Archive for August 12th, 2011


Princess Karma

August 12, 2011

Harmandir Sahib ~ Amritsar, India

Kaur is a name used by Sikh women either as the final element of a compound personal name, or as a last name. It cannot be regarded as a true surname or family name. Among Sikhs, first names are often unisex, however, gender distinct by the addition of Singh or Kaur.

The tenth guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, made it mandatory for Sikh females to use the name Kaur and for Sikh males to use the name Singh, when he administered Amrit (baptism) to both males and female Sikhs. All female Sikhs were asked to use the name Kaur after their forename and males were to use the name Singh.

Since ‘Kaur’ means ‘Princess’ it acts as a symbol of equality among males and females. This custom further confirmed the equality of both genders as was the tradition set by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. It was intended to give women a sense of self-respect.

Kaur provides Sikh women with a status equal to all men. This was also intended to reduce the prejudice created by caste-typing based on the family name. Prejudice based on caste was still rampant during Guru Gobind’s time (17th century). This particularly affected women who were expected to take their husband’s family name upon marriage. The British required women to take on their husbands’ names.

Sikh principles believe that all men and women are completely equal. Therefore, a woman is a princess and can lead her own life as an individual, equal to man. She does not need a man’s title to raise her own status. Saying this would go against the principles stated in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the religious scripture of the script. Guru Nanak Dev Ji states:

From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.

Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come.

When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.

So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.

From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.