Sikhism

            Worldwide, Sikhs number more than 23 million, but more than 90 percent of Sikhs live in the Indian State of Punjab, where they form close to 65 percent of the population.  Sikhism is a religion that began in the 1400’s CE in northern India.   It is based on the teachings of Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. He was the first of 10 gurus (teachers or masters) of the Sikh religion.  The main belief in Sikhism is faith in one God—Vāhigurū. 

            Nanak, the founder of Sikhism stressed that God can only be “seen” from "the inward eye," or the "heart" of a human being.   Followers are encouraged to reach enlightenment (total knowledge). Nanak emphasized understanding God through meditation, which allows communication between God and human beings.  Meditation is a mental exercise where you try to go beyond regular thinking and reach a state of deep relaxation, awareness, and thought.

            Nanak stressed that a Sikh should balance work, worship, and charity, and should defend the rights of all creatures, and in particular, fellow human beings.  Since the 1600’s many Sikh men have made it a tradition to join the military and Sikh warriors have been feared and respected by their enemies.  This continues today, as many Sikhs are members of the Indian Army.  Sikh temples are called gurdwaras.  They are open to all people, regardless of religion, background, caste or race. 

            There are no rituals or ceremonies in Sikhism.  In addition Sikhs don’t fast (not eating) or go on pilgrimages (religious trips).  Sikhs do not preach to non-believers.  All boys are given the middle name or last name Singh (Sanskrit for “lion”), and all girls are given the middle name or last name Kaur (daughter, lioness, or princess).

            Sikh men are required to follow the “5 K’s” of Sikhism.  Kes is the requirement to not cut your hair, maintain a beard and wear a turban.  Kangha is a small comb they must carry and use to brush their hair twice a day.  Kara is a circular bangle bracelet that all Sikhs wear to remind them of the one god Vahiguru.  Kirpan is a dagger (knife) all Sikh men must carry at all times.  Finally, Kaccha is a special undergarment with a drawstring to remind Sikh to keep their chastity and to be ready for battle at all times.