Source: Sikh Coalition
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion based on a definitive revelation. With over 25 million followers worldwide, it is one of the youngest major world religions. Sikhism was revealed to Guru Nanak over 500 years ago in the Punjab, the Sikh Homeland in South Asia. Sikhism preaches a message of devotion, remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality between all human beings, social justice, while emphatically denouncing superstitions and blind rituals.
- Everyone has equal status in the eyes of God. No differentiation in status or ceremonies is made between men and women.
- Stresses the importance of leading a good moral life.
- Encourages moral and domestic virtues, such as loyalty, gratitude for all favors received, philanthropy, justice, truth and honesty.
- A monotheistic faith, Sikhism recognizes God as the only God who is Creator of all people and all faiths.
- Moral qualities and the practice of virtue in everyday life are vital steps towards spiritual development. Qualities like honesty, compassion, generosity, patience, humility etc. can be built up only by effort and perseverance.
- A modern, logical, and practical religion, Sikhism believes that normal family-life is no barrier to salvation.
- Life has a purpose and a goal. Human beings cannot claim immunity from the results of their actions and must be very vigilant in what they do.
- The individual has a right to develop his or her personality to the maximum extent possible. The Sikh is essentially a person of action, with an overwhelming sense of self-reliance.
- The individual must make a contribution to the social welfare as a sacred duty. The gulf between the more fortunate and the less fortunate has to be bridged.
The Sikh Gurus
The word “Guru” in Sikh parlance means an enlightener and a prophet. Ten Gurus founded Sikhism. The first, Guru Nanak (1469 to 1539), rejected the ritualistic practices of the dominant religions in South Asia and he based his message strictly on divine revelation. Nine other living Gurus followed Guru Nanak. The last living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666 to 1708) crystallized the practices and beliefs of the faith and determined that no future living Guru was needed. In consonance with Guru Gobind Singh’s last wishes, today the religion is guided by joint sovereignty of Guru Granth and Guru Panth. Guru Granth is the Sikh scripture, as the spiritual manifestation of the Guru, while the Guru Panth is the collectivity of all initiated Sikhs worldwide, as the physical manifestation of the Guru.
Articles Of Faith
Sikhs wear an external uniform to unify and bind them to the beliefs of the religion and to remind them of their commitment to the Sikh Gurus at all times. Unlike some other faiths where only the clergy are in uniform, all Sikhs are enjoined to wear the uniform of their beliefs. These five articles of faith, along with a turban, distinguish a Sikh and are essential for preserving the life of the community. Naturally, for Sikhs these religious articles have deep spiritual significance; and some practical as well. The five articles of faith start with the “ka” character in Punjabi, and are thereby referred to as the 5 K’s in English.
Kes (unshorn hair)
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, started the practice of keeping hair unshorn because keeping it in a natural state is regarded as living in harmony with the will of God. The turban is part of the uniform because it has immense spiritual and temporal significance. Wearing a turban declares sovereignty, dedication, self-respect, courage and piety. All practicing Sikhs wear the turban out of love and as a mark of commitment to the faith.
Sikhs wear a small comb called the Kangha in their hair. The social context in which Sikhism arose, matted hair were worn by Hindu ascetics who had renounced the world. The Kangha in the Sikh’s hair serves as a constant reminder that the Sikh must remain socially committed and never practice asceticism.
Kara (steel bracelet)
The bracelet is generally made out of steel. It is worn to remind a Sikh that he or she is a servant of the Guru and should not do anything that may bring shame or disgrace.
The Kirpan is a religious sword that encapsulates an initiated Sikh’s solemn obligation of courage and self-defense. It denotes dignity and self-reliance, the capacity and readiness to always defend the weak and the oppressed. It helps sustain one’s martial spirit and the determination to sacrifice oneself in order to defend truth, oppression and Sikh moral values. All Initiated Sikhs are mandated to wear a Kirpan on their body.
Kachhehra (soldier’s shorts)
A special, slightly longer type of shorts, the Kachhehra is linked to a high moral character and must be worn at all times. It reminds the Sikh of the need for self-restrain over passions and desires.