(Last Updated on : 13/01/2011)
The word Sikhism is derived from `Sikh` which, in turn, originates from the Sanskrit word `sishya` meaning a learner or `siksha` which means instruction. It dates back to the 15th century A.D. The religion had originated in the Indian state of Punjab
. Sikhism was propagated by Guru Nanak
and his successors. The religion stresses on the devotion of God. Service to mankind, hard work and dedication towards family life are also important principles of the religion. According to Nanak, the essence of Sikh philosophy is, `Realization of Truth is Higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living`. Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world and presently has 23 million followers worldwide. The religious philosophy of the Sikhs has traditionally been known as Gurumat or the advice of the gurus.
HISTORY OF SIKHISM
During the first half of the sixteenth century Sikhism came into existence combining both the Hindu as well as the Muslim ideals. At the same time Sikhism cannot be claimed as a synthesis of Hinduism and Islam
, rather it is the synthesis of the Sant tradition of northern India or the Nirguna Sampradaya. The spread of Sikhism had begun from the time when Nanak had declared, `There is no Hindu. There is no Muslim`. As a preacher he made extensive journeys across the country and on his way he imparted his ideologies and philosophies. Nanak, the father of Sikhism is highly credited for his capability of combining different set of ideas and then expressing it with absolute clarity.
After the death of Guru Nanak in the year 1539, the leadership of the Panth was handed over to Guru Angad
who strictly adhered to the Sikh philosophy preached by Nanak. From the third Guru onwards that is Guru Amar Das
certain changes came about in the traditions of Sikhism. In the history of Sikhism, the year 1699 is of paramount importance for the people of Sikh communities because it was during this time that the Khalsa brotherhood and the Baisakhi festival
came into existence. Guru Gobind Singh
, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs was the one who had declared the Guru Granth Sahib as the ultimate religious authority of the Sikhs and had declared the Khalsa Panth as the temporal authority of the Sikhs.
PRINCIPLES OF SIKHISM
As the word Sikh means `disciple` the core of Sikh philosophy, thus, revolves around discipleship or obedience to one`s Guru. The principle of Sikhism focuses on the fact that an individual should detach oneself from all worldly ties just as a lotus blooms on water and yet remains detached from the water. To lead a moral and righteous life is of utmost importance to a Sikh. For a Sikh, giving alms, keeping of fast, penance and visiting to pilgrimages does not hold much importance. The main tenets of the Sikh philosophy are renunciation, faith in God, love towards Human kind and obedience towards ones Gurus. Thus it can be said that Sikhism highly values the principles of moral life and faith in God. In the present age the Guru Granth Sahib embodies all the principles which a member of the Sikh community should adhere to.
Sikhism upholds the philosophy of monotheism. The Sikh people strongly believe in
`Waheguru,` which means the wonderful lord who created the beings of the world. For the Sikhs the concept of God is simultaneous with the concept of Universe and they adhere to the belief that God is an all encompassing entity. The Sikhs believe that God is shapeless and timeless. The presence of God is omnipresent. Nanak stressed on the fact that a true devotees should meditate in a sincere manner in order to accomplish enlightenment. He had said that meditation is absolutely necessary for an individual because that facilitates a constant communication between God and his devotees. According to Nanak an individual should realize the power of God with his inner self and should experience God in every step of life. Salvation also holds prime importance within the philosophy of Sikhism. Like most other religions in the world, Sikhism also has a set of beliefs which tend to dictate the lives of most of the Sikhs. The Sikh people are supposed to follow the ideologies of the holy Guru Granth Sahib
and also the teachings of the ten Sikh Gurus. Sikh philosophies are closely associated with the society and culture of Punjab. Most of the followers of Sikhism live in the state of Punjab.
SPREAD OF SIKHISM
Sikhism was initiated by Guru Nanak in India in the late fifteenth century. History says that Nanak had preached the philosophy of Sikhism by undertaking long journeys throughout the country. Nanak`s philosophy which was neither Hindu nor Muslim but focused on a righteous living inspired a large number of followers. After the death of Nanak his work of spreading the ideologies of Sikhism was conferred to Guru Angad Dev. In a similar manner eight other gurus had come into the Sikh community to spread the ideals preached by Nanak. After the ten gurus the authority of spreading Sikhism or the authority of guiding a Sikh in the right direction was bestowed upon the Holy Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhism today is a widely spread religion and has around 23 million of followers worldwide.
HOLY SCRIPTURES OF SIKHISM
The two main sources of scriptures for the Sikhs are the Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth. The Guru Granth Sahib is also referred as the Adi Granth as it was the first volume of scriptures written by Guru Arjan Das. The final volume of Adi Granth is known as the Guru Granth Sahib. The Guru Granth Sahib was declared by Guru Gobind Singh as the eternal guru of the Sikhs. Apart from these the Janam Sakhis also occupy an important position for the Sikhs as they give account of the early life of Nanak and the subsequent spread of Sikhism.
INFLUENCES ON SIKHISM
Some scholars are of the opinion that Sikhism was closely influenced by two dominant religion of the 15th century those were namely Hinduism
and Islam. It has been said that Sikhism drew closely from the Hindu Vedic philosophy. Whilst many of the Muslim religious scholars were of the opinion that Sikhism had close resemblance with the tenets of Sufism. It is true that Sikhism had been influenced by the philosophy of both the religion but at the same time it was not the melting pot for the two religions. Sikhism as a religion had more close association with the Sant movemement or the Nirguna Samprdaya from the northern part of the country. Nanak had been a lot inspired by the teachings of Kabir
The word, `guru` holds prime importance for the Sikhs. Guru means a guide or a counsel and the one who shows the right path of living. Sikhism was started by Guru Nanak, known as the first guru of the Sikhs. After Guru Nanak, Sikhism was spread by nine other gurus till the period of 1708. The practice of guruship among the Sikhs started with Guru Nanak and continued till Guru Gobind Singh. After Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru Granth Sahib was made the eternal guru of the Sikhs. As a result the Sikhs do not pay homage to any mortal being as their religious authority after the demise of the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh. The ten gurus of the Sikhs in order of chronology were Guru Nanak, Guru Angad Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Har Gobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Krishan, Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh.
Most of the festivals of the Sikh community revolve around the lives of Sikh gurus or the Sikh martyrs. Generally Sikh festivals take place according to the new Nanaksahi calendar. The Nanaksahi calendar has not yet been accepted by all the members of the Sikh community. As a result many of the Sikh festivals like Nanak`s birthday, Hola Mohalla and Diwali
are yet celebrated according to the Hindu calendar. The Sikh festivals generally include the Gurparabs, Baisakhi
, Diwali and the Holla Mohalla. Apart from these festivals the Sikh community also celebrates a number of ceremonies and customs which form an integral part of the Sikh life.
An important custom of the Sikhs is the Amrit ceremony whereby almost every adult member of the Sikh community is initiated into the Khalsa Panth. He undergoes a change of name and is handed over the duty to carry the five K`s with him which include, Kesh or uncut hair, Kirpan or a sword, Kanga or a wooden comb, Kara, a steel bracelet and a Kachha, an apparel.
Sikhism till date is based on the concept of Waheguru and considers the Guru Granth Sahib as their ultimate religious authority. It is true that in the recent times certain alterations have surfaced in the Sikh philosophy but the basic tenets, preached by Nanak, remains the same.