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  1. Sikhism March 2012

  2. Sikhism • Sikhism is a religious tradition originating in medieval India • It is a distinctive religious tradition developed by a lineage of ten Gurus • Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world today, with approximately 30 million Sikhs worldwide, two-thirds of whom live in India (primarily the Punjab region) • Significant populations of Sikhs also live in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom

  3. Sikhism Timeline 1469-1539: Life of Guru Nanak 1563-1606: Life of Guru Arjan Dev 1621-1675: Life of Guru Tegh Bahadur 1666-1708: Life of Guru Gobind Singh 1699: Khalsa order founded 1708: Guru Granth Sahib declared Eternal Guru 1801-1849: Sikh Empire 1849: British conquer Punjab 1947: Partition of India and Pakistan leads to mass migration of Sikhs from Pakistan 1984: Conflict between Sikh separatists and Indian government; Indira Gandhi assassinated; Hindu mob violence against Sikhs

  4. Ten Gurus • Guru Nanak (1469-1539) • Guru Angad (1504-1552) • Guru Amar Das (1479-1574) • Guru Ram Das (1534-1581) • Guru Arjun Dev (1563-1606) • Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) • Guru Har Rai (1630-1661) • Guru Har Krishan (1656-1664) • Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675) • Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) • After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, the Adi Granth, holy text of Sikhism, became the Guru Granth Sahib, the Eternal Guru

  5. Late Medieval India • The late medieval period in India saw the arrival of Muslims to the subcontinent • Turkic Muslims established kingdoms in northern India, bringing Islamic culture into contact with the native Hinduism • In 1526, the Turkish king Babur established the Mughal Empire in northern India • Although the leadership was Muslim, the majority of the population remained Hindu; relations between the two religions were good for the early years of the Mughal Empire

  6. Hinduism and Islam • Aside from some visits to India by Muslim merchants, the earliest encounters between Hinduism and Islam were violent, with Muslim invaders viewing Hindus as idol-worshipping polytheists similar to pre-Islamic Arabs, and Hindus viewing Islam as the religion of foreign invaders • Over time, Muslim rulers came to view Hindus as “People of the Book,” noting the monotheistic tendencies in Brahmanism • The mystical traditions in Hinduism and Islam provided a point of contact

  7. Kabir • Kabir (1440-1518) was a weaver and poet who was born to a Muslim family in India • He became a disciple of the bhakti saint Ramananda • Kabir began composing devotional poetry • His work is based upon a religious philosophy which emphasized the mystical reunion between the soul and God, and draws upon both bhakti and Sufi concepts • Kabir rejected the religious dogmatism of both Hinduism and Islam • Although Kabir was not a Sikh and had no contact with the early Sikh community, his work would be influential on Sikh, Hindu, and Sufi mystics alike

  8. Guru Nanak • Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was the founder of Sikhism • No historical records of the life of Guru Nanak exist; what is known is based upon Sikh legends about his life called janam-sakhis which were written at least one hundred years after his death • Nanak lived in the Punjab region of northwestern India, which served as a “crossroads” between India and the civilizations to the west • As a result, many armies crossed through the Punjab on the way to and from India, leaving many cultural influences • Nanak was born to a Hindu family, had a wife and two sons, and worked as an accountant

  9. Guru Nanak’s Religious Experience • According to legend, when Nanak was thirty years old, he went to a river and did not return for three days • Some accounts claim that he was given sacred nectar (amrit) to drink and charged by God to preach to the world • When he returned, he declared, “There is neither Hindu nor Muslim” • Guru (Master or Teacher) Nanak then began to travel around southern Asia, visiting many parts of India, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Persia, and Arabia

  10. Guru Nanak’s Teachings • Nanak’s philosophy is based on three teachings about the relationship between humans and God: • Working hard to earn an honest living (as opposed to asceticism) • Sharing one’s wealth with the needy • Remembering the one God at all times and chanting the Name of God • Guru Nanak’s teachings are expressed in the form of hymns, which comprise part of the Guru Granth Sahib • When spreading his teachings, Guru Nanak would sing his hymns accompanied by Bhai Mardana, a Muslim rabab (a stringed instrument) player who was the first follower of Nanak

  11. The Mul Mantra • The Mul Mantra is Nanak’s first composition and the beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib, and expresses the nature of God in Sikhism: • There is one Supreme Being, the Eternal Reality. He is the Creator, without fear and devoid of enmity. He is immortal, never incarnated, self-existent, known by grace through the Guru. The Eternal One, from the beginning, through all time, present now, the Everlasting Reality • God is known by various names in Sikhism, including Waheguru (Wonderful Teacher bringing light to remove darkness), Ek Onkar (The One Constant), Satnam (True Name), Nirankar (Formless One), and Akal Purakh (Timeless One)

  12. Guru Nanak: Later Years • After his travels, Guru Nanak settled in Kartarpur (modern Pakistan) and became a farmer • He opened a community kitchen where volunteers would distribute food to the needy • In the Nanak Panth (family), there were no caste distinctions • When Nanak was near death, there was a disagreement over whether his body would be disposed of according to Hindu or Muslim custom, as he had followers from both communities • According to legend, he told his Hindu followers to place flowers on one side of his body and his Muslim followers to place them on the other side; whichever flowers remained fresh the next day could dispose of his body according to their custom • The next day, all the flowers were fresh, and his body had disappeared

  13. Guru Angad • A disciple of Nanak’s, Bhai Lehna, succeeded Nanak as Guru of the Panth • He took on the name Guru Angad • Ang means “limb;” indicating that Angad was so close to Nanak that he was virtually part of Nanak’s own body • Among Guru Angad’s achievements were popularizing the langar communal meal, composing a number of hymns, and developing a new script, Gurmukhi, to write down the Punjabi hymns • Under Angad, the Sikh Panth differentiated itself from the mainstream Hindu community

  14. Gurus Amar Das and Ram Das • The Sikh Panth grew under the leadership of Guru Amar Das and his son-in-law, Guru Ram Das • These Gurus saw the establishment of shrines (dharma-sala) in communities far from Kartarpur • A place where Sikhs could gather to sing kirtan (hymns) came to be called a gurdwara (grace of the Guru) • By the time of Guru Ram Das, the community grew large enough that it required a new headquarters, so the Guru founded the city of Amritsar (“pool of immortal nectar”) • By this time, the Mughal Empire was the dominant power in northern India • Emperor Akbar, a very spiritual man, visited the Sikh community during the time of Gurus Amar Das and Ram Das and was pleased with their teaching

  15. Guru Arjun Dev • In order to avoid division within the Panth, Ram Das decided to appoint his youngest son, Arjun Dev, as the next Guru • Despite this, Arjun Dev’s older brother, Prithi Chand, set himself up as an alternative guru, bringing division to the Panth • Arjun Dev oversaw the construction of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the most sacred shrine in Sikhism • Arjun Dev also compiled the Adi Granth, collecting hymns from the Gurus as well as devotional poetry from Hindu and Muslim saints • The Mughal Emperor Jahangir became wary of the influence of the Sikh community, and had Arjun Dev tortured to death

  16. Guru Hargobind • After the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev, the Sikh community began to see the need to defend themselves • Arjun’s son, Hargobind, appeared at his installation as Guru with two swords, one representing religious authority, the other representing political authority • Under Guru Hargobind, Sikhs began learning martial arts and warfare

  17. Gurus Har Rai, Har Krishan, and Tegh Bahadur • Hargobind’s son, Guru Har Rai, was a man of peace who fought no battles with the Mughals • His son, Har Krishan, became Guru at the age of five and died of smallpox at the age of eight • Har Krishan’s great uncle, Tegh Bahadur, became Guru • At this time, the emperor of the Mughals was the tyrannical Aurangzeb, who sought to convert India to Islam by force • Some Kashmiri Brahmins came to Tegh Bahadur for help, and he declared that they should not convert to Islam under compulsion unless he did • Emperor Aurangzeb then had Tegh Bahadur arrested him and had him tortured until he converted • Guru Tegh Bahadur did not convert, and was beheaded

  18. Guru Gobind Singh • Gobind Singh was the tenth and final human Guru in mainstream Sikhism • Gobind Singh was nine years old when the severed head of his father was brought to him • As an adult, he became a master warrior and tactician, as well as a poet and spiritual leader • Convinced of the need of the Panth to defend itself, he began to institute significant changes to the community

  19. Founding of the Khalsa • On the New Year festival of 1699, Gobind Singh assembled his followers and asked if any were willing to offer their heads to the Guru • Eventually, a volunteer stepped forward, and he and the Guru entered a tent, and the Guru emerged with a bloody sword, and called for another volunteer • After four more volunteers had seemingly offered their lives to the Guru, he emerged from his tent with all five, who were unharmed and wearing distinctive new dress • Guru Gobind Singh had initiated these volunteers into the Khalsa (“the Pure”), a religious order

  20. The Khalsa • Sikhs who are initiated into the Khalsa are required to follow a special ethical and ritual code beyond what is required of the uninitiated • Khalsa Sikhs are required to avoid the four kurahits, or cardinal sins: • Cutting their hair • Smoking, chewing tobacco, or consuming alcohol • Eating halal meat • Having relations with Muslim women (later extended to include any adulterous relationship) • Upon initiation, male Khalsa Sikhs take the name Singh (“Lion”), and female Khalsa Sikhs take the name Kaur (“Princess”) • Women were not widely initiated into the Khalsa until long after the time of Guru Gobind Singh

  21. The Five Ks • Guru Gobind Singh wanted Khalsa members to be distinguishable from the general public so that they may not waver in their courage and dedication • Khalsa Sikhs are required to bear five symbols at all times, called the “Five Ks”: • Kesh (uncut hair and beard) • Makes Sikhs distinguishable from non-Sikhs; hair seen as a gift from God • Kangha (comb) • Keeps the hair tidy, representing physical and spiritual cleanliness • Kachh (breeches) • Symbol of chastity; also useful for mounting and dismounting horses • Kara (steel bracelet) • Protects the wrist when fighting with a sword; circular shape represents unity of Sikhs • Kirpan (sword or dagger) • Represents constant readiness to defend against injustice • Khalsa Sikhs also normally wear a turban

  22. The Five Ks Kirpan Kachh Kara Kangha

  23. Later Life of Guru Gobind Singh • The Khalsa grew with the addition of new volunteers, and became a powerful military force in the Punjab • Guru Gobind Singh led the Khalsa to a number of victories against the local Rajas and against the Mughal Empire • All of the Guru’s sons were killed in these wars • Since the lineage of the Guru had been terminated, Guru Gobind Singh named the Adi Granth, the Sikh holy book, as the Eternal Guru • The Sikh community as a whole, represented by the Khalsa, also came to be considered a Guru • Guru Gobind Singh was assassinated in 1708

  24. The Panth after Guru Gobind Singh • Without the leadership of the living Guru, the Sikh community fragmented into smaller confederacies led by local congregations • However, the Khalsa would meet twice per year in Amritsar and make authoritative decisions for the community, which were understood to be the will of the Guru • The Khalsa came to be a major military and political force in the Punjab, even though Sikhs only comprised 10% of the population of the region • The Punjab was ruled by the Afghan Empire from the mid-18th to early 19th centuries • By the mid-18th century, the Mughal Empire was subjugated by the British

  25. Maharaja Ranjit Singh • In 1801, the Punjab was united under the leadership of Maharaja (King) Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), a Sikh chieftain • Ranjit Singh established an empire that was ruled by Sikhs but was tolerant of the large Hindu and Muslim populations within its borders, even allowing Hindus and Muslims to rise to high ranks within the empire • Ranjit Singh died in 1839 • Although the Sikh Empire would fall to the British in 1849, lasting less than fifty years, it continues to play an important role in Sikh national identity to this day

  26. Sikh Empire

  27. Sikhism in the 19th Century • Sikhism was not clearly distinguished from the Hindu traditions of the Punjab during the 19th century, nor were the traditions of the Khalsa representative of the practices of all Sikhs • Many Sikhs included Hindu elements in their devotions • Varying movements emerged within Sikhism, some of which disagreed with the Khalsa on fundamental issues • Sahaj-dhari Sikhs based their worship on the Adi Granth but felt no need to be initiated into the Khalsa, and often incorporated Hindu elements into their worship • The Nirankari (worshippers of the Formless One) felt that the Khalsa placed too much emphasis on military and political matters and neglected the spiritual aspects of Sikhism • They were rejected by more orthodox Sikhs for placing too much importance on the writings of their leader, Dyal Das • The Namdhari Sikhs practiced asceticism and vegetarianism, like Hindu ascetics

  28. Establishing Orthodoxy • When the British Raj (rulership) was established in India, British scholars sought to learn about the religions of the colonized peoples • During this time, “Hinduism” as a religious category was established, encompassing the various Indian religious traditions aside from Buddhism, Islam, and Jainism • Sikh leaders sought to differentiate themselves from Hindus • Several reform movements among Sikh intellectuals emerged in the late 19th century which sought to establish “true” Sikhism, different in practice and legally from Hinduism • This involved reforming Sikhism in order to purge it of its Hindu elements • The Khalsa ultimately became the dominant voice in these movements, defining what came to be considered Sikh orthodoxy

  29. Sikh Beliefs • For Sikhs, God is present within the world • The light of God shines fully through the Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib • Nam, the Name of God, dwells within the world • Unlike Brahmanism, however, Sikhism is not pantheistic • Sikhism is monotheistic, like Islam • Sikhs generally believe in karma and reincarnation, like Hindus and Buddhists • The cycle of birth and death can cease following a good life

  30. The Human Condition • For Sikhs, rebirth as a human provides a unique opportunity to pursue freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth • The human soul originates from the light of God, and is essentially good • However, humans are unaware of their true nature, and become subservient to maya (attachment to worldly things, or having a materialistic view of the world) • This combines with haumai (self-reliance, as opposed to reliance on God) to lead humans away from God • It is not necessarily evil to be attached to one’s home or family, but this attachment becomes negative when combined with haumai • The five “evils” that lead people from the way of God are lust, greed, attachment, wrath, and pride

  31. The Spiritual Quest • In Sikhism, the objective of life is to become gurmukh, or focused on God in everyday life • To do this, Sikhs practice the discipline of nam-simran, meditation on the name of God in everyday life • By constantly meditating on God, the human will and the divine will begin to converge • Another important aspect of the spiritual quest is singing kirtan at the gurdwara, in the company of other Sikhs

  32. Five Stages of Liberation • The Gurus identified five stages humans must pass through on the way to enlightenment: • Dharam Khand: the stage of duty or piety, in which humans act according to basic duties. All humans are born into this stage • Gyan Khand: the stage of awareness, in which humans become aware of the mysterious vastness of the universe • Saram Khand: the stage of effort, in which human will becomes increasingly attuned to the divine will • Karam Khand: the stage of grace, which can only be reached through the gift of God • Sach Khand: the stage of truth, which is beyond human comprehension. The enlightened person perceives the world from the point of view of the divine, and is no longer subject to karma

  33. The Adi Granth • The Adi Granth (“Original Book”), also called the Guru Granth Sahib, Siri Guru Granth Sahib, or Guru Granth Sahib Ji, is the main sacred text in Sikhism • The first version of the Adi Granth was compiled by the fifth Guru, Arjun Dev, but Guru Gobind Singh added to it hymns written by his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur • It thus includes hymns by six Gurus as well as hymns by other Hindu and Muslim poet-saints • The Adi Granth is written in Gurmukhi script in the Punjabi language • The hymns of the Adi Granth are organized by author, and contain ragas and directions for singing

  34. The Adi Granth as Guru • The Adi Granth is treated in the same way that a human Guru would be treated • In the gurdwara, the Guru Granth Sahib is placed at a higher level than everyone in the congregation • It is never placed on the floor, and when moved, it is carried on the head • Each gurdwara has a Granthi, a caretaker of the Guru Granth Sahib • The Granthi leads the singing at the gurdwara • He or she waves a ceremonial fan around the Guru Granth Sahib, as was once done for living Gurus to purify the air of insects and cool the Guru • Sikhs cover their heads and remove their shoes when in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib as a sign of respect

  35. Other Important Texts • Another important text is the Dasam Granth (“Tenth Book”), which contains writings from Guru Gobind Singh • The Dasam Granth contains hymns composed by Guru Gobind Singh, as well as stories, legends, and a letter from the Guru to Emperor Aurangzeb • Some of the hymns of the Dasam Granth are recited daily, but it generally plays a lesser role in Sikh life than the Adi Granth • The Janam-sakhis are legends about the life of Guru Nanak • The Sikh Reht Maryada is a code of conduct for Sikhs, which outlines how Sikhs should behave, official beliefs, proper conduct of rituals, and ethics • The current version of the Sikh Reht Maryada was developed in 1950, but draws upon older codes

  36. Sikh Ritual • Observant Sikhs begin their day with a half-hour-long ritual that includes bathing and chanting the Mul Mantra and other prayers • At the end of the day, Sikhs say more prayers: “I live by repeating the blest Name of God; if ever I cease I must die. Hard is the way if one craves the true Name, yet the Name brings all pain to an end. Refrain: Mother of mine, let me never forget him. True is my Master, his Name is ever true.” • Devout Sikhs also read from the Adi Granth daily

  37. At the Gurdwara • Some Sikhs may worship at the gurdwara every day, but most Sikhs, especially in the West, visit only once per week • Shoes are removed before entering the gurdwara, and heads are covered • Decoration is simple, often including portraits of the Gurus • Participants bow to the Guru Granth Sahib and then sit, men on one side, women and small children on the other • The congregation sings the kirtan, accompanied by musicians, and hears the Granthi read from the Guru Granth Sahib • A community member may give a sermon • Sacramental food called karah prasad is distributed to the congregation • A langar meal follows the service

  38. Holidays • Over the year, Sikhs celebrate gurpurabs, or anniversaries from Sikh history • These include the birthday of Guru Nanak in November, the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh in December or January, and the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev in May or June • Other holidays include Baisakhi (New Year) in March or April, and Diwali at the new moon in October • While both of these holidays have Hindu roots, Sikhs reinterpret them in distinctive ways

  39. Life-Cycle Rituals • When a baby is born in a Sikh family, it is anointed with sweetened water, and the mother and child are left in seclusion for thirteen days • A naming ceremony follows, which includes a service at the gurdwara • The Adi Granth is randomly opened, and the first letter on the page will be the first letter of the child’s name • Boys are given the second name “Singh;” girls are given the second name “Kaur” • When a Khalsa Sikh boy turns eleven or twelve, they have their turban tied on for the first time • Turban-tying is an art form for Sikhs • Some Sikh girls also wear turbans and undergo this ritual • Marriages are celebrated in the gurdwara, and involves circumambulation of the Guru Granth Sahib and eating of a meal • According to tradition, Sikh marriages are arranged by the couple’s parents • At Sikh funerals, the body is cremated, and the entire Adi Granth is read

  40. Initiation to the Khalsa • An additional life-cycle ritual undergone by some Sikhs is initiation into the Khalsa • This is voluntary; some Sikhs are never initiated • The initiate will memorize sections of scripture, and study the code of conduct for Khalsa Sikhs • Other Khalsa Sikhs must attest to the worthiness of the initiate • The initiation takes place in the gurdwara and is overseen by the Granthi and at least five fully initiated Khalsa Sikhs • The initiate is anointed with amrit (nectar), readings are read, and the initiate says in Punjabi, “Hail to the Guru’s Khalsa! Hail to the Guru’s victory!” • Then the initiate recites the Mul Mantra, and karah prasad is distributed

  41. Sikhs in Modern Times • Contemporary Sikh history has been defined by the experience of colonialism and the partition of India • Many Sikhs served in the colonial military, often serving outside of India, and Sikh communities soon arose throughout the British Empire, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and East Africa • In 1947, the former colony of India was granted independence, and was partitioned between India and Pakistan • The partition process led to communal violence between Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and others; many died during these tumultuous years • The border between the two countries split the Punjab; most Sikhs migrated to the Indian side or emigrated to the UK and Canada • Most Sikhs in Canada settled in British Columbia; many later moved to Toronto • Decades of conflict between Pakistan and India have made it difficult for Sikhs in India to visit the holy sites in Pakistan, including Kartarpur and the birthplace of Nanak • In India, the Punjab was further split between the Punjab state and another, predominantly Hindu state • Some Sikhs called for an independent Sikh nation, called Khalistan; this dream has not been fulfilled

  42. Women in Sikhism • Sikh scripture supports the equality of women and men • Some of the practices prohibited in Sikhism include suttee (the burning of widows with their dead husbands), veiling, and infanticide • Women may be initiated into the Khalsa and serve as Granthis • However, as in many parts of South Asia, men in the Punjab are beginning to outnumber women due to the patriarchal nature of the society • Similarly, caste discrimination continues to play a role in Sikh society in some cases • Sikh feminists have sought to affirm the egalitarian tendencies in early Sikhism and bring about greater gender equality

  43. 1984 • By the 1980s, the movement for an independent Khalistan had become increasingly militant • In the early 1980s, the radical separatist preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and approximately 200 of his armed followers fortified themselves within the Golden Temple in Amritsar • Bhindranwale called for the rejection of all non-Khalsa Sikh identities and an independent homeland based on Khalsa principles • Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent the military to Amritsar to remove the militants from the Golden Temple • The ensuing battle resulted in at least 500 dead, mostly civilians but also including Bhindranwale, and extensive damage to the Golden Temple • Sikhs were outraged by this perceived desecration of their holiest site • Four months later, Prime Minister Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards • In revenge, radical Hindu mobs massacred thousands of Sikhs in New Delhi

  44. Contemporary Sikhism • Since the 1990s, communal tensions between Sikhs and Hindus have generally subsided • In 2004, Dr. Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, was elected Prime Minister of India, a position he continues to hold • In Canada, the Sikh politician Ujjal Dosanjh was elected Premier of British Columbia in 2000, and would later serve as a member of Paul Martin’s cabinet

  45. For Next Class… • Read Chapter 12: New Religious Movements