Shedding a Sikh Identity

Recently I was having a conversation with a non-Sikh about names and how you can tell the gender of a Sikhindividual just by looking at their name. I told her that there really wasn’t a fool-proof way of doing this since many Sikh names can be used by both men and women. However, I told her, when you see “Kaur” and “Singh” used in the name, you have a better chance of identifying the gender since it tells you if the individual is female or male, respectively. (Just to confuse her, I did mention that Singh is often also used by women). We were later joined in our conversation by another Sikh woman who basically refuted my explanation of Sikh names by telling our non-Sikh acquaintance that in fact, she and a growing number of Sikhs inour community actually don’t use “Kaur” and “Singh” at all in their name. The whole conversation reminded me of another similardiscussion Ihappened to havewith a Sikh friend of mine who, havingmarried a non-Sikh, said that she had no intention of using “Kaur” or “Singh” in the names given to her children.

Now, while I realize that these are two unconnected conversations and I am by no means suggesting this is a trend of any sort – I do wonder how common this is and what (if anything) it means for the Panth. If, for example, my friend chooses not to raise her children Sikh, then I feel ike it is less problematic that she does not use “Kaur” and “Singh”in theirnames. However, it is interesting to me when people who identify themself as Sikh choose to shed this identity. I am aware that a name by itself does not necessarily establish an identity. However, I wholeheartedly believe that having “Kaur” and “Singh” bestowed upon us by our Guru was no small thing and in fact, it does establish an identity for Sikhs. By not continuing to use “Kaur” and “Singh” in the names of Sikhs, how much of our identity is being diluted? I do believe that there are enough Sikhs who are conscious of this. Many young Sikh women, including myself, who use “Kaur” as a last name now intend to keep it as a last name after they get married. This is also a significant step in solidifying one’s identity.

Thoughts on this?


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36 Responses to “Shedding a Sikh Identity”

  1. Anandica says:

    My last name has always been KAUR and I am very proud of it. Our Gurus gave us KAUR and SINGH to portray the equality our religion possesses. I have many non-sikh friends who keep their maiden name after marriage, because they don't want to lose their identity.

  2. Anandica says:

    My last name has always been KAUR and I am very proud of it. Our Gurus gave us KAUR and SINGH to portray the equality our religion possesses. I have many non-sikh friends who keep their maiden name after marriage, because they don’t want to lose their identity.

  3. Jagjinder says:

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa

    Waheguru ji ki Fateh

    I agree to Sundari Behanji that many of the sikhs are trying to shed the Sikh Identity and I do understand what are the reasons behind that.

    The sikh leaders getting into the filthy Politics have actually given us enough of Poision and the real prachaar has gone miles away. This has taken away that Proud feeling of being associated with Sikhism. The heroic stories are replaced by Kachi Bani / Punjabi Sangeet (which is nowhere close to Punjabi Culture). Kids of my panth are not so bothered about the Kesh and Kakars.

    Now What we can do?

    We can get them some role models. You and I can go and do community service by telling kids about Sikhi (not just in Jodekhana/langar). This will make them aware of the facts and I HAVE seen the Kids changing the Parents. This means that we more aware generation coming up. Make sense??

    Gurfateh

    Jagjinder Singh

  4. Jagjinder says:

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa
    Waheguru ji ki Fateh

    I agree to Sundari Behanji that many of the sikhs are trying to shed the Sikh Identity and I do understand what are the reasons behind that.

    The sikh leaders getting into the filthy Politics have actually given us enough of Poision and the real prachaar has gone miles away. This has taken away that Proud feeling of being associated with Sikhism. The heroic stories are replaced by Kachi Bani / Punjabi Sangeet (which is nowhere close to Punjabi Culture). Kids of my panth are not so bothered about the Kesh and Kakars.

    Now What we can do?

    We can get them some role models. You and I can go and do community service by telling kids about Sikhi (not just in Jodekhana/langar). This will make them aware of the facts and I HAVE seen the Kids changing the Parents. This means that we more aware generation coming up. Make sense??

    Gurfateh

    Jagjinder Singh

  5. jhujaaru says:

    Thanks for posting this, Sundari. Our tenth Master gifted us the surname of "Singh' and "Kaur." By doing so, he erased any last trace of what was once a caste-based society. I often wonder, if Guru Sahib gave us this Hukam of using Singh and Kaur at the same time he did our Kakaars, then why do we value this Hukam any less? Guru Sahib, in all his brilliance, released us from the shackles of slavery, but we choose to stay as slaves willingly. We struggle so hard to find our identify and cling on to our caste, family, clan, or tribal heritage. Isn't this why the Khalsa was formed? To break down those barriers and become part of the whole? Personally, I take great pride in being a "Singh" and losing my "self" within the Khalsa Panth. I feel proud knowing that any of my accomplishments are shared with all "Singhs" and exercise caution knowing that my actions my adversely affect other "Singhs."

    When getting married, my wife and I consciously chose to keep our names separate as Singh and Kaur. Many complain that the process to get a last name changed is very difficult, but so many of my friends have gone through this and it is quite simple, perhaps a fellow blogger can outline the steps. It's especially easy for women when they get married, as name changes are quite common. Some complain that a married couple having different last names is inconvenient – not at all. Besides…this is America, I'm sure women taking their husband's name will be a "thing of the past" sooner than you think. I take great pride in my wife and daughter being "Kaurs" and can't wait to explain to my little Kaur why she and I have different last names and this great gift the Guru has given us. Aside from occasionally being called "Mr. Kaur" at some of my daughter's functions (which we all get a little giggle out of), there has been no inconvenience at all. Personally, I get tired of having conversations with non-Sikhs, like Sundari did, having to explain what Sikhi is about , then explain what Sikhs "really do." There are many issues like this…but to me, keeping the name of Singh and Kaur seems like "low-hanging fruit." Fateh!

  6. jhujaaru says:

    Thanks for posting this, Sundari. Our tenth Master gifted us the surname of “Singh’ and “Kaur.” By doing so, he erased any last trace of what was once a caste-based society. I often wonder, if Guru Sahib gave us this Hukam of using Singh and Kaur at the same time he did our Kakaars, then why do we value this Hukam any less? Guru Sahib, in all his brilliance, released us from the shackles of slavery, but we choose to stay as slaves willingly. We struggle so hard to find our identify and cling on to our caste, family, clan, or tribal heritage. Isn’t this why the Khalsa was formed? To break down those barriers and become part of the whole? Personally, I take great pride in being a “Singh” and losing my “self” within the Khalsa Panth. I feel proud knowing that any of my accomplishments are shared with all “Singhs” and exercise caution knowing that my actions my adversely affect other “Singhs.”

    When getting married, my wife and I consciously chose to keep our names separate as Singh and Kaur. Many complain that the process to get a last name changed is very difficult, but so many of my friends have gone through this and it is quite simple, perhaps a fellow blogger can outline the steps. It’s especially easy for women when they get married, as name changes are quite common. Some complain that a married couple having different last names is inconvenient – not at all. Besides…this is America, I’m sure women taking their husband’s name will be a “thing of the past” sooner than you think. I take great pride in my wife and daughter being “Kaurs” and can’t wait to explain to my little Kaur why she and I have different last names and this great gift the Guru has given us. Aside from occasionally being called “Mr. Kaur” at some of my daughter’s functions (which we all get a little giggle out of), there has been no inconvenience at all. Personally, I get tired of having conversations with non-Sikhs, like Sundari did, having to explain what Sikhi is about , then explain what Sikhs “really do.” There are many issues like this…but to me, keeping the name of Singh and Kaur seems like “low-hanging fruit.” Fateh!

  7. K Singh says:

    First things first – I will be surprised if even a slim minority of sikhs are thinking of dropping singhs and kaurs. The guy in your story is probably a rare case. I don't think anyone has any 'motive' to drop Singh or Kaur. I can understand a motive (though don't agree or encourage) behind cutting off the hair or trimming the beard. In fact, most people even after removing visible appearances of being a sikh still like to carry the singh/kaur to prove the point. But there is no motive in dropping last names or middle names. By the way, people do tend to add a last name thereby relegating the Singh/Kaur to essentially being the middle name like I do. And sometimes these middle names get dropped unintentionally as in the corporate email ID if they use firstname.lastname@company.com. Like in my case, however this is not intentional and the full name in my signature lines and on my business cards carry Singh. What would someone gain by dropping singhs/kaurs? unless the person has decided to stop being a sikh in the first place in which case the debatable point is quite different than the question of names. So chill, I wouldn't worry about it.

  8. K Singh says:

    First things first – I will be surprised if even a slim minority of sikhs are thinking of dropping singhs and kaurs. The guy in your story is probably a rare case. I don’t think anyone has any ‘motive’ to drop Singh or Kaur. I can understand a motive (though don’t agree or encourage) behind cutting off the hair or trimming the beard. In fact, most people even after removing visible appearances of being a sikh still like to carry the singh/kaur to prove the point. But there is no motive in dropping last names or middle names. By the way, people do tend to add a last name thereby relegating the Singh/Kaur to essentially being the middle name like I do. And sometimes these middle names get dropped unintentionally as in the corporate email ID if they use firstname.lastname@company.com. Like in my case, however this is not intentional and the full name in my signature lines and on my business cards carry Singh. What would someone gain by dropping singhs/kaurs? unless the person has decided to stop being a sikh in the first place in which case the debatable point is quite different than the question of names. So chill, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  9. singh says:

    You are absolutely right. I am in Canada and very surprised to see that no wonder there are many Punjabi out here, even many Gursikh ,Khalsa, Amritdhari but its really very hard to find "Singh" or "Kaur". For Example Last month i saw a poster in Dixie Gurdwara(Toronto) , about a "Gill summer school of Gurmat" . Both the host were a Gursikh family (Husband and wife) but even they didn`t use singh/kaur but infact they prefer GILL. I ask what is Gurmat in it? This is indeed disappointed. Whether its just Canadian immigration thing or their own choice, this all implies to how our Sikhs have managed to change their identity with time and space. If i tell some non-sikh about our naming convention then i`m really very proud of but when i look at my own friends/relative name , i am discouraged. Dont know where this will all end up.

  10. singh says:

    You are absolutely right. I am in Canada and very surprised to see that no wonder there are many Punjabi out here, even many Gursikh ,Khalsa, Amritdhari but its really very hard to find “Singh” or “Kaur”. For Example Last month i saw a poster in Dixie Gurdwara(Toronto) , about a “Gill summer school of Gurmat” . Both the host were a Gursikh family (Husband and wife) but even they didn`t use singh/kaur but infact they prefer GILL. I ask what is Gurmat in it? This is indeed disappointed. Whether its just Canadian immigration thing or their own choice, this all implies to how our Sikhs have managed to change their identity with time and space. If i tell some non-sikh about our naming convention then i`m really very proud of but when i look at my own friends/relative name , i am discouraged. Dont know where this will all end up.

  11. Harjinder Kaur Nijja says:

    I take great pride in my whole name. Harjinder is what my Grandfather gave me, Nijjar affiatels me with my village and family but the most special is Kaur which assoiates me with Panth and gives me the most important part of my identity. I have chosen to pass on the name Kaur and Singh to both my daughter and son. I try to teach them what it means and I have taught them to speak it out loud and write it instead of just using the initial. I am married to a non-Sikh but passing this on to my children was as important as having them. I have great pride and great faith in the Khalsa Panth. It will always live on and prosper.

  12. Harjinder Kaur Nijjar says:

    I take great pride in my whole name. Harjinder is what my Grandfather gave me, Nijjar affiatels me with my village and family but the most special is Kaur which assoiates me with Panth and gives me the most important part of my identity. I have chosen to pass on the name Kaur and Singh to both my daughter and son. I try to teach them what it means and I have taught them to speak it out loud and write it instead of just using the initial. I am married to a non-Sikh but passing this on to my children was as important as having them. I have great pride and great faith in the Khalsa Panth. It will always live on and prosper.

  13. K Singh says:

    Is this a Canadian peculiarity by any chance? I did see concerns in the press related to singh/kaur being too common last names and this creates practical problems and immigration deptt even considered/tried to influence decisions on such names for immigration. And you know punjabis – they would rather give their right arm for a better chance to get into Canada or any country in the western hemisphere. Sorry for being judgemental, but being in New Delhi where I do not see anybody dropping Singh/Kaur from their names , this is a strange concern to me. I have travelled extensively in the US and UK and don't see this as much of an issue there either. Regards.

  14. K Singh says:

    Is this a Canadian peculiarity by any chance? I did see concerns in the press related to singh/kaur being too common last names and this creates practical problems and immigration deptt even considered/tried to influence decisions on such names for immigration. And you know punjabis – they would rather give their right arm for a better chance to get into Canada or any country in the western hemisphere. Sorry for being judgemental, but being in New Delhi where I do not see anybody dropping Singh/Kaur from their names , this is a strange concern to me. I have travelled extensively in the US and UK and don’t see this as much of an issue there either. Regards.

  15. H Chohan says:

    what are you all on about…?

    NO Sikh has any right whatsoever to be called Singh or Kaur unless they are Khalsa. FULL STOP

    that is Guru hukum. no arguement.

    using it as an identity is complete falsehood, disrespectful to the True Guru and Khalsa.

    WaheGuru Ji Ka Khalsa, WaheGuru Ji Ki Fateh.

  16. H Chohan says:

    what are you all on about…?

    NO Sikh has any right whatsoever to be called Singh or Kaur unless they are Khalsa. FULL STOP
    that is Guru hukum. no arguement.

    using it as an identity is complete falsehood, disrespectful to the True Guru and Khalsa.

    WaheGuru Ji Ka Khalsa, WaheGuru Ji Ki Fateh.

  17. G Singh says:

    H Chouhan: Interesting point about "no Sikh has any right to be called Singh or Kaur unless Khalsa" – so are Sikh and Khalsa two different things?

    You say "full stop, it's Guru hukum", is it written or just oral tradition? It doesnt say so in Rehat Maryada?

  18. G Singh says:

    H Chouhan: Interesting point about “no Sikh has any right to be called Singh or Kaur unless Khalsa” – so are Sikh and Khalsa two different things?
    You say “full stop, it’s Guru hukum”, is it written or just oral tradition? It doesnt say so in Rehat Maryada?

  19. sizzle says:

    i appreciate that she still has kaur in her name:

    http://www.missuniverse.com/delegates/2008/files/

  20. sizzle says:

    i just watched her interview and now i don't so appreciate it:

    http://www.missuniverse.com/delegates/2008/files/

    her worst habit is that she cries when she sees a rundown dog? and then bashes people? ai hai. FULL STOP

  21. sizzle says:

    i appreciate that she still has kaur in her name:

    http://www.missuniverse.com/delegates/2008/files/IN.html

  22. sizzle says:

    i just watched her interview and now i don’t so appreciate it:

    http://www.missuniverse.com/delegates/2008/files/IN-closeup.html

    her worst habit is that she cries when she sees a rundown dog? and then bashes people? ai hai. FULL STOP

  23. Sikh means learner or student. A student of what? The Guru.

    I don't see any point in calling yourself a Sikh if your intention is to constantly question and ignore your teacher.

    I would rather all the people who are not committed to the Guru shed the Sikh identity, and leave the identity for those who wish to identify with the Guru with full devotion.

    If you cut your hair or abandon the name of Singh or Kaur, then you clearly have your own agenda which is not compatible with the Guru's teachings. Therefore what is the reasoning in calling yourself a Sikh of the Guru?

    "Khalsa is my lineage and my future"

    My father is Guru Gobind Singh, my mother Mata Sahib Kaur, and my birthplace Anandpur Sahib. This can be determined by my name, which is my identity.

  24. Sikh means learner or student. A student of what? The Guru.
    I don’t see any point in calling yourself a Sikh if your intention is to constantly question and ignore your teacher.
    I would rather all the people who are not committed to the Guru shed the Sikh identity, and leave the identity for those who wish to identify with the Guru with full devotion.
    If you cut your hair or abandon the name of Singh or Kaur, then you clearly have your own agenda which is not compatible with the Guru’s teachings. Therefore what is the reasoning in calling yourself a Sikh of the Guru?
    “Khalsa is my lineage and my future”
    My father is Guru Gobind Singh, my mother Mata Sahib Kaur, and my birthplace Anandpur Sahib. This can be determined by my name, which is my identity.

  25. Roop Dhillon says:

    Can't blame them to an extent, as for years on my CV I wrote my full Sikh name and did not get a job. It is okay to have a turban, but if the name sounds foreign they get funny. In the end I had to drop Pal and Singh, when I was constantly refused interview..wrong but true for White Collar jobs in UK

  26. Roop Dhillon says:

    Can't blame them to an extent, as for years on my CV I wrote my full Sikh name and did not get a job. It is okay to have a turban, but if the name sounds foreign they get funny. In the end I had to drop Pal and Singh, when I was constantly refused interview..wrong but true for White Collar jobs in UK

  27. Gagan Singh says:

    Time and time again I see people here in Canada dropping Singh/Kaur from their name. In Punjabi shows on TV that we get in Toronto, everyone from the host to the guests and the little kids whose birthday is being announced on the show don't use Singh/Kaur in their name. This makes me really furious. Who do they think they are? At my work place, I had to correct my name by asking the HR to add Singh as my middle name. They willingly did so without hesitation. Then I ask these people, why can't they make the same effort? Noone here in Canada is saying to drop Singh/Kaur.

  28. Gagan Singh says:

    Time and time again I see people here in Canada dropping Singh/Kaur from their name. In Punjabi shows on TV that we get in Toronto, everyone from the host to the guests and the little kids whose birthday is being announced on the show don't use Singh/Kaur in their name. This makes me really furious. Who do they think they are? At my work place, I had to correct my name by asking the HR to add Singh as my middle name. They willingly did so without hesitation. Then I ask these people, why can't they make the same effort? Noone here in Canada is saying to drop Singh/Kaur.

  29. A-ro says:

    I can understand that about older people, because the didn't the Canadian government not allow someone to use the names Singh or Kaur as a last name, until only recently?

  30. A-ro says:

    I can understand that about older people, because the didn't the Canadian government not allow someone to use the names Singh or Kaur as a last name, until only recently?

  31. Roop Dhillon says:

    http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/006121….
    don't the right place to post this link on Sikhs, but it is interesting

  32. Roop Dhillon says:

    http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/006121….
    don't the right place to post this link on Sikhs, but it is interesting