Guru Gobind Singh and Polygamy

Did the Sikh Gurus Practice Polygamy?

Guru Gobind Singh portrait
Guru Gobind Singh portrait. Wikimedia Commons

Well researched, and referenced historical accounts based on ancient oral, and written history, from the era of the ten Sikh gurus, indicate that four of Sikhism's gurus had more than one wife. One widowed guru married a second time, however, the others wed multiple wives while the others lived. Guru Gobind Singh wed three times in all. The family history of his wives, their date, and place, of birth and their parentage are known. Memorials have been erected commemorating their deaths.

Research of historians which supports evidence that the gurus married multiple wives includes English-language authors:

  • Max Arthur Macauliffe author of The Sikh Religion, Its Gurus, Sacred Writings, and Authors Volumes 1 - 6. One of the earliest historians to publish in English, Macauliffe discusses mythology and fact citing verbal and written sources of his research and findings.
  • Harbans Singh - Author of Encyclopaedia of Sikhism Volumes 1 - 4. Considered the primary English authority, Singh publishes only substantiated history citing original references. Seldom is any controversial material is found in his publications.
  • Surjit Singh Ghandhi author of History of Sikh Gurus Retold Volumes 1 - 2, discusses controversial historical accounts at length citing multiple references on both sides of an issue and shares his conclusions.

Other supportive historical data researched and compiled by Sikh authors includes Punjabi language sources:

  • The revered Mahan Kosh by Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha.
  • Guru Kian Sakhian (stories of the Gurus) compiled in 1790 by Sarup Singh Kaushish and based on genealogy recorded and passed down to him by his ancestral family which included Bhaats (minstrels) and martyrs.

Rehit Maryada the Sikhism code of conduct in effect since 1935, advises that "generally" a Sikh ought not to marry again as long as his wife is living. Sikh also tends to follow the laws of the land in which they reside. This in part has to do with why some modern historians rebuff numerous historical accounts which indicate that several of the ten gurus had more than one wife:

  • Dr. Gurbaksh Singh purports that ancient historians of other cultures, when reporting the tenth guru's marriages, misinterpreted historic Sikh wedding tradition and customs regarding engagement, marriage, and muklawa (consummation of marriage when the child bride reaches puberty and joins her husband's family) ceremonies, and the practice of naming the bride by the groom's family. His hypothesis dismisses written historical accounts and research supporting the fact that Guru Gobind Singh had three wives, in favor of his view, based upon traditional bridal customs and the code of conduct currently in effect, that the guru had one wife only. He neglects the fact that three of the previous gurus also had multiple wives. He also leaves out the well-documented customs followed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, touted as a "devout Sikh" because he adhered to the regime of daily prayers, who married officially, and also by unofficial colloquial ceremony, multiple Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim wives, had numerous concubines, forming a harem of up to 46 females, and also kept between 125 and 150 dancing girls. After going against the Sikh code of conduct and marrying a Muslim woman, the Maharaja was called before the Panj Pyare council and sentenced to lashing. Even so, he later wed a second Muslim woman.

Some Sikhs feel it is slanderous to suggest that the Guru's engaged in plural marriage because goes against the norms of modern society, piety, and propriety, held in esteem by Sikhs. Other Sikhs, however, feel it equally slanderous to second guess the guru's motives, and to suggest that which does not comply with modern practices to be tawdry, or to blur historical fact, and omit, obscure, or obliterate, the names of esteemed women exalted by the gurus in sacred matrimony:

Consecutive and Co-wives of the Sikh Gurus

Co-wives of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

  • Maharani Mahtab Kaur
    Married 1796
    Father: Gurbaksh Singh of Kanhaiya missal.
  • Maharani Raj Kaur aka Datan Kaur / Mai Nakayan
    Married 1798
    Father: Ran Singh of Nakai missal.
    Son: Maharaja Kharak Singh
  • Maharani Moran Begam (Muslim)
    Married 1802
    Dancing girl.
  • Maharani Ratan Kaur
    Married 1811
    Widow: Sahib Singh Bhangi
  • Maharani Daya Kaur
    Married 1811
    Widow: Sahib Singh Bhangi
  • Maharani Rup Kaur
    Married 1815
    Father: Jai Singh of Kot Sayyid, Mahmud
  • Maharani Chand Kaur
    Married 1815
    Father: Jai Singh of Chainpur, Amritsar
  • Maharani Lakshmi Kaur
    Married 1820
    Father: Desa Singh Vadpagga of Jogki, Khan
  • Maharani Mahtab Kaur
    Married 1822
    Father: Chaudhury Sujan Singh
  • Maharani Hardai aka Mahtab Kaur / Guddan
    Married 1829
    Father: Raja Sansar Chand II of Kangra
  • Maharani Rajdai Banso
    Married 1829
    Father: Raja Sansar Chand II of Kangra
  • Maharani Saman Kaur
    Married 1832
    Father: Subha Singh
  • Maharani Gul Behar Begam (Muslim)
    Married 1832.
  • Maharani Jind Kaur
    Married 1835
    Father: Manna Singh of Gujranwala.
  • Maharani Ram Devi
    Father: Kaur Singh of Chhachriwala
  • Maharani Gulab Kaur
    Father: Jagdeo of Amritsar
  • Maharani
    Father: Karam Singh Chinah
  • Maharani
    Father: Wazir Nakudda of Jaswan
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Your Citation
Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "Guru Gobind Singh and Polygamy." Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, Khalsa, Sukhmandir. (2020, August 27). Guru Gobind Singh and Polygamy. Retrieved from Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "Guru Gobind Singh and Polygamy." Learn Religions. (accessed June 1, 2023).