Reading: Seeking the Image of ‘Unmarked’ Sikh Women: Text, Sacred Stitches, Turban


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Seeking the Image of ‘Unmarked’ Sikh Women: Text, Sacred Stitches, Turban


Doris R. Jakobsh

University of Waterloo, CA
About Doris

Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Graduate Studies, Department of Religious Studies

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With the inauguration of the Khalsa in 1699 by the tenth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, a new understanding of ‘being Sikh’ was put in place. In examining the earliest prescriptive texts of the Khalsa, manifestations of Sikh religio-cultural identity and visual distinctiveness were deeply connected to the male Sikh body. This study locates Sikh women within a number of these early ritual and textual ordinances while also exploring how Sikh female religio-cultural materiality is contradistinct to the normative Khalsa male body. The production of phulkaris, a form of embroidered head covering (but having other uses as well) was historically associated with Sikh women and are here examined as alternate forms of religious belonging, ritual production and devotion. This study concludes with an examination of how the turban, for a small number of diasporic Sikh women, can be understood both as a rejection of traditional Sikh female ideals, as well as a novel form of Sikh women’s identity construction that is closely aligned with Sikh masculine ideals.

How to Cite: Jakobsh, D.R., 2015. Seeking the Image of ‘Unmarked’ Sikh Women: Text, Sacred Stitches, Turban. Religion and Gender, 5(1), pp.35–51. DOI:
Published on 06 Oct 2015.
Peer Reviewed


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