By Puneet Bsanti, AsAmNews Intern
Men and women of the Sikh faith share “Singh” and “Kaur” in their names, and the reasoning for that takes us back to the 1600s when Guru Gobind Singh Ji still walked the earth.
To some, such as Gurpreet Kaur, a Sikh woman, “Kaur” signifies true equality, especially for women. She is in awe by how ahead of their time the Gurus were by creating neutral surnames for men and women. To Kaur, the neutral surnames means you are simply just a Sikh, not a person defined by their caste or social class.
Ajayvir Singh Gosal, a Sikh man who has researched Sikhism, said the history goes back to the Gurus, spiritual masters of the Sikh faith.
According to Gosal, the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji sacrificed his life because the Mughal emperor wanted to convert his followers to Islam. To save them, the ninth Guru made the sacrifice and was beheaded.
His son, Gobind, the tenth and final human Guru, learned of his father’s death and realized that his followers were afraid and he had to do something.
“He [Gobind] spread out the word to all of the Sikhs in the region that there was a festival. So everyone gathered around and he came out of his tent with a sword and he was like, ‘I need a sacrifice, who’s going to come up?'” Gosal said.
One person went up to the tent and afterward, Gobind would come out with blood on his sword, declaring that he needed another person. He would do this until a total of five people willingly went to the tent to sacrifice themselves.
“When he came back a sixth time, he came back with all five of them alive. All of them were wearing a turban, a kara (silver bracelet) and traditional clothing. Basically, he told everybody, these are my Singhs, Singh meaning lion.”
In modern-day, Singh means lion and Kaur means princess.
Gobind said the five men, who were called the paṅj piyāre (five beloved ones), were Sikhs and he administered amrit (baptism) upon them. They would drop their last names and would become Singhs. The men, who were initially part of different Hindu castes, were declared to be part of the same casteless community called Khalsa.
It became a tradition for those who received amrit would have Singh or Kaur as their last name, however, according to Gosal, in modern times some opt for that as their middle name.
“Nowadays, people tend to make it their middle name, like even me, but ideally it was supposed to make everyone equal. There would be no castes or racism,” Gosal said.
Some Sikhs keep Singh or Kaur as their last name so they could follow what Gobind Singh Ji declared in terms of equality.
“I use Kaur as my last name because I feel like it would defy the purpose of equality if I were to use it alongside a surname given to me by the male side of the family and later a male partner after marriage. My dad always explained that the reason he chose to have mine and my brother’s names as just Singh and Kaur on all official paperwork is that it not only makes us equal but also allows us to reject the human urge to feed into ‘continuing a lineage’ which coerces many women into carrying on a surname of the family they have married into so that it doesn’t ‘die out,'” Kaur said.
She said to her, “Singh” and “Kaur” gives Sikh women their own identity rather than going through life first taking their father’s surname and then their husband’s.
In modern times, some Sikhs may not follow exactly what Gobind declared as the basis or rules, of Sikhism, however the history lives on and will be remembered throughout generations.
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meta: The history of the origins of “Singh” and “Kaur” are remembered by Sikh men and women everywhere.