Sikhism - Family In Sikh Thought And Practice

:prSikhism - Family In Sikh Thought And Practice

Family in Sikh Thought and Practice

Guru Nanak stressed the way of the householder as the ideal pattern of life for the seeker of liberation, rejecting the ascetic alternative. His successors upheld the same ideal of normal family life, expressing it in their own lives as well as in their teachings. The third Guru, Amar Das (1479–1574) proclaimed: "Family life is superior to ascetic life in sectarian garb because it is from householders that ascetics meet their needs by begging" (AG, p. 586). To understand the family relationships, caste and gender issues need to be addressed from the Sikh perspective.
In Punjabi society, family life is based upon broad kinship relationships. Every individual is a member of a joint family, a biradari (brotherhood), a got (exogamous group), and a zat (endogamous group). Like most other Indians, Sikhs are endogamous by caste (zat) and exogamous by subcaste (got). Descent is always patrilineal, and marriages link two groups of kin rather than two individuals. The cultural norms of honor (izzat) and modesty play a significant role in family relationships within the framework of patriarchal structures of Punjabi society. The Gurus employ the term pati that essentially refers to the core of a person, encompassing honor, self-respect, and social standing.
Guru Nanak and the succeeding Gurus emphatically proclaimed that divine Name is the only sure means of liberation for all four castes: the Khatri (originally Kshatriya, warrior), the Brahmin (priest), the Shudra ("servant") and the Vaishya (tradesman). In the Gurus' works, the Khatris are always placed above the Brahmins in caste hierarchy, while the Shudras are raised above the Vaishyas. This was an interesting way of breaking the rigidity of the centuries-old caste system. All the Gurus were Khatris, and this made them a topranking caste in Punjab's urban hierarchy, followed by Aroras (merchants) and Ahluvalias (brewers). In rural caste hierarchy, an absolute majority (64%) among the Sikhs are Jats (peasants), who are followed by Ramgarhias (artisans), Ramdasias (cobblers) and Mazhabis (sweepers). Although Brahmins are at the apex in Hindu caste hierarchy, Sikhs place them distinctly lower on the caste scale. This is partly due to the strictures that the Sikh Gurus laid upon Brahmin pride and partly to the reorganization of Punjabi rural society that confers dominance on the Jat caste.

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