The word Sikh is derived from the Sanskrit word Shishya, meaning disciple or learner. The Sikh religion originated with the advent of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh Religion. It was developed through the successive Gurus who appeared in the form of the same divine light and reached its climax with the creation of Khalsa by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
This article will give information about Sikhism – one of the important religions of India, in the context of the IAS Exam.
This topic will be useful for the GS Paper 1 and GS Paper 4 section of the UPSC Syllabus.
The candidates can go through the relevant topics useful for their upcoming exams from the links provided below:
|Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles 25 – 28)||Jainism|
|Secularism||Differences and Similarities Between Buddhism and Jainism|
History of Sikhism
- Sikhism was born at a time when there was a growing conflict amongst the two dominating religious traditions of Hinduism and Islam in India.
- Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, is generally depicted as a reconciler of the two conflicting traditions.
- Guru Nanak got his enlightenment in Sultanpur in 1496.
- After enlightenment, he travelled extensively to spread the message of love and brotherhood.
- The number of Guru Nanak’s followers increased through the sixteenth century under his successors.
- They belonged to a number of castes, but traders, agriculturists, artisans and craftsmen predominated. They were also expected to contribute to the general funds of the community of followers.
- By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the town of Ramdaspur (Amritsar) had developed around the central Gurdwara called Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple). It was virtually self-governing, and modern historians refer to the early seventeenth-century Sikh community as ‘a state within the state’.
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About Guru Nanak
- Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, was born in Talwandi (near Lahore in Pakistan), now known as Nankana Sahib in Pakistan and belonged to Bedi gotra in 1469.
- Guru Nanak received his early education in Sanskrit and Persian.
- He was one of the greatest saints of the Bhakti movement.
- Guru Nanak (1469–1539) was the first Guru.
- He travelled widely before establishing a centre at Kartarpur (Dera Baba Nanak on the river Ravi).
- Regular worship that consisted of the singing of his own hymns was established there for his followers.
- Irrespective of their former creed, caste or gender, his followers ate together in the common kitchen (langar).
- The sacred space thus created by Guru Nanak, known as dharmsal. It is now known as Gurdwara.
- The three important percepts of Guru Nanak are:
- Contemplation of One God (nam- japna);
- Earning one’s livelihood (kirat karna) and
- Sharing one’s earnings with others (vand chhakna).
- To practise his teachings of equality, Guru Nanak started the twin institutions of Sangat and Pangat, emphasizing that all sit in a congregation and while partaking food from the community kitchen should sit in one line without distinction of high and low or rich and poor.
- Guru Nanak preached through kirtans, bhajans and ragas.
- Before his death in 1539, Guru Nanak appointed one of his followers as his successor.
- His name was Lehna, but he came to be known as Guru Angad, signifying that he was a part of Guru Nanak himself.
Teachings of Sikh Religion
The teachings of Sikh Religion are as follows:
- God – Sikhism believes in the monotheistic concept of One God, who is Transcendent and Immanent; Impersonal and Personal; Nirguna and Sarguna.
- Soul – There is an identical relation between God and soul, which is mentioned as ‘the Lord abides in the soul and the soul in the Lord.’ The aim of man’s life is to rediscover the real nature of the self which is in no way different from God, but indulgence in mundane aspirations reinforce his ego and strengthens this false notion of separateness.
- Divine Will – In the Sikh religion, the concept of Divine Will (hukam) as an imperative has a specific metaphysical significance. Divine Will is all-pervasive and immanent and manifests itself in different ways which are incomprehensible to the human mind. Not only the creation but also the sustenance of the universe is in accordance with the Divine Will.
- Divine Grace – It is often referred to in the scripture as kirpa, karam, Prasad, mehar, daya or bakhsis. One cannot understand God through cleverness, but He can be realized through Grace.
- Salvation – The immortality of the soul is also conceived in the sense of realization of the eternity of values in the temporal world. Karma and rebirth are closely related to the moral life of man.
The Ten Sikh Gurus
There were a total of ten Sikh Gurus. Guru Nanak was followed by nine successive Gurus who not only continued his precepts and ideals but made significant contributions in evolving different institutions for the Sikh community.
|Name of the Guru||Description About the Sikh Gurus|
|Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539)||
|Guru Angad Dev (1504 – 1552)||
|Guru Amar Dass (1479 – 1574)||
|Guru Ram Dass (1534 – 1581)||
|Guru Arjun Dev (1563 – 1606)||
|Guru Hargobind (1595 – 1644)||
|Guru Har Rai (1630 – 1661)||
|Guru Har Kishan (1656 – 1664)||
|Guru Teg Bahadur (1621 – 1675)||
|Guru Govind Singh (1666 – 1708)||
11th Sikh Guru
- Nine gurus followed Guru Nanak and there is no living human successor, but the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, is considered the 11th Sikh Guru and eternal.
- Apart from the hymns of the Sikh Gurus, the Guru Granth Sahib also contains the composition of the Muslim and Hindu saints, some of them belonging to the so-called lower caste of the Hindu society.
- Therefore, the Sikh Holy Book can be considered as a unique example of the ecumenical spirit of the Sikh faith.
The disciples of Sikhism come to the sacred places to take the blessings of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book and eternal Guru of Sikhs.
The most sacred Sikh Shrines and Heritage are listed and briefed below:
- The worship places of Sikhs are known as the Takhts which literally means ‘the seat of the divine power’.
- There are only five Takhts.
- It is said that ‘Takhts’ are places where various social and political settlements were done by the Gurus.
|The Five Takhts||Description|
|Akal Takht Sahib||It is founded by Guru Hargobind Singh.|
|Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib||It is a place where Khalsa Panth originated.|
|Takht Sri Damdama Sahib||It is a place where the complete version of Guru Granth Sahib was written by Guru Gobind Singh.|
|Takht Sri Hazur Sahib||It is a place where Guru Gobind Singh last breathed. It is located on the bank of River Godavari in the ‘Sanctified City’ of Nanded in Maharashtra.|
|Takht Sri Patna Sahib||It is situated on the banks of the River Ganga.|
- Gurudwara stands for ‘the doorway to the master’.
- In India, there are several Gurudwaras but only five Takhts.
- Lakhs of people, particularly the Sikhs, visit the Gurudwaras to commemorate the Gurus. Therefore, Gurudwaras hold significance from a pilgrimage point of view.
- Two popular Gurudwaras in India are:
- Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab
- It is called the Golden Temple owing to the gilded dome that adorns the crown of the Gurudwara.
- It is the most sacred for the Sikhs.
- The town was founded by Guru Ram Dass, the fourth Sikhs Guru in 1577 on the land gifted by Akbar.
- The fifth Guru Arjun Dev completed the temple.
- When Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered the upper half of the temple, first with copper and then with pure gold leaf, it came to be known as the Swarna Mandir.
- Bangla Sahib in Delhi
- It is one of the most impressive and fascinating edifices in India and is intricately linked with the history of Sikhism.
- Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab
- The other Sikh shrines in India include:
- Gurudwara Paonta Sahib, Himachal Pradesh
- Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, New Delhi
- Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Delhi
- Hemkund Sahib, Uttarakhand
FAQ about Sikhism
What are the 5K’s that Sikh men are required to possess?
The 5K’s that Sikh men are required to possess are Kangha (comb), Kesh (long hair), Kada (iron bracelet), Kachcha (underwear) and Kirpan (sword or dagger).
Who is a Guru in Sikhism?
What is Langar and its significance?
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