Sikhism on Idol Worship
ਤਾਕੌ ਕਰਿ ਪਾਹਨ ਅਨੁਮਾਨਤ ॥ ਮਹਾਂ ਮੂੜ੍ਹ ਕਛੁ ਭੇਦ ਨ ਜਾਨਤ ॥
The fool considers Him a stone, but the great fool does not know any secret; (Guru Gobind Singh, Chopai Sahib)
Idol worship may refer to worship of a cult image or an object that is venerated as the representation of a deity. Sikh Gurus denounced idol worship of all forms. Among other factors, it was believed to be a means for manipulation of the ordinary masses by the priestly castes to keep the power in their hands. Through their writings, the Sikh Gurus and Bhagats rejected such practices, stating them to be fruitless and delusional, and encouraged the people to rather focus their spiritual energies within the self.
References to Idolatry
Guru Granth Sahib
The practice of idol worship is addressed several times by Guru Nanak and Guru Arjan, the two Gurus who contributed the largest number of verses to the Guru Granth Sahib, as well as the Bhagats Kabir and Namdev, whose sums of verses make up the two biggest non-Sikh contributions to the Guru Granth Sahib. The verses of Bhagats, who comprised both Hindus and Muslims, who wrote devotional poetry in a style that was acceptable to the Sikh belief system, were included in the Guru Granth Sahib.
The following quotes do not constitute an exhaustive list.
|ਪੜਿ ਪੁਸਤਕ ਸੰਧਿਆ ਬਾਦੰ ॥
ਸਿਲ ਪੂਜਸਿ ਬਗੁਲ ਸਮਾਧੰ ॥
|You read your books and say your prayers, and then engage in debate;|
you worship stones and sit like a stork, pretending to be in Samadhi.
|ਹਿੰਦੂ ਮੂਲੇ ਭੂਲੇ ਅਖੁਟੀ ਜਾਂਹੀ ॥
ਨਾਰਦਿ ਕਹਿਆ ਸਿ ਪੂਜ ਕਰਾਂਹੀ ॥
|The Hindus have forgotten the Primal Lord; they are going the wrong way.|
As Naarad instructed them, they are worshipping idols.
|ਜਲਿ ਮਲਿ ਕਾਇਆ ਮਾਜੀਐ ਭਾਈ ਭੀ ਮੈਲਾ ਤਨੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਗਿਆਨਿ ਮਹਾ ਰਸਿ ਨਾਈਐ ਭਾਈ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਹੋਇ ॥੫॥
|Rubbing with water, the body is cleaned, but the body again gathers dirt.|
Bathing with the great elixir of gnosis the soul and body are rendered pure.
|ਸਾਹਾ ਗਣਹਿ ਨ ਕਰਹਿ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥
ਸਾਹੇ ਊਪਰਿ ਏਕੰਕਾਰੁ ॥
|You calculate the auspicious days, but you do not understand|
that the One Creator Lord is above these auspicious days.
|ਸਾਲ ਗ੍ਰਾਮ ਬਿਪ ਪੂਜਿ ਮਨਾਵਹੁ ਸੁਕ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਤੁਲਸੀ ਮਾਲਾ ॥
ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਿ ਬੇੜਾ ਬਾਂਧਹੁ ਦਇਆ ਕਰਹੁ ਦਇਆਲਾ ॥੧॥
|O Brahmin, you worship and believe in your stone-god, and wear your ceremonial rosary beads. |
Chant the Name of the Lord. Build your boat, and pray, "O Merciful Lord, please be merciful to me."
|ਘਰਿ ਨਾਰਾਇਣੁ ਸਭਾ ਨਾਲਿ ॥
ਪੂਜ ਕਰੇ ਰਖੈ ਨਾਵਾਲਿ ॥
|In your home, is the Lord God, along with all your other gods.|
You wash your stone gods and worship them.
|ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਨਦਰਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥
ਗਲ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਹਣੁ ਲੈ ਲਟਕਾਵੈ ॥੧॥
|Within the home of his own self, he does not even come to see his Lord and Master.|
And yet, around his neck, he hangs a stone god.
|ਤਟ ਤੀਰਥ ਦੇਵ ਦੇਵਾਲਿਆ ਕੇਦਾਰੁ ਮਥੁਰਾ ਕਾਸੀ ॥
ਕੋਟਿ ਤੇਤੀਸਾ ਦੇਵਤੇ ਸਣੁ ਇੰਦ੍ਰੈ ਜਾਸੀ ॥
|River-banks, sacred shrines, idols, temples, and places of pilgrimage like Kaydarnaat'h, Mat'huraa and Benares, |
the three hundred thirty million gods, along with Indra, shall all pass away.
|ਸਗਲੀ ਥੀਤਿ ਪਾਸਿ ਡਾਰਿ ਰਾਖੀ ॥
ਅਸਟਮ ਥੀਤਿ ਗੋਵਿੰਦ ਜਨਮਾ ਸੀ ॥੧॥
|Setting aside all other days, it is said, |
that the Lord was born on the eighth lunar day. ||1||
|ਜੋ ਪਾਥਰ ਕਉ ਕਹਤੇ ਦੇਵ ॥
ਤਾ ਕੀ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੇਵ ॥
|Those who call a stone their god-|
their service is useless.
|ਪਾਤੀ ਤੋਰੈ ਮਾਲਿਨੀ ਪਾਤੀ ਪਾਤੀ ਜੀਉ ॥
ਜਿਸੁ ਪਾਹਨ ਕਉ ਪਾਤੀ ਤੋਰੈ ਸੋ ਪਾਹਨ ਨਿਰਜੀਉ ॥੧॥
|You tear off the leaves, O gardener, but in each and every leaf, there is life. |
That stone idol, for which you tear off those leaves - that stone idol is lifeless.
|ਪਾਖਾਨ ਗਢਿ ਕੈ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਕੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਦੇ ਕੈ ਛਾਤੀ ਪਾਉ ॥
ਜੇ ਏਹ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਸਾਚੀ ਹੈ ਤਉ ਗੜ੍ਹਣਹਾਰੇ ਖਾਉ ॥੩॥
|The sculptor carves the stone and fashions it into an idol, placing his feet upon its chest. |
If this stone god was true, it would devour the sculptor for this! ||3||
|ਬੁਤ ਪੂਜਿ ਪੂਜਿ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਮੂਏ ਤੁਰਕ ਮੂਏ ਸਿਰੁ ਨਾਈ ॥
ਓਇ ਲੇ ਜਾਰੇ ਓਇ ਲੇ ਗਾਡੇ ਤੇਰੀ ਗਤਿ ਦੁਹੂ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥੧॥
|Worshipping their idols, the Hindus die; the Turks (Muslims) die bowing their heads. |
The Hindus cremate their dead, while the Muslims bury theirs; neither finds Your true state, Lord
|ਕਬੀਰ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਪੂਜਹਿ ਮੋਲਿ ਲੇ ਮਨਹਠਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਜਾਹਿ ॥
ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ ਸ੍ਵਾਂਗੁ ਧਰਿ ਭੂਲੇ ਭਟਕਾ ਖਾਹਿ ॥੧੩੫॥
|Kabir, men purchase and worship the god-idol and through their mind's obstinacy go on pilgrimage. |
Seeing one another, they wear religious robes, go astray and wander at large.
|ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਤ ਸਹਸਾ ਜਾਈ ॥
ਕਿਸੁ ਹਉ ਪੂਜਉ ਦੂਜਾ ਨਦਰਿ ਨ ਆਈ ॥੩॥
|Meeting the True Guru, doubt is dispelled.|
Who else should I worship? I can see no other. ||3||
Guru Gobind Singh
The Dasam Granth, or tenth book, a tome of writings attributed to Guru Gobind Singh compiled after his death, allude to idolatry. The veracity of the Dasam Granth as a whole is the subject of intense debate in Sikhism, but the writings containing the following passages are fairly well established in the Sikh tradition.
|ਇਕ ਬਿਨ ਦੂਸਰ ਸੋ ਨ ਚਿਨਾਰ ॥
ਭੰਜਨ ਗੜ੍ਹਨ ਸਮਰਥ ਸਦਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਜਾਨਤ ਹੈ ਕਰਤਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
|Do not recognize anyone except ONE; |
He is always the Destroyer, the Creator and the Almighty; he the Creator is Omniscient.
|ਕਾਹੂ ਲੈ ਪਾਹਨ ਪੂਜ ਧਰਯੋ ਸਿਰ ਕਾਹੂ ਲੈ ਲਿੰਗ ਗਰੇ ਲਟਕਾਇਓ ॥
ਕਾਹੂ ਲਖਿਓ ਹਰਿ ਅਵਾਚੀ ਦਿਸਾ ਮਹਿ ਕਾਹੂ ਪਛਾਹ ਕੋ ਸੀਸੁ ਨਿਵਾਇਓ ॥
|Someone worshipped a stone and placed it on his head. Someone hung the phallus (lingam) from his neck. |
Someone visualized God in the South (Hindus) and someone bowed his head towards the West (Muslims).
|ਤਾਹਿ ਪਛਾਨਤ ਹੈ ਨ ਮਹਾ ਪਸੁ ਜਾ ਕੋ ਪ੍ਰਤਾਪੁ ਤਿਹੰ ਪੁਰ ਮਾਹੀ ॥
ਪੂਜਤ ਹੈ ਪਰਮੇਸਰ ਕੈ ਜਿਹ ਕੈ ਪਰਸੈ ਪਰਲੋਕ ਪਰਾਹੀ ॥
|O foolish beast! Thou doth not recognize Him, Whose Glory hath spread over all the three worlds. |
Thou worshippest those as God, by whose touch thou shalt be driven far away from the next world.
|ਕਾਹੇ ਕਉ ਪੂਜਤ ਪਾਹਨ ਕਉ ਕਛੁ ਪਾਹਨ ਮੈ ਪਰਮੇਸਰ ਨਾਹੀ ॥
ਤਾਹੀ ਕੋ ਪੂਜ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਕਰਿ ਕੇ ਜਿਹ ਪੂਜਤ ਹੀ ਅਘ ਓਘ ਮਿਟਾਹੀ ॥
|Why do you worship stones, because the Lord-God is not within those stones|
You may only worship Him, whose adoration destroys clusters of sins
The Zafarnama, or letter of victory, was written in Persian to Aurangzeb in 1705 after the battle of Chamkaur. The 95th couplet, in Persian, describing his battles with the Sivalik Hills rajas, reads:
|Persian||Gurmukhi transliteration||Roman transliteration||Translation|
منم کشتہ ام کوہیاں پُرفتن
|ਮਨਮ ਕੁਸ਼ਤਹਅਮ ਕੋਹੀਆਂ ਪੁਰਫਿਤਨ ॥
ਕਿ ਆਂ ਬੁਤ ਪਰਸਤੰਦੋ ਮਨ ਬੁਤਸ਼ਿਕਨ ॥੯੫॥
|Manam kushteham kohiān purfitan,
Ki ān but-parastand o man but-shikan
|I slew the deceitful (rajas) of the hills, |
They are idol worshippers and I am an idol-breaker
The Dabestan-e Mazaheb, an examination and comparison of religions and sects of its time, is believed to have been written by Muhsin Fani, a Zoroastrian Persian, in 1655. The second chapter expounds upon South Asian religious traditions. Included is one of the oldest references to the Sikhs, referred to by the author as Nanak-panthis. Among the first details mentioned of the faith at the time is:
- Nanak-panthis, who are known as Guru-Sikhs or disciples of the Gurus [Nanak and his successors] have no belief in idols and idol-temples.
It goes on to state that:
- In short, the disciples of Nanak condemn idol-worship. Their belief is that all their Gurus are Nanak, as has been said. They do not read the Mantras of the Hindus. They do not venerate their temples or idols, nor do they esteem their Avtars. They have no regard for the Sanskrit language which, according to the Hindus, is the speech of the angels.
And further on, an anecdote of Guru Hargobind popular among his followers is relayed. He had been the Guru around the time of the writing of the treatise:
- In short, after the battle of Kartarpur he went to Phagwara. As his residence in places like Lahore was difficult, he hastened from there to Kiratpur, which is in the foothills of the Punjab. That land belonged to Raja Tara Chand who did not walk on the path of submission and service to Emperor Shah Jehan.
The people of that place worship idols. On the summit of a mountain, they have raised an idol to the goddess named Naina Devi. The rajahs (petty rulers of the hill states) used to go to that place and performed the rites of pilgrimage. When the Guru came to that place, one of his Sikhs, Bhairo by name, went to the temple of the idol and broke the nose of the Devi (goddess). The rajahs having received the news complained to the Guru and named him [Bhairo]. The Guru sent for Bhairo. Bhairo denied. The attendants of the rajah said: “We recognize him.” He replied: “Oh rajahs, ask the goddess, if she name me, you (may) kill me.” The rajahs said: “Oh fool, how can the goddess speak?” Bhairo answered smilingly: “It is clear who the fool is. When she cannot prevent the breaking of her own head and cannot identify her own injurer, what good can you expect from her and (why) do you worship her as divine?” The rajahs remained tongue-tied. Now most of the people of that land are disciples of the Guru.
Also in the account:
- Among the Sikhs there is nothing of the austerities and worship according to the religious laws of the Hindus. In eating and drinking they have no restrictions [like the Hindus].
- Guru Nanak on Idol worship
- Guru Arjan Dev on Idol Worship
- Bhagat Kabir on Idol Worship
- Bhagat Namdev Ji And Idol Worship
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