American Turban

A reflection for International Women’s Day

Painting of Mata Khivi serving langar (source: sikhcd.com)

Painting of Mata Khivi serving langar (source: sikhcd.com)

When the legacy of the second Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Angad (1504-1552), is discussed, the building of institutions and infrastructure for the Sikh community is often mentioned. In particular, he is renowned for developing the Gurmukhi script (the basis of the Sikh scriptures) to make the Guru’s hymns more accessible, for furthering the cause of women’s rights, and for strengthening the institution of langar, the community kitchen started by Guru Nanak (his predecessor) that is open to all and that is still attached to every Sikh space of worship today. These and other causes championed by Guru Angad were an expression of the fundamental Sikh ethos of equality.

As it is International Women’s Day, it is an opportune time to reflect on the many significant contributions of women. For example, Mata Khivi, Guru Angad’s wife, was impactful in furthering the Guru’s mission. Mata Khivi organized and led the development of the practice of langar, and in the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scripture), Mata Khivi’s contributions in this regard are celebrated:

Balwand says that Khivi, the Guru’s wife, is a noble woman, who gives soothing, leafy shade to all.
She distributes the bounty of the Guru’s Langar; the kheer – the rice pudding and ghee, is like sweet ambrosia.

Today, when we partake of langar in our Gurdwaras, we should remember the contributions of Mata Khivi and many other women to our faith. To that end, for International Women’s Day, blogger Sundari at The Langar Hall highlights the often unrecognized significance of Sikh women throughout our history:

Sikh women have contributed in such meaningful ways, and yet much of that dialogue is often missing from our history.

Read more at The Langar Hall.

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