Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, and the basic Sikh belief is represented in the phrase Ik Onkar meaning “One God.”Sikhism was founded in the Punjab region in India in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev. Sikhism broke from Hinduism due, in part, to its rejection of the caste system.
2 The Guru Granth Sahib
The authority accorded to the Guru Granth Sahib certainly sets it apart from other scriptural texts of the major world religions. The Guru Granth Sahib also defies common expectations of scripture in other ways.
The Guru Granth Sahib was compiled by the Sikh Gurus themselves and is primarily comprised of writings composed by the Gurus. This collection also includes the devotional writings of other religious figures, including Muslim Sufis and Hindu Bhaktas.
3 The Five Ks
The Five Ks are the articles of faith that Sikhs wear as ordered by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Most Sikhs wear one or more of the articles but only Sikhs who have taken amrit, a ritual analogous to baptism, wear all. They include:
- Kesh, or unshorn long hair, which is protected by a dastaar, or turban. The dastaar is worn by men and some women to cover their long hair. But most women keep their hair long and uncovered, except for when entering a gurdwara.
- A kangha is a small wooden comb meant to keep the hair combed twice a day.
- A kara is an iron bangle to be worn on the hand used most.
- A kachera is a specific undergarment for men and women.
- A kirpan is a short dagger
4 Sikh gurus
As evidenced by the inclusion of writings from other religious figured within the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Gurus did not believe in religious exclusivism. Rather, their pluralistic worldview posited that one could reach the Realization from any religious tradition. Sikhism teaches that diverse paths can lead to the divine, as long as the individual traverses the path with love. Because of this pluralistic outlook, Sikhism has no real history of missionizing or proselytizing.
While some misinterpret this pluralism as promoting cultural relativism, it is important to note that the Gurus also emphasized the importance of following an accomplished leader and maintaining religious discipline. Sikhism does not encourage the increasingly popular models of “a la carte religion” or “spiritual-but-not-religious,” though admittedly Sikh jurisprudence is relatively less complex than most religious traditions.
A gurudwara is the place of worship for Sikhs; however, people from all faiths, and those who do not profess any faith, are welcomed in the Sikh gurdwara. The gurdwara has a Darbar Sahib where the current and everlasting Guru of the Sikhs, the holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib is placed on a Takhat (an elevated throne) in a prominent central position. The Raagis (who sing Ragas) recite, sing and explain, the verses from theGuru Granth Sahib, in the presence of the holy congregation.
All gurdwaras have a Langar hall, where people can eat free vegetarian food.