A way of life and philosophy well ahead of its time when
it was founded over 500 years ago, The Sikh religion today has a following
of over 20 million people worldwide. Sikhism preaches a message of devotion
and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality of mankind,
social justice and denounces superstitions and blind rituals. Sikhism is
open to all through the teachings of its 10 Gurus enshrined in the Sikh Holy
Book and Living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Who and What is a Sikh?
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 are practical and universal in their appeal to all mankind.
"I observe neither Hindu fasting nor the
ritual of the Muslim Ramadan month; Him I serve who at the last shall save.
The Lord of universe of the Hindus, Gosain and Allah to me are one; From
Hindus and Muslims have I broken free. I perform neither Kaaba pilgrimage
nor at bathing spots worship; One sole Lord I serve, and no other. I perform
neither the Hindu worship nor the Muslim prayer; To the Sole Formless Lord
in my heart I bow. We neither are Hindus nor Muslims; Our body and life
belong to the One Supreme Being who alone is both Ram and Allah for us."
(Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Granth Sahib, Raga Bhairon pg. 1136)
"Any human being who faithfully believes
in: (i) One Immortal Being, (ii) Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru
Gobind Singh, (iii) The Guru Granth Sahib, (iv) The utterances and teachings
of the ten Gurus and, (v) the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and who
does not owe allegiance to any other religion is a Sikh." (Reht Maryada,
Sikh Code of Conduct)
Philosophy and Beliefs
is only One God. He is the same God for all people of all religions.
soul goes through cycles of births and deaths before it reaches the human
form. The goal of our life is to lead an exemplary existence so that one may
merge with God. Sikhs should remember God at all times and practice living a
virtuous and truthful life while maintaining a balance between their
spiritual obligations and temporal obligations.
true path to achieving salvation and merging with God does not require
renunciation of the world or celibacy, but living the life of a householder,
earning a honest living and avoiding worldly temptations and sins.
condemns blind rituals such as fasting, visiting places of pilgrimage,
superstitions, worship of the dead, idol worship etc.
preaches that people of different races, religions, or sex are all equal in
the eyes of God. It teaches the full equality of men and women. Women can
participate in any religious function or perform any Sikh ceremony or lead
the congregation in prayer.
A 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.
God and the Sikhs:
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
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
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
Relationship with God:
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 Making of the Khalsa
Guru Gobind Singh was the last Guru of the Sikhs in human
form. He created the Khalsa, a spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood devoted
to purity of thought and action. He gave the Khalsa a distinctive external
form to remind them of their commitment, and to help them maintain an
elevated state of consciousness. Every Sikh baptized as Khalsa vows to wear
the Five "K's":
Kesh - uncut hair and
beard, as given by God, to sustain him or her in higher consciousness; and a
turban, the crown of spirituality.
wooden comb to properly groom the hair as a symbol of cleanliness.
specially made cotton underwear as a reminder of the commitment to purity.
Kara - a steel
circle, worn on the wrist, signifying bondage to Truth and freedom from
sword, with which the Khalsa is committed to righteously defend the fine
line of the Truth.
Khalsa also vows to refrain from any sexual relationships outside of
marriage, and to refrain from taking meat, tobacco, alcohol, and all other
Then Guru Gobind Singh infused his own being into the Khalsa, declaring that
the Khalsa was now the Guru in all temporal matters. For spiritual matters,
the Guruship was given to the "Siri Guru Granth Sahib", a compilation of
sacred writings by those who have experienced Truth. For Sikhs, "Siri Guru
Granth Sahib" is the living embodiment of the Guru, and is regarded with the
utmost reverence and respect wherever it is found. Sikhs all over the world
took to the "Siri Guru Granth Sahib" as their living Guru, as the source of
spiritual instruction and guidance.
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.
The Founder (1469-1539)
The Sikhs had ten prophets called the Gurus. The time-period of
the history of the Gurus ranged from 1469 A.D , when Guru Nanak, the founder
of the Sikhism was born, to 1708 A.D, when the last prophet, Guru Gobind
Singh left this mortal world for his heavenly abode (239 years).
.1. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion was born in a
Hindu family of Kshatriya caste. He revolted against that order when he was
only 13 years old. God spoke to him when he was 38. He was taken to God’s
abode where God gave him Two Commandments known as `Moolmantar’ and `Sloak’.
- There is only one God
- He is the Truth (permanent being)
- He is the Creator,
- He is devoid of fear
- He is devoid of enmity
- He is beyond death
- He is not born
- He is self-illuminated
- He is the master of all the gifts.
- God existed before the start of the time
- God existed when the time started.
- God exists now and,
- God will always exist.
Guru Nanak was appointed as God’s latest prophet and was asked
to spread the name of God and the rules of both divinity and morality.
Guru Nanak travelled as far as Tibet in the north, Sri Lanka in
the south, Mecca in the west and Dhaka in the east to deliver God’s message.
He was welcomed wherever he went. He met both kings and robbers, gave them
the message of God and reformed them. He is the only prophet in the world
who did not meet any violent opposition and was not harmed by the enemies.
In fact he had no enemies. (compare him with: Moses and the Pharaos; Jesus
and the Jewish clergy and the Romans; Ram and Ravan; Krishen and Kans;
Mohammed and the Meccan pagans).
Guru Nanak was revered by both the Hindus and the Muslims. He
was received with respect and folded hands by Babar, the Muslim Emperor of
India and Shivnabh, the Hindu King of Sri Lanka; he was honoured by the
clergy of both the Hindus and the Muslims.
Guru Nanak was a family man, was married and had two sons.
While living with his father he looked after the family fields and the
cattle; staying with his sister, Babe Nanki, he worked as a store keeper
with the local ruler; and for the last 17 years of his life, he tilled his
own fields at Kartarpur, a town founded by him. There are 41 Sikh shrines
founded in his memory.
For 14 years, from 1507-1510 he travelled around the then known
world and spread the message of God. In history, he is the most travelled of
all the known prophets. (Jesus travelled in the central plains of Palestine;
Mohammed travlled from Mecca to Medina and back to Mecca; Moses travelled
from Egypt to outskirts of Palestine; Ram travelled from Ayodhaya to Sri
Lanka; Krishna travelled from Mathura to Dwarka).
Guru Nanak died at the age of 70. His 974 hymns are recorded in
the Sikh holy book.
2nd Guru - 10th Guru
2. Guru Angad (1504-1552) was the second Guru of the Sikhs. He was
a disciple of Guru Nanak and was chosen as his successor after being put to
a great many tests. He became Guru at the age of 35 and his pontificate
lasted for 13 years. He rationalised the Panjabi language and gave to it a
new grammar. He also encouraged his followers to look after their health. He
gave them instructions to have a balanced diet and regular exercises. He
built many wrestling arenas and encouraged his followers to participate in
wrestling competitions.. Like Guru Nanak, he founded a new town and named it
Khadur. There are 2 Gudwaras built in his memory, and there are in Guru
Granth Sahib, 65 hymns composed by him. He died at the age of 48.
3. Guru Amardas (1479 - 1574) became the third Guru at the age of
73. For twelve years he personally served Guru Angad. He walked daily for 5
miles to fetch water for the Guru’s bath. He was chosen from amongst many by
Guru Angad as his successor. His pontificate lasted for 17 years. He
inculcated amongst his followers, the spirit of Service to humankind and to
God.. Like both Guru Nanak and Guru Angad he was a very simple man. There
are 4 Gurdwaras related to his memory and there are, in Guru Granth Sahib,
907 hymns composed by him. He died at the age of 90.
4. Guru Ramdas (1534-1581) became Guru when he was 40. His
pontificate lasted for only 7 years. He was a son-in-law of Guru Amardas. He
re-organised the Sikh Church and founded the city of Amritsar.He died at the age of 47. There are 3 Gurdwaras built in his memory and
there are 679 of his hymns recorded in Guru Granth Sahib.
5. Guru Arjan (1563-1606) became Guru at the young age of 18. He
was the youngest son of Guru Ramdas, He built the Golden Temple and compiled
the Sikh holy book. He also founded the city of Taran Taran. He is the first
martyr of the Sikh history. He died at the age of 43, There are 12 Gurdwaras
built in his memory and there are 2,218 of his hymns recorded in Guru Granth
6. Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) became Guru at the age of 11. He was
the only son of Guru Arjan. His pontificate was longest amongst all the
Gurus, it lasted for 38 years. He was the first Guru to fight with the
Mughals against their injustice and tyranny. . He wore two swords,
symbolising Miri and Piri, royalty and saintliness. He
organised early morning Sikh choirs. He founded the city of Kiratpur3.
There are 16 Gudwaras built in his memory. He travelled upto Kashmir in the
north to spread the message of the house of Nanak. He died at the age of 49.
He did not write any hymns.
7. Guru Harrai (1630-1661) was a grandson of Guru Hargobind. He
became Guru at the age of 14 and remained Guru for 17 years. He built many
clinics for both sick human beings and animals/birds. He was expert in
Aryuvedic medicine. Most of the time he lived in Nahan and preached the
divine message over there. There are 3 Gurdwaras dedicated to his memory. He
died at the age of 31. He did not write any hymns.
8. Guru Harkrishen (1656 - 1664) was the youngest son of Guru
Harrai. He became Guru at the tender age of 5 and died at the age of 8. Thus
his pontificate lasted for only 3 years. He took over the sufferings of the
people of Delhi over himself and saved them from effects of smallpox
epidemic (compare this sacrifice with the Christian saying, "Jesus died for
our sins"). He instructed his followers to build schools for religious
education. There are 4 Gurdwaras related to him. He did not write any hymns.
Most of the modern Sikh Schools are named after him.
9. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675) was a grand uncle of Guru
Harkrishan. He became Guru at the age of 43 and remained Guru until the age
of 54. He travelled towards east of India up to Dhaka to spread the message
of the house of Nanak. He offered himself for martyrdom for saving the Hindu
religion. He gave his life but saved the annihilation of Hindu religion by
the then Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. He was beheaded in Delhi at a place
known as `Chandni Chowk’ He founded the city of Anandpur. There are 16
Gurdwaras built in his memory and there are 115 hymns recorded under his
name in Guru Granth Sahib.
10. Guru Gobind Singh (1666 - 1708) became Guru at the age of 9. He
was the only son of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Like his grand-father Guru Hargobind,
he also had to resort to sword to protect the young Sikh nation from an
onslaught of the Mughals. He initiated a new baptism and called it `Amrit’ .
He created the order of Khalsa (Saint-soldiers) and prescribed the
compulsion of wearing the 5 Ks. He wrote hymns which were later collected by
one of his followers, Bhai Mani Singh, at the orders of his widow Mata
Sundri. He declared the mission of Guru Nanak completed. He passed on the
spiritual authority of the Sikhs to the Sikh holy book, and called it Guru
Granth Sahib. He passed on the temporal authority of the Sikh to the Khalsa.
He died at the age of 42. His hymns are preserved in the Granth called Dasam
Granth. He was the last prophet (Guru) of the Sikhs.
his death in 1708 Guru Gobind Singh declared that the Sikhs no longer needed
a living and appointed his spiritual successor as Sri Guru Granth Sahib, his
physical successor as the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh felt that all the wisdom
needed by Sikhs for spiritual guidance in their daily lives could be found
in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs. Sri Guru Granth
Sahib is unique in the world of religious scriptures because not only is it
accorded the status of being the spiritual head of the Sikh religion, but
besides the poetry of the Gurus, it also contains the writings of saints of
other faiths whose thoughts were consistent with those of the Sikh Gurus.
Sikhism does not have priests, which were abolished by
Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru felt that they had become corrupt and full of
ego. Sikhs only have custodians of the Guru Granth Sahib (granthi), and any
Sikh is free to read the Guru Granth Sahib in the Gurdwara (a Sikh temple)
or in their home. All people of all religions are welcome to the Gurdwara. A
free community kitchen can be found at every Gurdwara which serves meals to
all people of all faiths. Guru Nanak first started this institution which
outline the basic Sikh principles of service, humility and equality.
The most significant historical religious center for
the Sikhs is Harmiandir Sahib (The Golden Temple) at Amritsar in the state
of Punjab in northern India. It is the inspirational and historical center
of Sikhism but is not a mandatory place of pilgrimage or worship. All places
where Sri Guru Granth Sahib are installed are considered equally holy for
THE THEORY OF ONE SPIRIT
The Sikhs believe that all the ten Gurus had the same spirit. This is one
of the fundamental beliefs of the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh had recorded in
one of his hymns that though after Nanak came Angad and then Amardas and
then Ramdas, Arjan, Hargobind, Harrai, Harkrishen and Tegh Bahadur, but they
all had the same spirit. They looked different for they had different bodies
but their spirit, the inner self, was the same.