Sikh Basic & Misconceptions

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Considering that the Sikhs are one of the most visible of communities there is a surprising lack of knowledge and understanding about them. Let us look at the basics and dispel some common mistakes and misconceptions about Sikhs and Sikhism.

A Sikh is a person who believes in teachings of ten Gurus encapsulated in SatGurBani – the lineage begins with Guru Nanak Dev Ji born in 1469, and concludes with Guru Gobind Singh Ji who ascended to Gods abode SachKand in 1708. The teaching of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and his successors concerning liberation through remembrance of the divine Name are incorporated in the holy scriptures known as the Aadh Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Sikhs also acknowledge the practice of naam-simram to be mandatory, though for some the acknowledgment may be implicit and the actual practice rudimentary.

The building which houses the Guru Granth Sahib Ji is called a Gurdwara and all Sikhs acknowledge the sanctity that the scriptures confers on it. They also recognise the role of the gurdwara in expressing the anti-caste ideals of the Gurus. This is done through the distribution of karah-parshaad and the institution of langar.

Those who acknowledge allegiance to Guru Nanak Dev Ji and his successors constitute the community originally known as Nanak-panth but now is simply called Panth. During the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji members of the Panth were summoned to accept initiation into the Khalsa order and therefore to observe its code of discipline, the Rehat. Prominent among the many features of the Rehat are a series of obligations which include the Five K’s. Two particularly conspicuous items are the prohibition of hair -cutting and a rigorous ban on any type of intoxication what so ever. Smoking was a real nuisence of Gurus' time, hence in a way stands out of the list.

Shortly before the ascension of Guru Gobind Singh Ji to heaven, Guru Ji declared the line of personal Gurus to be at an end and transferred the authority to Adi Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the Khalsa Panth.

Traditional Sikhs believe that the Guru Panth consists exclusively of initiated members of the Khalsa. They consider these statements as the authentic commandments of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and although a proportion do not actually undergo initiation into the Khalsa they will at least observe the basic requirements of the Rehat.

Those who have undergone initiation are known as amrit-dhari Sikhs. If they have not been initiated but still accept at least the fundamentals of the Rehat they are regarded as Kes-dhari Sikhs. Acceptance must include the ban of cutting hair. Those Sikhs who are not kes-dhari and who do not follow the Rehat are known as Sahaj-dhari Sikhs, slow learners.

Sikhs reject the claim that they are a variety of Hinduism.

Sikhs are heirs to a history and a fund of tradition which they regard as a continuing source of guidance and inspiration. Although most Sikhs are Punjabis, the Panth is open to any who accept its doctrines and practices. Sikhism is not a religion of “you are either with us or against us.” It is a faith where we are all Human Beings belonging to one HUMANITY and as per commandments of TRUTH god must live together in peace.

There are four castes of Hindus and four sects of Muslims in the world. The Hindus make pilgrimage to Hardvar and Banaras, the Muslim to the Kaaba of Mecca. Circumcision is dear to the Muslims, sandal mark (tilak) and sacred thread to the Hindus.

The Hindus invoke Ram, the Muslims, Rahim, but in reality there is only One God. Since they have forgotten the Vedas and the Katebas, worldly greed and devil have led them astray.

Truth hidden from both; the brahmins and maulvis kill one another by their animosities. Neither shall find liberation from transmigration. (Guru Nanak dev Ji in SatGurBani.)

1. Sikhs are the same as Muslims or Arabs.

Sikhs must not be confused with muslims, it is difficult for people from the west to distinguish between different ethnic groups of people from the east. Due to recent events and to the great dismay of Sikhs all over the world they have been mistaken for muslims with tragic consequences, two Sikhs have been shot dead in the USA and many many more harassed. This is due to images of muslims wearing beards and turbans. The reality is that 95% of all men with turbans and beards are Sikhs. While it is true that some Muslims wear turbans, the majority of people in the world wearing a turban are Sikhs. Sikh males, and even some females, wear a turban to keep their long, uncut hair neat. Muslims, even those who wear turbans cut their hair. While orthodox Muslim males wear a particular style of trimmed beard, an adult Sikh male's beard is full and uncut. In addition, Sikhs do not profess the Muslim religion.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji said "There is no Hindu, there is no Mussulman." By this Guru Sahib was not belittling these faiths, but saying that in the eyes of God all are the same.

 	The Q'uran holds no significance for a Sikh.
 	Fasting holds no relevance to a Sikh.
 	Circumcision holds no relevance to a Sikh.
 	Sikhs do not go in for ritual slaughter of innocent animals.
 	Sikhs do not face in any particular direction, east or west, when praying.

Sikhs do not hold any significance in ritual shaving of the head, in fact removing of hair is forbidden in Sikhism.

One commonly encounters the insistent claim that Sikhism owes much to Islam and specifically to the Sufi tradition. Some have carried this theory to the point of claiming that Sikhism can be treated as an example of conscious syncretism, one which deliberately tried to blend Hindu and Muslim ideals. This claim can be dismissed, it is true there are parallels of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teaching and Sufism but that can be traced to Bhaghti sources. Guru Nanak Dev Ji certainly chose Muslim terminology in a few shabads, but only because the shabads were addressed to a Muslim audience.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji viewed both Hindu traditions and Islam in a typical Sant manner. In there conventional form, both offered systems of belief and practices which largely relied on external authorities and outward responses. As such both were to be condemned. Only those who perceived the inner reality of truth could achieve deliverance and this end could be attained regardless of whether one was a Hindu or Muslim. Those who follow this inner path are the true believers as opposed to the false believers who continue to put trust in ritual and pilgrimage, Barhamins and Mullas.

Guru Ji used this true false theme in many shabads, one being in a shalok from Var Manjh :

Make mercy your mosque and devotion your prayer mat, righteousness your Qur’an. Meekness your circumcising, goodness your fasting, for thus the true Muslim expresses his faith. Make good works your Ka’bah, take truth as your pir, compassion your creed and your prayer. Let service to God be the beads which you tell and God will exalt you to glory.

This is classic Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s approach, typical both in terms of its insistent interior emphasis and its striking use of imagery.

Sikhs do not believe in a last prophet. There have been many men of God who have put people on the path of the Almighty and there will be many more. Who are we to put a stop on the Almighty’s will? If He wishes he will send down as many prophets as he likes.

Sikhs do not believe in a judgement day when all dead people will rise and be judged. We are judged every single day, every single second of every minute of every hour and meted out judgement as appropriate. If a person dies and is buried in the ground his decomposed body will release it's material into the earth. That material may get into the food chain and be consumed by another person. On this ‘judgement day’ who will rise from the dead to be judged? The first person or the second person and how can the first person rise if he is now part of the second person?

 	First Mehl:

The clay of the Muslim's grave becomes clay for the potter's wheel. Pots and bricks are fashioned from it, and it cries out as it burns. The poor clay burns, burns and weeps, as the fiery coal fall upon it. O Nanak, the Creator created the creation; the Creator Lord alone knows. ||2|| Guru Nanak Dev Ji

What Sikhism teaches and what other faiths teach are separate paths. The aim of most other faiths is to reach heaven and avoid hell with devils and Shaitans to way lay you and put you off your path. ‘They’ are the only people who will reach heaven and non else. Some promise hourries, fairy maidens to satisfy your every whim with wine to drink, golden palaces to reside in and servants at your beck and call. Sikhism neither wants nor needs any of these enticements. All Sikhs want is to merge with the one True Lord from whence we have come, as a drop of water merges with the ocean. Merging with the almighty liberates one from the circle of life and death and salvation is achieved by the grace of Waheguru.

As for Christianity, Sikhs do not believe that the Almighty sent down his son who will take all your sins upon himself only if you believe in him. You are the perpetrator of your sins and only you will have to answer for them. Of course if you submit to the will of God and ask for forgiveness then God as your true father will forgive all your misdemeanours. There is no one person or faith that has a monopoly on salvation.

2 . Did Guru Nanak Dev Ji not have a robe with quotes from the Q'uran ?

Guru Nanak Dev Ji traveled east to Nepal and the Himalayas visiting sacred centers of the Hindus on the way like Benaras and Hardwar. On an another udassi (journey) Guru Ji traveled south to Sri Lanka again visiting many places of learning. On a separate journey to the west Guru Nanak Dev Ji with Mardana traveled to Bhagdad and Mecca, not as a pilgrimage as some would suggest but on Gods mission to spread Gods word and to put people on the path of righteousness.

On Guru Ji's travels through Bhagdad, Mardana would play the rabab and Guru Sahib Ji would sing about the infiniteness of God and His Creation, wherein occurred the following expression: “ patala patal, lakha aghasa aghaas” - there are countless patals (earths) and innumerable akashs (sky). Which goes contrary to Muslim belief, as they only know of 7 earths and skys, When some Muslim who was listening to it and understood its purport went and reported the blasphemy of the utterance - inasmuch as the Qu'ran had mentioned only seven earths and seven skies - to the Sajjdanashin of the Shrine of Pir Dastagir, Abdul Qadir Jilani an agitated crowd gathered on the spot. The people were on the verge of throwing stones when they heard the Guru’s divine invocation. The sweet words of God entered their ears and the people in remorse of their actions went to their Pir and told him of the presence of a holy man.

The Pir, having reached the place, enquired from Mardana who the holy man was. He was told that he was Nanak who had rejected all others except one God who was all pervading on earth, sky and in all four directions. Guru Nanak Dev Ji stayed for a number of days and the people flocked to his side eagerly listening to the word of God. Guru Sahib Ji had many discourses with the local holy men.

One day Guru Sahib Ji was sleeping and his feet were towards the Kaaba. When challenged by the local Imam, Guru Ji replied “point my feet where God is not.” The local Imam ashamed of his actions asked Guru Sahib Ji to do kalma with him. As the Imam started his kalma Guru Ji did not. Guru Ji asked him “What is the use of meaningless ritual when your mind is somewhere else trying to work out how to get the best price for your horses.” Guru Ji had no need for kalma for he sang the Almighty's name 24/7.

Before his departure from there he was presented a chola (robe) as a token of respect on which verses in arabic were inscribed. This chola lies preserved in the Gurdwara at Dera Baba Nanak, in Pakistan. The chola was given to Guru Sahib Ji by his devotees in Bagdhad and there was no alterier motive, Guru Sahib Ji took it in the spirit in which it was given. Pir Babhol, a Sufi saint was deeply influenced by Guru Nanak Dev.

3. Sikhs are Hindus or Sikhism is a Hindu sect.

Sikhism and Hinduism are distinctly separate religions. Hinduism believes in caste distinctions, worships idols, and astrologic divination. Most Hindus are not monotheist, that is, they worship a god or goddess from a large array of deities. Sikhs on the other hand believe in the equality of all persons of both genders, do not believe one day to be more auspicious than another, and worship One, timeless God who is beyond birth and death.

  • Although respected, the Vedas, Puranas, Shastras (Hindu scriptures) hold no relevance to Sikhs.
  • Sikhs do not believe in fasting
  • Sikhs do not believe in the tilak and jineu, marks of the Hindu
  • Sikhs do not believe in high caste or low, all are one in the eyes of the Lord.
  • Sikhs do not hold any significance in ritual shaving of the head, in fact removing of hair id forbidden in Sikhism.
  • Sikhs reject of Idol worship
  • Mythology has no place what so ever in Sikhism
  • Sikhs discard Vedic deities like Brahama, Shivji and Vishnu etc as part of Hindu Mythology.

You may bathe and wash, and apply a ritualistic tilak mark to your forehead, but without inner purity, there is no understanding. ||6|| Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Raag Raamkalee. p903

Guru Gobind Singh Ji explores the austerities carried out mostly by Hindus and concludes that they are of no avail.

  • A Sikh has only ONE faith i. e. True Lord in his heart.
  • swine eats filth, elephants and donkeys bespatter themselves with dust.
  • Jackals live at places of cremation.
  • Owls live in tombs, deer wander alone in the forests, trees ever die in silence;
  • The man who re-straineth his seed should only have the credit of the hermaphrodite
  • Monkeys ever wander bare-footed.
  • They who eat grass and renounce the desire of wealth are no more then calves and oxen.
  • They who engage in meditation resemble cranes, cates and wolves
  • For grazing on akk, eating fruits and flowers, and ever wandering in the forests, there is no animal like the goat.
  • In the cold season the jackal barketh five times. and the elephant and donkey utter various cries
  • If anyone were by repeating Gods name to obtain God (who cannot be obtained just by lip-worship), then the warbler ever uttereth "Tu hi ! Tu hi ! (would have obtained salvation)"

The Akal Ustat from Dasam Granth

  • The Lord Akal creates millions of Krishna, annihilates them and recreates them.
  • Some hang stones as gods around their necks, while others erroneously call Mahesh 'God'
  • I have discarded all these false religions and am of the firm view that He who is the creator of the Universe, is the only Lord.
  • Everyone is caught in the noose of Death, no Rama or prophet can escape from it. All of them who made grand claims of being Avtars of God died repentant. Why doest not thou, O, hapless being seek the shelter of the One Lord. (15th swayya) Dasam Granth

Even the ancient Hindu books only deal with those in the varn jati. Anyone outside this so called fluidity is a malesh. No matter if a Muslim has been a pious person all his life, never lied and always remembered Allah, in Hindu scriptures he/she will be a malesh. Punjabis are malesh just for residing in punjab according to the gita because they never accepted a Brahmin’s superiority.

4 . Did the Gurus not write about Hindu deities ?

It is indeed correct that Hindu deities are mentioned many times in Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Dasam Granth Ji and it is true that in many shabads (hymns) they are shown great respect, but it does not follow that the Hindu deities are revered in any way. In fact the deities – Brahman, Vishnu, Shiv Ji, Parvati, Hanuman – are shown to be spiritually higher life forms but who have flaws and are influenced by Maya/illusion, ego and the vices.

Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Dasam Granth Ji both mention Avtar/incarnations of past ages. God who is Nirgun (He has all qualities so He is without any single quality, hence Nir(no) Guna(Quality)) to restore order in his manifestation, the whole universe(s), from time to time will take the form of mighty men and women, who display some of his qualities, which is called Saguna - Sa(with) Guna (Qualities). So as per Dasham Granth Ji Saguna forms were described to show the might of Nirguna. The ultimate power is God - AkalPurkh, Waheguru, Paarbrahm, Ram, Allah - what ever you want to call Him, He has many names, and only Sikhism respects all great Saguna Saroops (forms) of God in all faiths.

First and foremost the Gurus remind us that the deities were all created (and will be destroyed) by the Almighty. This shows clearly that the Gurus had respect but in no way revered the deities.

 	So many winds, waters and fires; so many Krishnas and Shivas. Guru Nanak Dev Ji Japji.
 	He created air, water and fire, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - the whole creation. Guru Nanak Dev Ji
 	The realm of Shiva, the realms of Brahma and Indra as well - no place anywhere is permanent.

Guru Arjun dev ji.

The Gurus remind us time and again that the gods and goddesses have meditated for eons but still have not understood the secret of the Almighty.

 	Shiva, Brahma and all the silent sages cannot understand the state of the Lord. Guru Arjun Dev Ji
 	The wise one, Shiva, remains absorbed in himself, but he is engrossed in dark passions and excessive egotism. ||2|| Guru Amar Daas Ji Raag Vadhans p559
 	Shiva meditates through lakhs of methods (postures) but still could not recognise the form, hue and guise of the Lord.
 	Vishnu incarnated himself through lakhs of creatures but he could not recognise even a bit of that Lord. Var18.

Beings like Sanak, Sanand, Shiva and Shaysh-naaga - none of them know Your mystery, Lord. ||1|| Bhagat Kabeer Ji Raag Dhanaasree p691

In the following shabad Guru Arjun Dev Ji describes Maya – illusion. Maya has the whole world in her embrace and even the mighty gods and goddesses cannot escape her.

 	Aasaa, Fifth Mehl:

A frown creases her forehead, and her look is evil. Her speech is bitter, and her tongue is rude. She is always hungry, and she believes her Husband to be far away. ||1|| Such is Maya, the woman, which the One Lord has created. She is devouring the whole world, but the Guru has saved me, O my Siblings of Destiny. Administering her poisons, she has overcome the whole world. She has bewitched Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Only those Gurmukhs who are attuned to the Naam are blessed. ||2|| Performing fasts, religious observances and atonements, the mortals have grown weary. They wander over the entire planet, on pilgrimages to the banks of sacred rivers. But they alone are saved, who seek the Sanctuary of the True Guru. ||3|| Attached to Maya, the whole world is in bondage. The foolish self-willed manmukhs are consumed by their egotism. Taking me by the arm, Guru Nanak has saved me. ||4||2||96||

Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Raag Aasaa p394

The deities are chastised for not putting people on the path of the one Almighty but rather making them their own devotees.

Those who serve Shiva and Brahma do not find the limits of the Lord. Guru Amar Daas Ji. Raag Gujri p516

This is not to say that the Gurus did not write about the deities with warmth and affection.

 	The true Vaishnaav, the devotee of Vishnu, is the one with whom God is thoroughly pleased.

He dwells apart from Maya. Performing good deeds, he does not seek rewards. Spotlessly pure is the religion of such a Vaishnaav; he has no desire for the fruits of his labours. He is absorbed in devotional worship and the singing of Kirtan, the songs of the Lord's Glory. Within his mind and body, he meditates in remembrance on the Lord of the Universe. He is kind to all creatures. He holds fast to the Naam, and inspires others to chant it. O Nanak, such a Vaishnaav obtains the supreme status. ||2||Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Raag Gauree p274

Guru Nanak Dev Ji describes the wonders of Akal Purkh and mentions that even Vishnu and Brahma could not comprehend the vastness of the Lord.

 	Gujari, First Mehl:

From the lotus of Vishnu's navel, Brahma was born; He chanted the Vedas with a melodious voice. He could not find the Lord's limits, and he remained in the darkness of coming and going. ||1|| Why should I forget my Beloved? He is the support of my very breath of life. The perfect beings perform devotional worship to Him. The silent sages serve Him through the Guru's Teachings. ||1||Pause|| His lamps are the sun and the moon; the One Light of the Destroyer of ego fills the three worlds. One who becomes Gurmukh remains immaculately pure, day and night, while the self-willed manmukh is enveloped by the darkness of night. ||2|| The Siddhas in Samaadhi are continually in conflict; what can they see with their two eyes? One who has the Divine Light within his heart, and is awakened to the melody of the Word of the Shabad - the True Guru settles his conflicts. ||3|| O Lord of angels and men, infinite and unborn, Your True Mansion is incomparable. Nanak merges imperceptibly into the Life of the world; shower Your mercy upon him, and save him. ||4||2|| Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Raag Gujri. Pannaa 489

Bhagat Kabir Ji whose hymns are found in Guru Granth Sahib Ji says :

 	Raag Dhanaasaree, The Word Of Devotee Kabeer Jee:

One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru: Beings like Sanak, Sanand, Shiva and Shaysh-naaga - none of them know Your mystery, Lord. ||1|| In the Society of the Saints, the Lord dwells within the heart. ||1||Pause|| Beings like Hanumaan, Garura, Indra the King of the gods and the rulers of humans - none of them know Your Glories, Lord. ||2|| The four Vedas, the Simritees and the Puraanas, Vishnu the Lord of Lakshmi and Lakshmi herself - none of them know the Lord. ||3|| Says Kabeer, one who falls at the Lord's feet, and remains in His Sanctuary, does not wander around lost. ||4||1|| Bhagat Kabeer Ji in Raag Dhanaasree on Pannaa 691

Only Sikhism acknowledges that there are many paths to the Almighty and respect other faiths.

The followers of the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran, standing at Your Door, meditate on You. Uncounted are those who fall at Your Door. Brahma meditates on You, as does Indra on his throne. Shiva and Vishnu, and their incarnations, chant the Lord's Praise with their mouths, as do the Pirs, the spiritual teachers, the prophets and the Shaykhs, the silent sages and the seers. Through and through, the Formless Lord is woven into each and every heart. One is destroyed through falsehood; through righteousness, one prospers. Whatever the Lord links him to, to that he is linked. ||2||Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Raag Gujri on Pannaa 518

Guru Gobind Singh Ji in his Dasam Granth has written many compositions that tell the lives of deities worshipped by Hindus. It is their misunderstanding (intentional or unintentional) that the Guru Ji revered or worshipped the deities.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji had faith in the one almighty God and him alone. The opening of every composition in the Dasam Granth is a homage in praise of the one formless God, in the case of his autobiography, Bachittar Natak, the first quarter of the composition is in praise of God. The compositions Jaap Sahib and Akal Ustat (Eulogy to God), which being the Dasam Granth, are totally in praise of the Amlighty. As for the compositions Var Bhagauti Ki (Chandi di Var – composition re-telling the story of the goddess Durgas battle with the demons) and Chaubis Avtar ( the telling of the twenty four incarnations of Vishnu which include Bhagwan Krishan Ji, Sri Ram Chandar Ji, Macch Avatar, Kacch Avatar and Kalki Avatar) again the first part is in praise of the Almighty. So the notion that somehow Guru Sahib Ji revered or worshiped these deities is totally false.

Here is the start of Var Bhagauti Ki. Var Bhagauti Ki First and foremost I remember Bhauguti Ji (God) and then set my mind on Guru Nanak. Then I seek the help of Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Das. Arjan, Hargobind and (Guru) Har Rai be remembered. Sri Harkrishan be meditated upon whose mere glimpse removes all sorrows. (Guru) Tegh Bahadur be remembered as it causes the home to flourish. They all help me at all times. The Lord first created Khanda, the double edged sword and then his manifest world. Having created Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, He created the entire play of Kudrat (manifest world). He created the oceans, mountains, earth and sky which stands above, unsupported by any pillars. He created both gods(deities) and demons and then created polemic. It was You who created Durga so as to destroy the demons. Rama also took strength from you to kill Ravan with his arrow. Krishan also got strength from You and thus threw down Kansa by his hair.

Many great deities and ascetics underwent hard austerities, but none could fathom thy greatness.

5 . Was the Singh Sabha Movement just a front for the British government ?

In the mid ninteenth century the Christian missionaries were gaining ground within the Sikhs with the partonage of the British rulers. The Hindus under the Arya Samaj Movement were also making rapid strides into the Punjab. To counter these threats the enlightened section of the sikh community launched from Amritsar a revivalist movement known as the Singh Sabha Movement in 1873 to counter the conversions of of Sikhs. There were two sections one in Lahore and the original in Amritsar. Notable Sikh thinkers included Professor Gurmukh Singh, Bhai Ditt Singh, Bhai Kanh Singh (of Nabha), Sunder Singh and Bhai Vir Singh Ji. With the efforts of these Sikhs the Sikh faith was restored to its original Khalsa tradition and pristine purity. The movement battled against British rule and to think that these Sikhs colluded with the British is untrue.

6. Sikhism is a derivative religion from Islam and Hinduism.

Sikhism originated from the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Guru Ji obtained his message direct from the One Timeless Lord and sought to put the masses on to the righteous path towards realisation of God through meditation, sharing the fruits of your honest work and loving your fellow man, it is in no way derivative of any philosophy or religious thought. Guru Ji, on one hand sought to show the people the futility of the Caste system, of idol worship of inequality of the genders so inherent in Hinduism, and on the other, the cruelty of aggressive and forcible conversions and the inhumane treatment of ones fellow man.

7. Sikhism was created to defend the downtrodden Hindus and Hinduism.

Sikhism was not created to defend any religious group, Sikhism is a path to realisation of God. Pressure from government sources during the times of the last six Gurus led to the development of a Sikh army for self-defense. A Sikh is taught to stand against injustice from whatever source and to defend the weak and downtrodden, no matter what their religious affiliation. In the armies of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji there were many from a whole spectrum of religious beliefs, from Muslims to Hindus.

8. Sikhs are a martial race, that they are a violent people.

The "martial race" theory is a colonial construct that was created and propagated by the British who recruited large numbers of so called "martial races," the Sikhs, Gurkhas, Rajputs, etc., for service in the British army. Sikhs by and large are creative, gainfully employed & a very hard working law abiding group. Guru Gobind Singh famously stated that only after all other means are exhausted it is right to take to the sword. During the struggle to gain independence from the British Raj it was the Sikhs who lead peaceful, unarmed demonstrations such as the Jaito Morcha in 1924, even though they were fired upon by British forces. Ghandi was inspired to start his demonstrations after seeing the effectiveness of these peaceful marches by the Sikhs.

9. What type of names do Sikhs have ?

Most Sikh names apply equally to men and women, the distinguishing feature is 'Singh' after a mans first name and 'Kaur' after a woman's. Traditional Sikh names normally end in the suffix

 	- inder , as in Rajinder, Jatinder and Sukhinder.
 	- pal , as in Kirnpal, Pritpal and Rajpal.
 	- deep , as in Kirndeep, Jasdeep and Mandeep.
 	- preet , as in Harpreet, Jaspreet and Sukhpreet.

There are names that do not fall into this pattern, for example - Kushvant, Keertan, Prishant and Bhavanjot.

10. Khalsa means "pure".

The word Khalsa means both "pure" and "belonging only to God". The Khalsa was created by the tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh Ji on Vaisakhi day 1699.When a committed Sikh is initiated he or she becomes a member of a spiritual order called Khalsa. A Khalsa belongs only to God.

11. Sikhs don't eat beef.

Some Sikhs eat any type of meat, some do not eat beef and some believe that Sikhs should not eat any meat or meat products. Sikhs who have been initiated into the order of the Khalsa by the Amrit ceremony are strictly forbidden to eat any type of meat which has been ritually slaughtered (e.g. Halal or Kosher)

12. Sikhs are allowed to drink alcohol.

The Sikh Code of Conduct states, "A Sikh must not take hemp, opium, liquor, tobacco, or any intoxicant." At the time of initiation, a Sikh vows not to use any intoxicant. Drinking alcohol is forbidden for Sikhs.

13. The Sikh kirpan is a weapon. Sikh men hide kirpans in their turbans

The kirpan is one of the five articles of Sikh faith. It is mandatory for Khalsa to wear the kirpan. The kirpan is a symbol of a Sikhs' commitment to protect the weak and to promote justice. Sikh men DO NOT hide the kirpan in their turban. The kirpan is commonly worn in a cloth holster on the right shoulder under ones clothing.

14. Women are subservient to men.

Sikhism recognizes the complete equality between men and women in all spheres of life. In order that Sikhs would not follow the prevailing system which divided people into immutable castes, the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, gave all Sikh women the last name "Kaur" (meaning princess) and all Sikh men the last name "Singh" (meaning lion).

 	It is through woman that order is maintained. Then why call her inferior from whom all great ones are born. Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p 473

At birth a Sikh girl is immediately “our darling” to her mother and father. Later, she becomes admired by her brothers and sisters and favoured by her relatives. On attaining to “ the bloom of youth” she is wedding with costly gifts and presents. Now, respected by her husbands family and deemed lucky in her new household, she regarded as the equal of her spouse in both virtue and wisdom. She becomes as a doorway to salvation. Such is the verbal portrait of a Guru-inspired And blessed, faithful Sikh woman. Var Bhai Gurdas Ji(5.16)

15. Sikhs are required to practice yoga. Yoga is an integral part of Sikhism.

Yoga is not an inherent or required Sikh religious practice. Some American followers of Sikhism do practice yoga, which, they believe aids their practice of Sikhism.

16 What is the traditional dress of a Sikh ?


The traditional dress of a Sikh is Salwaar Kameez - loose fitting top and bottoms - with a chunni (a large rectangular piece of cloth) to cover the head and draped around the shoulders. This traditional dress is also worn by others from the Indian subcontinent. Therefore the most obvious sign of a Sikh is unshorn hair kept in a bun or platt's, the other being the Kara ( the steel bracelet which forms part of the five K's) worn on the left wrist. All Sikhs, including women are enjoined to wear the five K's including the kirpan at all times.

Amritdhari Sikhs, those that have been baptised by partaking in the Amrit ceremony and are now part of the brotherhood of the Khalsa, may wear a Kasekee (small turban) also.


Traditional dress in northern India is usually the Kurta Pyjama - Loose fitting top and bottoms worn by men. However there is no dress code for Sikhs apart from that they should dress modestly.

Turban. Sikh men who keep the Kesh, uncut hair wear a Turban and keep a full uncut beard.

Some Sikhs, often referred to as "Sehajdhari Sikhs" choose not to keep uncut hair and generally will not wear a turban. However, most will still wear the Kara on their wrist.

Turban Styles:

African style. Pointed apex at the front. Style started by those Sikhs living in Kenya and Uganda.

Indian style. Blunt rounded apex at the front. Style of the Sikhs of India.

Dhamala. A very rounded style altogether. Favoured by Nihangs.

Turban Colour. Turban style or colour has no spiritual significance: White. Favoured by older Sikhs. Black. Favoured by the younger generation. Saffron. The traditional colour of the Sikhs. Red. Normally worn by the groom at the Anand Karaj (wedding) ceremony. Others No significance.

17. Going to visit a Sikh home?

Never take any cigarettes or tobacco to a Sikh house, and never ever ask to smoke. Sikhs are prohibited from smoking and consider smoking as unsociable and dirty. Sikhs are also not allowed to drink alcohol and eat meat, but some do not adhere to these principles. If a Sikh is Amritdhari, then he/she will definitely not consume alcohol, so best not to take a bottle of wine.

When it comes to food Sikhs are very hospitable , so be warned!

If you do not require second helpings of food refuse politely but firmly, but this will generally be ignored and samosa's and onion bhaji's will be piled up on your plate accompanied with "Don't by shy, consider this your home" or "You have hardly started eating, here have some more, and don't by shy."

Asked if you would like to watch an Indian video, politely refuse as you will have to watch the whole three hours. Same applies to wedding videos or else another three hours of your life will be wasted.

18. Going to the Sikh Gurdwara?

The proper name for the Sikh place of worship is the Gurdwara, not temple. Never enter a Gurdwara if you have consumed alcohol or if you have any cigarettes or tobacco on your person. Before entering the Darbar or main hall shoes and socks must be removed and head covered. Heads can be covered with a hat or material shaped like a handkerchief which is available from the Gurdwara. When approaching Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy scriptures, one can bow and place offering of money as a sign of respect then join the Sangat (congregation) seated on the carpeted floor. Most people are not used to sitting cross legged on the floor but be aware that sitting with legs stretched out with feet pointing at the Guru Granth Sahib is disrespectful.

A service at the Gurdwara normally consists of a combination of sermons and singing of shabads (hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib), unless it is a wedding you are attending in which case there is also the Anand Karaj (wedding) ceremony. All ends with the Ardaas, this is a special prayer that is spoken by the Giani (priest) while the Sangat stands with folded hands. This ends with a "Bolay sone hall, sat siri Akal" said by all at the tops of their voices. The blessed pudding of Parsad, is then distributed to all the Sangat who eat with their hands. It is important that no part of the parsad (consisting of floor, semolina, butter, sugar and water) falls on the floor as it has been blessed. It is then off to the dining hall for Langar (blessed lunch). Again it is important that you get only what you intend to eat, as leaving food that is blessed is frowned upon.