Glossary of Sikh Terms

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


A

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Adi Granth: Literally "the first book." The early compilation of the Sikh scriptures by Guru Arjan, the fith Sikh Guru, in 1604.

Adi Shakti: Symbol on the turban pin worn by Sikh women. It represents the Primal Feminine Creative Energy of the Universe

Akal Purakh: Literally "a timeless being that never dies." A Sikh name for God.

Akal Takhat: Literally "eternal throne." The pre-eminent of the five seats of Sikh temporal authority, In that the power exercised by its Jathedar is not shared by those of the other four Takhats. The actual building is located in the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex of Amritsar, facing the Harimandir Sahib, and was constructed under the direction of Guru Hargobind.

Akali Dal: Literally "eternal army". The main political party of Sikhs in Punjab.

Akhand Paath: A continuous recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib, lasting about 48 hours, by a team of readers.

Amrit: Literally "nectar." It is composed of water and sugar and is stirred with a double-edged sword while prayers are spoken. Initiation into Sikhism involves drinking Amrit. Can also refer, more generally, to the ambrosia of God's name.

Amritdhari: A Sikh who has taken part in the ceremonial initiation into the Khalsa.

Amritsar: Literally "pool of nectar." City located in the northern Indian state of Punjab, where the Harimandir Sahib complex is located.

Anand Karaj: Literally "blissful event." The Sikh wedding ceremony, literally translated as "blissful occasion." The lavan, or four stanzas, are sung to formalize Sikh marriages.

Anandpur: The city in India where the Khalsa was created in 1699.

Ardaas: The Sikh congregational prayer, anonymously written during the 18th century. Although it is not in the Guru Granth Sahib, it occupies a prominent place in Sikh religious functions. It is said with the daily prayers, and often used to initiate or conclude any significant endeavor (i.e. child going away to school, starting a business venture).

Aarti - A collection of verses recited after Rehras Sahib that when performed according to traditional maryada is performed with ghee lamps (deepas), conch (shank) and incense (dhoop)

Aasan - posture

Aatamdev - Term used for Brahman

Adhyatamic - Concerning ‘aatam’ or the Self

Antarjaamee: One who know everything; knower of all

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Bihangam - Literally means 'birds'; denoting sadhus who live unattached and have no fixed residence

Bunga - Institutions of learning that were built up around Sri Harmandir Sahib

Bhai - A term denoting a Sikh of great merit.

Bhekh - Lit. Appearance, denoting an order of sadhus

Brahm-gyani - One who has attained to the stage of having ‘knowledge’ or rather wisdom of God


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Caste: A ranked, birth-ascribed group which determines social standing and occupation, based on the tenets of Hindu philosophy. For Sikhs, caste has no religious or social significance.

Chandigarh: The capital of the modern-day Indian state of Punjab.

Chela: - Disciple or student, a shish

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Dasam Granth: A sacred book of writings attributed by some Sikhs to Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs.

Dasvandh: One-tenth of personal income, which a Sikh is religiously obligated to donate to charity.

Dharmshala: - A place for the exposition of dharma

Daya or Dyaa: - Compassion

Dera: - Both a monastery and a place for the exposition of dharma

Dharam: - A context-specific term used in this sense to denote righteousness

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Fakeer: - Sufi saint


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Gatka: The Sikh martial art form.

Giani: Someone learned in the Sikh religion. Often leads the congregation in prayers, such as Ardas, or in singing kirtan.

al-Ghazali,Imam: - Important Islamic scholar and Sufi master

Ghaoshala: - A sanctuary for cows


Golden Temple: A gurdwara of historical, spiritual, and emotional significance to Sikhs, called Harimandir Sahib in Punjabi. It was first conceived of by Guru Amar Das, although construction did not begin until Guru Ram Das became the Guru. Maharaja Ranjit Singh had the structure plated with gold in the early 19th century. In 1604, the recently compiled Adi Granth was housed here. It was attacked by the Indian army in June 1984.

Granth: - A scriptural text

Granthi: A ceremonial reader of the Guru Granth Sahib. Duties include arranging daily religious services, reading from the Sikh scripture, maintaining the gurdwara premises, and teaching and advising community members. A granthi is not equivalent to a minister as there are no such religious intermediaries in the Sikh religious tradition.

Gristhi: - Householder, one of the four ashrams

Gurbani: The revealed wisdom of the Sikh Gurus in their own words, found in the Guru Granth Sahib; The devotional songs of the Gurus.

Gurdev: - A guru, teacher of vidya

Gurdwara: Literally translated "Home of the Guru." Any building or room dedicated to housing the devotional songs of the Guru for the prupose of spiritual practice; A Khalsa training institution, open to anyone. Provides communication, food and shelter help to travelers, and the needy.

Gurmukh: - One whose face is turned towards the Guru

Gurmukhi: Literally "from the mouth of the Guru." The written form of Gurbani & Punjabi, used in the Sikh scripture and in contemporary India.

Gurpurab: A historical event in Sikhism to commemorate the birth or death of a Sikh Guru.

Gursikh: A Sikh devoted to Waheguru.

Guru: Literally "Human Teacher." One of the most important words in Sikhism, it has a number of related meanings. It can refer, depending on context of usage, to one of the ten Sikh prophets, the Sikh scripture, the Sikh community (Guru Panth), or God. The Sikhs had ten living Gurus, and the 10th Guru transferred the Guruship to the holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib.

Guru Arjan Dev: The fifth Guru of the Sikhs and their first martyr. He compiled the Guru Granth Sahib. It was on his martyrdom day in June 1984 that the Indian army attacked the Golden Temple.

Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708): The tenth and last living prophet of the Sikhs, he passed the guruship onto the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, and the Sikh community (Guru Panth / Guru's Path). The term 'Panth' literally meaning community evolved from the term 'Path' refering to the the philosophical aspects of Sikhism. Guru Gobind Singh Ji founded the order of the Khalsa during Vaisakhi 1699.

Guru Granth Sahib: The Sikh scripture, written in poetry organized in 31 sections, with each section corresponding to a particular melodic scale, or raag. It includes the poetry of six Sikh Gurus, and 36 other saints, including Muslims and Hindus. It is 1430 pages long and is the embodiment of the spiritual knowledge and authority of all the Gurus. The words from the Guru Granth Sahib are the central focus at all Sikh Gurdwaras. It is used by Sikhs for meditation, guidance, comfort, and inspiration.

Guru Hargobind: The 6th Guru of the Sikhs. Following the martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, he was the first Guru to maintain a standing army and symbolically wear two swords, representing spiritual and temporal power. Responsible for the construction of the Akal Takht.

Guru Har Krishan: The 8th Guru of the Sikhs, who was only 5 years old when he became Guru in 1661. He died three years later.

Guru Nanak: The founder of the Sikh faith. Born in 1469, he began his mission by proclaiming that there is "neither Hindu nor Muslim," stressing common truths fundamental to diverse faiths. He preached against caste and advocated the equality of women.

Guru Panth: Literally "Guru’s path." The name used by Sikhs to describe the worldwide Sikh community.

Guru Teg Bahadur: The 9th Guru of the Sikhs, who was killed by Mughal rulers in 1675 for defending Hindus facing forcible conversion to Islam.

Gyani: - Knowledgeable one, a learned Sikh


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Harimandir Sahib: Literally "Temple of God." The Punjabi name for the Golden Temple.

Haumai: The self-centeredness (ego) of a human, which can only be overcome through mediatation on God’s name (naam).

Hikmat: - Medicine

Hukam: Literally "divine will." A decree by a high authority. Can also refer to a passage from the Guru Granth Sahib, selected by randomly opening the Sikh scripture during a daily ceremony. The passage is considered by Sikhs as the divine "command of the Guru" for the day.


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Ishnaan: - The act of washing/ritual immersion

Ishtadev: - The sagun form of Aatmdev


J

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Jain:, Jainism: - Indian religion that holds the virtue of ahimsa (non-destruction) paramount

Jathedar: A leader of Sikh volunteers. Also refers to the appointed leader of one of the five Sikh takhats.

Jo (Sach / Gurbani) Bole So Nihaal: it is part of the traditional greeting used by the followers of the Sikh religion. Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal is the Sikh slogan or

jaikara (literally shout of victory, triumph or exultation). It is divided in two parts or phrases. The first, bole so nihal or jo bole so nihal, is a statement meaning “whoever utters (the phrase following) shall be happy, shall be fulfilled,” and the second part sat sri akal (Eternal is the Holy/Great Timeless Lord).

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Kacha: Undershorts. One of the five Sikh articles of Utility and faith, given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh, worn by a baptized Sikh.

Kanga: Comb. One of the five Sikh articles of utility and faith, given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh, worn by a baptized Sikh.

Kara: Steel bracelet. One of the five Sikh articles of utility & faith, given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh, worn by a baptized Sikh. Worn as a symbol of devotion

Katha:, Kathakar: - Commentary, one who performs commentary

Kimiya-i-sa’adat: - Classic Taswuf text, abridged and translated into Farsi

Kaum:Same as Panth, A term also used by Sikhs to refer to corporate the Sikh nation or Panth.

Kaur: Literally "princess." The name given to all female Sikhs.

Kesh: Uncut hair. One of the five Sikh articles of faith, given as gifts of love by GOD & affirmed as such by Guru Gobind Singh, worn by Sikhs.

Khalistan: This is the name for a universal kingdom of the "Pure" & truthful human beings or the "Khalsa" and is the target which the Sikhs aspire to achieve. However, with a distorted perspective lately, it has been used to refer to the proposed name for a sovereign Sikh state in Punjab, independent from India.

Khalsa: Literally "belonging only to the divine;" The collective body of all initiated Sikhs, who drink the amrit instituted by Guru Gobind Singh, and agree to live by the highest ideals of Sikh principles. Committed to one's own purity of consciousness and actions.

Khanda: Double-edged sword. When surrounded by a kirpan on each side and a quoit, a symbol of the Khalsa.

Kirpan: Miniature ceremonial sword. One of the five Sikh articles of faith, given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh, worn by a baptized Sikh. Represents the Sikh commitment to Truth and Protection of the innocent

Kirta: Traditional uniform worn by Sikh men.

Kirtan: The devotional singing of sacred hymns, or shabads, from the Guru Granth Sahib, usually accompanied by instruments.

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Langar: Free community kitchen. The devotional meal eaten by the congregation, as part of the religious service. Langar is free and open to all, regardless of religious background. It is an illustration of putting into practice the Sikh belief in the equality of all humanity, and the rejection of the Hindu caste system, which forbade people of different castes from eating together.


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Mahasamadhi: - Lit. Great immersion, denoting death of a spiritually enlightened individual

Mala: - A rosary

Manjh: - A plant used by the Sewapanthis to make rope

Maryada: - Lit. rememberance of death, the prescribed code of conduct

Masnavi: - Rumi’s masterpiece written in farsi, lauded by the legendary Sufi ‘Jami as ‘The Qur’an in Persian’

Murti: - Lit. ‘form’

Matha taykna: Bowing down and touching the floor with one’s forehead in front of the Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs do not bow before the book as some type of idol worship. By bowing, Sikhs are submitting themselves to the scripture, and the knowledge and true words of God contained therein. Sikhs perform matha taykna as they enter the main hall. Most worshippers opt to place a donation in front of the scripture before bowing, which is used for the management of the gurdwara.

Maya: Literally "delusion." Sikh theology explains that everything in this world is an illusion, and that the only true reality is Waheguru. A person affected by maya is described, in the Sikh scripture, as suffering from the delusion of believing that those things which are fleeting and impermanent are worth pursuing. A person attached to maya cannot escape the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, which is the goal of every Sikh. A Sikh strives to avoid rebirth through living a meritous life of honest work, service to others, and remembrance of God’s name.

Mahants:

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Naam: Name. The divine name of God.

Naam Simran: Remembering God's name through meditation. This is a seminal form of worship for Sikhs. The continual remembrance of Naam

Nirmala: - Literally one without blemish, a traditional Sikh order of scholar saints

Nishkam: - Without desire

Nitnem: The daily Sikh prayers. Sikhs recite prayers three times a day.

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Operation Blue Star: The Indian army attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar and other gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana and Himachel Pradesh in June 1984.


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Paaras Bhag: - Punjabi translation of Kimiya-i-sa’adat

Parampara: - Lineage

Pir: - Sufi master

Puratan: - Lit. pertaining to the puranas, used to denote something that is old or ancient

Panj Piare: "Five beloved ones;" Five Amritdhari Sikhs. Often refers to the first five initiated Sikhs, during the Vaisakhi celebrations of 1699, who volunteered to give up their lives as a sign of their faith and love for their Guru. Currently, panj piare are necessary to perform baptisms, make important corporate decisions, and officiate over special occasions.

Panth: The Sikh community.

Patit: A lapsed Sikh who has been initiated into the Khalsa, but failed to observe the Khalsa code of conduct.

Prakash: A short ceremony performed when the Guru Granth Sahib is formally opened everyday.

Pahul: or Amrit Sanskar, is the name given in the Sikh tradition to the Baptism ceremony which is also known as the initiation ceremony into the Khalsa "brotherhood". The word Pahul or Puhul is a derivative from a substantive, "pahu" — meaning an agent which brightens, accelerates or sharpens the potentialities of a given object.

In the history of the Sikh faith, the initiation ceremony has passed through two distinct phases. From the time of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder up to 1699, charan amrit or "pagpahul" was the custom. Charanamrit and pagpahul meant initiation by water touched by the Master’s toe

Punjab: Literally "five rivers." Fertile, agriculturally productive region in South Asia which today is divided between India and Pakistan. Birthplace of the Sikh religious tradition. Name of state in both India and Pakistan.

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Qazi: - One learned in Islamic law, Shariat


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Raag Vidiya: - The science of ‘raag’ or Hindustani sangeet

Rehit: - Code of conduct

Roop: - Form

Rumi, Jalluludin: - Legendary Sufi poet, and figurehead of the Mevlevi suf tariqat

Raag: A term used in Indian classical music to refer to a series of five or more notes upon which a melody is based. The poetic works in the Guru Granth Sahib are categorized according to the raag in which they are sung.

Ragi: A musician who is trained in performing kirtan.

Rehat Maryada: A formalized code of conduct setup by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru for the Khalsa way of life.

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Sadh Sangat: - Congregation of saadhs or ones devoted to truth

Saafa: - A head-wrapping made of a piece of cloth

Sahit: - Writings

Samparadaya/Samparda: - Order

Sant: - A spiritually realized Sikh, often living as virakat

Santhya: - The study of correct pronunciation and meaning

Santokh: - Contentment

Sat: - Context-specific; here it means Truth

Sattva Guna: - One of the three qualities posed in the Samkhya darsana, meaning calmness, balance, purity, etc

Satsang: - True congregation

Shaant Ras: - Essence of peace

Sewapanthi: - One who takes the path of service

Sangat: Literally translated "community." A Sikh congregation. Believed to be an essential aspect of living a spiritual and God-centered life. Also called Sadh Sangat, "holy congregation".

Sant Sipahi: Literally "saint-soldiers." Guru Hargobind decreed that Sikhs should be both devout followers of the teachings of the Gurus, while being prepared to take up arms for self-defense and defense of the oppressed.

Sat Sri Akal: A common Sikh greeting, meaning "God is True and Timeless."

Seva: Community service. A central aspect of Sikh theology; Selfless service, which is believed to bring one closer to God.

Shabad: Literally "word." A sacred Sikh hymn from the Sikh scriptures.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.): Established in 1920, this elected governance committee, located in Amritsar, is responsible for the administration of gurdwaras in India.

Sikh: Literally "student, disciple." According to the Sikh Rehat Maryada, a Sikh is someone who believes in God, the ten Sikh Gurus, in the Guru Granth Sahib, in the importance of the Khalsa initiation, and in no other religion; "Seeker of Truth"

Singh: Literally means lion. The name given to all male Sikhs.

Sirjanhaar]:

Sukhasan: A short ceremony performed when the Guru Granth Sahib is formally closed everyday.

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Takhat: Literally "throne." One of five centers of Sikh secular authority.

Tapasya: - The practice of ‘making heat’ – the performance of austerities for spiritual gain

Tasuwuf: - Arabic term for Sufism

Tikana: - Lit. a place

Tika: - A commentary, corrupted term is ‘steek’

Topi]]: - Hat


Turban: A cloth covering of the head. Worn as a sign of devotion to God.

Tyaagi: - One who has forsaken everything

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Udasi: - Detachment, one of the four traditional Sikh samprada-s

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Vaishnav: - The panth of Vishnu and his incarnations (avtarvad)

Vairagya: - Here meaning indifferent detachment

Vadabhagee:

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh!: Traditional Sikh greeting, which means "My Purity belongs to God, My Victory belongs to God."

Vaisakhi: A spring harvest festival in Punjab, usually held around April 13 (14 April, since 1999). It holds special significance for Sikhs, as it serves as a time to commemorate the founding of the Khalsa in 1699. It is wrongly considered the beginning of the Sikh new year as the Sikh new year in the Nanakshahi Calendar begins in Chet which correspondence to mid-March not mid-April. It is a time of religious observances and festive celebration.

[[Vedant - Lit. Veda – end, denoting the Upanishads found at the end of each Veda

Vivek: - Here meaning correct discrimination and subsequent knowledge and understanding

Vichar: - Thoughts of truth

Vichar Mala: - An Advait Vedantic text writtern by Pandit Anath Das ji

Vidiya: - Knowledge, a science

Vidyala: - A school in which Vidya is taught

Virakat: - Literally, in Sanskrit means ‘carefree living’; meaning an unmarried, renunciate

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Waheguru: Literally "the wonderful Lord"; the Gurmantar given to Sikhs by Guru Sahib, meant to be recited while meditating.

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Yog Vasistha: - The classic vedantic scripture narrated by Rishi Vasistha


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