The Sikh relationship with pilgrimage models is ambivalent and complicated; however, this relationship has been revived and reinvented because of several historical, cultural, and political transitions: the extensive Sikh diaspora; familiarity of pilgrimage in the Indian subcontinent; the effects of Partition and Sikh independence initiatives; and the secular and tourist components of pilgrimage. The shift from adherence to the wisdom of the Guru as the focus of the pious life to a physical journey involving geographical sites is a phenomenon that partly resulted from the partition of the Punjab in 1947; thus, the personal, social, and spiritual intersect intriguingly with political motivations. While pilgrimage narratives therefore have a limited place in Sikhism, diasporic writers can create a fictional response and rewriting of the pattern I have identified in previous studies. Balli Kaur Jaswal’s most recent novel, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, focuses on a pilgrimage undertaken by three sisters after their mother’s death. This novel is an uncomfortable interweaving of Western concepts of the ‘dying wish’ and engages the ongoing controversy about the purpose of pilgrimage in Sikhism. It also revisits the paradigm of pilgrimage in the Indian epic Ramayana from a feminist perspective. This article engages with both the author’s critical exegesis related to the novel, and her personal reflection on pilgrimage to the ancestral geography of the subcontinent.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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