Amid several interpretations of the religious code and claims of compromise, questions are still being raised over the action by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to bar women “with dyed hair” from performing kirtan at Gurdwara Santokhsar Sahib, a historical shrine under its jurisdiction.
The SGPC has justified its action on the grounds that the rehat maryada or Sikh religious code laid down by the Akal Takht makes it clear that Sikhs with dyed hair cannot perform kirtan or recite gurbani in historical shrines. However, it is reported that the rehat maryada only makes a mention of “dyed beards”. “It is silent on the role of women with dyed hair,” said senior SGPC member Kiranjyot Kaur. Talking to HT here on Thursday about the controversy that erupted after a group of women from the city were not allowed to perform kirtan by a granthi at Santokhsar Sahib last Monday, she said, “I feel Sikh religious leaders and scholars should sit together and decide on who should be allowed to perform religious duties.”
But Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh felt the managers were justified in barring the women from performing kirtan. When asked about the code only expressly mentioning dyed beards, the jathedar replied, “You need not mention everything. If the rehat maryada mentions only dyed beards of Sikh men, it does not imply that women with dyed hair are free to perform sewa in historical shrines. The code prohibits the dyeing of hair, whether of men or of women.”
The jathedar said that if the women were keen to perform sewa, they must on their own stop dyeing hair. He also stressed that though the rehat maryada only made a mention of historical shrines, “all gurdwaras should follow these rules”.
Meanwhile, Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani) vice-president Baldev Singh Sirsa, who had brought the issue before media, claimed the SGPC had agreed to allow the women to perform kirtan at Santohksar Sahib. However, SGPC additional secretary Daljit Singh Bedi, said, “A compromise will only be possible if we get some assurance in writing from the group of women.”