Sikhism is widespread in the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana. Small Sikh communities exist on the territory of all continents. The center of Sikhism is the city of Amritsar.
Sikhism belongs to the category of local religious movements. Despite the fact that followers of Sikhism deny a direct connection with world religions, religious scholars agree that this religious system arose as a result of the synthesis of Islam and traditional Hinduism.
In terms of the number of adherents, Sikhism ranks 8th in the world and has approximately 25 million followers. At the same time, most of the Sikhs live on the territory of Punjab and form an ethnosocial group with rich and complex cultural traditions.
Sikhism is a relatively young religion. The foundations of the creed originated in the late XV – early XVI centuries.
Scientific and educational TV programs and individual stories about Sikhism appear from time to time on the air of TV channels and on the Internet.
A brief history
Sikhism as a religion appeared at the junction of two great cultures: Arabic and Indian. In the process of its development, Sikhism has become a state-forming religion. The Sikh state existed from 1716 to 1849 .
Due to the need to constantly protect their faith and the state from outside encroachments, Sikhism is often perceived as a militant religion, and the Sikhs themselves are associated with kshatriyas, a warrior caste in the Indian hierarchy. So, the 10th guru Govind Singh, proclaimed the creation of the Khalsa combat brotherhood, which had its own military charter and code of honour. At the same time, the Sikhs themselves are quite peaceful, and joining their ranks always happens on a voluntary basis.
The essence of the teaching
“Sikh” in translation means “a disciple walking along the path, while his mentor (guru) leads him”. The teaching is based on a monotheistic interpretation of God.
The main postulates of the doctrine: God is in each of us, and we approach him and the source of our self through a virtuous life. Respect the choices of others, lead a righteous life, strive for freedom and deliverance from vices.
In order to be a Sikh, 3 basic conditions must be met.
- To believe in a single immortal being.
- To honour the Ten Gurus and their commandments.
- Go through the purification ceremony bequeathed by the Ten gurus.
Sikhs revere the holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib (“Book of Teachers”). The scripture itself is a collection of poetry by Sikh gurus, which are usually sung like hymns using local classical music.
There are 4 main commandments:
- Do not cut your hair.
- Do not eat meat of animals killed in a Muslim way.
- Do not use alcohol and tobacco.
- Maintain marital fidelity.
In order to become a Sikh and a member of the community (khalsa), an adept must undergo a special initiation rite of Amrit Sanchar. During the ceremony, the newly consecrated one is offered to drink a special nectar – sacred water from the Amrit Sarovar Lake, which is located inside the Golden Temple complex.
The main holidays are timed to the birthdays or deaths of Ten gurus. At the same time, the events celebrating the martyrdom of the gurus are called Gurupurb, while the rest are Mela (translated – fair). All these holidays are accompanied by continuous reading of “Guru Granth Sahib”. This reading is popularly called “Arkhand Path” and lasts for two days. At the same time, the dates of the celebrations are constantly changing, due to Sikhs using the lunar calendar.
Like Mecca for Muslims, the Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar is a sacred place for Sikhs
This temple was built in 1766, and the sacred lake Amrit Sarovar is located underneath it. The walls of the building are decorated with gilded inscriptions from the texts of sacred manuscripts compiled by the Ten gurus.
Biography of the creators
Earlier we talked about the importance of gurus (teachers) in Sikh society, let’s look at their role in more detail.
Nanak is considered to be the first guru and founder of Sikhism. He was born in Talavandi in the family of a tax collector. Nanak himself received a brilliant education and seemingly acquired affordable amenities. He had a loving wife, his own house and children. However, by the age of 30, Nanak leaves his former life and assumes the way of the wanderer, traveling all over India and communicating with the most brilliant men of his time. Returning to his homeland, Nanak proclaims the main principle of religion: the human soul should be led to God by a special teacher – guru, such a duty he entrusted to himself and his successors. By the age of 50, Nanak had the first community of followers.
The tenth guru Gobind Singh completed the compilation of the sacred texts of the Adi Granth and founded the Khalsu (“Pure”, “Property of God”) military brotherhood. Guru commanded to honor Adi Granth and handed over the highest form of power to the Khalsa brotherhood.
Today, the religious authority belongs to the Khalsa Brotherhood.
There exists a radical movement of Sikhs – Khalistan. Its main task is the separation of part of the territories from India and Pakistan with the formation of “Khalsa Lands”.
As a result of the movement’s activities, several major battles took place between the separatists and the Indian armed forces, and in 1986 the militants occupied the Golden Temple. Now the situation with the Sikh diaspora has stabilized.