Sikhism is a syncretistic religion, a combination of
Hinduism and Islam.
The name of the religion means learner. It is often mispronounced
'seek'; the English word 'sick' is much closer to the correct pronunciation.
Its founder was Guru Nanak, (1469-1538) who was born in the Punjab
area of what is now Pakistan. At Sultanpur, he received a vision to preach
the way to enlightenment and God. He is responsible for the saying
"There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim" which has since become
one of the pillars of Sikhism. Guru Nanak and Panth (his followers)
later built the first Sikh temple at Katarpur.
A succession of nine Gurus (regarded as reincarnations of Guru Nanak) led
the movement during the period from Guru Nanak's death until 1708. At that
time, the functions of the Guru passed to the Panth and to the holy text.
A Sikh state was founded in the early 19th Century. It lasted until the
invasion by Great Britain triggered the Sikh Wars (1845-1849). The British
successfully gained control over all of India. After independence in 1947,
occupied India was partitioned on religious grounds into a mostly Moslem
Pakistan and mostly Hindu India. A mass migration of Sikhs from Pakistan
to India and a reverse migration of Moslems resulted. The Sikhs have been
seeking an independent homeland since the late 1940's. They totaled
147,440 in the 1991 Canadian census.
Sikh Holy Texts
The tenth Guru, Gobind Rai finished the compilation of hymns and
writings into the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. This text is read by all
- Deity: a believe in a single God, who can be known through
meditation, as in Islam.
- Reincarnation: From Hinduism, they
retained a belief in samsara (the repetitive cycle of birth, life
and death), karma (the accumulated sum of one's good and bad deeds, and
reincarnation the belief of a rebirth following death.
- Caste system: Sikhs have rejected the caste system of the Hindu
- Prayers: repeated multiple times each day, typically in the morning
- Worship: Sikhs are prohibited from worshipping idols or icons
- Temples: There are over 200 Gurdwaras (temples, shrines or
holy places) in India alone. The most sacred is at Amritsar.
- The Five K's: These are practices followed by stricter Sikhs,
called Lhalsa saints:
- Kesa (long hair, which is never cut)
- Kangah (comb)
- Kacha (short pants)
- Kachu (metal bracelet)
- Kirpan (a ceremonial dagger)
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