Who are Sikhs

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Sikhi is 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, and social justice. Sikhi 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.

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.

The principal belief of Sikhism is faith in waheguru — represented using the sacred symbol of Ik Onkar, 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.

Sikhism is also called Sikhi or Gurmat or Sikh Matt or Aad-Matt.

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Belief in one God

The belief in one pantheistic God. The opening sentence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib JI is two words long, and reflects the base belief of all who adhere to the teachings of the religion: Ek Onkar “Ek” is One and “Onkar” is God – “There is only one God.”

The Teachings of the Sikh Gurus

The teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus (as well as other selected Muslim and Hindu saints and scholars) are enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib. These teachings propagate the following values:

  • to see God in everyone; understand and practice equality among all races irrespective of caste, religion, colour, status, age, gender, etc;
  • to remember God at all times; to always engage in Simran or “remembrance of God”, the primal being; virtuous, merciful, bountiful, fearless and Creator of everything; be always aware of His persona and behave accordingly;
  • to value and respect positive ideals like truth, compassion, contentment, humility, love, etc; (a reflection of God-like features)
  • to suppression of inner evils lust, anger/rage, greed, material attachment, ego, etc; (a reflection of anti-God features)
  • to aspire and engage in useful, productive, honest and peaceful life of a householder; to work diligently while holding the image of God within you; (Kirit Karni)
  • to engage in selfless service (Sewa) and help build a loving community life; to be a contributor to society whenever possible; (Wand kay shakna)
  • to be ready to protect and stand for the rights of the weak among us; to fight for justice and fairness for all;
  • to always accept the Will of God, (Hukam) and stay focused and in “Positive Spirits” (Chardikala), etc
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Sri Guru Nanak Dev JI (1469-1538), the founder of Sikhism, was born in the village of Talwandi. His father, Mehta Kalu was a Patwari- an accountant of land revenue in the government. Guru’s mother was Mata Tripta and he had one older sister, Bibi Nanki. From the very childhood, Bibi Nanki saw in him the Light of God but she did not reveal this secret to anyone. She is known as the first disciple of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He wandered all over India in the manner of Hindu saints. It was during this period that Nanak met Kabir (1441-1518), a saint revered by both Hindus and Muslims. He made four distinct major journeys, which are called Udasis spanning many thousands of miles.

In 1538, Guru Nanak chose Bhai Lehna, his disciple as a successor to the Guruship rather than his son. Bhai Lehna was renamed Guru Angad and became the second guru of the Sikhs. He continued the work started by Guru Nanak. Guru Amar Das became the third Sikh guru in 1552 at the age of 73. He continued to preach the principle of equality for women, the prohibition of Sati and the practise of Langar. In 1567, Emperor Akbar sat with the ordinary and poor people of Punjab to have Langar. Guru Amar Das also trained 140 apostles of which 52 were women to manage the rapid expansion of the religion. Before he died in 1574 aged 95, he appointed his son-in-law, Jetha as the fourth Sikh Guru.

Jetha became Guru Ram Das Ji 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. In 1581, the youngest son of the fourth Guru, Guru Arjun Dev Ji became the 5th Guru of the Sikhs. In addition to being responsible for the construction of the Sri Harmander Sahib, he prepared the Sikh Sacred text and his personal addition of some 2,000 plus hymns in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. In 1604 he installed the Adi Granth for the first time as the Holy Book of the Sikhs. In 1606, he was arrested and fined an enormous sum, by the newly installed Mughal Emperor Jahangir, which he refused to pay. His followers and a highly respected friend the Sufi Sant Hazrat Mian Mir attempted to intercede on his behalf, but believing he had done nothing to warrant the fine he told them he wanted no one to interfere with the workings of Waheguru. He was also asked to change some wording of the former Gurus which he had collected in the Adi Granth–this he refused to do. He was tortured severely and finally allowed to bath in the nearby river. His followers and admirers watched as he walked on his badly burned and blistered feet to the river’s edge, waded in and then disappeared under the water never to be seen again, becoming the first Martyr of the Sikhs.

Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, became the sixth guru of the Sikhs. He carried two swords; one for Spiritual reasons and one for temporal (worldly) reasons. From this point onward, the Sikhs became a military force and always had a trained fighting force to defend their independence. In 1644, Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji became Guru followed by Guru Har Krishan Sahib Ji, the boy Guru in 1661. Guru Teg Bahadur became Guru in 1665 and led the Sikhs until 1675, when he sacrificed his life in defense the Kashmiri Hindus who had come to him for help.

In 1675, Aurangzeb ordered the public execution of the ninth Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji . Sikh mythos says that Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji  sacrificed himself to save Hindus, after Kashmiri pandits came to him for help when the Emperor condemned them for failing to convert to Islam. This marked a turning point for Sikhism. His successor, his son Guru Gobind Singh ji further militarised his followers. After the treachery of his neighboring Hill chieftains (Katri Rajputs who he had expected to join him in expelling or at least putting an end to the Mughal tyranny and forced conversions of Hindus) who took the side of the Mughals and tricked him and the Sikhs, under a guarantee of safe passage, into abandoning Anandpur, many of his Sikhs including his four sons and his mother, Gobind Singh on reaching safety sent Aurangzeb a letter known as the Zafarnama (Epistle of Victory).

Sri Guru Gobind Ji  ordered that Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh Holy Scripture, would replace the line of human Gurus and become the spiritual Eternal Guru for the Sikhs and placed the temporal authority with the Khalsa Panth; the Sikhs themselves.

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Gurus Nama                      Guruship on                    

1. Guru Nanak Dev Ji        April 15th, 1469                        

2. Guru Angad Dev Ji        September 7th, 1539          

3. Guru Amar Das Ji          March 25th, 1552               

4. Guru Ram Das Ji            August 29th, 1574             

5.  Guru Arjun Dev Ji          August 28th, 1581            

6. Guru Hargobind Ji          May 30th,  1606                

7. Guru Har Rai                   Febuary 28th, 1644        

8. Guru Har Krishan            October 6th, 1661          

9. Guru Tegh Bahadur         March 20th, 1665           

10. Guru Gobind Singh Ji     November 11th, 1675     

11. Guru Granth Sahib Ji      October 6th, 1708              

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The Guru Granth Sahib is the eleventh and final Guru of the Sikhs, is held in the highest regard by the Sikhs and is treated as the Eternal Guru, as instructed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

It is perhaps the only scripture of its kind which not only contains the teachings of its own religious founders but also writings of people from other faiths. Besides the Banis of the Gurus, it also contains the writings of saints like Kabir, Namdev, Ravidas, Sheikh Farid, Trilochan, Dhanna, Beni, Sheikh Bhikan, Jaidev, Surdas, Parmanad, Pipa and Ramanand.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji forms the central part of the Sikh place of worship called a gurdwara. The Holy Scripture is placed on the dominant platform in the main hall of the gurdwara during the day. It is placed with great respect and dignity upon a throne with beautiful and colourful fabric.

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The Sikhs must believe in the following values:

  • Equality: All humans are equal before God.
  • God’s spirit: All creatures have God’s spirits and must be properly respected.
  • Personal right: Every person has a right to life but this right is restricted.
  • Actions count: Salvation is obtained by one’s actions, including good deeds, remembrance of God, etc.
  • Living a family life: Must live as a family unit to provide and nurture children.
  • Sharing: It is encouraged to share and give to charity 10 percent of one’s net earnings.
  • Accept God’s will: Develop your personality so that you recognize happy events and miserable events as one.
  • The four fruits of life: Truth, contentment, contemplation and Naam, (in the name of God)
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  • Non-logical behavior: Superstitions and rituals are not meaningful to Sikhs (pilgrimages, fasting,  circumcision, worship of graves, idols or pictures, compulsory wearing of the veil for women, etc.).
  • Material obsession: (“Maya”) Accumulation of materials has no meaning in Sikhism. Wealth such as gold, portfolio, stocks, commodities, and properties will all be left here on Earth when you depart. Do not get attached to them.
  • Sacrifice of creatures: (Sati). Widows throwing themselves in the funeral pyre of their husbands, lamb and calf slaughter to celebrate holy occasions etc, are forbidden.
  • Non-family oriented living: A Sikh is not allowed to live as a recluse, beggar, yogi, monk, nun, or celibate.
  • Worthless talk: Bragging, gossip, lying etc, are not permitted.
  • Intoxication: Alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and consumption of other intoxicants is not permitted.
  • Priestly class: Sikhs do not have to depend on a priest for performing any religious functions. They are not supposed to follow a class/caste system where the priestly class reigns highest. Everyone is equal.
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Practicing Sikhs are bound to wear five items, known as The Five Ks, at all times. It is done either out of respect for the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, or out of sense of duty or from understanding of their function and purpose and relevance in daily life. It is important to note that The Five Ks are not merely present for symbolic purposes. The tenth Guru, 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 spirituality and to others’ spirituality.

The 5 items are: Kesh (uncut hair), Kanga (small comb), Kara (circular bracelet), Kirpan (small sword) and Kacha (shorts).

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A baptised Sikh becomes a member of the Khalsa or the “Pure Ones”. When a Sikh joins the Khalsa, he/she is supposed to have devoted their life to the Guru, and is expected not to desist from sacrificing anything and everything in a struggle for a just and righteous cause.

The word “Khalsa” has two literal meanings. It comes from Persian. One literal meaning is “Pure” and the other meaning is “belonging to the king”. When the word “Khalsa” is used for a Sikh, it implies belonging to the King, where the King is God himself. To become a Khalsa, a Sikh must surrender themselves completely to the supreme King or God and obey God’s will without question or delay.