(Last Updated on : 23-02-2018)
Sikhs are the followers of the religious tenets called Sikhism
, which can trace its origins towards the second half of 15th century. The martial excellence of the Sikhs has been venerated all over the world. In India, the state
is the homeland of the Sikhs while a significant population of Sikh immigrants also inhabit overseas. Since its foundation some 500 years back, Sikhism has spread
its influence all over and is currently recognised as the 5th largest religious faith practiced worldwide.
Etymology of Sikh
The term Sikh is believed to have its origins in the Sanskrit language
, precisely from two expressions namely, siksha or sishya. In Sanskrit, the expression siksha conventionally means teaching while sishya refers to a student or disciple.
History of Sikhs
A close study of the pages of Indian history
reveal the exploits of the Sikhs like Maharaja Ranjit Singh
and in the later years Bhagat Singh
who put up a brave front in the face of the severe tyranny unleashed by the British
Concept of Sikhism
Researchers have come up with multiple accounts while defining the concept of Sikhism. According to one school of thought, a person can only qualify as a Sikh if he adheres to the practice of the Panth and the Granth. It emphasises that those who have placed their supreme faith in the knowledge articulated through the spirit of the community
or Panth and those revealed in the Holy Book or Granth can be termed as Sikhs.
Sikhism can be roughly said to have originated in the second half of the 15th century, with the birth of Guru Nanak
in 1469 AD. Much of the information about Nanak is available from the accounts of the Janam-sakhis
or hagiographers and his teachings
have been compiled in the Granth Sahib or the Adi Granth, the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs
. Guru Nanak was succeeded by Guru Angad Dev
and this practice continued till the 10th Guru Gobind Singh
who pronounced the Guru Granth Sahib
as the heir to this illustrious tradition. For the Sikhs, the essence of their religion
is primarily monotheistic. The Granth Sahib which was compiled by the 5th Sikh Guru Arjan Dev
laid down the tenets in the form of hymnical compositions in the Gurmukhi script
Society and Religion of Sikhs
The Sikh community practices the Gurmat which contains the central principle
governing Sikhism i.e. faith in One Supreme Divine Being. The basic philosophy
inherent in the Sikh religious faith propounds the presence of an omniscient God
who pervades all forms of creation and whose principal intention is to enlighten the human beings with a realization of the purpose of their birth in the universe. The final culmination, according to Sikhism, lies in union with the supreme Divine Being. Sikhism condemned idolatry and hence the Sikhs vouch for the formless deity or the nirakara.
The Sikh Gurus
called for total abolition of ceremonial offerings, rituals
and other forms of blind superstition that were common in those days. Every individual was considered to be uniform and equal before the eyes of the God, irrespective of caste
and class distinctions. The Sikhs developed a progressive outlook, owing considerably to the Sikh religious faith.
Sects of Sikhs
There are several Sikh sects, four of which are particularly important. These sects are considered to be offshoots of Sikhism. Though there are differences in ideology, there are also striking similarities. Some of the sects of Sikhs are as follows;
: Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru was the founder of the Khalsa system
. In 1699, the Khalsa Sikhs or 'Amritdharis' were established as a martial force or 'saint-soldiers' who had to follow a set of five principles or adhere to the five 'K's
. The regulatory codes of the Khalsa Sikhs entailed an obligation to wear the 'panj kaakar' or 'panj kakke' (five Ks) as part of their daily garb. These are: 'Kanga' or comb, 'Kara' or iron armlet
, 'Kes' referring to long uncut tresses, the 'Kachha' or a form of breeches and finally the dagger strapped across the body called 'Kirpan'. These objects are symbolic of the various ideologies that have been upheld by Sikhism like equality, sincerity, loyalty, fight against oppression and contemplation of the name of God. The male Khalsa Sikhs have been bestowed the title of 'Singh' meaning lion
while the women are attributed as 'Kaur' meaning 'princess'.
: Contrary to the Amritdharis or Khalsa Sikhs, there are also the 'Sahajdharis'. A Sahajdhari Sikh is one who agrees to embrace the principles advocated by Sikhism in their own will. The Sahajdharis enjoy certain relaxations and do not have to rigidly comply with the 'panj kakke' rules that are mandatory for the Khalsa Sikhs.
: There are also the Jat Sikhs belonging to the Bajwa, Deol, Dhillon, Mangat, Sindhu and many others who are known for their prowess in agriculture
and were christened by the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.
: The Khatri Sikhs are famous for their military expertise and includes the Bedi, Sodhi, Bhalla clans.
: The Kukas or the Namdhari Sikhs worship the tenets of their chieftain Jagjit Singh contrary to the authority of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Festivals of Sikhs
The Sikh festivals are organized according to the Nanakshahi calendar. The most significant of all Sikh festivals are the Baisakhi
celebrating the onset of the spring season and Gurupurabs
celebrated in honour of the Sikh Gurus. Hola Mohalla
are also observed by the Sikhs.