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History of Sikhism
Sikh beliefs

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Sikh Bhagats

Other Important People

Beliefs and principles
Underlying values
Technique and methods

Sikh practices · List

Guru Granth Sahib
Adi Granth · Dasam Granth

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Portal: Sikhism

Sikhism,[1] founded in fifteenth century Punjab on the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev and ten successive Sikh Gurus (the last one being the sacred text Guru Granth Sahib), is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world.[2] This system of religious philosophy and expression has been traditionally known as the Gurmat (literally the counsel of the gurus) or the Sikh Dharma. Sikhism originated from the word Sikh, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit root śiṣya meaning "disciple" or "learner", or śikṣa meaning "instruction".[3][4]

The principal belief of Sikhism is faith in waheguru—represented using the sacred symbol of ik ōaṅkār, the Universal God. Sikhism advocates the pursuit of salvation through disciplined, personal meditation on the name and message of God. A key distinctive feature of Sikhism is a non-anthropomorphic concept of God, to the extent that one can interpret God as the Universe itself. The followers of Sikhism are ordained to follow the teachings of the ten Sikh gurus, or enlightened leaders, as well as the holy scripture entitled the Gurū Granth Sāhib, which, along with the writings of six of the ten Sikh Gurus, includes selected works of many devotees from diverse socio-economic and religious backgrounds. The text was decreed by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, as the final guru of the Khalsa Panth. Sikhism's traditions and teachings are distinctively associated with the history, society and culture of the Punjab. Adherents of Sikhism are known as Sikhs (students or disciples) and number over 23 million across the world. Most Sikhs live in Punjab in India and, until India's partition, millions of Sikhs lived in what is now Pakistani Punjab.[5]


Philosophy and teachings

The Harimandir Sahib, known popularly as the Golden Temple, is a sacred shrine for Sikhs.

The origins of Sikhism lie in the teachings of Guru Nanak and his successors. The essence of Sikh teaching is summed up by Nanak in these words: "Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living".[6] Sikhism believes in equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, and gender. Sikhism also does not attach any importance to asceticism as a means to attain salvation, but stresses on the need of leading life as a householder.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion.[7][8] In Sikhism, God—termed Vāhigurū—is shapeless, timeless, and sightless: niraṅkār, akāl, and alakh. The beginning of the first composition of Sikh scripture is the figure "1"—signifying the universality of God. It states that God is omnipresent and infinite, and is signified by the term ēk ōaṅkār.[9] Sikhs believe that before creation, all that existed was God and Its hukam (will or order).[10] When God willed, the entire cosmos was created. From these beginnings, God nurtured "enticement and attachment" to māyā, or the human perception of reality.[11]

While a full understanding of God is beyond human beings,[9] Nanak described God as not wholly unknowable. God is omnipresent (sarav viāpak) in all creation and visible everywhere to the spiritually awakened. Nanak stressed that God must be seen from "the inward eye", or the "heart", of a human being: devotees must meditate to progress towards enlightenment. Guru Nanak Dev emphasized the revelation through meditation, as its rigorous application permits the existence of communication between God and human beings.[9] God has no gender in Sikhism, (though translations may incorrectly present a male God); indeed Sikhism teaches that God is "Nirankar" [Niran meaning "without" and kar meaning "form", hence "without form"]. In addition, Nanak wrote that there are many worlds on which God has created life.[12]


Pursuing salvation and khalsa

A Sikh man at the Harimandir Sahib

Nanak's teachings are founded not on a final destination of heaven or hell, but on a spiritual union with God which results in salvation.[13] The chief obstacles to the attainment of salvation are social conflicts and an attachment to worldly pursuits, which commit men and women to an endless cycle of birth—a concept known as reincarnation.

Māyā—defined as illusion or "unreality"—is one of the core deviations from the pursuit of God and salvation: people are distracted from devotion by worldly attractions which give only illusive satisfaction. However, Nanak emphasised māyā as not a reference to the unreality of the world, but of its values. In Sikhism, the influences of ego, anger, greed, attachment, and lust—known as the Five Evils—are believed to be particularly pernicious. The fate of people vulnerable to the Five Evils is separation from God, and the situation may be remedied only after intensive and relentless devotion.[14]

Nanak described God's revelation—the path to salvation—with terms such as nām (the divine Name) and śabad (the divine Word) to emphasise the totality of the revelation. Nanak designated the word guru (meaning teacher) as the voice of God and the source and guide for knowledge and salvation.[15] Salvation can be reached only through rigorous and disciplined devotion to God. Nanak distinctly emphasised the irrelevance of outward observations such as rites, pilgrimages, or asceticism. He stressed that devotion must take place through the heart, with the spirit and the soul.

A key practice to be pursued is nām: remembrance of the divine Name. The verbal repetition of the name of God or a sacred syllable is an established practice in religious traditions in India, but Nanak's interpretation emphasized inward, personal observance. Nanak's ideal is the total exposure of one's being to the divine Name and a total conforming to Dharma or the "Divine Order". Nanak described the result of the disciplined application of nām simraṇ as a "growing towards and into God" through a gradual process of five stages. The last of these is sac khaṇḍ (The Realm of Truth)—the final union of the spirit with God.[15]

Nanak stressed now kirat karō: that a Sikh should balance work, worship, and charity, and should defend the rights of all creatures, and in particular, fellow human beings. They are encouraged to have a chaṛdī kalā, or optimistic, view of life. Sikh teachings also stress the concept of sharing—vaṇḍ chakkō—through the distribution of free food at Sikh gurdwaras (laṅgar), giving charitable donations, and working for the good of the community and others (sēvā).

The ten gurus and religious authority

A rare Tanjore-style painting from the late 19th century depicting the ten Sikh Gurus with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana.

The term guru comes from the Sanskrit gurū, meaning teacher, guide, or mentor. The traditions and philosophy of Sikhism were established by ten specific gurus from 1499 to 1708. Each guru added to and reinforced the message taught by the previous, resulting in the creation of the Sikh religion. Nanak was the first guru and appointed a disciple as successor. Gobind Singh was the final guru in human form. Before his death, Gobind Singh decreed that the Gurū Granth Sāhib would be the final and perpetual guru of the Sikhs.[16] The Sikhs believe that the spirit of Nanak was passed from one guru to the next, " just as the light of one lamp, which lights another and does not diminish ",[17] and is also mentioned in their holy book.

# Name Date of birth Guruship on Date of ascension Age
1 Nanak Dev 15 April 1469 20 August 1507 22 September 1539 69
2 Angad Dev 31 March 1504 7 September 1539 29 March 1552 48
3 Amar Das 5 May 1479 26 March 1552 1 September 1574 95
4 Ram Das 24 September 1534 1 September 1574 1 September 1581 46
5 Arjan Dev 15 April 1563 1 September 1581 30 May 1606 43
6 Har Gobind 19 June 1595 25 May 1606 28 February 1644 48
7 Har Rai 16 January 1630 3 March 1644 6 October 1661 31
8 Har Krishan 7 July 1656 6 October 1661 30 March 1664 7
9 Tegh Bahadur 1 April 1621 20 March 1665 11 November 1675 54
10 Gobind Singh 22 December 1666 11 November 1675 7 October 1708 41
11 Guru Granth Sahib n/a 7 October 1708 n/a n/a

After Nanak's passing, the most important phase in the development of Sikhism came with the third successor, Amar Das. Nanak's teachings emphasised the pursuit of salvation; Amar Das began building a cohesive community of followers with initiatives such as sanctioning distinctive ceremonies for birth, marriage, and death. Amar Das also established the manji (comparable to a diocese) system of clerical supervision.[15]

The interior of the Akal Takht

Amar Das's successor and son-in-law Ram Das founded the city of Amritsar, which is home of the Harimandir Sahib and regarded widely as the holiest city for all Sikhs. When Ram Das's youngest son Arjan succeeded him, the line of male gurus from the Sodhi Khatri family was established: all succeeding gurus were direct descendants of this line. Guru Arjan Sahib was captured by Mughal authorities who were suspicious and hostile to the religious order he was developing.[18] His persecution and death inspired his successors to promote a military and political organization of Sikh communities to defend themselves against the attacks of Mughal forces.

The Sikh gurus established a mechanism which allowed the Sikh religion to react as a community to changing circumstances. The sixth guru, Har Gobind, was responsible for the creation of the concept of Akal Takht (throne of the timeless one), which serves as the supreme decision-making centre of Sikhdom and sits opposite the Darbar Sahib. The Sarbat Ḵẖālsā (a representative portion of the Khalsa Panth) historically gathers at the Akal Takht on special festivals such as Vaisakhi or Diwali and when there is a need to discuss matters that affect the entire Sikh nation. A gurmatā (literally, guru's intention) is an order passed by the Sarbat Ḵẖālsā in the presence of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. A gurmatā may only be passed on a subject that affects the fundamental principles of Sikh religion; it is binding upon all Sikhs.[19] The term hukamnāmā (literally, edict or royal order) is often used interchangeably with the term gurmatā. However, a hukamnāmā formally refers to a hymn from the Gurū Granth Sāhib which is given as an order to Sikhs.


Nanak (1469–1538), the founder of Sikhism, was born in the village of Rāi Bhōi dī Talwandī, now called Nankana Sahib (in present-day Pakistan).[20] His father, Mehta Kalu was a Patwari, an accountant of land revenue in the employment of Rai Bular Bhatti, the area landlord. Nanak's mother was Tripta Devi and he had one older sister, Nanaki. His parents were Khatri Hindus of the Bedi clan. As a boy, Nanak was fascinated by religion, and his desire to explore the mysteries of life eventually led him to leave home and take missionary journeys.

In his early teens, Nanak caught the attention of the local landlord Rai Bular Bhatti, who was moved by his intellect and divine qualities. Rai Bular was witness to many incidents in which Nanak enchanted him and as a result Rai Bular and Nanak's sister Bibi Nanki, became the first persons to recognise the divine qualities in Nanak. Both of them then encouraged and supported Nanak to study and travel. Sikh tradition states that at the age of thirty, Nanak went missing and was presumed to have drowned after going for one of his morning baths to a local stream called the Kali Bein. One day, he declared: "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim" (in Punjabi, "nā kōi hindū nā kōi musalmān"). It was from this moment that Nanak would begin to spread the teachings of what was then the beginning of Sikhism.[21] Although the exact account of his itinerary is disputed, he is widely acknowledged to have made four major journeys, spanning thousands of miles, the first tour being east towards Bengal and Assam, the second south towards Tamil Nadu, the third north towards Kashmir, Ladakh, and Tibet, and the final tour west towards Baghdad and Mecca.[22]

Nanak was married to Sulakhni, the daughter of Moolchand Chona, a rice trader from the town of Bakala. They had two sons. The elder son, Sri Chand, was an ascetic, and he came to have a considerable following of his own, known as the Udasis. The younger son, Lakshmi Das, on the other hand, was totally immersed in worldly life. To Nanak, who believed in the ideal of rāj maiṁ jōg (detachment in civic life), both his sons were unfit to carry on the Guruship.

Growth of the Sikh community

In 1538, Nanak chose his disciple Lahiṇā, a Khatri of the Trehan clan, as a successor to the guruship rather than either of his sons. Lahiṇā was named Angad Dev and became the second guru of the Sikhs.[23] Nanak conferred his choice at the town of Kartarpur on the banks of the river Ravi, where Nanak had finally settled down after his travels. Though Sri Chand was not an ambitious man, the Udasis believed that the Guruship should have gone to him, since he was a man of pious habits in addition to being Nanak's son. They refused to accept Angad's succession. On Nanak's advice, Angad shifted from Kartarpur to Khadur, where his wife Khivi and children were living, until he was able to bridge the divide between his followers and the Udasis. Angad continued the work started by Nanak and is widely credited for standardising the Gurmukhī script as used in the sacred scripture of the Sikhs.

Amar Das, a Khatri of the Bhalla clan, became the third Sikh guru in 1552 at the age of 73. Goindval became an important centre for Sikhism during the guruship of Amar Das. He preached the principle of equality for women by prohibiting purdah and sati. Amar Das also encouraged the practice of langar and made all those who visited him attend laṅgar before they could speak to him.[24] In 1567, Emperor Akbar sat with the ordinary and poor people of Punjab to have laṅgar. Amar Das also trained 146 apostles of which 52 were women, to manage the rapid expansion of the religion.[25] Before he died in 1574 aged 95, he appointed his son-in-law Jēṭhā, a Khatri of the Sodhi clan, as the fourth Sikh guru.

Jēṭhā became Ram Das and vigorously undertook his duties as the new guru. He is responsible for the establishment of the city of Ramdaspur later to be named Amritsar. Before Ramdaspur, Amritsar was known as Guru Da Chakk. In 1581, Arjan Dev—youngest son of the fourth guru—became the fifth guru of the Sikhs. In addition to being responsible for building the Darbar/Harimandir Sahib (called the Golden Temple), he prepared the Sikh sacred text known as the Ādi Granth (literally the first book) and included the writings of the first five gurus. In 1606, for refusing to make changes to the Granth and for supporting an unsuccessful contender to the throne, he was tortured and killed by the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir.[26]

Political advancement

Hargobind, became the sixth guru of the Sikhs. He carried two swords—one for spiritual and the other for temporal reasons (known as mīrī and pīrī in Sikhism).[27] Sikhs grew as an organized community and under the 10th Guru the Sikhs developed a trained fighting force to defend their independence. In 1644, Har Rai became guru followed by Harkrishan, the boy guru, in 1661. No hymns composed by these three gurus are included in the Sikh holy book.[28]

Tegh Bahadur became guru in 1665 and led the Sikhs until 1675. Teg Bahadur was executed by Aurangzeb for helping to protect Hindus, after a delegation of Kashmiri Pandits came to him for help when the Emperor condemned them to death for failing to convert to Islam.[29] He was succeeded by his son, Gobind Rai who was just nine years old at the time of his father's death. Gobind Rai further militarised his followers, and was baptised by the Pañj Piārē when he formed the Khalsa on 13 April 1699. From here on in he was known as Gobind Singh.

From the time of Nanak, when it was a loose collection of followers who focused entirely on the attainment of salvation and God, the Sikh community had significantly transformed. Even though the core Sikh religious philosophy was never affected, the followers now began to develop a political identity. Conflict with Mughal authorities escalated during the lifetime of Teg Bahadur and Gobind Singh. The latter founded the Khalsa in 1699. The Khalsa is a disciplined community that combines its religious purpose and goals with political and military duties.[30] After Aurangzeb killed four of his sons, Gobind Singh sent Aurangzeb the Zafarnamah (Notification/Epistle of Victory).

Shortly before his death, Gobind Singh ordered that the Gurū Granth Sāhib (the Sikh Holy Scripture), would be the ultimate spiritual authority for the Sikhs and temporal authority would be vested in the Khalsa Panth—the Sikh Nation/Community.[16] The first scripture was compiled and edited by the fifth guru, Arjan Dev, in 1604.

A former ascetic was charged by Gobind Singh with the duty of punishing those who had persecuted the Sikhs. After the guru's death, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur became the leader of the Sikh army and was responsible for several attacks on the Mughal empire. He was executed by the emperor Jahandar Shah after refusing the offer of a pardon if he converted to Islam.[31]

The Sikh community's embrace of military and political organisation made it a considerable regional force in medieval India and it continued to evolve after the demise of the gurus. After the death of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, a Sikh Confederacy of Sikh warrior bands known as misls formed. With the decline of the Mughal empire, a Sikh Empire arose in the Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, with its capital in Lahore and limits reaching the Khyber Pass and the borders of China. The order, traditions and discipline developed over centuries culminated at the time of Ranjit Singh to give rise to the common religious and social identity that the term "Sikhism" describes.[32]

After the death of Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Empire fell into disorder and was eventually annexed by the United Kingdom after the hard-fought Anglo-Sikh Wars. This brought the Punjab under the British Raj. Sikhs formed the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee and the Shiromani Akali Dal to preserve Sikhs' religious and political organization a quarter of a century later. With the partition of India in 1947, thousands of Sikhs were killed in violence and millions were forced to leave their ancestral homes in West Punjab.[33] Sikhs faced initial opposition from the Government in forming a linguistic state that other states in India were afforded. The Akali Dal started a non-violence movement for Sikh and Punjabi rights. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale emerged as a leader of the Bhindran-Mehta Jatha—which assumed the name of Damdami Taksal in 1977 to promote a peaceful solution of the problem. In June 1984, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian army to launch Operation Blue Star to remove Bhindranwale and his followers from the Darbar Sahib. Bhindranwale, and a large number of innocent pilgrims were killed during the army's operations. In October, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards. The assassination was followed by the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots massacre[34] and Hindu-Sikh conflicts in Punjab, as a reaction to the assassination and Operation Blue Star.


Guru Arjan Dev dictating the Ādi Granth to Bhai Gurdas.

There are two primary sources of scripture for the Sikhs: the Gurū Granth Sāhib and the Dasam Granth. The Gurū Granth Sāhib may be referred to as the Ādi Granth—literally, The First Volume—and the two terms are often used synonymously. Here, however, the Ādi Granth refers to the version of the scripture created by Arjan Dev in 1604. The Gurū Granth Sāhib refers to the final version of the scripture created by Gobind Singh.

Adi Granth

The Ādi Granth was compiled primarily by Bhai Gurdas under the supervision of Arjan Dev between the years 1603 and 1604.[35] It is written in the Gurmukhī script, which is a descendant of the Laṇḍā script used in the Punjab at that time.[36] The Gurmukhī script was standardised by Angad Dev, the second guru of the Sikhs, for use in the Sikh scriptures and is thought to have been influenced by the Śāradā and Devanāgarī scripts. An authoritative scripture was created to protect the integrity of hymns and teachings of the Sikh gurus and selected bhagats. At the time, Arjan Sahib tried to prevent undue influence from the followers of Prithi Chand, the guru's older brother and rival.[37]

The original version of the Ādi Granth is known as the kartārpur bīṛ and is claimed to be held by the Sodhi family of Kartarpur.[citation needed] (In fact the original volume was burned by Ahmad Shah Durrani's army in 1757 when they burned the whole town of Kartarpur.)[citation needed]

Guru Granth Sahib

Gurū Granth Sāhib folio with Mūl Mantra

The final version of the Gurū Granth Sāhib was compiled by Gobind Singh in 1678. It consists of the original Ādi Granth with the addition of Teg Bahadur's hymns. It was decreed by Gobind Singh that the Granth was to be considered the eternal guru of all Sikhs; however, this tradition is not mentioned either in 'Guru Granth Sahib' or in 'Dasam Granth'.

Punjabi: ਸੱਬ ਸਿੱਖਣ ਕੋ ਹੁਕਮ ਹੈ ਗੁਰੂ ਮਾਨਯੋ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ।
Transliteration: Sabb sikkhaṇ kō hukam hai gurū mānyō granth.
English: All Sikhs are commanded to take the Granth as Guru.

It contains compositions by the first five gurus, Teg Bahadur and just one śalōk (couplet) from Gobind Singh.[38] It also contains the traditions and teachings of sants (saints) such as Kabir, Namdev, Ravidas, and Sheikh Farid along with several others.[32]

The bulk of the scripture is classified into rāgs, with each rāg subdivided according to length and author. There are 31 main rāgs within the Gurū Granth Sāhib. In addition to the rāgs, there are clear references to the folk music of Punjab. The main language used in the scripture is known as Sant Bhāṣā, a language related to both Punjabi and Hindi and used extensively across medieval northern India by proponents of popular devotional religion.[30] The text further comprises over 5000 śabads, or hymns, which are poetically constructed and set to classical form of music rendition, can be set to predetermined musical tāl, or rhythmic beats.

A group of Sikh musicians at the Golden Temple complex

The Granth begins with the Mūl Mantra, an iconic verse created by Nanak:

Punjabi: ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
ISO 15919 transliteration: Ika ōaṅkāra sati nāmu karatā purakhu nirabha'u niravairu akāla mūrati ajūnī saibhaṅ gura prasādi.
Simplified transliteration: Ik ōaṅkār sat nām kartā purkh nirbha'u nirvair akāl mūrat ajūnī saibhaṅ gur prasād.
English: One Universal Creator God, The Name Is Truth, Creative Being Personified, No Fear, No Hatred, Image Of The Timeless One, Beyond Birth, Self Existent, By Guru's Grace.

All text within the Granth is known as gurbānī. Gurbānī, according to Nanak, was revealed by God directly, and the authors wrote it down for the followers. The status accorded to the scripture is defined by the evolving interpretation of the concept of gurū. In the Sant tradition of Nanak, the guru was literally the word of God. The Sikh community soon transferred the role to a line of men who gave authoritative and practical expression to religious teachings and traditions, in addition to taking socio-political leadership of Sikh adherents. Gobind Singh declared an end of the line of human gurus, and now the Gurū Granth Sāhib serves as the eternal guru, with its interpretation vested with the community.[30]

Dasam Granth

The Dasam Granth (formally dasvēṁ pātśāh kī granth or The Book of the Tenth Master) is an eighteenth-century collection of poems by Gobind Singh. It was compiled in the shape of a book (granth) by Bhai Mani Singh some 13 to 26 years after Guru Gobind Singh Ji left this world for his heavenly abode.

From 1895 to 1897, different scholars and theologians assembled at the Akal Takht, Amritsar, to study the 32 printed Dasam Granths and prepare the authoritative version. They met at the Akal Takhat at Amritsar, and held formal discussions in a series of meetings between 13 June 1895 and 16 February 1896. A preliminary report entitled Report Sodhak (revision) Committee Dasam Patshah de Granth Sahib Di was sent to Sikh scholars and institutions, inviting their opinion. A second document, Report Dasam Granth di Sudhai Di was brought out on 11 February 1898. Basing its conclusions on a study of the old handwritten copies of the Dasam Granth preserved at Sri Takht Sahib at Patna and in other Sikh gurudwaras, this report affirmed that the Holy Volume was compiled at Anandpur Sahib in 1698[3] . Further re-examinations and reviews took place in 1931, under the aegis of the Darbar Sahib Committee of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee. They, too, vindicated the earlier conclusion (agreeing that it was indeed the work of the Guru) and its findings have since been published.


The Janamsākhīs (literally birth stories), are writings which profess to be biographies of Nanak. Although not scripture in the strictest sense, they provide an interesting look at Nanak's life and the early start of Sikhism. There are several—often contradictory and sometimes unreliable—Janamsākhīs and they are not held in the same regard as other sources of scriptural knowledge.


Observant Sikhs adhere to long-standing practices and traditions to strengthen and express their faith. The daily recitation from memory of specific passages from the Gurū Granth Sāhib, especially the Japu (or Japjī, literally chant) hymns is recommended immediately after rising and bathing. Family customs include both reading passages from the scripture and attending the gurdwara (also gurduārā, meaning the doorway to God; sometimes transliterated as gurudwara). There are many gurdwaras prominently constructed and maintained across India, as well as in almost every nation where Sikhs reside. Gurdwaras are open to all, regardless of religion, background, caste, or race.

Worship in a gurdwara consists chiefly of singing of passages from the scripture. Sikhs will commonly enter the temple, touch the ground before the holy scripture with their foreheads, and make an offering. The recitation of the eighteenth century ardās is also customary for attending Sikhs. The ardās recalls past sufferings and glories of the community, invoking divine grace for all humanity.[39]

The most sacred shrine is the Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar, famously known as the Golden Temple. Groups of Sikhs regularly visit and congregate at the Harimandir Sahib. On specific occasions, groups of Sikhs are permitted to undertake a pilgrimage to Sikh shrines in the province of Punjab in Pakistan, especially at Nankana Sahib and other Gurdwaras. Other places of interest to Sikhism in Pakistan includes the samādhī (place of cremation) of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore.

Sikh festivals

Festivals in Sikhism mostly centre around the lives of the Gurus and Sikh martyrs. The SGPC, the Sikh organisation in charge of upkeep of the gurdwaras, organises celebrations based on the new Nanakshahi calendar. This calendar is highly controversial among Sikhs and is not universally accepted. Several festivals (Hola Mohalla, Diwali, and Nanak's birthday) continue to be celebrated using the Hindu calendar. Sikh festivals include the following:

  • Gurpurabs are celebrations or commemorations based on the lives of the Sikh gurus. They tend to be either birthdays or celebrations of Sikh martyrdom. All ten Gurus have Gurpurabs on the Nanakshahi calendar, but it is Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh who have a gurpurab that is widely celebrated in Gurdwaras and Sikh homes. The martyrdoms are also known as a shaheedi Gurpurab, which mark the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur.
  • Vaisakhi or Baisakhi normally occurs on 13 April and marks the beginning of the new spring year and the end of the harvest. Sikhs celebrate it because on Vaisakhi in 1699, the tenth guru, Gobind Singh, laid down the Foundation of the Khalsa an Independent Sikh Identity.
  • Bandi Chhor Divas or Diwali celebrates Guru Hargobind's release from the Gwalior Fort, with several innocent Hindu kings who were also imprisoned by Jahangir, on 26 October 1619.
  • Hola Mohalla occurs the day after Holi and is when the Khalsa Panth gather at Anandpur and display their warrior skills, including fighting and riding.

Ceremonies and customs

The anand kāraj (Sikh marriage) ceremony

Nanak taught that rituals, religious ceremonies, or idol worship is of little use and Sikhs are discouraged from fasting or going on pilgrimages.[40] However, during the period of the later gurus, and owing to increased institutionalisation of the religion, some ceremonies and rites did arise. Sikhism is not a proselytizing religion and most Sikhs do not make active attempts to gain converts. However, converts to Sikhism are welcomed, although there is no formal conversion ceremony. The morning and evening prayers take about two hours a day, starting in the very early morning hours. The first morning prayer is Guru Nanak's Jap Ji. Jap, meaning "recitation", refers to the use of sound, as the best way of approaching the divine. Like combing hair, hearing and reciting the sacred word is used as a way to comb all negative thoughts out of the mind. The second morning prayer is Guru Gobind Singh's universal Jaap Sahib. The Guru addresses God as having no form, no country, and no religion but as the seed of seeds, sun of suns, and the song of songs. The Jaap Sahib asserts that God is the cause of conflict as well as peace, and of destruction as well as creation. Devotees learn that there is nothing outside of God's presence, nothing outside of God's control. Devout Sikhs are encouraged to begin the day with private meditations on the name of God.

Upon a child's birth, the Guru Granth Sāhib is opened at a random point and the child is named using the first letter on the top left-hand corner of the left page. All boys are given the middle name or surname Singh, and all girls are given the middle name or surname Kaur.[41] Sikhs are joined in wedlock through the anand kāraj ceremony. Sikhs are required to marry when they are of a sufficient age (child marriage is taboo), and without regard for the future spouse's caste or descent. The marriage ceremony is performed in the company of the Guru Granth Sāhib; around which the couple circles four times. After the ceremony is complete, the husband and wife are considered "a single soul in two bodies."[42]

According to Sikh religious rites, neither husband nor wife is permitted to divorce. A Sikh couple that wishes to divorce may be able to do so in a civil court—but this is not condoned.[43] Upon death, the body of a Sikh is usually cremated. If this is not possible, any means of disposing the body may be employed. The kīrtan sōhilā and ardās prayers are performed during the funeral ceremony (known as antim sanskār).[44]

Baptism and the Khalsa

A kaṛā, kaṅghā and kirpān.

Khalsa (meaning "pure") is the name given by Gobind Singh to all Sikhs who have been baptised or initiated by taking ammrit in a ceremony called ammrit sañcār. The first time that this ceremony took place was on Vaisakhi, which fell on 29 March 1698/1699 at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. It was on that occasion that Gobind Singh baptised the Pañj Piārē who in turn baptised Gobind Singh himself.

Baptised Sikhs are bound to wear the Five Ks (in Punjabi known as pañj kakkē or pañj kakār), or articles of faith, at all times. The tenth guru, Gobind Singh, ordered these Five Ks to be worn so that a Sikh could actively use them to make a difference to their own and to others' spirituality. The 5 items are: kēs (uncut hair), kaṅghā (small comb), kaṛā (circular iron bracelet), kirpān (dagger), and kacchā (special undergarment). The Five Ks have both practical and symbolic purposes.[45]

Sikh people

Punjabi Sikh family from Punjab, India

Worldwide, there are 25.8 million Sikhs and approximately 75% of Sikhs live in the Indian state of Punjab, where they constitute about 60% of the state's population. Even though there are a large number of Sikhs in the world, certain countries have not recognised Sikhism as a major religion as Sikhism is closely related to Hinduism. Large communities of Sikhs live in the neighboring states, and large communities of Sikhs can be found across India. However, Sikhs only make up about 2% of the Indian population.

In addition to social divisions, there is a misperception that there are a number of Sikh sectarian groups, such as Namdharis and Nirankaris. Nihangs tend to have little difference in practice and are considered the army of Sikhism. There is also a sect known as Udasi, founded by Sri Chand who were initially part of Sikhism but later developed into a monastic order.

Sikh Migration beginning from the 19th century led to the creation of significant communities in Canada (predominantly in Brampton, along with Malton in Ontario and Abbotsford, Mission, Lower Mainland, Surrey in British Columbia), East Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom and more recently, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Western Europe. Smaller populations of Sikhs are found in Mauritius, Malaysia, Fiji, Nepal, China, Pakistan, Afganistan, Iraq, Singapore and many other countries.

See also


  1. ^ pronounced /ˈsiːkɪzəm/ ( listen) or /ˈsɪkɪzəm/  ( listen); Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖੀ, sikkhī, IPA: [ˈsɪkːʰiː]( listen)
  2. ^ "Religions by adherents" (PHP). Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  3. ^ Singh, Khushwant (2006). The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. India: Oxford University Press. p. 15. ISBN 0-19-567747-1. 
  4. ^ (Punjabi) Nabha, Kahan. Singh (1930) (in Punjabi). Gur Shabad Ratnakar Mahan Kosh/ਗੁਰ ਸ਼ਬਦ ਰਤਨਾਕਰ ਮਹਾਨ ਕੋਸ਼. p. 720. Retrieved 2006-05-29. 
  5. ^ Axel, Brian Keith (2001). The Nation's Tortured Body: Violence, Representation, and the Formation. Duke University Press. p. 88. ISBN 0822326159. 
  6. ^ Teece, Geoff. Sikhism:Religion in focus. Black Rabbit Books. p. 4. ISBN 1583404694. 
  7. ^ Mark Juergensmeyer, Gurinder Singh Mann (2006). The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions. US: Oxford University Press. p. 41. ISBN 0195137981. 
  8. ^ Ardinger, Barbara (2006). Pagan Every Day: Finding the Extraordinary in Our Ordinary Lives. Weisfer. p. 13. ISBN 157863332X. 
  9. ^ a b c Parrinder, Geoffrey (1971). World Religions:From Ancient History to the Present. USA: Hamlyn Publishing Group. p. 252. ISBN 0-87196-129-6. 
  10. ^ Dev, Guru Nanak Dev. Guru Granth Sāhib ji. p. 1035. Retrieved 2006-06-15. "For endless eons, there was only utter darkness. There was no earth or sky; there was only the infinite Command of His Hukam." 
  11. ^ Dev, Nanak. Gurū Granth Sāhib. p. 1036. Retrieved 2006-06-15. "When He so willed, He created the world. Without any supporting power, He sustained the universe. He created Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; He fostered enticement and attachment to Maya." 
  12. ^ Dev, Nanak. Gurū Granth Sāhib. p. 15. Retrieved 2006-06-15. "You are the One True Lord and Master of all the other beings, of so many worlds." 
  13. ^ Brodd, Jefferey (2003). World Religions. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press. ISBN 978-0-88489-725-5. 
  14. ^ Parrinder, Geoffrey (1971). World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. United States: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. p. 253. ISBN 0-87196-129-6. 
  15. ^ a b c Parrinder, Geoffrey (1971). World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. United States: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. p. 254. ISBN 0-87196-129-6. 
  16. ^ a b Mann, Gurinder Singh (2001). The Making of Sikh Scripture. United States: Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-19-513024-3. 
  17. ^ "Sikh Gurus". Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. Retrieved December 2007. 
  18. ^ Parrinder, Geoffrey (1971). World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. United States: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. p. 255. ISBN 0-87196-129-6. 
  19. ^ "Sikh Reht Maryada — Method of Adopting Gurmatta". Retrieved 2006-06-09. 
  20. ^ Singh, Khushwant (2006). The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. India: Oxford University Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-19-567747-1.  According to the Purātan Janamsākhī (the birth stories of Nanak)
  21. ^ Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge. xiii–xiv. ISBN 0-415-26604-1. 
  22. ^ Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2008). Sikh Twareekh. Belgium & India: The Sikh University Press. 
  23. ^ Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge. p. xv. ISBN 0-415-26604-1. 
  24. ^ Duggal, Kartar Singh (1988). Philosophy and Faith of Sikhism. Himalayan Institute Press. p. 15. ISBN 0-89389-109-6. 
  25. ^ Brar, Sandeep Singh (1998). "The Sikhism Homepage: Guru Amar Das". Retrieved 2006-05-26. 
  26. ^ Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge. pp. xv-xvi. ISBN 0-415-26604-1. 
  27. ^ Mahmood, Cynthia (2002). A Sea of Orange. United States: Xlibris. p. 16. ISBN 1-4010-2856-X. 
  28. ^ Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge. xvi. ISBN 0-415-26604-1. 
  29. ^ Rama, Swami (1986). Celestial Song/Gobind Geet: The Dramatic Dialogue Between Guru Gobind Singh and Banda Singh Bahadur. Himalayan Institute Press. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-89389-103-7. 
  30. ^ a b c Parrinder, Geoffrey (1971). World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. United States: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. p. 259. ISBN 0-87196-129-6. 
  31. ^ Singh, Khushwant (2006). The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. India: Oxford University Press. pp. 47–53. ISBN 0-19-567747-1. 
  32. ^ a b Parrinder, Geoffrey (1971). World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. United States: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. p. 256. ISBN 0-87196-129-6. 
  33. ^ Pandey, Gyanendra (2001). Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism and History in India. Cambridge University Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-521-00250-8. 
  34. ^ Horowitz, Donald L. (2003). The Deadly Ethnic Riot. University of California Press. pp. 482–485. ISBN 0-520-23642-4. 
  35. ^ Trumpp, Ernest (2004) [1877]. The Ādi Granth or the Holy Scriptures of the Sikhs. India: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 1xxxi. ISBN 81-215-0244-6. 
  36. ^ Grierson, George Abraham (1967) [1927]. The Linguistic Survey of India. India: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 624. ISBN 81-85395-27-6. 
  37. ^ Mann, Gurinder Singh (2001). The Making of Sikh Scripture. United States: Oxford University Press. p. 19. ISBN 0-19-513024-3. 
  38. ^ Brar, Sandeep Singh (1998). "The Sikhism Homepage: Sri Guru Granth Sahib — Authors & Contributors". Retrieved 2006-05-30. 
  39. ^ Parrinder, Geoffrey (1971). World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. United States: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. p. 260. ISBN 0-87196-129-6. 
  40. ^ Sahib, Nanak. Guru Granth Sāhib. p. 75. Retrieved 2006-06-30. "Pilgrimages, fasts, purification and self-discipline are of no use, nor are rituals, religious ceremonies or empty worship." 
  41. ^ Loehlin, Clinton Herbert (1964) [1958]. The Sikhs and Their Scriptures (Second edition ed.). Lucknow Publishing House. p. 42. 
  42. ^ "Sikh Reht Maryada — Anand Sanskar: (Sikh Matrimonial Ceremony and Conventions)". Retrieved 2006-06-08. 
  43. ^ Mansukhani, Gobind Singh (1977). Introduction to Sikhism. India: Hemkunt Press. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  44. ^ "Sikh Reht Maryada — Funeral Ceremonies (Antam Sanskar)". Retrieved 2006-06-08. 
  45. ^ Simmonds, David (1992). Believers All: A Book of Six World Religions. Nelson Thornes. pp. 120–121. ISBN 0-17-437057-1. 

Further reading

  • Duggal, Kartar Singh (1988), Philosophy and Faith of Sikhism, Himalayan Institute Press, ISBN 0-893-89109-6 
  • Parrinder, Geoffrey (1971), World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present, Hamlyn Publishing Group, USA, ISBN 0-87196-129-6 
  • Singh, Khushwant (2006), The Illustrated History of the Sikhs, Oxford University Press, India, ISBN 0-195-67747-1 
  • Teece, Geoff (2004), Sikhism: Religion in focus, Black Rabbit Books, ISBN 1-583-40469-4 
  • Dilgeer, Dr Harjinder Singh (2007), Sikh Twareekh, publisher Sikh University Press & Singh Brothers Amritsar, 2007
  • Dilgeer, Harjinder Singh (2005), Dictionary of Sikh Philosophy, Sikh University Press

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SIKHISM, a religion of India, whose followers (Sikhs) are principally found in the Punjab, United Provinces, Sind, Jammu and Kashmir. Sikhism was founded by Nanak, a Khatri by caste, who was born at Talwandi near Lahore in A.D. 1469, and after travelling and preaching throughout a great part of southern Asia died at Kartarpur in Jullundur in 1539. He was succeeded by nine gurus, great teachers or head priests, whose dates are as follows: A .D.

I. Nanak..1469-15392. Angad..1539-15523. Amar Das.1552-15744. Ram Das.1574-15815. Arjan. ..1581-1606Nanak, like Buddha, revolted against a religion overladen with ceremonial and social restrictions, and both rebelled against the tyranny of the priesthood. The tendency of each religion was to quietism, but their separate doctrines were largely influenced by the surroundings of their founders. Buddha lived in the centre of Hindu India and among the many gods of the Brahmans. These he rejected, he knew of nought else, and in his theological system there was found no place for divinity. Nanak was born in the province which then formed the borderland between Hinduism and Islam. He taught that there was one God; but that God was neither Allah nor Ram, but simply God; neither the special god of the Mahommedan, nor of the Hindu, but the God of the universe, of all mankind and of all religions. Starting from the unity of God, Nanak and his successors rejected the idols and incarnations of the Hindus, and on the ground of the equality of all men rejected also the system of caste. The doctrines of Sikhism as set forth in the Granth are that it prohibits idolatry, hypocrisy, class exclusiveness, the concremation of widows, the immurement of women, the use of wine and other intoxicants, tobacco-smoking, infanticide, slander and pilgrimages to the sacred rivers and tanks of the Hindus; and it inculcates loyalty, gratitude for all favours received, philanthropy, justice, impartiality, truth, honesty and all the moral and domestic virtues upheld by Christianity. Sikhism mainly differs from Christianity in that it inculcates the transmigration of the soul, and adopts a belief in predestination, which is universal in the East.

The Sikh religion did not reach this full development at once, nor was the first of the gurus even the first to feel dissatisfaction with the existing order of things. Ideas of revolt and reform of decadent systems are always in the air, it may be for centuries, until some one man bolder than the rest stands out to give them free expression; and as John the Baptist preceded Jesus Christ, so Nanak was preceded by several reformers, whose writings are incorporated in the Granth itself. The chief of these reformers are Jaidev, Ramanand and Kabir. Jaidev is better known as the author of the Gitagobind, which was translated by Sir Edwin Arnold, than as a religious reformer; but in the Adi Granth are found two hymns of his in the Prakrit language of the time, in which he represents God as distinct from nature, yet everywhere present. He taught at the end of the 12th century A.D. that the practice of yog, sacrifices and austerities was as nothing in comparison with the repetition of God's name, and he inculcated the worship of God alone, in thought, word and deed. What was worthy of worship, he said, he had worshipped; what was worthy of trust he had trusted; and he had become blended with God, as water blends with water.

Jaidev was succeeded by numerous Hindu saints, who perceived that the superstitions of the age only led to spiritual blindness. Of these saints Ramanand was one of the most distinguished. He lived at the end of the 14th and beginning of A.D.

6. Har Govind.1606-16457. Har Rai.1645-16618. Har Krishan1661-16649. Teg Bahadur1664-167510. Govind Singh1675-1708the 15th centuries, and during a visit to Benares he renounced some of the social and caste observances of the Hindus, called his disciples the liberated, and freed them from all restrictions in eating and social intercourse. Kabir denounced idolatry and the ritualistic practices of the Hindus. He was born A.D. 1398, and according to the legend was the son of a virgin widow, as the result of a prayer offered for her by Ramanand in ignorance of her status. Thus it will be seen that the doctrines of these early reformers contained the germs of the later Sikh religion.

Nanak seems to have been produced by the same cyclic wave of reformation as fourteen years later gave Martin Luther to Europe. He taught, "There is but one God, the Creator, whose name is true, devoid of fear and enmity, immortal, unborn and self-existent, great and bountiful." He held that the wearing of religious garb, praying and practising penance to be seen of men, only produced hypocrisy, and that those who went on pilgrimages to sacred streams, though they might cleanse their bodies, only increased their mental impurity. He pointed out that God "before all temples prefers the upright heart and pure," and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and not with the idolatrous accessories of incense, sandal-wood and burnt-offerings. He abrogated caste distinctions, and taught in opposition to ancient writings that every man had the eternal right of searching for divine knowledge and worshipping his Creator. This doctrine of philosophic quietism was common to his successors, until in the time of the sixth guru, Har Govind, it was found necessary to support the separate existence of Sikhism by force of arms, and this led to the militant and political development of the tenth and most powerful of the gurus, Govind Singh. The Sikhs of to-day, though they all derive primarily from Nanak, are only recognized as Singhs or real Sikhs when they accept the doctrines and practices of Guru Govind Singh.

Nanak's successor, Angad, was born in A.D 1504 and died in 1552. He also was a Khatri, and was chosen by Guru Nanak in preference to his own sons. The legend of his choice is that Nanak with his followers was going on a journey, when they saw the dead body of a man lying by the wayside. Nanak said, "Ye who trust in me eat of this food." All hesitated save Angad (or own body), who knelt and uncovered the dead, but, behold, the corpse had disappeared, and a dish of sacred food was found in its place. The guru embraced his faithful follower, saying that he was as himself, and that his spirit should dwell within him. Thenceforward the Sikhs believe the spirit of Nanak to have been incarnate in each succeeding guru. Little is known of the ministry of Angad except that he committed to writing much of what he had heard about Guru Nanak as well as some devotional observations of his own, which were afterwards incorporated in the Granth. Angad, like his predecessor, postponed the claims of his own sons to the guruship to those of Amar Das, who had been his faithful servant. Amar Das preached the doctrine abrogation of caste distinctions, and his precepts were implicitly followed by his successors. He used to place all his Sikhs and visitors in rows and cause them to eat together, not separately, as is the practice of the Hindus. He said: "Let no one be proud of his caste, for this pride of caste resulteth in many sins. He is a Brahman who knoweth Brahma (God). Every one prateth of four castes. All are sprung from the seed of Brahm. The whole world is formed out of one clay, but the Potter hath fashioned it in various forms." It was a maxim of the Sikhs of his time: "If any one treat you ill, bear it. If you bear it three times God himself will fight for you and humble your enemies." Guru Amar Das also discountenanced the practice of suttee, saying: "They are not satis who burn themselves with the dead. The true sati is she who dieth from the shock of separation from her husband. They also ought to be considered satis who abide in charity and contentment, who serve and, when rising, ever remember their lord." Amar Das was born in A.D. 1509 and died in 1574 after a ministry of twentytwo and a half years.

The fourth guru, originally called Jetha, was attracted to the third guru by his reputation for sanctity. He became the servant of Amar Das, helped in the public kitchen, shampooed his master, drew water, brought firewood from the forest, and helped in the excavation of a well which Amar Das was constructing at Goindwal. Jetha was of such a mild temper that, even if any one spoke harshly to him, he would endure it and never retaliate. He became known as Ram Das, which means God's slave; and on account of his piety and devotion Amar Das gave him his daughter in marriage and made him his successor. Ram Das is amongst the most revered of gurus, but no particular innovation is ascribed to him. He founded, however, the golden temple of Amritsar in A.D. 1577, which has remained ever since the centre of the Sikh religious worship. From this time onward the office of guru became hereditary, but the practice of primogeniture was not followed, each guru selecting the relative who seemed most fitted to succeed him. Ram Das himself, finding his eldest son Prithi Chand worldly and disobedient, and his second unfitted by his too retiring disposition for the duties of guru, appointed his third son, Arjan, to succeed him. When Prithi Chand represented that he ought to have received the turban bound on Guru Arjan's head in token of succession to his father, Arjan meekly handed it to him, without, however, bestowing on him the guruship. The Sikhs themselves soon revolted against the exactions of Prithi Chand, and prayed Arjan to assert himself else the seed of the True Name would perish. It was Guru Arjan who compiled the Granth or Sikh Bible, out of his own and his predecessors' compositions. On this account he was accused of deposing the deities of his country and substituting for them a new divinity, but he was acquitted by the tolerant Akbar. When Akbar, however, was succeeded by Jahangir the guru aided the latter's son Khusru to escape with a gift of money. On this account his property was confiscated to the state, and he was thrown into rigorous imprisonment and tortured to death. Arjan saw clearly that it was impossible to preserve his sect without force of arms, and one of his last injunctions to his son Har Govind was to sit fully armed on his throne and maintain an army to the best of his ability. This was the turning-point in the history of the Sikhs. Hitherto they had been merely an insignificant religious sect; now, stimulated by persecution, they became a militant and political power, inimical to the Mahommedan rulers of the country.

When Har Govind was installed as guru, Bhai Budha, the aged Sikh who performed the ceremony, presented him with a turban and a necklace, and charged him to wear and preserve them as the founder of his religion had done. Guru Gu g Go Har Govind promptly ordered that the articles should be relegated to his treasury, the museum of the period. He said; "My necklace shall be my sword-belt, and my turban shall be adorned with a royal aigrette." He then sent for his bow, quiver, arrows, shield and sword, and arrayed himself in martial style, so that, as the Sikh chronicler states, his splendour shone like the sun.

The first four gurus led simple ascetic lives and were regardless of wordly affairs. Guru Arjan, who was in charge of the great Sikh temple at Amritsar, received copious offerings and became a man of wealth and influence, while the sixth guru became a military leader, and was frequently at warfare with the Mogul authorities. Several warriors and wrestlers, hearing of Guru Har Govind's fame, came to him for service. He enrolled as his bodyguard fifty-two heroes who burned for the fray. This formed the nucleus of his future army. Five hundred youths then came to him for enlistment from the Manjha, Doab and Malwa districts. These men told him that they had no offering to make to him except their lives; for pay they only required instruction in his religion; and they professed themselves ready to die in his service. The guru gave them each a horse and five weapons of war, and gladly enlisted them in his army. In a short time, besides men who required regular pay, hordes gathered round the guru who were satisfied with two meals a day and a suit of clothes every six months. The fighting spirit of the people of for iveness and endurance, upheld Guru Nanak's g p was roused and satisfied by the spiritual and military leader. Har Govind was a hunter and eater of flesh, and encouraged his followers to eat meat as giving them strength and daring. It is largely to this practice that the Sikhs owe the superiority of their physique over their surrounding Hindu neighbours. The regal state that the guru adopted and the army that he maintained were duly reported to the emperor Jahangir.

In the Autobiography of Jahangir it is stated that the guru was imprisoned in the fortress of Gwalior, with a view to the realization of the fine imposed on his father Guru Arjan, but the Sikhs believe that the guru became a voluntary inmate of the fortress with the object of obtaining seclusion there to pray for the emperor who had been advised to that effect by his Hindu astrologers. After a time Jahangir died and was succeeded by Shah Jahan, with whom the guru was constantly at war. On three separate occasions of ter desperate fighting he defeated the royal troops sent against him. Many legends are told of his military prowess, for which there is no space in this summary. The guru before his death at Kiratpur, on the margin of the Sutlej, instructed his grandson and successor, Guru Har Rai, to retain two thousand two hundred mounted soldiers ever with him as a precautionary measure.

Har Rai was charged with friendship for Dara Shikoh, the son of Shah Jahan, and also with preaching a religion di s tinct from Islam. He was, therefore, summoned to > Delhi, but instead of going himself he sent his son Ram Rai and shortly afterwards died. His ministry was mild but won him general respect.

The eighth guru was the second son of Har Rai, but he died when a child and too young to leave any mark on in his favour and also in favour of the next guru for having altered a line of the Granth to please the emperor Aurangzeb.

As the direct line of succession died out with Har Krishan, the guruship harked back at this point to Teg Bahadur, the second son of Har Govind and uncle of Har Rai. Teg Bahadur religious nature, and had become a military society Go Singh. for self-protection, developed into a national movement which was to rule the whole of north-western India and to furnish to the British arms their stoutest and most worthy opponents. For some years after his father's execution Govind Singh, then known as Gobind Rai, lived in retirement, brooding over the wrongs of his people and the persecutions of the fanatical Aurangzeb. He felt the necessity for a larger following and a stronger organization, and following the example of his Mahommedan enemies used his religion as the basis of political power. Emerging from his retirement he preached the Khalsa, the "pure," and it is by this name his followers are now known. He, like his predecessors, openly attacked all distinctions of caste, and taught the equality of all men who would join him, and he instituted a ceremony of initiation with baptismal holy water by which all might enter the Sikh fraternity.

The higher castes murmured, and many of them left him, for he taught that the Brahmanical threads must be broken; but the lower orders rejoiced and flocked in numbers to his standard. These he inspired with military ardour in the hope of social freedom and of national independence. He gave them outward signs of their faith in the five K's - which will subsequently be explained - he signified the military nature of their calling by the title of "singh" or "lion" and by the wearing of steel, and he strictly prohibited the use of tobacco. The following are the main points of his teaching: Sikhs must have one form of initiation, sprinkling of water by five of the faithful; they should worship the one invisible God and honour the memory of Guru Nanak and his successors; their watchword should be, "Sri wah guru ji ka khalsa, sri wah guru ji ki fatah" (Khalsa of God, victory to God!), but they should revere and bow to nought visible save the Granth Sahib, the book of their belief; they should occasionally bathe in the sacred tank of Amritsar; their locks should remain unshorn; and they should name themselves singhs or lions. Arms should dignify their person; they should ever practise their use; and great would be the merit of those who fought in the van, who slew the enemies of their faith, and who despaired not although overpowered by superior numbers.

The religious creed of Guru Govind Singh was the same as that of Guru Nanak: the God, the guru and the Granth remained unchanged. But while Nanak had substituted holiness of life for vain ceremonial, Guru Govind Singh demanded in addition brave deeds and zealous devotion to the Sikh cause as proof of faith; and while he retained his predecessors' attitude towards the Hindu gods and worship he preached undying hatred to the persecutors of his religion.

During the spiritual reign of Guru Govind Singh the religious was partially eclipsed by the military spirit. The Mahommedans promptly responded to the challenge, for the danger was too serious to be neglected; the Sikh army was dispersed and two of Guru Govind Singh's sons were murdered at Sirhind by the governor of that fortress, and his mother died of grief at the cruel death of her grandchildren. The death of the emperor Aurangzeb brought a temporary lull: the guru assisted Aurangzeb's successor, Bahadur Shah, and was himself not long after assassinated at Nander in the Deccan. As all the guru's sons predeceased him, and as he was disappointed in his envoy Banda, he left no human successor, but vested the guruship in the Granth Sahib and his sect. No formal alteration has been made in the Sikh religion since Guru Govind Singh gave it his military organization, but certain modifications have taken place as the result of time and contact with Hinduism. After the guru's death the gradual rise of the Sikhs into the ruling power of northern India until they came in collision with the British arms belongs to the secular history of the Punjab (q.v.).

The chief ceremony initiated by Guru Govind Singh was the Khanda ka Pahul or baptism by the sword. This baptism may not be conferred until the candidate has reached an age of discrimination and capacity to remember obligations, p y cere seven years being fixed as the earliest age, but it is generally deferred until manhood. Five of the initiated must be present, all of whom should be learned in the faith. An Indian sweetmeat is stirred up in water with a two-edged sword and the novice repeats after the officiant the articles of his faith. Some of the water is sprinkled on him five times, and he drinks of it five times from the palms of his hands; he then pronounces the Sikh watchword given above and promises adherence to the new obligations he has contracted. He must from that date wear the five K's and add the word singh to his original name. The five K's are (I) the kes or uncut hair of the whole body, (2) the kachh or short drawers ending above the knee, (3) the kara or iron bangle, (4) the khanda or small steel dagger,(5) the khanga or comb. The five K's and the other esoteric observances of the Sikhs mostly had a utilitarian purpose. When fighting was a part of the Sikh's duty, long hair and iron rings concealed in it protected his head from sword cuts. The kachh or drawers fastened by a waist-band was more convenient and suitable for warriors than the insecurely tied dhoti of the Hindus or the tamba of the Mahommedans. So also the Sikh's physical strength was increased by the use of meat and avoidance of tobacco. Another Sikh ceremony is the kara parshad or communion made of butter, flour and sugar, and consecrated with certain ceremonies. The communicants sit round, and the kara history. His elder brother Ram Rai was passed over p was put to death for refusal to embrace Islam b. p by Aurangzeb in A.D. 1675. It is of him that the legend is told that during his imprisonment in Delhi he was accused by the emperor of looking towards the west in the direction of the imperial zenana. The guru replied, "Emperor Aurangzeb, I was on the top storey of my prison, but I was not looking at thy private apartments or at thy queen's. I was looking in the direction of the Europeans who are coming from beyond the seas to tear down thy purdahs and destroy thine empire." This prophecy became the battle-cry of the Sikhs in the assault on Delhi in 18J7.

Teg Bahadur was succeeded by the tenth and most powerful guru, his son Govind Singh; and it was under him that what had sprung into existence as a quietist sect of a purely parshad is then distributed equally to all the faithful present, no matter to what caste they belong. The object of this ceremony is to abolish caste distinctions.

There may be said to be three degrees of strictness in the observances of the Sikhs. There may first be mentioned the zealots such as the Akalis, who, though generally quite illiterate, aim at observing the injunctions of Sikhism Guru Govind Singh; secondly, the true Sikhs or Singhs who observe his ordinances, such as the prohibi tions of cutting the hair and the use of tobacco; and, thirdly, those Sikhs who while professing devotion to the tenets of the gurus are almost indistinguishable from ordinary Hindus. These are largely Nanakpanti Sikhs, or followers only of Guru Nanak. The Nanakpanti Sikhs do not wear the hair long, nor use any of the outward signs of the Sikhs, though they reverence the Granth Sahib and above all the memory of their guru. They are distinguished from the Hindus by no outward sign except a slight laxity in the matter of caste observances.

Sikhism attained its zenith under the military genius of Ranjit Singh. After the British conquest of the Punjab the military spirit of the Sikhs remained for some time in abeyance. Then came the mutiny, and Sikhs once more were recruited in numbers and saved India for the British crown. Peace returned, and during the next twenty or twenty-five years Sikhism reached its lowest ebb; but since then the demand for Sikhs in the regiments of the Indian army and farther afield has largely revived the faith. The establishment of Singh Sabhas, of Sikh newspapers, and the spread of education have largely tended in the same direction, but the strict ethical code of Sikhism and the number of its obligatory divine services have caused many to fall away from the faith: nor does the austere Sikh ritual appeal to women, who generally prefer Hinduism with its picturesque material worship and the brightness of its innumerable festivals. At the present day the stronghold of Sikhism still remains the great Phulkian states of-, Patiala, Nabha and Jind and the surrounding districts of Ludhiana, Lahore, Amritsar, Jullundur and Gujranwala. In these states and districts are recruited the soldiers who form one of the main bulwarks of the British empire in India.

For authorities see Cunningham, History of the Sikhs; Sir Lepel Griffin, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (" Rulers of India" series, 1892); Falcon, Handbook on Sikhs; and specially M. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors (6 vols., 1909), and two lectures before the United Service Institution of India on "The Sikh Religion and its Advantages to the State" and "How the Sikhs became a Militant Race." (M. M.)

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  1. A revealed, monotheistic religion originating in northern India, in the 16th century through Guru Nanak and his successors.



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Sikh pilgrim at the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar, India.

Sikhism is a religion from the Indian sub-continent. It originated in the Punjab region during the 15th century from a sectarian split within the Hindu tradition . Sikhs consider their faith to be a seperate religion from Hinduism though they acknowledge its Hindu roots and traditions. Sikhs call their religion Gurmat, which is Punjabi for "way of the guru". The guru is a fundamental aspect of all Indian religions but in Sikhism has taken on an importance that forms the core of Sikh beliefs. The religion was founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak (1469–1539). There followed in succession a further nine gurus. Sikhs acknowledge the last guru to be Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708). The Sikh's holy book is Guru Granth Sahib (The Granth as the Guru) and this is considered the summation of the ten gurus and their beliefs. The title reflects the Sikh belief that their holy book is now the sole "guru" for guidance and instruction.


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|180px|The Khanda is one of most important symbols of Sikhism it is made up three different weapons, which also have a symbolic meaning.]]

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, or a religion that believes in one god. The followers are called "Sikhs", and their holy book is the Guru Granth Sahib. 20 million people are followers of Sikhism, that makes it the fifth largest religion in the world. It is most popular in Asia.

Sikhism was started in 1469 by Guru Nanak Dev, the first of the "Ten Gurus". It took on a distinct identity in 1699, celebrated by Vaisakhi. This is when Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, started the baptism with Khande di Pahul, and the Sikhs were required to keep the 5 Ks. This is also called the birth of the Khalsa.



Some basic beliefs

  • There is only one god. He is the creator of everything.
  • The goal of life is to focus on being at one with God. This is attainable by meditating, and being in the company of others who share a similar goal.


Sikhism teaches that God lasts forever, can not be seen, and has no body. It is taught that he created the universe, can destroy it, and keeps it running. He is considered to be infinite, or he always existed and always will. Sikh's worship him, and meditate on his name. They believe everything is a part of God.


Followers are all trying to reach salvation, meaning they are trying to break the process of rebirth and become one with God. The thing that is keeping people from reaching union is bad karma. Bad karma is taught to be caused by pride, anger, greed, attachment and lust. Sikhs try to stay away from these things.

The ten gurus and religious authority

The term guru comes from the Sanskrit gurū, which means teacher, guide, or mentor. The traditions and philosophy of Sikhism were established by ten specific gurus from 1469 to 1708. Each guru added to and reinforced the message taught by the previous, and this resulted in the creation of the Sikh religion.

# Name Date of Birth Guruship on Date of Death Age
1 Nanak Dev April 15 1469 August 20 1507 September 22 1539 69
2 Angad Dev March 31 1504 September 7 1539 March 29 1552 48
3 Amar Das May 5 1479 March 26 1552 September 1 1574 95
4 Ram Das September 24 1534 September 1 1574 September 1 1581 46
5 Arjun Dev April 15 1563 September 1 1581 May 30 1606 43
6 Har Gobind June 19 1595 May 25 1606 February 28 1644 48
7 Har Rai January 16 1630 March 3 1644 October 6 1661 31
8 Har Krishan July 7 1656 October 6 1661 March 30 1664 7
9 Teg Bahadur April 1 1621 March 20 1665 November 11 1675 54
10 Gobind Singh December 22 1666 November 11 1675 October 7 1708 41

And the eternal Guru is the Guru Granth Sahib, which is a book.

5 Ks

The 5 Ks are the things Sikhs wear at all times. They are:

  1. Having unshorn/cut hair. This is called Kes. One must, whether male or female, is required to keep their Kes covered, whether it be in the form of a turban, bandana, or a scarf (Chunni)
  2. Having a wooden comb in their hair. This is called Kangha. This symbolizes cleanliness which is an important part of Sikhism.
  3. Having an iron bracelet. This is for protection and physical reminder that a one is bound to the Guru. This is called Kara.
  4. Wearing cotton underwear that does not always have to be used as underwear. This is called Kachera. It is a reminder to stay away from lust and attachment.
  5. Carrying a sword with oneself. This is worn to defend one's faith and protect the weak. This is called Kirpan. It is only to be used in self-defence.

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