Society

Sikhism: A Monotheistic Religion From India

With most of its ~30 million followers living in India, Sikhism remains one of the most important religions in the world today.

Sikhism is an independent religion that emerged in the environment of Hinduism and Islam. Sikhism as a religious movement developed at the beginning of the 16th century in North-West India. The Sikhs fought against the Great Mughals between the 17th and 18th centuries and created their state in the Punjab (1765 - 1849), India.

Sikhism as the religion was a protest against the caste system of Hinduism and political domination of the Muslim Mughal dynasty. The founder of Sikhism was Guru Nanak (1469 - 1539). His traveling and preaching got him even to Mecca, and towards the beginning of the 16th century, he finally settled in the Punjab. Over time, the Sikhs became an independent group, a kind of state within a state, with its unique ideology, laws, and leaders. The fourth Guru of Sikhs was Ram Das (1534 - 1581), who became famous as a connoisseur and interpreter of Sikh hymns. He founded the Amritsar city ("Pond of Immortality"), which became the biggest spiritual center of Sikhism.

2. Sikhism: Fundamental Beliefs

The fundamental principles of the Sikh religion are also inscribed in the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Sikh means a "disciple." Sikhs are monotheists, meaning that they believe in one God, the Almighty Creator, who is all-pervading, incomprehensible, and unattainable. His real name is not known to anyone. Only God Himself knows the purpose of creation, which is filled with love by His Grace. The Sikh’s God leads no one and punishes no one. He exudes Compassion and Love, and is devoid of hate and passion. God could be seen in two ways: as a Nirgun (Absolute) and as Sargun (personal God within each one of us). According to Sikh teachings, before creation, God existed as the Absolute, but in the process of creation, he started to express himself. Before creation, there was nothing - no heaven, no hell, and no three worlds - only formlessness.

1. Cultural Significance and Diaspora

Sikhs are not required to perform elaborate rituals, go on pilgrimages or fast. Sikh men all carry the surname or middle name of "Singh" while women have "Kaur" associated with them. Sikhs are also strictly forbidden to beg for alms. Religion dictates Sikh men to wear five items on their persona all the time: uncut hair (hidden inside a turban), a sword (kirpān), kaṛā (a metallic bracelet), a kind of undergarment, and kaṅghā (a wooden comb). Today's young Sikhs are retreating from their centuries-old traditions. They neglect the turban, do regular shaving and wear normal civilian clothes. The inhabitants of the Indian state of Punjab, called Punjabis, dominate in the Sikh’s ethnic composition. Sikhs also live in Southeast Asia, Africa, on the island of Fiji, in the United States, Canada, the UK, Thailand, as well as in Russia. The total number of Sikhs reaches over 30 million. This makes Sikhism the world's ninth-largest religion.

What is Sikhism?

Sikhism as a religious movement developed at the beginning of the 16th century in North-West India. The fundamental principles of the Sikh religion are also inscribed in the holy book of this religion, the Guru Granth Sahib. Sikh means a "disciple." Sikhs believe in one God, the Almighty Creator, who is all-pervading, incomprehensible, and unattainable. His real name is not known to anyone.

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