Kaur (Gurmukhi: ਕੌਰ; Shahmukhi: کور) is the surname given to Sikh women by the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Although frequently translated as "princess," "Kaur" means "crown prince" and is a symbol of the equality of women and men in the Sikh faith.
The tenth guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji introduced Kaur and Singh, when he administered Amrit to both male and female Sikhs. All female Sikhs were asked to use the name Kaur after their forename and male Sikhs were to use the name Singh. Since "Kaur" means "prince," the name acts as a symbol of equality among men and women. The use of the name Kaur is one of several practices that implement the Sikh religion's commitment to gender equality, a core tenet of the faith. "Kaur" symbolizes that women were as cherished, politically meaningful, and worthy of respect as a (male) heir to a kingdom.[opinion]
The adoption of Kaur and Singh as religious surnames was also intended to reduce caste-based prejudice. Because familial last names often signal a person's caste status (or for women who adopted their spouse's surname, the caste of their spouse), substituting Kaur and Singh allowed Sikhs to implement the Sikh religion's rejection of the caste system.
Singh is also used by some non-Sikh women because Singh can be the surname for several other cultural communities. It is the most common surname used by Sikhs. Sikhs are not required to change their surnames after receiving Amrit, but many choose to do so.
Sikh principles believe that all men and women are completely equal. Therefore, a woman is crowned with great responsibility and can lead her own life as an individual, equal to men. She does not need a man's title to raise her own status. Saying this would go against the principles stated in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the religious text of Sikhism. Guru Nanak Dev Ji states:
ਭੰਡਿ ਜੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਨਿੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਮੰਗਣੁ ਵੀਆਹੁ ॥
Bẖand jammī▫ai bẖand nimmī▫ai bẖand mangaṇ vī▫āhu.
From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to a woman he is engaged and married.
Millions of diasporic Sikhs use Singh or Kaur as their last name. This has caused legal problems in immigration procedures, especially in Canada with the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, India for a decade stating in letters to its Sikh applicants that "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada". People with these common Sikh surnames had to change their last names before coming to Canada. This had been causing emotional, legal and financial hardship for Sikh applicants in India who were complying by undergoing costly and lengthy name change procedures out of fear that their application to immigrate to Canada would be rejected outright otherwise However, as soon as the media got involved and after a storm of complaints from Sikhs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Ottawa reversed New Delhi office's 10-year decree with Canadian Federal immigration officials further clarifying that "asking applicants to provide a surname in addition to Singh or Kaur has been an administrative practice used by our visa office in New Delhi as a way to improve client service and reduce incidents of mistaken identity. This was not a mandatory requirement. There is no policy or practice whereby people with these surnames are asked to change their names, the letters that were sent out to Sikh clients in Delhi were poorly worded."