Over twenty million Sikhs follow a revealed, distinct, and unique religion born five centuries ago in the Punjab region of northern India. Between 1469 and 1708, ten Gurus preached a simple message of truth, devotion to God, and universal equality. Often mistaken as a combination of Hinduism and Islam, the Sikh religion can be characterized as a completely independent faith:
Sikhism rejects idolatry, the caste system, ritualism, and asceticism. It recognizes the equality between both genders and all religions, prohibits the intake of any intoxicants, and encourages an honest, truthful living. Sikhs have their own holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Written, composed, and compiled by the Sikh Gurus themselves, the Guru Granth Sahib serves as the ultimate source of spiritual guidance for Sikhs. While the Sikhs hold their Gurus in high reverence, they are not to be worshipped; Sikhs may only worship God.
Members of the Sikh community are mainly concentrated in their homeland, Punjab; however, substantial Sikh populations exist throughout the rest of India and the world. Punjabi, a variant of the Hindi language with some Persian influence, is the spoken and written language of the Sikh people. Male members of the Sikh religion use the name, Singh (lion), as their middle or last name, while females use the name, Kaur (princess). Sikhs tend to be industrious and pioneering; this accounts for their general success wherever they live and settle. The hard-working nature of the Sikhs is derived from their religion, which can be best characterized as a faith of unlimited optimism.
Sikh is any person whose faith consists of belief in One God, the ten Sikh Gurus, the Guru Granth Sahib and other scriptures and teachings of the Sikh Gurus. Additionally, he or she must believe in the necessity and importance of `Amrit�, the Sikh baptism.
According to the Sikh belief, God is all omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. The sun, moon/s, wind, fire, water, vegetation and all other things which exist are His witnesses. A Sikh must worship only the abstract form of God. The worship of images or any other object is strictly forbidden.
God is both the creator and the destroyer. He is beyond birth and death. He is both merciful and compassionate. He is beyond fear and enmity. He is self illuminated. He is the Master of all the treasures. All our possessions are a result of His grace.
The Sikhs call God as Waheguru, meaning the most wonderful Master.
The belief of the Sikhs in Waheguru is similar to that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam i.e., God is the greatest power, He is supreme, He is the king of kings, He pervades everywhere, He knows the inner thoughts of everyone, He is the giver, He existed before the start of the time, He existed when the time was started, He exists now and He will exist forever.
The Sikh Gurus called Waheguru as Master and themselves as his servants. In some hymns they called Him as Father, Mother, Friend and Brother as well1. Like Jesus Christ, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, in one of his hymns, called himself as God�s son2.
Sikhism does not believe in asceticism, celibacy or living alone at mountains or in caves or in forests in the search of Truth and God. It also rejects the orders of monasteries. For a Sikh the true life is the life of a householder. Living in a family environment and by serving the community both Truth and God can be realised. Thus it rejects the order of monks (Buddhism and Jainism) and nuns (Christianity).
The Sikh teachings are based on the principles of Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of humankind.
Sikhism rejects the concept of chosen people (as in Judaism) and caste system (as in Hinduism); it also rejects the concept of entering `Nirvana� without the blessings of God (as in Buddhism and Jainism).
In a Sikh temple people of all the faiths are welcome. The Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib also has in it the hymns composed by both Hindu and Muslim saints of various denominations.
The first five baptised Sikhs, called the beloved ones, were also from both lower and upper Hindu castes. They were the first Khalsa, the pure ones:
Bhai Daya Singh, aged 30, a Khatri from Lahore (Punjab)
Bhai Dharam Singh, aged 33, a Jat from Delhi
Bhai Mohkam Singh, aged 36, a washerman from Dwarka (Gujrat)
Bhai Sahib Singh, aged 37, a barber from Bidar (Karnatak)
Bhai Himmat Singh, aged 39, a water carrier from Puri (Orissa)
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth prophet of the Sikhs, urged his followers to drop caste symbols after their names and instead write a common surname: Singh, meaning lion, for men and Kaur, meaning princess for women.
A baptised Sikh is called Khalsa, who must observe and follow strict code of conduct.
A Sikh lives by the rules made for him by the ten Gurus. The fundamental rules, concepts and the commandments are as follows:
The banis which must be recited everyday are:
|The bani||The author||Where is it recorded|
|Japji Sahib||Guru Nanak Dev||pages 1-8 Guru Granth Sahib|
|Jap Sahib||Guru Gobind Singh||pages 1-10 Dasam Granth|
|Swayas||Guru Gobind Singh||pages 13-15Dasam Granth|
|Rehras||Guru Nanak||pages 8-12 Guru Granth Sahib|
|Kirtan Sohila||Guru Nanak||pages 12-13 Guru Granth Sahib|
The prayers are classified as: Individual and Collective prayers. The Individual prayers are Morning prayers: Jap ji, Jap Sahib and Sudha Swayas Evening prayer: Rehras Sahib Night time prayer: Kirtan Sohila
The Congregational prayer is: Morning prayer: Asa di var(composed by Guru Nanak Dev)
In addition to the above prayers a Sikh normally reads the following: At the end of every service or prayer: Anand Sahib (composed by Guru Amardas) At any special occasion or otherwise: Sukhmani Sahib (composed by Guru Arjan) At the time of marriage: Lavan (composed by Guru Ramdas) At the time of cremation: Kirtan Sohila
The Sikhs celebrate both religious and social festivals. The religious festivals are however called Gurbpurbs
The important Sikh festival calendar is as follows:
Birthday Guru Harrai
|March-April||Birthday Guru Angad||Baisakhi|
Birthday Guru Arjan
Birthday Guru Tegh Bahadur
Birthday Guru Amardas
Martyrdom day Guru Arjan
|June-July||Birthday Guru Hargobind|
|July-August||Birthday Guru Harkrishen|
Birthday Guru Ramdas
Installation Guru Granth Sahib
|October-November||Birthday Guru Nanak||Diwali|
|November-December||Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur|
|December-January||Birthday Guru Gobind Singh||Lohri|
Five historical Sikh gurdwaras have been declared as the Sikh Takhats (thrones). These gurdwaras are vested with the power and authority to regulate the religious life of the Sikh nation. The head priests of these shrines constitute a Sikh parliament and they are empowered with executive, legislative and judicial powers regarding the Sikh religious issues. All Sikhs are under the authority of the five takhats. The takhats are as follows:
|The name of the Shrine||The names of the Guru its relates to:|
|Takhat Akal Takhat||Founded by Guru Hargobind|
|Takhat Patna Sahib||The birth place of Guru Gobind Singh|
|Takhat Hazoor Sahib||The place where Guru Gobind Singh breathed his last.|
|Takhat Kesgarh Sahib||The birth place of the Khalsa|
|Takhat Damdama Sahib||
The place where Guru Gobind Singh composed the second
version of Guru Granth Sahib.
All the five takhats relate to the two Gurus who were Saint-soldiers.