On A Kaur’s Thoughts, blogger Lakhpreet Kaur considers the physical identity that defines or describes the Sikh woman, asking: what does a Kaur look like?
…since the Kaur’s physical identity is in constant flux and not universally consistent, it is difficult to say Kaurs are visually different from non-Kaurs. The social category of “Kaur,” is not as solidified as “Singh,” because it is impossible to define what Kaur physically looks like. What is she not? How is a Kaur visually different from non-Kaurs? Her 5Ks? But those are very subtle and not as visually impactful as her male counterparts. Her 5Ks and her long hair? Her chuni? Her dastar? Her braid?
While the prototypical physical identity of the Sikh man is comparatively well-defined (which is often taken for granted to include the turban and beard, but this is not always the case, either), Lakhpreet Kaur contrasts that of Sikh men with the lack of clarity around what physically characterizes a Sikh woman.
Read more of this thought-provoking piece at A Kaur’s Thoughts.
I read the article and my first thought was, why we as Sikhs seem to think of outward appearance first before internal wellbeing, especially nowadays.
If we spend time reading (good articles and parth etc.) and making ourselves stable inside then what is outward is generated from within. Our outward appearance becomes out signature unique to us. We have to be careful here of one of the five vices which is Moh, emotional attachment and sometimes focusing on the issue of physical appearance is in my view a form of Moh.
Being a Sikh now with dastar and beard I still find it difficult to live up to the high ideals we have but never give up trying. I remember even at gurudwara’s the first thing is to say to men and women “Sikh Sajo”, i.e. keep the physical uniform when really we should say to people read bani/SGGS ji first before asking them to keep physical uniform.
In my view I think a Kaur does not have an identity crisis simply from the Sikh women in history who are examples and then from the modern day Sikh women I see around today. Most women are easily identifiable as Sikhs from the Kara and just their general appearance, they have an aura. Some are very confident and some are shy but ultimately you can still tell they are Kaurs.
I think women are lucky they have no specific directive on appearance as means they may not see the restrictions a Singh can on a day to day basis in the western world. I think if taken as a positive Kaurs are better placed to represent and encourage Sikhism, they have a blank page to work with for appearance.
I over the last 3-4 years deciding to keep my beard had many questions about my appearance from people at work from punjabi’s and non punjabi’s. It is difficult to answer each time clearly and give a fantastic answer, it takes practice. I did feel the pressure at times. Then recently I came across a T-Shirt, which explains beautifully what a turban represents:
I wore it and the response was incredible, both parties were impressed.
I hope my words are taken lightly as they are not meant to offend or frustrate anyone. Best of luck in your path as a Gursikh.