The religion of Sikhism originates in the Punjab region of India and is over 540 years old. The founder of Sikhism was Guru Nanak Dev (pictured below), who directly received inspiration from God. Including Guru Nanak Dev, there have been ten Gurus, or spiritual leaders, in all. The last Guru was Guru Gobind Singh, who with his death in 1708 completed the formation of Sikhism. Guru Gobind Singh recorded the teachings of his nine predecessors as well as his own teachings in a work called the Granth Sahib. The manuscript contains hymns of six of the Gurus and 30 other Holymen. The creation of a written record eliminated the need for future gurus to continue the oral tradition and enabled the scripture to become the ultimate teacher, so it was called Guru Granth Sahib.
Sikhs believe in only One God and they meditate on Him. They place an emphasis on living a truthful life filled with fearlessness and humility. According to Sikhism, all men and women are equal before God as sons and daughters of the Divine, therefore discrimination of any kind is condemned. The Guru Granth Sahib teaches Sikhs to live a benevolent and optimistic life in which they engage in selfless service to humanity, hard work, and universal well being by maintaining good physical and mental health. No form of bodily intoxication such as alcohol or tobacco is permitted, and neither is trimming hair from any part of the body.
Sikhs are represented by five symbols, known as the Five K’s or Kakars. They are:
- Kesh (long uncut hair)
- Kangha (comb)
- Kara (steel bracelet)
- Kachhera (pair of shorts)
- Kirpan (sword)
All of these symbols serve as reminders of the code of conduct and truthful living significant to Sikhs.
The Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple) pictured above is the center of Sikhism. It is located in Amritsar, Punjab and was built by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev. The Golden Temple is open to anyone, as is symbolized by its four doors facing north, south, east, and west.
Sikhs begin the day by waking up before sunrise and taking a bath. Afterwards, they meditate on the Name of God and recite five specific meditations or Banis. In the evening they recite two more specific meditations and then retire to bed. Prayers called Ardas are said after Banis, and both are said before doing work or eating.
Ceremonies and Rituals
Amrit is a Sikh Baptism where someone promises to adhere to the faith, gets the Guru’s blessing, and joins the Sikh Commonwealth. Another important ceremony for the Sikh’s is Namkaran (Naming of the child). A boy’s middle name is automatically “Singh,” which means “Lion.” A girl’s middle name is automatically “Kaur,” which means “Princess.”
Dastar Bandi is a ceremony where a boy of about 12 years ties a turban to cover the hair on his head. The turban represents a crown given to him by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. It is a form of commitment to his faith and a sign that he is a Sikh dedicated to uphold the values of his religion.