Four Extraordinary Sikh Women From Past and Present


By Harneet Kaur

ਸੋ ਕਿਉ ਮੰਦਾ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਤੁ ਜੰਮਹਿ ਰਾਜਾਨ ॥

From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. {Guru Nanak - Sri Guru Granth Sahib - Page 473}

When I grew up attending Sunday school classes at the Gurdwara, I grew up learning about influential women who contributed greatly to the strides of Sikhism. I grew up as a Sikh which is a religion founded by Guru Nanak over 500 years ago in Punjab, India. It is too often that women are not given the rightful acknowledgment in history so I am glad that my teachers and parents took the time to teach the legacies left by these Sikh women in history. Additionally, there are women today who are carrying on the values of social justice and equality taught by Sikh women in the past. 

Here are just a few of the inspirational women in Sikh history from both the past and present:


Mai Bhago, or Mata Bhag Kaur, is best known for leading 40 soldiers in the battle against the Mughal army. She learned martial arts and hand-to-hand combat from her father and cooking and managing the house from her mother. The soldiers were turning back from the fight but she convinced them to turn back and fight with their leader Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru of Sikhism. Mai Bhago wore a Kesari (turban) and is known as the first Sikh woman to fight in battle. I remember learning about her and being inspired that the men were ready to give up but she was willing to persevere and fight with Guru Gobind Singh Ji.


Maharani Jind Kaur is known as the wife of Maharaja (King) Ranjit Singh and mother to Duleep Singh who was a Sikh Emperor who ruled over many territories. She is known as rebellious and came to rule Punjab after her husband passed away. Maharani Jind Kaur led a revolt and was known as a woman that often stood her ground. She held a meeting and reconstituted the supreme council of the Khalsa which was the Sikh Order. It is remarkable how she had such strong leadership qualities and was able to take charge after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.


Dr. Inderjit Kaur is most known for starting Pingalwara, a hospital and charitable society providing aid for the less fortunate. She was inspired to run this after her father Bhagat Puran Singh Ji initially started the house and devoted his life to the service of humanity. She expanded the mission of Pingalwara to combat challenges that come with AIDS and drug addiction, and she also provides free education to the poor and marginalized. She has also guided Pingalwara to help with the relief of natural disasters and created a school for those requiring special education. One of the main values of Sikhism is seva or selfless service and Dr.Inderjit and her father perfectly embody this by beginning Pingalwara and changing the world for the better.


Palbinder Kaur Shergill is the first turbaned Sikh Woman to become the supreme court judge of British Columbia. She was born in India and learned from her parents to advocate for those in need, leading her to work towards a law degree. In the past, she represented the World Sikh Organization and was part of many important human rights cases in Canada. Palbinder Kaur Shergill being appointed judge is a great achievement for the Sikh community in Canada and around the world.

Women can be powerful beings and make a huge difference in the world. Learning about Sikh women around the world has inspired me to get involved in non-profit work and try to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. I am in awe of the work done by these women and hope that I can follow in their footsteps and show the same strength and humility throughout my own life.

Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal

(Sikh slogan which means: whoever utters (the phrase following) shall be happy, shall be fulfilled)

About the Author: Harneet Kaur is a student at University of Massachusetts Amherst majoring in marketing in the Isenberg school of Management. She regularly writes for  Her Campus (College Magazine) and thinks it's a great way to kick off her time at the university. Along with writing, she enjoys listening to music, walking her dog, and playing the guitar in her free time.