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Sikhi – Faith and Belief

Sikhi (Sikhism)

Sikhi (the Sikh faith) – Belief and Practices

Sikhi is the fifth largest faith tradition of the world with a population of about 30 million. It was founded in the 16th century by Guru Nanak in the Punjab district of what is now India and Pakistan. It is based on the revelations of Guru Nanak and the nine Sikh gurus who followed him over two centuries.

The sacred book of the Sikh faith is the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Compiled by the Gurus during their lifetime, the scripture is more or less a charter and it contains not only the teachings of the Sikh Gurus but of Hindu and Muslim saints as well. It is a repository of all spiritual knowledge following which one can realise the Creator.

Sikhi believes in One Creator and Oneness with the creator, Oneness of humanity. It outrightly rejects idol worship, the caste system, miracles, spirits, charms and superstitions as well as human or animal sacrifice. The Sikh faith views life as a unique opportunity to discover and develop the divinity in each individual and Sikhs believe different religions are different paths to realize the One God. Sikh males have the common name “Singh” meaning a lion and women “Kaur” meaning a princess.

The core teaching of the sacred Sikh scripture, “Guru Granth Ji” is that there is One Creator and all human beings are equal, created by the same Creator and there is no high or low in status, equality of man and women. According to the Sikh Faith one does not require any intermediaries, like living or dead human beings, to realise God, rather one can directly realise God regardless of status, caste or religion and meditation on the ‘Naam’ or name of the creator (Waheguru).

The Sikh faith is a practical one to be lived here on earth and Sikhs are a pragmatic people. The emphasis is on leading a worldly, successful life as a householder and a contributing member of society but with the mind attuned to an awareness of God, the eternal truth. According to Sikhi, man and woman are merely two halves of the humanity, each requiring the qualities of the other to become the perfect whole. Women are expected to participate in daily and religious life in the same way as men. The entire life of a Sikh revolves around Guru Granth Ji. Women could equally read it, minister it and lead a congregation, no less than men.

There is no activity in a gurudwara (the Sikh place of worship) or within the community that is permitted to a man but not to a woman. There is no religious function from which women are barred at any time of their lives, the treatment of women as equals is paramount.

The philosophic structure of the Sikh faith rests on three cardinal principles, “Meditate on God, earn your living by honest means and share your meals with the less fortunate”. The Sikh faith is equally respectful of all other world religions or a non-Sikh who loves his or her own faith in his or her own way.

According to the 2021 census there are approximately 210,000+ Sikhs in Australia. There is a significant Sikh community in almost every major city in Australia with numerous Sikh places of worship. One does not have to be a Sikh to participate in Sikh religious services and activities. All are welcome at a Sikh Gurudwara. A free meal is served after every religious service to all those who participate in the service and to visitors.

Initiated Sikhs (Baptised)

Sikhs get initiated through a ceremony called ‘Taking Amrit’, When a Sikh woman or man comes of age, she or he is eligible to join the Khalsa, or the “alliance of the pure.” The rite of initiation is called “taking Amrit.” It is expected that sometime within the life of a Sikh he or she will undergo this initiation, and all Sikhs aspire to do so.

Initiated Sikhs do have to abide by the Sikh code of conduct, recite regular day and morning prayers, keep unshorn hair, and strictly keep five symbols of faith (K’s) the unshorn hair, a iron bangle (Karra), keep a small dagger (Kirpaan), wear a loose fitted undergarment (Kacherra) and a wooden comb (Kangha).

Each of the five symbols of faith or K’s have a practical function. For instance, the kangha is used to comb the long, uncut hair and the kirpan could be used as a weapon with which the Sikh is obliged to protect the oppressed. However, the Five K’s gradually attained a deep symbolic significance as well. Keeping uncut hair “is an integral part of the natural state of human beings.” It signifies “surrender of one’s ego to the guru” and represents the “declaration that one leads one’s life according to the way of the guru.” The kirpan is “the sword of knowledge, which has cut the roots of ego.” The bracelet is a reminder “to shed falsehood and practice universal love.” Its perfect circular shape is also understood as a symbol of the eternal nature of God. The comb not only keeps the hair clear but keeps the mind inwardly clean; and the shorts refer to sexual fidelity and the ethical value of overcoming lust.

Sikh identity means aligning one’s life with the truth of Ek Onkar, the One God. The Five K’s continually remind Sikhs of the ethical and spiritual implications of this truth.

Sikh Worship

Sikhs may pray at any location and at any time but many do so in the mornings and evenings. Sikhs attend communal prayers at least once a week and often recite prayers before carrying out a task.

Gurudwaras all over the world run free community kitchens, which provide vegetarian meals (Langgar) to everyone. These kitchens are manned and funded by volunteers. The community kitchen of the Sikhs serves to teach the concept of equality by shattering all barriers of caste and class. In a gurudwara no special place or seat may be reserved or set aside for any dignitary. The Sikh place of worship has historically served as a ‘place of learning’ and often a refuge for the homeless, the helpless and the destitute. Visitors, irrespective of their religion, are offered shelter, comfort and food.

Sikh Days of Religious Significance

  • Sikh New Year – 14 March
  • Vaisakhi – 14 April
  • Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Ji – 16 June
  • Martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji – 24 Nov
  • Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Ji – 14 April
  • First Parkash Guru Granth Sahib – 1 September
  • Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji – 5 Jan

Sikh Days of Cultural Significance

  • Maghi – 13Jan
  • Hola Mohalla (variable date) – 10 Mar
  • Bandi Shodh Divas (variable date) – 14 Nov

Dress and Appearance

A Sikh should wear a turban and keep hair uncut but tidy.

However, an initiated/ baptised Sikh is required to keep:

  • unshorn hair covered by a turban to keep the hair under control.
  • a small comb for the hair.
  • An iron/steel bracelet
  • a 6 cm long sword
  • underwear.

Dietary Needs

There are no dietary restrictions for a Sikh. A Sikh can eat any type of food, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, or drink any liquid so long it does not harm the body. A Sikh is forbidden to eat any Halal or Kosher meat because of the method used to slaughter the animal. A Sikh can eat the meat of any animal so long as it has been beheaded by a single stroke.

Medical Treatment

Permission is required to cut or remove the hair from the body of a Sikh for any medical procedure. There are no gender-based restrictions for receiving treatment

Death and Grieving

Death is considered a natural process and God’s will. Sikhs cremate their dead and the ashes of the deceased are preferably scattered over running water. The deliberate exhibition of grief by crying and wailing is discouraged and certain religious prayers are offered in the Gurudwara in which family members, friends and people known to the deceased participate.