The Sikh religion emerged during the early 16th century in the state of Punjab
in North India. The founder of this faith was Guru Nanak, who from his
childhood was attracted to both Hindu and Muslim saints. Born a Hindu, but also
inspired by the teachings of Islam, he began to preach the message of unity of
both religions. According to him, the basic teachings of both faiths were
essentially the same. Nanak attracted many followers and came to be known as a
Guru or a teacher. His disciples came together to form a new religious
tradition called Sikhism.
The Gurus who followed Nanak contributed to the consolidation and spread of Sikhism. The teachings of Guru Nanak were incorporated in the 'Guru Granth Sahib', the Holy Book of the Sikhs which became a symbol of God for Sikhs. The fifth Guru, Guru Arjun built the
Amritsar which became the holiest of Sikh shrines. The tenth Guru, Govind Singh imparted military training to the Sikhs to help them defend themselves. He also decided to terminate the succession of gurus and was thus the last of the Sikh Gurus.
Sikhism propounds monotheism, i.e. worship of one God. It also opposes the caste system and believes that all men are equal. However the ideas of karma and rebirth from Hinduism are accepted. Today, many Sikh practices are common to Hindus. Intermarriages between the two communities are also common. However, the Sikh community has its own unmistakable identity. Though the Sikhs constitute less than 2 percent of the Indian population, they have become a distinct element in the configuration of the Indian religious tradition and the Indian society.
When Nanak died in 1538, he was succeeded by Angad, a disciple of Nanak but being of his own caste a, khatri and not otherwise of his own kith and kin. Angad enlarged the Guru Granth and invented the Gurmukhi alphabets from Landa & Takri Alphabets of the Punjab Hills. He remained only as a religious teacher and earned his livehood by twisting ropes and died young in 1552.
Angad was succeeded by Guru Amar Das who organised the sect further and divided his followers into 22 seas (or manjas or largeheds) and started a langer (refectory for meals for all castes). He reformed the Hindu rites of marriage and death and forbade pilgrimages to religious places to avoid extravagances and separated Sikh recluses or Udasis from the common people. He added hymns to the Granth.
Amar Dass was succeeded by Ram Dass his son-in-law in 1574. He had good relations with Emporer Akbar who allowed the sikh sect to develop and did not interfere in their activities. Ram Dass founded the modern
Amritsar, but it was originally called Ramdaspur.
It was Guru Arjan Dev, the younger Son of Ram Dass succeeding his father in 1581 who dug up the tank and called it
Amritsar (pond of nector). Mian Mir a muslim saint was the inaugurator. He set aside the robes of a faquir and doned costly clothes and spread his sect to
Kabul, Kandhar and in many places in
. He was friendly to Khusro, the son of king Jahangir and the finance minister in Mugal court was an enemy of the Guru and he was killed in this conspiracy of the rebel prince. Arjan Dev was succeeded in 1606 by Hargobind, the son of Ram Dass and doned two swords one for faqairi, a religious or spiritual symbol and the other for Amiri or for secular authority. He built the sikh stronghold and many flocked under his banner. He took up arms against the Mughals, but Jahangir made him prisoner for 12 years in
Gwalior till his death in 1628. He lost his treasures to the Mughals and died in 1645.
Hargobind was succeeded by Har Rai, his grand son, as his son Gurditta had become a Udasi saint and was not qualified for the secular authority. He too became an enemy of Mughals and Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb later kept his son Ram Rai as a hostage but he was disqualified, became he quoted wrongly a verse of the Guranth. Har Rai having now died his 2nd son Har Kishan now succeeded Har Rai. Har Kishan was also called to
Delhi and he soon died nominating any of the 22 Sodhis in the village Bakala on the
And Tegh Bahadu Sodhi was the 9th Guru. He founded Anandpur in the Shiwalik Hills and extended his influence and authority in Malwa & in the South. Kurukshetra and upto
. But Aurangzeb called him and wanted him to be a Muslim. When he refused he was beheaded in 1675 at
Delhi where a Gurdwara called Sisganj was built in his honour and memory.
The 10th and the last Guru was Guru Gobind Singh. He was son
of Tegh Bahadur born in 1666 at
Patna and was installed as Guru at Anandpur in 1676. He saw his father's head on a plate and was shocked and rushed to make the sikhs a military organisation to stand against the tyranny of the Mughals. For 20 years he remained in confinement and thought of his plans. Then he decided to make his Khalsa organization. He selected panjpiare or 5 beloved and devoted ones who were ready to die for him. He called them one by one in a tent where he sacrificed a goat and came out with the sword dripping with blood to show that the 5 devoted ones were killed but later they were taken out from the tent and were declared as the faithful khalsa or pure beings. He prepared the sacred water by mixing 5 sweets and stirring the water with a double edged daggar. This was Amrit to initiate the 5 devotees. They took the Amrit and were thus initiated. The Guru was also similarly initiated by the 5 devotees. This was the neculeus of his Khalsa army and Panth and many joined the fold. He ordained that every sikh or Khalsa was to have singh as the suffix with his name or that he was a lion or singh. Every sikh or Amritdhari was to wear 5 K's or 'Kesh or long hair and not to cut his hair, Komb or a Comb for cleaning the hair, Kachha or drawers upto the knees, Kara or iron or metalic bangle and Kirpan or a small sword by his side. All these were symbols or distinguishing marks of a true sikh or sishay which means disciple or chela.
Every Sikh is to be initiated or to take Amrit. He is seated in the company of others and some water is taken in an iron basin & is mixed with sugar or some sweets - it is stirred with a double edged sword while some hymns from the Granth are recited. He is made to drink some of this water and some is sprinkled on him and he is considered a pure and immortal and he acquires immunity in battle. He is considered as the son of the Great Guru and his childless wife. The 10th Guru Gobind Singh declared that there would be no Guru in future and that the Granth should be considered as the Guru to be respected, read with reverence and devotion and its teachings be followed in letter and spirit in all matter religious and secular as guide in life.
The sikh religion spread far and wide in
Kabul and Kandhar and there are four centres or Takhats of the faith in
Patna and at Nanded in the Nizams dominion. There is the central association called the chief Khalsa Dewan with its headquarters at
Amritsar and local Singh Sabhas all over
& other places beyond it, which receive grants from the cultural
Nanak accepted other religions in so far as their essence was concerned Guru Gobind Singh made Sikhism more formal. He forbade smoking and reverence for the cow was retained. Sikhs have merciful regard for animal suffering and eat meat which is made with one jerk or stroke (jhhatka). Female infanticide and Sati is prohibited and Sikh women are permitted to acquire education. Hindu rites at marriage are not permitted as the union of man and woman is considered like the union of the Atma with the supreme and instead of fire to go round the Granth is recited instead of the Vedic texts. The worship of Ganesh and the planets is not allowed and the ceremony is called "Anand Karaj" or the action of joy.
Sikshism is a Bhagti cult and the human soul wished to reach the Waheguru or God through devotion or Bhakti and Nanak was one of the votaries in the Bhakti movement in those days in this country to purify religion from priestcraft and various superstitious which were degenerating Hinduism. Love of God and devotion as all saints' practice was Nanak's chief concern. The supreme lived in the heart of all and does not die with death of the individual. The infinite is in the finite and the world is a like a mirror house reflecting the same in all the existences. One Onkara pervaded all and is the inner controller of every heart. The Parabraham or supreme lord is unborn, self-sustained and self-existent, changeless, eternal who cannot be compared with anything and not this, not this Neti, Neti are the words used to try to understand him, because he is boundless. This is the Upanishad view also of Braham and that the creation is Maya. Sikhism enjoins on the devotees to practice Raj Yoga or Yoga of meditation to be one with the supreme. Like a black bee getting imprisoned in a flower, the human soul is caught up in the worldly things. Lust, anger, pride, avarice, obstinacy or clinging to life are the hindrances to attain the supreme spirit. Without practicing virtue and showing charity all devotion or Bhakti is not possible. Renunciation is necessary to reach the supreme. If there is the Hari in the heart, there is no room for contempt hatred, malice, discontentment and other such vices. Outer cleaning of the body is not enough, let us bathe in the mighty waters of knowledge so that the mind and the heart are purified. The Guru shows the path. Without the help of the Guru there will be awful darkness. Guru is father and mother, friend and brother and destroyer of ignorance. It is through the Guru that we can realise the supreme. Sikhism is true Hinduism put in practice. The path is Bhakti and Raj Yoga and all the virtues as in Hinduism are enjoined on the devotee to reach the supreme lord or Brahma.