The Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak in the late 15th century C.E. in the Punjab region of what are today India and Pakistan. According to Sikh beliefs, the same revelatory spirit inhabited Guru Nanak and his nine successors. Today, this spirit can be found in the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib, the foundational scripture of the Sikh tradition. The Guru Granth Sahib’s hymns describe and praise God, and provide moral guidance for all Sikhs. Sikhs reject ideas of divine incarnations, and hold that liberation results from being absorbed into God. Sikhs also reject the social doctrine of caste, and adhere to practices of equality in worship and life. They believe in one supreme being (monotheism). The centers of Sikh worship are known as gurudwaras (“house of the Guru”) and langar (communal refectory). All Sikhs must enter a gurudwara with bare feet and a covered head. A Sikh worship service includes prayer and singing hymns from scripture. The service is concluded by the distribution of karah prasad, a sacramental food made of flour, butter, and raw sugar that is shared by all to demonstrate equality and the rejection of caste. Sikhs attempt to live balanced lives of worship, work, and charity centered on community. Besides gurudwara worship, festivals are also important community activities.
The Sikh Identity
An important part of a Sikh’s identity are the Five Ks,—or the Panj Kakaar—which are five items of faith that display and show the wearer’s conviction to the Master. In addition to the five articles of faith, the Khanda is the most recognizable emblem of the Sikh faith, symbolizing the three pillars of Sikh belief. All these articles are a constant reminder of the adorner’s love for the high principles set by their Leader and Commander-in-Chief, faith in the Khalsa, and deep conviction to Satguru – the “timeless true Guru.” They teach the significance of putting the values of the Khalsa above one’s personal and materialist needs and the willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the value set by the Sikh Gurus. These symbols give Sikhs a unique identity signifying discipline and spirituality.
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The Sikh Turban uses approximately 15 feet of cloth that is wrapped neatly around the head every time it is put on. It is a statement of belonging to the Guru and one of the inner commitment of the individual who wears it. The uncut hair and the turban are a declaration to live in accordance with the Teachings of the Sikh Gurus and the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
There are about 23 million Sikhs worldwide, making Sikhism the 5th largest religion in the world. Approximately 19 million Sikhs live in India, primarily in the state of Punjab. Large populations of Sikhs can also be found in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.
The kitchen at the Golden Temple—the holiest shrine in Sikhism—feeds up to 100,000 people a day for free. At the langar (the kitchen), food is served to all visitors regardless of faith or background. It never runs out, and no one is ever turned away.
READ THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB IN ENGLISH