Music is the language of Gods

I can’t sing for nuts, but if a singer makes even one slender mistake, my body quivers and the  soul protests. It seems that the Goddess of music came all the way up to my ear but failed to travel the final three-inch distance to the larynx which contains my sound box.

When I was young, I used to listen to film songs. The ‘binaca geet mala’ was my favourite. Then, about forty years ago, Jagjit arrived on the scene and swept us off our feet with his ghazals. I became a fan of Ghalib and his ilk. Finally five years ago, when I turned seventy, and entered the final phase of my life, devotional music became my staple spiritual diet. I have acquired quite an impressive collection of kirtan recordings, and listen to them whenever I am free.

In my CD wallet, the baani rendered by Gurpreet Kaur ji is my most favourite. She runs an academy in Ludhiana and I have had the good fortune of listening to her in person. She had come to Chandigarh for the ‘Antim Ardas’ of the father of Maj Gen Paramjit Singh, and I can never forget her performance. The hall was full to capacity, and yet there was pin drop silence. The audience was spellbound, to the extent of being mesmerised.   I observed that the volume of the loud speakers was low and, therefore, their sound was not jarring. Have you noticed that when the quality of music is poor, the PA system has to be loud, because it has to compete with the noise produced by the twittering and chirping of the audience. A picture on one of her CDs is given below.

cd cover


Before proceeding further, permit me to share one of her many renderings of gurbaani. Please click on the link below, and listen to the music. You can ‘fast forward’ at any point and get back to the story, or alternatively, you can minimise the YouTube to proceed.

Kirtan Telecast from the GoldenTemple

Music occupies a high place of reverence in the Sikh faith. The Golden Temple is the highest seat of veneration and kirtan is the foremost activity there. In fact, the programme is telecast live, and millions of devotees listen to it around the globe. As I was viewing it last week, it occurred to me that the ensemble of Gurpreet ji performs at least as well as the best  ‘raagis’ (hymn singers) who grace the Golden Temple. My immediate reaction was that someone should tell the high priests about her talent. That very day, I ran into a member of the Committee which controls the Golden Temple complex.

 kirtan telecast

Lo and behold!  I was informed that women are not allowed to perform in the sanctum centrum of the holiest Sikh shrine. In fact they are not allowed to perform several functions there. When I asked why, I was told that this is against the ‘maryada’ (decorum) The issue has been debated at the highest level in the SGPC, but the consensus amongst the high priests is that the ‘status quo’ must not be disturbed, even though the committee has even been headed by a lady on one occasion.

And therefore, as of now, we shall always have male hymn singers performing in the Golden Temple, on our TV screens.

hymn singer

Resistance to Change

Our high priests are just like the clergy in all other faiths. They resist change to the very hilt. When I was young, I read the story of how they stalled the electrification of the Golden Temple, at the end of the nineteenth century. When some younger Sikhs wanted to install a generator, the men in charge of the affairs rejected the proposal on the following grounds:

  • Electric lights would dazzle the devotees and thwart ‘dhyan’

  • There was a finite danger of electric shocks, and that was a security hazard.

  • The process of installing the wires would desecrate the holy walls and that would tantamount to blasphemy.

  • The temple was lit by butter oil lamps which exuded a pleasant aroma and that was conducive to meditation.

  • Power could fail, and that would disrupt the proceedings.

In the final analysis, the high priests averred that what the devotees needed was the light of the Gurus word, and not the lamps invented by Edison. As a consequence, the public got divided into two categories, “the bijlee bhaktas” and the “the guru Bhaktas” The debate raged in the media for several years, and it is recorded in the Sikh encyclopaedia. How it got resolved is covered in a post in our blog and a link is given below:

 Electricit​y in the Golden Temple : “Guru Bhakta or Bijli Bhakta?”

Sometimes, I wonder how the ‘Darbar Sahib’ would look now, if the high priests had won and thwarted electric lights! The following picture would never have appeared…



It is my belief that the issue concerning the gender bias in performing kirtan will also be driven to its logical conclusion in the same manner. We need to build public opinion. And that is the humble purpose of this post.


Pin drop silence…and not a single person left!

I wish to end this little piece with a little anecdote.

Our eldest brother, AVM Manjit Singh is more than a mere party entertainer. At the peak of his singing days, he has enthralled large audiences, both in IIT Kharagpur where he studied in 1953-57 and in the IAF. One day, when he was attending a course in AFTC, Jalahali, I was informed by his friends that he and his friends had performed for two hours during which there was ‘pin drop silence; and not a single person left’

I was mighty impressed, and sought more details. His friends gave me the details of all the songs rendered during the concert and how well they were performed.  The punch line materialized when I asked his friend, Vijay Manchanda, about the approximate size of the audience. I suspect you have guessed it. The five singers on the dais were the only audience!

empty chairs






  1. Harkrishan Singh says:

    I hope you are able to send these views to SGPC.
    Public Opinion is sangat voice, and it will be heard. We are progressive people

  2. colls says:

    Congrats for being so well read …When Hillary becomes POTUS
    then we will speak .
    Sonia still in India till Pryanka

    Then you will never speak of gender again
    Sbi has a a lady who they want to retain .

    Gender bias has been created by weaker men
    the physical body alone is different
    for procreation
    of the human race .
    How else will we have
    7.5 billion plus
    Sir, SURJIT JI

  3. Har Krishan Singh says:

    General Sahib- You are doing a great job.

    When I visited the Golden Temple about 4 yrs back I asked a question to the person in the Information Office:

    Do you regularly check the purity of water in the Sarovar? His answer was He did not know.

    His opinion was, if the water had too many bacteria, the fish will die first. That would too late.

    I read that a filter system has been installed. People drink that water while some people bath in it. ( Do these persons take a shower before and after – Have we provided any facility)


    • Surjit Singh says:

      You have done an equally great job : by supporting this effort.
      There is a lot that needs to be done. The people who are managing the temple are human beings, made of flesh and bones. They have their strengths and weaknesses. To implement changes and ‘to make a difference’ needs courage. Sometimes they have it, sometimes they don’t.
      During the last ten years, a lot has been done. But a lot needs to be done. People like us can help in building public opinion.
      Keeping quiet after seeing malpractices is wrong…in fact it is sacrilege!

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Thanks. You have done an equally big job by supporting this humble effort.
      A lot needs to be done and we can help by opinion building. When we feel strongly about some thing, we must speak up, or write about it.
      Keeping quiet is sacrilege, in my view.

  4. Surjit Singh says:

    Dear General,
    Logic and reason are not a strong point of the clergy!

    • APS Dhillon says:

      Logic fails when a religious philosophy is created. Logic fails when Gurus sacrificed and were beheaded. What no female Guru got roasted on the hot plate? bad gender bias. Logic fails every where but comes intelligently when the time is right.
      When women are permitted to do kirtan every where else why must it be in that one place to prove equality? Well timed equality. trouble making equality.
      I have listened to many female ragis singing kirtan and really liked it. So great.

  5. Col MMS Sohanpal says:

    Manmohan Sohanpal ji has communicated his views on telephone.

    “Listening to Gurpreet ji’s kirtan has always been an unforgettable experience. It is a beautiful mix of classical music with the traditional tunes. The two are blended in an inimitable way. May the Lord give her many more years to enthral audiences with her kirtan”

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Brother,
      We join you in the prayer for a speedy and complete recovery of Gurpreet Kaur ji. She is a gifted singer, and her recorded albums are a source of spiritual bliss.

  6. APS Dhillon says:

    I am surprised how a gender bias is discovered every where. Let us see. All Gurus were Male- Gender Bias. The Bani of saints included in Adi Sri Guru Granth Saheb is all of Male Saints- Gender bias. All religious mythologies written by Males, i.e. Ramayan, mahabharata, Vedas etc etc by Males- Gender bias. All rishis were male- gender bias.
    What I do not know is how come except for a very few like Meera Bai all religious Gurus and important personalities were male- Gender bias.
    I think that Kirtan in Harimandir Saheb by male Ragis is only a tradition to honor the Gurus as this was started by them. Why did they not have female Ragis? Gender Bias by Gurus? Male Gurus all of them, Male saints, male Ragis. Gender bias by Gurus? Have a heart. Just leave it alone.

  7. Sitendra Kumar says:

    Dear Sir,

    Excellent.The ‘Baani’ rendered by Gurpreet Kaurji is highly spiritual soothing to the nerves and calms us.

    As far as ban on ladies to become Raagis in The Golden Temple is concerned, it is not logical in the present age but had some merit in medieval period.The Sikh religion originated in medieval era.Like all religions during medieval period, Sikhism as also very protective of their womenfolk and kept them in the background . Indeed Sikhism was at vanguard to defend Hindus as well.The Sikhs in medieval period were forward looking. They abolished caste ism,introduced the concept of common dining and emphasised the importance of labour by introducing ‘Kar Sewa’.

    But keeping in view the socio economic conditions prevalent in that era there as no harm in not allowing ladies to become Raagis.

    Now time has changed.After hearing the ‘Baani’ rendered by Gurpreet Kaurji and Keerat Kaurji,it is so impressive,I think there is hardly any reasons for ladies to be debarred from becoming Raagis.

    Your blog ‘GUFTAGU’ is highly praiseworthy.


    Sitendra Kumar

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Sitendra,
      We are sanguine that the enlightened masses will caused the high priests to permit ladies to perform kirtan at the holiest of the holy places.

  8. Commodore PS Bawa says:

    Dear Surjit,

    Thank you. What a beautiful rendering of shabads. Kirtan is not confined to male, Sikh ragis only. When I was in Moscow, one of our kirtania was Roman Catholic who had learned in a Gurudwara in Goa. Of course one was an American Sikh and my staff provided the back ground support. The staff had singers from all denominations including a Russian Professor from Moscow University. That is the universal appeal of Illahi Bani.

    Thank you once again and we support you in this task.

    Pami Bawa

    A Sqd,

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Pami Bawa,
      Your experience in Moscow has added another dimension to this story.
      Tell us some more stories about your experiences in distant lands. Yours was an illustrious career in the Navy, and I am sue you have a lot to share.
      Regards and best wishes,

  9. Ashwani Tohana says:

    What is the position in other religions? As far as I can see, they are also male dominated. Am I right?

    • Surjit Singh says:

      You are right. It seems that the founders of all major faiths were men. The Lord, by whatever name any one calls Him, appeared in the male form; always and every time. The main functions are performed by Priests and not their female counterparts. In extreme cases, women are not even allowed to enter the places of worship.

  10. PPS GILL says:

    I support the change wholeheartedly. The clergy have always resisted change.
    A few years back swords were pulled out in a Gurdwara in Canada against Langar
    to be served while seated on chairs in the basement. Now it is done in every Gurdwarwa.

  11. Ramesh Verma says:

    Dear Surjitji:

    Thank you very much for sending me good e-mails. The latest one with Shabad Kirtan was great.

    I understand you are from EME. I wonder if you know Maj Gen Vinay Malhotra, Brig Tulsi or Lt Col VM Ahuja…..

    Please let me know more about you.

    With kind regards

    Ramesh Verma

    Former Engineers Officer

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Ramesh ji,
      Yes. I know Maj Gen Vinay Malhotra. If I am not mistaken, he has faded away recently. DJS Tulsi was a colleague in Delhi.
      I am from the XIX NDA, commissioned in Dec 1961. Am now settled in Chandigarh.

  12. Lt Gen DB Singh says:

    My Dear Surjit

    Day before yesterday I attended a Bhog and I remembered the great Kirtan at Gen Paramjit Father Bhog .Been in town now about twelve years and have attended many such Gatherings but this Bhog is still fresh in my mind.The Kirtan recital by the Ladies which was classically based was super Infact I have been thinking of speaking to Paramjit and requesting for a CD

    Coming to the subject a Director Colleague of mine referred me to this Link It is then I realized that the observation is correct and we have never seen women raghies in Golden Temple.But we do see in some Gatherings and in some Gurdwaras Ladies performing Kirtan and this change must come but unfortunately the strong clergy will not let this happen and the environment in the name of religion will go by their dictum

    With best wishes


    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Brother,
      As ever before, our views are in complete agreement!
      I have some CDs recorded by Behn Gurpreet ji, and would be glad to present them to you. Alternately, you can send a mail to the following address, and ‘Gurmat Gian Group’ would be pleased to send your choice of CDs. She has recorded scores of them. And yes, they are a blend of classical and conventional music. Their address is:

      Gurmat Gian missionary college,

      Punjabi bagh, jawaddi, Ludhiana,

      Punjab, India, Pin No. 141013

      Phone No. 91-161-2521700, (Mobile) 9814635655, 9855568887Teli fax:+91-161-2521700

      e-mail: Website:

      With best wishes,

  13. Brig V Bajaj says:

    Hi Surjit,

    The Baani ‘Main Banjaran Ram Ki’by Gurpreet Kaur was superb.

    Clearly there is a gender bias.

    But less said about the custodians of our religions the better.

    Pity, the religious bigotry in all religions is on the rise.

    Perceive threats.


    • Surjit Singh says:

      Change is resisted…but if a large number of people support a cause, things do change! It is the law of the nature.

  14. Brig Harikumar Krishnanair says:

    Thank you Sir.


  15. RASHMI OBEROI says:

    Dearest Uncle,
    Like you said, change is inevitable… And I believe we must change and move ahead with the times. Gender bias needs to be addressed at all levels and be removed. We are all equal and that is what I strongly believe in. But even though change is often difficult, many times it’s also for the best. Accomplishing anything great in life requires significant change that pushes us beyond our comfort zones.
    Also, we have to be part of the change…Be the change…!!
    Warm Regards,

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Like someone said, we are inexorably moving towards gender equality. When we were children the only tasks assigned to the ladies were connected with bringing up children and house keeping. Today, they even fly fighter aircraft, and go into space!
      Who can prevent them from singing in temples?
      Surjit Uncle

  16. Commodore Bibhu Mohanti says:

    Thank you .

    • Harkrishan Singh says:

      I strongly support the participation of Females in our Kirtan at the Golden Temple.
      I saw a ritual on TV where they clean Darbar Sahib every night with diluted milk. In my opinion it is unclean with respects to the germs.
      Washing the floor with water is fine.

      • Surjit Singh says:

        Harkrishan ji,
        You have rightly pointed out this obnoxious practice. This also derives from ‘tradition’ and has no logic .

  17. Tony Rekhi says:

    I even got most weird answers from a Sikh leader ” female voice is not suitable for Gurbani”
    and also that all Gurus and Bhaktas whose bani is compiled Guru Granth sahib were males.

    There was some protests by female pilgrims from USA and Canada who were not allowed to shoulder Palki

    to carry Granth Sahib from Akal Takhat to Harmandir.

    Guru Amar Das had given equak rights to women in his presence.

    Guru’s daughter Bibi Bhani was in charge of Langar seva and managed it with help and guidance of Baba Budha ji.

    In fact Harmandir complex is built on land given to Bibi Bhani by emperor Akbar.

    Guru Gobind Singh established Khalsa and also established the democratic setup and gave power to PANJ PYARAS

    to direct the Sikh Panth. Unfortunately that also has been destroyed and presently only role of Panj Pyaras, (who are employed by

    Jathedar) is to lead the Nagar Kirtans bare footed with drawn swords.

    Sikh Panth in the leadership of illiterate jathedars and militants is becoming fundamentalist movement, following the Islamic footsteps.

    It is the dangerous direction to which Sikh leadership is taking the Sikh Panth, the most liberal and open religion established by Gurus

    I live in California and my family is much involved with San Jose Gurudwara activities, and we try to keep the Akali and Jathebandi

    politics out of Gurudwara’s agenda. I hope Gurdwara Management is able to maintain that in future too.

    Incidentally San Jose Gurudwara has the largest complex (40 acres) any where out side India, built up area is over 80,000 st ft and has the theater

    quality of video and audio system managed by professionals

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Rekhi ji,
      Thanks. You have added a great deal to this post.
      It gives me great pleasure to invite you to send us a piece, duly embellished with pictures to host on our Blog.
      California has a sizable population of Sikhs, and I am certain that you have a lot to share with us.

  18. DS Suri says:

    Dear Surjit ji,

    “Gender” is a sub-type of “a coupled” system created by God for procreation – a blissful phenomenon leading to the sense of belonging / owning, essence of love, care, sharing & a joyful fulfillment. Equality in the couple is elemental, though due to physical prowess menfolk have created a barrier – Gender Bias, although women are better endowed in many aspects and can not be termed as inferior.

    Sikh Dharam, as I have been groomed in & devoted to is rational, without barrier & inequalities of any kind. The flaw needs emendation, though the dogmatic politico-clergy grouping, would not let in so easily. OHM – false self-pride – will hinder the change.

    To say that OHM is one of the evils, which Gurbani professes, for us all to despise & my reading personal observation is that that Sikhs are more afflicted by this ailment. May be because of their naturally robust health and well being higher than the national standard.

    Thank you General Sahib for your observation of this flaw. I am with you for all your noble thoughts of devotion to the just causes. Keep waiting for your posts and go through them analytically, but busy in work and aging.


    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Soorkhan Bhaijaan,
      Thanks. Your observations are keen and profound. I agree with every word of what you have written.
      Now please get down to the story an Kyrghistan. The eightieth birthday is the ultimate target. Though we would prefer a much earlier date!

  19. Kishan Bhatia says:

    Gender biases are social and cultural phenomenon influenced by prevailing political ideology. I personally believe three Abrahamic faith believers are responsible for gender discriminations seen around the world.

    I may be wrong but I believe Vedic India did not practice gender biases seen today.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      I am proud of our Vedic heritage. India was the cradle of human civilization. Along the road, we went wrong. But I think we are on the road to recovery!

  20. Surindar Singh says:

    Dear Surjit

    i have a very modern and liberal out look and have heard many talented girls and ladies singing Shabads and during Kirtan I however dont agree that females should become part of all Kirtans Exceptionaly good singers are as it,are getting chance to sing and display their talent ,

    Defence forces are planning to induct females in to combat roll .despite many practical difficulties Two general officers of the Army had to be punished / dismissed , when females charged them of sexual harrassment

    Ragi Jathas is a team work and have to go or come at odd hours in different parts of towns and villages Males could

    be running therisk for falseLAllegations

    Best to maintain status qho

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Surinder Bhai jaan,
      You have a point, and we respect it.
      I am convinced that no change should ever be forced. Let the opinion build up, and when a large number of people agree let the system evolve. Flow with the tide. Don’t swim against the current.
      Where is the hurry?

  21. JPS Suri says:

    I thought the saying in the Army was,,”When in doubt,………Shout”.
    Of course this was true of all the Generals except a few gentleman Generals like you!
    I am in California, & one month back I visited Mrs Moula Singh Virk,wife of our colleague in Agra,to pay condolences. Happy to note that her younger son,Bobby is here,who is looking after her,well.
    The elder one,Sherry is about to pick up a Brigadier’s rank in India.
    With warm regards & best wishes.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear JPS,
      Your mail has brought in a flood of memories. I love your witty style of writing!
      Glad to learn that you are in California when North India is burning!
      Yes. We heard about the demise of Mula Virk. Sherry was in CDM when I last met him. If you meet the family again, do give them our regards. And if it is possible to send me their e-mail IDs, I would be grateful.
      How about contributing a piece for our blog? I am sanguine that you have a lot to share with our readers.

  22. S J Singh says:

    Is it true that ladies are allowed to perform Kirtan in the historic gurudwaras such as Shish Ganj Sahib and Bangla Sahib in Delhi?
    If the answer is yes, then why have we made different norms for the Gurdwaras controlled by the SGPC?
    My second question is, should we not change with times? During the last seventy years, there has been a significant change in our social system. Women are now performing several functions outside their homes. If the change has been accepted, why can’t we change this ‘maryada’?
    SJ Singh

    • Surjit Singh says:

      True. In Delhi, the gurudwaras are managed by DSGPC, and they are governed by a different set of rules.
      And yes. Change is inevitable. It is the only thing that is permanent.

  23. Wg Cdr AK Mathur, KC (R) says:

    Dear sir,
    This makes interesting reading. I have been to the Golden Temple just once, but my family has been fairly regular. I was quite amazed at seeing how liberal Sikhism is. I however do not recollect if I heard any lady singing ‘kirtan’, but since you mention it must be so.
    Sir, isn’t it a paradox that we do not say HAR MANDIR SAHIB ( I think that’s the correct original name – correct me if wrong) but have given it an English name–GOLDEN TEMPLE. Though I haven’t heard many people refer to it as – SWARN MANDIR.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      That is the correct name. It is also called “Darbar Sahib”
      Golden Temple is a name it acquired during the British Raj.
      For the rest, I agree with your observations.

  24. Rajnish Kaur (Gill) says:

    Good blog and I read all thought provoking comments from very educated (mainly men) people. It is very true that sikh religion is most progressive religion women have roles in many ways, Bibi Jagir Kaur and Kiranjot Kaur two names come to mind.
    Of course some blame is put on uneducated jathedaars and clergy about this kirtan issue. I remember few years ago a women lawyer from the UK also raised this issue and then Jathedar Tohra just closed the issue saying something like this “I do not know much but as long as I live this cannot happen”. I agree with Tohra

    We must understand that societal (rivaz) and religious rules (maryada) and laws are made and imposed by few wise people for any society to function efficiently. Nobody questions but follow as there is reason to understand them if things go on smoothly. Of course with time societies change and rules get changed too.

    Leaving aside that how many women can do kirtan; I ask a question; is our society ready for this? There are many places where women themselves do not feel secure be it in a crowded bus or alone at an empty bus station.
    It is not just Harmandir Sahib, in army there are certain roles restricted to men only. This is not a religious issue this is a societal and cultural issue. In Sikh religion equality is already there. The need is for changing the mindset of the society not just few jathedars and with time it will change.
    My final question is why women have to do everything which men do?

  25. Lt Col A P Pande says:

    Sikhism is a reasonably tolerant religion. So u could ask for electrification of The Holy Shrine and get it. U may also have female raagis in due course of time. No fear of fatwas! Simply “Wahe Guru Di fateh”!!

  26. DPS Dhillon says:

    I fully agree with you. Our religion teaches us women are equal to men then why this bias.As you mentioned jathedars objected to electricity,now the same jathedars canot live without it.Same people objected to having A/C’s in the Gurudwara’s,now we have them,hope fully it is a matter of time that we will overcome this hurdle also. No doubt we have to keep reminding them regularly.

  27. Yogendra Dutt says:

    Apparently there seems to be no logic for this gender bias. Merely citing the old tradition does not provide this practice any validity.

    Indian tradition has had many female poet saints like Meera Bai, Jana Bai, Mahadevi during the Bhakti movement who were highly acclaimed by the society. The authorities of Golden Temple would do well to change the old tradition by allowing the women to sing the divine praise.

    Yogendra Dutt

  28. APS Dhillon says:

    There is no gender bias. The tradition of male Ragis performing in Golden Temple is from the times of Gurus. Why the Gurus had only male Ragis is known only to them. The tradition set by the Gurus is continued. If there was such a bias then female Ragis would be banned from all Gurudawaras. This is a non issue as majority Sikhs want the tradition set by the Gurus them self to be continued. No bias at all.
    Some trouble creators may also question as to why all ten Gurus were male.

    • Rajnish Kaur (Gill) says:

      I agree. Guru Nanak dev have already established equality amongst all, gender, race, cast or creed.
      As Gurus instilled sense of freedom, open thinking in every single sikh, who questions if anything goes wrong without any fear of state or authority. This sikh psyche has been a challenge to many other established religions. Therefore we hear controversies on many silly issues to waste resources.
      Sikh religion is still in its infancy, and still need to make its institutions stronger around our faith in Guru.
      As I said in my comment these are societal issues and not a issue for sikh religion. Societies and cultures evolve with time and rules change too.

  29. Ram Gulrajani says:

    The very origin of Sikhism lies in simplifying the concept of God and getting away from the plethora of ritualism that mired Hindu thinking and practices. At no time in the history of Sikhism was gender bias ever preached or practiced. It is sad that the current Sikh clergy is issuing farmans not in sync with the times. There are so many reform movements emerging globally to over come this gender bias and here, where Sikhs have a clear mandate for it, are trying to revert back to stone age. The Sikh intelligentsia must put some better sense into the Jathedars and High Priests before they become Sikh Imams.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Ram,
      Ever since I saw your first mail, I find that your observations are mature and very well balanced.
      In this specific case, the reason is that until the independence, women were confined to bearing children and administering homes. They started moving out only recently. In my childhood, I saw very few of them performing kirtan. However, now we have a few excellent singers of devotional music, and it is only a matter of time before they earn their rightful place.

      • Ram Gulrajani says:

        I am a Sindhi, 81 years old and son of a Sikh mother. My Nani, mother and one of my sisters were accomplished (not professional) kirtan singers, and many times led the sangat in the absence of regular ragis in Gurdwara when specially invited. And all this much before partition of this country.

  30. Ramaya Balachandran says:

    Dear sir,

    I am a retired AF officer of 20 DEO from AFTC. i agree that there should be no bias. There was a time that even Harijans were not allowed inside the temple. Thanks to Gandhiji, that there is nomore man made biases. But still at SABARIMALA, ladies of particular age are not allowed. this must go. i am sure GOD would not have made these rules. These are made by agents of GOD. They are autocrats. we must have a by pass surgery.

    I heard the song. so soothing. Thanks.

    with regards
    Bala ( WG CDR (r) Ramaya balachandran

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Sir,
      My elder brother AVM Manjit Singh is from 16 DEO. I suppose you would have known him in service.

  31. Adish Pal Singh Dhillon says:

    Here are my views. There are enough people to take a decision instead f trying to create such an issue and creating a situation. I am happy the way things are. I would be happy if the SGPC decided to do it any other way. But I hope this move is not a deliberate effort to start an ugly movement.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Be rest assured that it is not our intention to start an ‘ugly’ movement.
      The title of this blog is ‘Guftagu’ and that implies soft, pleasant conversation. We actively discourage any personal reference. And if the issue becomes controversial, we just leave it at that.
      Thanks for your views. We respect and honour them.

  32. Col AS Grewal says:

    The question is missing!

    • col as grewal says:

      sikhism has no gender bias. it preaches equality of all humanity. when ladies can perform kirtan in other gurdwaras then why put bar on performing in the golden temple. keep cool and patience and carry on persuading the people concerned and they will relent one day soon

  33. Niloufer Bilimoria says:

    Congratulations General!

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Nilufer Ma’am,
      Our blog needs, and requests for a contribution from you. You are intimately connected with the world of letters, and we are sure that you have something to share with our readers.

  34. Baldev Sood says:

    General Saa’b,

    It is always a pleasure to read your very interesting and illuminating views!

    Best wishes and regards.

    Baldev Sood

  35. ABS Sidhu says:

    Hi Surjit ,

    As long as the control of SGPC remains
    with uneducated “Jathedars” we will have
    to live with the gender bias at the Golden
    Temple and other SGPC controlled institutes .
    After listening to the kirtan by Bibi Gurpreet Kaur ,
    I have no doubt that such talented ladies should
    be allowed to do Kirtan at the Golden Temple .
    On one side we talk about women empowerment,
    but we forget the teaching of our Gurus who gave
    equal status to the women and deny them the status
    in ” Rehat Maryada ” .

    With warm regards
    ABS Sidhu

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Yes. You are right.
      Any one who ever heard Behn Gurpreet ji, feels that way.
      I have heard with great concern, that she is suffering from cancer. But being a great fighter, we are told that she is recovering, albeit slowly.
      Do please say a prayer for her. We all need her.

  36. Ram Gupta says:

    You are.
    Most people resist change, so you’ll have to persist.
    I feel that your effort will go waste, because majority of the followers of Sikh faith, as of any other, are not progressive in their outlook.

  37. Lalit Dutta says:

    It is my personal opinion that in the name of Wahe Guru, the old tradition of only the Raagis singing in Durbar Sahib should continue.

    I liked the punch line. I however never knew that Manjit ji is a singer.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Manjit ji was well past fifty when he joined the HAL in 1984, and so you met him when he was a grand-father twice over. By that time he had stopped singing in functions.

  38. Surendra Rishi says:

    Hi Surjit,

    Gender bias is a big issue in all religions. It is in the interest of those in current control of affairs to maintain status quo. Unless the issue is joined by a vast majority, no change is possible.

    Therefore, i feel a beginning has to be made somewhere. Methodology to be worked out?

    All the best

    • Surjit Singh says:

      I think that a beginning HAS already been made. In Delhi, ladies perform in all Gurdwaras. Only problem is that their number is very small. An this is true of all vocations. However, this is changing all around, and slowly, but surely, we can see things changing.

  39. DALJIT MADAN says:

    My views on Gender Bias is – We are still dictated by these JATHEDARS , who have double standards and double face / talk. The personal life of many of these custodians of our great religion is totally contrary to what they preach.
    In 21st Century ,there is NO place for such a Gender Bias. Honestly , I did not know this fact that ladies cant do Kirtan in Golden Temple. Although I had always seen only men doing so , it never occurred to me that this is because of MARYADA. But then why are women doing Kirtan in many other Gurdwaras.
    To me , this is primitive mentality and illogical thinking which needs to be corrected ; earlier the better. This MARYADA is then NO different to what we have recently witnessed in Shani temple in Maharashtra. They have corrected it but we , the followers of more Forward and Liberal and Open religion are still debating . No one wants to bell the cat and annoy those THEKEDARS of SIKHISM.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Right from the day we met in the NDA in Jan 1958, I have found you to be a level headed person. And we rarely disagreed on any subject. True?

      • Col DS Madan says:

        Dear 2997,
        Such a long association since Jan 1958 and still counting – my friend 2997 and I have lived through similar values imbibed into us during our formative years . We are Not likely to shift from what we have in us. If anything we stand by our conviction.
        Is there a way we can carry it forward to try and correct this Gender bias at Darbar Sahib?


  40. Neena PP Singh says:



    Enjoyed reading the post. Would you believe me if I told you that this issue has been irking my spirit since long and I too have spoke against it many a time with relatives and friends…

    Gurpreet Kaur has rendered the shabad extremely well.

    Surely this needs to change especially when our Gurus never distinguished between the sexes when it came to respect and honour…what ‘maryada’ are the clergy talking about???

    Once it changes, many new women ragis will come to the fore…recently I heard a young girl from Amritsar, barely 24 years old – a mesmerizing performance..

    Let us create a petition for the Chief of SGPC/ Akal Takht and see what they have to say…

    Warm regards

  41. Neena Singh says:

    Dear Veerji


    Enjoyed reading the post. Would you believe me if I told you that this issue has been irking my spirit since long and I too have spoke against it many a time with relatives and friends…

    Gurpreet Kaur has rendered the shabad extremely well.

    Surely this needs to change especially when our Gurus never distinguished between the sexes when it came to respect and honour…what ‘maryada’ are the clergy talking about???

    Once it changes, many new women ragis will come to the fore…recently I heard a young girl from Amritsar, barely 24 years old – a mesmerizing performance..

    Let us create a petition for the Chief of SGPC/ Akal Takht and see what they have to say…

    Warm regards


    • Surjit Singh says:

      Neena ji,
      I think there is no need to create a blog or petition.
      We are moving towards gender equality, and no force can stop it for very long. Women singers are already performing in Delhi, and their tribe is increasing. Once they get accepted and draw large crowds, the High Priests will themselves come and invite hem to perform in the Golden Temple.

  42. AVM RP Mishra says:

    Dear General Surjit,
    I do not know whether I should give my views on such a sensitive matter, but I feel time has come when discriminations of all kinds should end, in whichever religion they may be.
    Veteran AVM RP Mishra

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Air Marshal,
      All those who have known you tell us that you are one of the most mature officers in the armed forces. You have all the right to express your opinion on this issue. And it shall be received with the utmost respect.

  43. Satish Bhandari says:

    Dear sir,

    Your blog is awesome. I have been visiting it ever since its inception must say that you have realy put life into the subjects discuussed/

    Incidentally Vijay Manachanda is very well known to me. He was my brother Wg Cr Raman K Bhandari’s friend and a near relation from my sisters side.

    Coming to the subject matter this problem is there in almost all the world religions. Why? is a big question mark. To me it appears that throughout the he past history the men folk (Male Gender) wanted to keep the females under their thumb and thus came into being the practice of disallowing the women to certain parts of the temple,

    It is still existing and may continue for years to come.

    The SC of India in case of the HINDU temples have given permission to the women folks to enter all the temples even in the inner area and even perform puja.

    The Muslim are on the verge of doing the same. They have started it in Bombay to some success but still far away.

    I personally feel that women should enjoy all these religious santions.

    I am told that the All Female Kirtan Jattha from Canada had performed at the Golden temple some times during the period Gaini Zail Singh was the CM of Punjab.

    Do take this topic ahead.

    Regards and have a wonderful Sunday.





  44. Jora Singh Bhangu says:

    Respected Sir,
    I feel privileged to be included in amolaklist.
    With Sincere Regards
    Col Bhangu

  45. J Thomas says:

    The world is moving inexorably towards gender equality.

  46. Ajit Singh Sood says:

    It is a news to me.I am astonished to listen that the women are discreminated and not allowed to sing holiday hymns at the religious places,even gurus in the bani gave high place to women and condemned discrimination.It is grossly in correct to not allow women to sing holi gurubani at the Sanctum centrum.I feel that high prest should follow what has been preached in Guru bani and set an example that Sikhs truly be leave maryada and teachings of the gurus

  47. Mahavir Jagdev says:

    I am strong believer of gender equality. But as regards the performance of Gurubani kirtan, be it at home or the Gurudwaras, by women, I have never liked it. Somehow it is not as soothing compared to the one sung by ragis.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Mahavir,
      You have a point of view, and we respect it. In democracy, every one is entitled to his or her opinion, and no one has any business to question it or force his way.

  48. Col Amar Bindra says:

    I really believe that the High Priests should evolve to gender equality.
    My Chachiji , Sardarni Manjit Kaur Bindra is a volunteer at Kirtan and was invited to do Kirtan at Dubai Gurudwara .

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Do please tell us more about your Chachiji. Has she recorded any CDs? Do share them with us, if possible.

  49. col s s malik says:

    Sikhs are among the most progressive group worldwide. From akhand paths, langar sewa to marrriage ceremonies women take part in all the social gatherings in gurudwaras. Male DOMINATED gurudwara politics leaves little room for women. This however cannot continue as the globalised society at large is mixing and science is clearing alot of misconceptions, prejudices and held biases. They will have to go. Women are proving men wrong in all facets of life. Sikh clergy is no different.

    EVERY WOMAN CANNOT DO KIRTAN. Those who can do must be allowed with due diligence.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Yes. The Lord does not bestow the gift of music on people easily.
      After all how many Sultan Maliks does the Army have?
      The need of the hour is to encourage those of our sisters and daughters who have the gift of melody to come forward and grace the holy places with devotion.

  50. manmohan says:

    Sikh clergy is no different. We should however be proud of the fact that, it listens when reasonable pressure is built.
    To begin with, we should encourage women to perform Kirtan at marriage, bhog etc.
    once we have a reasonable strength and talent, i believe, their acceptance at golden Temple will be a natural next step.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      True. As of now, we do not have enough ladies in this field. The likes of Gurpreet ji are not many. Once they come forward, it will become the way of life.
      May their tribe increase!

  51. dave sood says:

    We are in 21st Century. Any religion which will not change with people’s wishes will be forgotten. Supreme Court has shown the way.Is is upto Sangat to make a decision.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Dave,
      You have said it!
      The Delhi gurdwaras have shown the way. One sees ladies performing kirtan in Bangla Sahib. In due course, this will get extended to holiest of the holy.

  52. Lt Col Manu Chaudhary,SM(retd) says:

    In the eyes of Lord_Waheguru, Hindu deities and Christianity; the gender bias is non existent. On Mothers Day today 8 May’16, my little thoughts are_ on one hand we respect and hold our womenfolk in high esteem since they are nurturers of mankind..right from inception of a human being to imbibing the virtues of life to the adulthood; on the other hand we tend to discriminate against a Fundamental Right and a Practice which everyone has an equal right to since birth. Why??
    In Sikhism also and our Holy Guru Granth Sahib, all devotees are “Sangat”, to whose wishes and command even the Gurus listen; then is it that Gurus would wish to discriminate between His Children?? I do not think that any Spiritual Soul would discriminate between anyone on the basis of gender, colour, caste or religion. Then why do we say “Sab ka Maalik ek hai”
    Apropos, ladies have an equal say in being permitted to sing in Darbar Sahib. As an old saying goes, the benedictions of entire world lies at Mother’s Feet; it’ll be a great dis service to Her, if we permit this bias to continue

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Col Manu Chaudhary,
      No army in the world can stop an idea, whose time has come!
      I believe that when this idea matures, it will get implemented, without any further ado.

  53. KP Deswal says:

    Over the years our religious pandits have debarred not only women but also others from entering the religious places. We have to change their mind set so as to allow the women to sing the holy hymns in the religious places.
    Women have entered the sanctum centrum of the shani temple and are fighting for other places also. But even if they win some of them face the dictum of the clergy.

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