Over twenty million Sikhs follow a revealed, distinct, and unique religion born five centuries ago in the Punjab region of northern India. Between 1469 and 1708, ten Gurus preached a simple message of truth, devotion to God, and universal equality. Often mistaken as a combination of Hinduism and Islam, the Sikh religion can be characterized as a completely independent faith:
Sikhism rejects idolatry, the caste system, ritualism, and asceticism. It recognizes the equality between both genders and all religions, prohibits the intake of any intoxicants, and encourages an honest, truthful living. Sikhs have their own holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. Written, composed, and compiled by the Sikh Gurus themselves, the Guru Granth Sahib serves as the ultimate source of spiritual guidance for Sikhs. While the Sikhs hold their Gurus in high reverence, they are not to be worshipped; Sikhs may only worship God.
Guru Nanak received a Hukam (commandment) from God instructing him to spread a message of truth based on devotion to One God, honesty, and compassion. The soul of Guru Nanak passed on to nine successors, who elaborated on the first Guru’s teachings to give form to this new religion. The final form was given by the tenth and last Guru, Gobind Singh, who started the Sikh initiation ceremony: initiated Sikhs formed a community of saint-soldiers known as Khalsa, the Pure Ones. Guru Gobind Singh also made it clear that, after him, the Guru-eternal for Sikhs would be their holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib.
BASICS OF SIKHISM
- Sikhism is the youngest of the World religions. Its history dates back to 1469.
- Its founder Guru Nanak Dev was born in a village called Talwandi, now known as Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, in 1469.
- The Sikhs have ten Gurus. It is believed that they all had same soul though they had different bodies, and that it was Guru Nanak Dev’s spirit which passed on into his nine successors.
- The Sikhs call God as ‘Waheguru’, meaning that God is great. Their common salutation is Sat Siri Akal (God is supreme and is immortal).
“Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh”
has a two fold meaning. It denotes a special relationship between God and those who dedicate their lives to His love and service. Also it is the expression of a devotee’s faith in the ultimate triumph of Truth over Falsehood. This Sikh salutation means “Khalsa belongs to God and to God alone belongs the Victory”.
- Guru Granth Sahib is the holy book of the Sikhs. It is believed that the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh bestowed upon the Granth the title of the Guru.
- The Sikhs worship only one Almighty God in his abstract form. They are not allowed to worship any idols, images or photographs.
- According to the Sikh belief, God is the eternal truth; he is beyond fear, enmity and death. He is unborn and is self illuminated. He himself is the creator, preserver and destroyer.
- The Sikhs believe that all existence is controlled by one omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient Lord called by different names.
THE SIKH PLACE OF WORSHIP: GURDWARA
- Gurdwara, meaning the doorway to the house of God.
- The first Gurdwara was built by Guru Nanak Dev at Kartarpur.
- The Sikh Gurdwaras must have a religious flag, called Nishan Sahib in the front of the Gurdwara.
- The Guru Granth Sahib is placed on the far side centre of the hall.
- Gurdwaras normally have two halls/rooms. The main hall where the Guru Granth Sahib is placed and the second hall where the community kitchen is served.
- All entrants must take off their shoes, and cover their heads before entering the main hall.
- All Sikh services end with the distribution of parshad (sweet pudding) and langar (dinner/lunch).