is the youngest of all the major religions and has 23 million followers. It was started in Punjab by
Guru Nanak. 'Guru' means teacher in many Indian languages.
Nanak was born in 1469. In his youth, he was interested in all
religions. Though he was born a Hindu, he never accepted all of its
practices. One day, Nanak disappeared by the river. Everyone thought
that he had drowned. Three days later, he reappeared. He had had a
vision of god. He realized that there is only one god, 'Waheguru' (great teacher), who knows all and is worshipped by people of all
religions using different names. In recognition of his wisdom, people
calling him 'Guru' Nanak. People came from far and wide to learn from
him. His followers were called 'Sikhs.' 'Sikh' means one who wants to
learn. He appointed the next Guru, Guru Angad, to carry on his
teachings. In all, there were ten Gurus:
- Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539)
- Guru Angad Dev (1504-1552)
- Guru Amar Das (1479-1574)
- Guru Ram Das (1534-1581)
- Guru Arjan Dev (martyr,1563-1606)
- Guru Hargobind (1595-1644)
- Guru Har Rai (1630-1661)
- Guru Har Krishnan (1656-1664)
- Guru Tegh Bahadur (martyr,1621-1675)
- Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708).
last Guru, Gobind Singh, proclaimed that there would not be any more
gurus. Instead, the Sikhs should be guided by their holy verses which were collected into a book, the 'Guru
Granth Sahib.' This book is given the highest respect. In Sikh
temples (a Gurdwara or doorway to the Guru), it is kept on a throne and is carried everywhere on the heads
of followers. All copies of the book have the same number of pages -
The Muslim rulers of India constantly persecuted the Sikhs and
killed two of their Gurus. Guru Gobind Singh declared that every
Sikh should be a soldier when needed, as well as a saint. With this aim, he founded the
Khalsa. To join the Khalsa, a Sikh has to take part in a ceremony where he or she drinks sugared water stirred with a
double-edged blade while certain prayers are recited. A Khalsa must always wear
five items, the 'Panj Kakkar.' The five items are:
- 'Kesh' or uncut hair,
- 'Kanga,' a small comb,
- 'Kara,' a small steel bracelet,
- 'Kirpan,' a sword, and
- 'Kachera,' a type of underwear.
symbolizes living as god intended, 'Kanga' cleanliness, 'Kara'
remembrance of god, 'Kirpan' justice and 'Kachera' self-control. Today, Khalsa Sikhs usually carry only a small knife in a case, instead
of a large sword (Kirpan).
Sikhs worship in a temple called a Gurdwara.
The Gurdwara always has the sacred flag, the 'Nishan Sahib,' flying
over it. Sikhs visit the Gurdwara at their will. After worship, a meal
is shared by everyone. This is to enhance the belief that everyone is
equal, and that all people are children of god. Lessons are also held
to help children learn the Gurmukhi script, the written form of the
Punjabi language, so that they can read the Guru Granth Sahib. All
Sikhs hope to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar at least once in
their lifetime because it is the spiritual centre of Sikhism.
An important ritual in the life of every Sikh is
the naming ceremony. At the ceremony, the child's name is taken from
the first letter of a random passage in the Guru Granth Sahib. A girl's
name is followed by 'Kaur' (princess) and a boy's by 'Singh' (lion).
Sikhs usually cremate their dead. The ashes are then scattered in rivers or the sea. Sikhs are not
allowed to put up headstones. They believe that the soul will shed the
dead body and enter a new one.
the tenth Guru
passed away, the Sikhs fought many battles with the Muslim rulers of
India, and Punjab fell into disorder. They were divided into 12
groups called 'misls.' Finally, in 1799, the Sikhs
re-grouped and captured Lahore, the capital city of Punjab. In 1849,
the British defeated the Sikh kingdom. Over time, many Gurdwaras were
controlled by corrupt priests. In 1925, after protests by the Sikhs,
British, who ruled India at the time, granted the Sikhs exclusive
rights to manage the Gurdwaras.