Make your own free website on

Home ] Syllabus ] Research Project ] Lectures ] Reviews ]

Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak originated in the 15th Century in Northern India.

His followers were known as Sikhs: disciples, students, seekers of truth.

Guru Nanak was succeeded by 9 Gurus ending with Guru Gobind Singh (1708)

Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus

Background: The Sant Tradition
The relationship between Hinduism and Islam deepened in northern India during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Three factors help account for this.
  • First was the work of the Hindu saint Ramananda, who engaged in theological debates with representatives of both religions.
  • Second, a group known as sants or holy people shared a common cause in furthering devotion to the Beloved above all else, including transcending religious affiliations.
  •  Third, the most famous bridge between Hinduism and Islam was the weaver Kabir (1440-1518). He was born in a Muslim family but became the student of a Hindu guru, Ramananda. He used his work on a loom as the path to holiness. He wrote songs about the Divine and believed that doctrinal differences between traditions like Hinduism and Islam could be overcome especially in mystical experiences. He believed that different religions offered intimate contact with the same God.
Guru Nanak
  • Born in northern India (Punjab); died in 1539
  • Nanak is described as having been a mystical, moody, child who was born into the Hindu tradition.
  •  When he was thirty years old, he had a  religious experience in which he encountered the presence of God.
  • He received an order from God to return to the world and to save people from the evil ages (Kali Yuga) by teaching them to lead compassionate, holy lives.
  • Nanak claimed that he was neither Muslim or Hindu, but that he followed the path of God
  • Challenged some of the practices of Islam and Hinduism.
  • Three Central Teachings
    • (1) Work hard in society to earn your own living,
    • (2) Share your earnings with the poor and needy
    •  (3)Continually remember that God is the only Doer, the only Giver.
The Succession of Gurus
  • Nanak appointed a disciple, Angad Dev, as his successor. Angad Dev continued the Sikh tradition and passed along its teachings, which had developed in the common language.
  •  The second Guru stressed and modeled the Sikh virtues of service and humility.
  • The Third and Fourth Gurus developed institutional structures for enlarging the church. The Fourth Guru established the holy city of Amritsar and built the Golden Temple, the most sacred shrine of the Sikhs.
  • The Fifth Guru is credited with writing down the teachings of the Sikhs in the sacred scripture called the Adi Granth, which means original holy book, now known as the Guru Granth Sahib. The Fifth Guru was tortured and executed.
  • The Sixth Guru, in response to the execution of Fifth Guru,  assembled a Sikh army, carried two symbolic swords with one signifying temporal power and one signifying spiritual power, and taught Sikhs to defend their faith.
  •  The Seventh Guru was a  pacifist more concerned with feeding the hungry and serving the needy
  • The Eighth Guru, the Child Guru became a successor to Nanak when he was only five years old and died when he was eight.
  • The Ninth Guru was martyred in 1675.
  • Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh,  is credited with turning  Sikhs into saint-warriors. Under his  leadership the martial arts of Sikhism were developed, along with an emphasis on the sacred scriptures.
    • In 1699 established the Khalsa (Pure Ones) "a fraternity pledged to a special code of personal conduct and discipline.
    • The Kahlsa wear the five symbols of devotion
      • Long, uncut hair under a turban or veil
      • Comb
      • Steel bracelet
      • Sword
      • Short under breeches
Guru Granth Sahib
  • As he was dying in 1708 Guru Gobind Singh appointed The Adi Granth (the Sikh Collection of Scriptures) to be his spiritual successor. His  physical successor was to be the Khalsa.
  • The Adi Granth thus becomes known as the Guru Granth Sahib.
  • Sri Guru Granth Sahib is unique in the world of religious scriptures because not only is it accorded the status of being the spiritual head of the Sikh religion, but besides the poetry of the Gurus, it also contains the writings of saints of other faiths whose thoughts were consistent with those of the Sikh Gurus
Central Beliefs
  • Loving devotion to the One God who is worshiped by the many religions. God is truth (sat), God is the One Supreme Being (Ik Onkar). God has many names, but they are representations of the same power, which is beyond and present within all creation.
  • God s light is present in the following: Guru Granth Sahib, shabd (God' s Holy Word), and all of creation. God suffuses everything.
  • There are many ways to God, not just one, and not just Sikhism.
  • Sikhs share beliefs in common with Hinduism, specifically, karma and reincarnation.
  • Sikhism is monotheistic.
  • The soldier-saints pledge to protect the religious freedom of all people.
  • Sikhism does not proselytize. The conversion of others is not a major interest.
  • Sikhism opposes empty ritualism.
  • God is present in all persons therefore everyone is to be treated equally. Sikhism denies the validity of Hinduism s caste system.
  • The purpose of life is to reach mystical union with God. One seeks to realize God through the mundane, day-to-day routine of living, by engaging in sacrificial love, charity, worship, and work.
Sacred Practices
  The Khalsa is the sacred army of the Sikhs and has the responsibility to protect people in need. The men in the army allow their hair to grow long as a form of spiritual crown and wear it in a turban. They believe in exposing their heads only to God. They also wear a steel bracelet as a symbol of their unity with the divine power and their dedication. They always carry a sword to show that they are prepared to defend others. They also wear knee-length pants for modesty and a uniform to show their preparedness to fight. These accessories are called the 5-K s because their names in Indian all begin with the letter K.

 The langar is a communal eating ceremony to which everyone, regardless of social class, is welcome.

All people sit together during worship. The congregation is called the sangat and within it all are equal

Worship takes place in gurdwara, the building where the Guru Granth Sahib is glorified and worshiped.

Ritual bathing in the tank of holy water at sacred Sikh places.

Baptism into the Khalsa erases one's caste.

Menial labor is extolled when it is done in God's service. Being a devoted Sikh is demanding. It involves hours of daily prayer, continual inner repetition of Nam, the Name of God. About two hours are required for morning and evening prayers. Additionally, there is kirtan, the chanting of passages from the Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs are also encouraged to begin the day with private mediations on the name of God. For the Khalsa there is even more such as abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, drugs, renouncing anger, criticism, lust, greed, ego, and attachment.