiction!!). We the next generation need to look at the mistakes of our parents and amend them to the Guru's teachings. The solution to free ourselves from caste is by love and attachment to Guru’s teachings. We may will be immensely pressurized by our parents, peers and society to believe in the caste system, in the same way other prejudices become the norm, but whilst respecting our parents we must attach ourselves to the truth - that caste has no place in Sikhi. The more closer we get to Guru Ji (Guru Granth Sahib Ji) and follow its divine teachings the more God will shower his grace upon us, and free us from the evil chains of caste which have stalled the development of our society. By arming ourselves with the knowledge of Gurbani we will also gain the answers to the mythology we will be challenged with.Our biggest shortcoming is our ignorance of Sikhi. This has led us away from the Guru and into the exact things Guru Ji preaches against. This death of consciousness has allowed us to be exploited and polluted by evils such as the caste system and superstitions. Hence lets make the effort to learn more about the Guru’s universal and beautiful message and Sikh history so that we shall know for ourselves what is a part of Sikhi and what isn’t.

The Khalsa belongs to theWonderful Lord, The Victory belongs to the Wonderful Lord


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