Presence and Absence: Constructions of Gender in Dasam Granth Exegesis
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AbstractControversy has swirled round the writings attributed to Guru Gobind Singh in the Dasam Granth, for not all Sikhs agree that he composed the entire text. Disputes about the Dasam Granth and its status have addressed the fact that many of the text&#8217;s compositions are concerned with gender with respect to the nature of both divinity and humans, thus playing a key role in the ongoing construction of notions of gender in Sikhism. Female voices, however, have been largely absent from this discourse despite the presence of two key gender-related themes&#8212;the figure of the goddess/sword [<i>bhagautī</i>], a topic throughout the text, and the nature of women [<i>triyā caritra</i>], the subject of the longest composition in the Dasam Granth. Through analysis of the intersection of the presence of goddesses and women but the relative absence of female voices in Dasam Granth exegesis, this paper demonstrates that the ongoing reception of the Dasam Granth has been a site for both proclaiming idealized constructions of gender equality, but also instantiating constructions of femininity that run counter to this ideal.