The importance of Kaur
Have you ever thought why Guru ji, Guru Gobind Singh, gave the Kaur surname
to Sikh women? Why did he not accept the status quo and keep the tradition
of the woman's surname being determined by her family's name? What was Guru
ji trying to achieve by calling the Sikh woman "A Princess" (literal
meaning of Kaur)?
To try to understand the possible reasons behind Guru ji's decision, we
need to look at the situation at the time in different cultures. In Indian
society, the brides first and last name was often changed after her
marriage. This still happens today. However, this tradition of name
changing does not occur just in India. It is a phenomenon which occurs
across the whole world today. Why are women's surnames changed? The reason
is family linkage. Surnames allow others to identify you and your family.
In some cases the surname can tell others much more about you, such as your
caste. For women the linkage to family is different in comparison to men.
Their identity changes with marriage. They are no longer associated with
their parents, but with their Husband's family. Unsurprisingly, the man^Òs
name never changes. Some cultures go as far as considering the woman to be
the property of others. This was so for the Hindu Law giver, Manu, who
claimed that no woman should ever be independent. Christianity considered
woman to be a product of man as Eve had come from "the rib" of Adam.
Psychologically, women have accepted these unjust rules. They have resigned
to male dominance and allowed themselves to become second class citizens.
Guru ji changed all this with the revelation of the Khalsa. He gave women
the opportunity to live life free of the chains of a dogmatic society. It
was God's Hukam (will).
Once initiated into the Khalsa, Sikh women obtain the surname Kaur. The
surname Singh (Lion) is given to men, but Kaur (princess) is reserved
solely for women. This difference in names is not about inequality. Rather,
Guru ji recognises the difference between men and women. As individuals we
are all different from each other, but this difference does not imply
inequality. Women and men are different but remain equals. Guru ji
considered women and men to be unique. He respected the sexes and,
therefore, made the distinction in surnames.
When you take amrit you are told to consider Guru Gobind Singh as your
father and Mata Sahib Kaur as your mother. By joining the Khalsa you
abandon all previous chains of linkage. You become the direct descendants
of Guru Gobind Singh and Mata Sahib Kaur. You become their daughters. The
Khalsa becomes your family. Thus, from the day you are born to the day you
die your name remains the same. You do not have to change it due to
Unfortunately, the tradition of using the "Kaur" surname has all but
disappeared amongst Sikh women. It is either dropped, in favour of caste
surnames, or misused as a middle name. Guru ji never designed it as such.
Have we not belittled his concepts? Have we lost so much self-esteem that
we must copy the bigoted traditions of others ?
Sikh women are today demanding equal rights. Rightly so. However, they fail
to realise that they themselves create inequality by not considering
themselves princesses. They no longer consider themselves as daughters of
the Khalsa. Why should Sikh women feel that they must change their names
after marriage ? This is not part of the Sikh tradition. It belongs to
others. Leave it to them. It has nothing to do with the Sikhs. Waheguru
gave us these names. Real freedom can only be found in Sikhi. Real freedom
is the freedom ones feels from within, and not the show of freedom we
pretend to have in the outside world.
By keeping your unique and beautiful Sikh identity you are maintaining the
freedom given to you by Guru ji. Ultimately, only those who keep the "Kaur"
surname can truly understand its importance. Others will make excuses about
the difficulty of having such a common surname. It makes paper work and
identification difficult! Why make such excuses? We do not hear Patels or
Smiths complaining. Mere excuses.
The importance of "Kaur" is truly inexpressible. It is something very
unique in the history of the world.