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Gendered Translations of Gurbani

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Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh


I am a young college student from California. I can read Gurmukhi fairly well, but I have a hard time understanding what the Gurbani means. Because of this, I use English translations when reading Gurbani.


My question is regarding the use of gendered pronouns such as “He”, Him”, “His” etc. From what little wisdom Waheguru has gifted me with, I understand that in Gurmukhi, the One is always referred to as “You” rather than the masculine “He”. Is this correct? If so, why do most translations use masculine pronouns? I always get annoyed by this, as I see it everywhere, in Gurdwaras on projectors, in Gurbani apps. I consider myself a feminist, so this has really had an impact when I read Gurbani.


Is the heavy use of masculine pronouns a result of Abrahamic influences on translators of Gurbani? For example, in Abrahamic faiths, the One is almost always regarded as the Father in Heaven. Thus, they use “He”.


In Sikhi, however, the One is referred to in many ways, including Mother and Father. In fact, feminism is bred into Sikhi. Do translators of Gurbani use “He” because of the Husband-Lord analogy, which is just one of the many analogies used in Gurbani?


It is also very important to note that the analogies and metaphors used by Guru Ji reflect the prevailing attitudes of the times, where women were considered much lower to men. Guru Ji used analogies in a way that not only resonated with the masses, but also exposed the darkest issues of the times. In no way was Guru Ji supporting male domination over women. In fact, Guru Ji placed women as second to the One. Guru Ji considered women as the essence of Divine Love.


So then, when analyzing English translations of Gurbani, why is it always “He”? Can we not use “She”, “Her”, and “Hers” to refer to the Universal One? Can we not refer to the One as “Queen”, in addition to “King” (Maharaj)? This has always bothered me, as I cannot understand Gurbani from Gurmukhi alone, and because I feel very deeply for our fellow sisters in the Panth, who have yet to be fully recognized as true equals in our world.


I feel very awkward whenever I say something like “Always remember and love Waheguru! She’s in your heart. She’s always with you. You are her and she is you!”. I always get confused looks from others, as if I’ve done something wrong. It breaks my heart to see our society like this.


What should translators do, so that we can have the true meaning of Gurbani in other languages? What can we do as Sikhs to further uplift women?


I apologize for any mistakes I may have made. I am just trying to share my thoughts and seek a better understanding. Much Love.❤


Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

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