My Encounters with Religion as a Sikh Woman

Having grown up in a Sikh family, the author opens up on her encounters with Sikhism and draws a distinction between organised religion and personal belief/faith.

You can also read this piece in Hindi, translated by Aarohi Vaidya here.

धर्म से मेरा सामना
The Ten Holy Sikh Gurus With Guru Nanak Dev by Akal

I suffer from depression, borderline personality disorder and OCD. I have time and again been told to take respite in God because it is the only anchor that can help my broken boat sail through the sea of uncertainty and disease. My family is not a staunch follower but they do believe in God, like any middle class family does. 

Religion, I believe, is made by people to find the sense of community but it stays alive as long as it is not misused, like any other practice. But in a country of thirty three billion gods, (I don’t know how that counting was done) we sure have a lot of choices. People here defend an invisible entity, never heard nor seen by anyone ever and make stories about its presence because to be honest, it is really a lonely thought to think that this entire universe created only us and no neighbors to share this space with. 

At home, we have a small wooden case with the Gutka Sahib, a bell and a diya that never blows off (it’s electric). My father on some days does paath (पाठ), and we all are graced by the words of the beautiful musings written by Gods I have only heard stories of. The valour of our Gurus is told by my father on certain occasions and we all listen quietly without believing any of it. We are the millennials. We are too woke to believe in God but on certain days when things seem out of control, the only place to go is a Gurudwara or a temple nearby. 

Religion is political. It has shaped countries and their governments. It has shaped people’s way of lives. And even though I am an agonist, I am too shaped by the people’s view of God. There are some days when my family has long discussions on how God is real and has to be found through firm belief. But this belief that unites everyone is the same belief that creates a divide between communities. The scriptures written thousand of years ago are given godly status none dares defying. But when I come to think of it, we all are a part of “House of Secrets,” a Netflix documentary documenting Burari deaths. On a very large scale, there are fanatics, believers and followers. Religions have developed cults within and people follow them blindly, without a question. But when religion enters our homes, there seems to be faith and superstition interfering with each other. 

My father is not a kattar believer of Sikhism but he believes in Gursikhi. I believe we are all allowed to accept what our faiths demand of us. But projecting our faith onto others in the name of holy teachings is where the problem begins. There are several self-proclaimed gurus who teach misogyny and patriarchy in the name of religion which makes me think if religion is a conspiracy theory too. Who knows when Ram came home after 14 years of exile. Who knows if it happened at all or not. And even if it did, why did he ask Sita to give the agni pariksha? Isn’t it just dehumanising women because they are women? The core belief of religion is equality but some of you might stop me saying it out loud because what we see today is not religious practices but crime. 

I never had any out of world experience. But I do remember chanting a mool mantra every now and then whenever I was/am scared. Isn’t the sole purpose of religion, to find peace? But there seems to be a competition between gods as if my God is better than yours. The marketing that goes into this is funny and serious at the same. Hundreds of crores of rupees are spent in advertising a godly/holy/sacrosanct entity who is supposed to be an old man/woman(rarely) sitting up in the clouds with self doubts I believe. 

To believe God is complete is to find ways for our own completeness and to search for the higher power is just us saying that we are afraid and we need somebody to look after us. And this is entirely human need to think so. 

There is no argument on whether gods exist or not. This is not a debate defying the presence of the mystical. But this is an introspection of our own selves through the holy. A soliloquy about our deepest darkest sins and finding salvation through an outer medium who forgives, in this case God. Religions are made to control people while God is the liberation of the enslaved. Religions are gatekeepers of a population which is denied to question its truth and originality. Religions make people believe in punishment and hence are aware of their own misdeeds. Religions are how societies can function in a “Big Brother is watching us” harmony while nobody raises a voice. Religions create the notion of hell, a grim reaper with a scythe hunting anyone who dares to break it down, sins and good deeds. It engraves an over-stimulated moral compass among the common masses, the innocent ardent followers who believe that they will one day be rewarded. But if God is watching us, who is watching God maintain dignity and fairness? Religions do that for us. Religions do that for God as well. And we all live as if we aren’t bothered by it. 

Bharti Bansal

Bharti Bansal

Bharti considers herself a blahcksheep. She has opinions nobody likes and ideas which aren’t powerful enough to change the world. To put it in another way, she is a poet. Her poems are the only way she knows to rebel. She likes to stargaze and is fond of cats.


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