The word ‘Sikh’ in the Punjabi language means ‘disciple’, Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus. The wisdom of these teachings in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is pragmatic and omnipresent in their appeal to all mankind.
Sikhism is a religion that began in sixteenth-century Northern India with the life and teachings of Guru Nanak. Etymolgically, the word Sikhism originates from the Sanskrit root ?i?ya meaning “learner.” Advocates of Sikhism are known as “Sikhs” (students or disciples) and number over 23 million worldwide. Most Sikhs live in the state of Punjab in India. Today, Sikhism is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world.
Sikhism encourages and endorses continuous remembrance of God in one’s life, honest living, equality among the sexes and classes, and sharing of the fruits of one’s labors with others. The followers of Sikhism follow the teachings of the ten Sikh gurus, or enlightened leaders, as well as Sikhism’s holy scripture—the Gur? Granth S?hib—which comprises the selected works of many authors from various socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. Sikhism is distinctly affiliated with the history, society and culture of the Punjab. In Punjabi, the teachings of Sikhism are traditionally known as the Gurmat (literally the teachings of the gurus) or the Sikh Dharma.
Guru Nanak Dev (1469–1538), the founder of Sikhism, was born in the village of R?i Bh?i d? Talva???, now called Nankana Sahib, near Lahore (this is present-day Pakistan). As a boy, Nanak was captivated by religion, and his wish to explore and evaluate the mysteries of life, eventually led him to leave home. It was during this time that Nanak was said to have met Kabir (1440–1518), a saint esteemed and admired by people of different faiths.
Nanak went missing
for 3 days, and later he reappeared and would give the same answer to any question posed to him: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim”. It was from this moment that Nanak would begin to spread the teachings of what was then the origination of Sikhism. Nanak was married to Sulakhni, the daughter of Moolchand Chona, and they had 2 sons. In 1538, Nanak chose his disciple Lahi??, a Khatri of the Trehan clan, as a next-in-line to the guruship rather than either of his sons. Lahi?? was named Guru Angad Dev and became the second guru of the Sikhs. Angad continued the work started by Nanak and is widely accredited for standardizing the Gurmukh? script as used in the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. Guru Amar Das became the third Sikh guru in 1552 at the age of 73. During his guruship, Goindval came to be an important centre for Sikhism. Guru Amar Das preached the principle of equality for women by prohibiting purdah (the requirement that women cover their bodies). Amar Das trained 146 apostles of which 52 were women, to manage the quick expansion of the religion. Before he died in 1574 at the age of 95, he appointed his son-in-law J??h?, a Khatri of the Sodhi clan, as the fourth Sikh guru. In 1581, Guru Arjun Dev—youngest son of the fourth guru—became the fifth guru of the Sikhs. Besides being responsible for building the Harimandir Sahib (often called the Golden Temple), he prepared the Sikh sacred text known as the ?di Granth (literally the first book) and incorporated the writings of the first five gurus. After the death of Ranjit Singh, the Sikh kingdom fell into disarray and eventually disintegrated with the Anglo-Sikh Wars, which brought the Punjab under British rule. Even though Sikhs enjoyed considerable affluent in the 1970s, making Punjab the most opulent state in the nation, a fringe group led by cleric Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale began demanding a self-governing state named Khalistan, led to clashes between militant groups and government forces, as well as communal ferocity. Guru Gobind Singh was the final guru in human form. Before his death, Guru Gobind Singh proclaimed that the Gur? Granth S?hib would be the final and perpetual guru of the Sikhs.
One of Sikh religion’s traditions is called “Sati”. Sati (also called suttee) is the practice among some Hindu communities by which a recently widowed woman either volitional or by use of force or coercion commits suicide as a result of her husband’s death. The best known form of sati is when a woman burns to death on her husband’s funeral pyre. However other forms of sati exist, including but not limited to being buried alive with the husband’s corpse and drowning.
In a religion that shunned widows, sati was considered the highest proclamation of wifely devotion to a dead husband. It was regarded as an act of peerless piety and was said to purge her of all her sins, liberate her from the cycle of birth and rebirth and ensure salvation for her dead husband and the seven generations that followed her. Most registered instances of sati during the 1800’s were described as “voluntary” acts of valour and dedication, a belief that sati advocates continue to promote to this day.
Another tradition of Sikh religion is the knife that every believer holds on his/ her waist. A kirpan is a small sword, worn in a protective covering on a strap or belt. It is an article of faith that initated Sikhs are supposed to wear at all times. The word kirpan derives from two words which are interpreted as clemency and reverence. The kirpan is supposed to be a weapon of defence only and is normally worn under clothes. The blade is usually about 8 centimetres long, but ceremonial kirpans are the length of a standard sword. There is no size requirement but the kirpan cannot be so small that it is merely symbolic. And the blade must be made of iron or steel.
4) Concept of God
The rudimentary belief in Sikhism is that God exists not merely as an idea or concept, but as a real entity. God is indescribable, yet knowable and perceivable to anyone who is prepared to commit the time and energy to become perceptive to His persona. The Gurus never spoke about proofs of the existence of God. For them, He is too real, and something as apparent does not require any logical proof. God is transcendent and all-pervasive at the same time. Transcendence and immanence are two facets of the very same single Supreme Reality. The Reality is imminent in the entire creation, but the conception as a whole fails to contain God in its entirety. Sikhs believe that human beings spend their time in a cycle of birth, life, and rebirth. They share this belief with followers of other Indian religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The quality of each particular life depends on the law of Karma.
5) Place of worship
Gurdwaras are Sikh places of worship. The word Gurdwara means “doorway to the guru”. Many gurdwaras are associated with significant events in Sikh history and even though Sikhs can devote and glorify on their own, they see congregational worship as having its own extraordinary merits. Sikhs believe that God is visible in the Sikh assemblage or Sangat, and that God is pleased by the act of serving the Sangat. Congregational Sikh worship takes place in a Gurdwara, Sikh public worship can be led by any Sikh, male or female, by anyone who is competent to do so .
Harmandir Sahib (Amritsar, Punjab) is the most important religious center for the Sikhs. It has doors in all four directions implying that it is open to all people, built by Guru Arjan Dev. It is called the Golden Temple because of the gold plating on it. Harmandir Sahib is also called Darbar Sahib.
The Akal Takhat (Amritsar, Punjab) faces the Golden Temple in Amritsar and is the highest seat of justice for Sikhs, founded by Guru Hargobind. The Guru used to address all importunate gatherings – religious, social and political – from the Akal Takhat. One of the five Sikh takhats (seats of authority).
6) The Five Ks
A true Sikh should not consume meat. The consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other intoxicants is completely forbidden to a Sikh who has become a part of the Khalsa. The detailed explanations of the Five k of Sikhism are these:
1. Kesh – this K stands for hair that must be left uncut. Traditionally all male and female members of the Sikh community do not cut their hair. Male worshippers are not even supposed to cut the beard as this is proof of the natural state of the person.
2. Kangha – the second in the list of the Five k of Sikhism is the Kangha. This is a wooden comb that was used by the Sikhs to brush the hair and is used to keep the hair tidy and neat. This hair of the Sikhs that is meant grow without control.
3. Kachera – We will now move on to the third of the Five k of Sikhism. It is called the Kachera. These are short trousers that the Sikhs who are a part of the Khalsa must wear. It resembles undergarments that the Guru Govind Singh wanted the followers of Khalsa to wear as part of the uniform that he planned for the Sikhs.
4. Kara – The fourth K in the list of the Five k of Sikhism stands for Kara. The Kara is a bangle that is made of iron or steel and is worn by the Sikhs. Worn in the right hand by both men and women, the steel or iron is the symbol of strength and the circular shape of the Kara signifies unity and infiniteness.
5. Kirpan – The last in the list of the Five k of Sikhism is the Kirpan. The Kirpan is a small knife worn by the members of the Khalsa be it male or female. The Sikhs consider this a sword and they do not wish people to term it as a dagger or a knife. The daggers and knifes are used for violent purposes, whereas the function of the Kirpan is pacifistic.