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To Be A Sikh

by nishaan@magazine

S Harbhajan Singh Sapra, now in his 81st year, has written this piece for the next generation of youth, his desire being to present the vitality of Sikhism to those in modern times educational institutions, in India and around the world.

Sikhism is the youngest and the most visible amongst the world’s religions, but is not a passive faith. It advocates active participation of mankind in the process of transformation to a better Society.

The Sikh religion has evolved from the simple but saintly-life essentials of the Ten Sikh Gurus who dedicated their lives to the wellbeing of humanity without distinction of colour, caste, creed or religion.

The Ten Gurus successively were

          Gurta Gadi Period                       Life Span

Guru Nanak Dev ji                             1469 – 1539 AD                      1469 – 1539 AD

Guru Angad Dev ji                             1539 – 1552 AD                    1504 – 1552 AD

Guru Amar Das ji                               1552 – 1574 AD                      1479 – 1574 AD

Guru Ram Das ji                                 1574 – 1581 AD                     1534 – 1581 AD

Guru Arjan Dev ji                               1581 – 1606 AD                      1563 – 1606 AD

Guru Hargobind  ji                              1606 – 1644 AD                     1595 – 1644 AD

Guru Har Rai  ji                                  1644 – 1661 AD                     1630 – 1661 AD

Guru Har Krishan ji                            1661 – 1664 AD                     1656 – 1664 AD

Guru Tegh Bahadur ji                         1664 – 1675 AD                     1621 – 1675 AD

Guru Gobind Singh ji                         1675 – 1707 AD                     1666 – 1708 AD

Revelation in Sikhism is truly unique, the theory of incarnation being completely rejected. No Sikh Guru claimed to be an incarnation of God, but preached that there is only One God (Ek Onkar), present everywhere in everyone throughout the entire universe.

In Sikh philosophy every human being could have direct link with God through recitation of the Divine Name: Bani (Hymns) is Guru and Guru is Bani.

The Sikh Gurus lived normal lives of the householder and were treated with great reverence for their preaching. People turned to them for guidance, following their simplicity, love, wisdom and moral piety. Guru Nanak Dev ji preached his gospel at places which became known as Dharmsals, where his followers would gather to listen to his discourses on the new faith. The institution of Sangat (people assembled for meditation and listening to hymns) and Pangat (devotees seated on the floor), food from the community kitchen (langar) originated at these Dharmsals.

The Dharamsals became to be known as Gurdwaras which emerged by the seventeenth century as a new edifice on the Indian religious scene. Gurudwara became manifest symbol of the Sikh Faith, with indefinable spirit imbibed by millions of believers.

Devotees gather at Gurudwara with great devotion, to hear recitations from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, listen to Shabad Keertan (soulful recitation of hymns rendered in classical style – accompanied by musical instruments) throughout the day. The Sikh Faith invokes humanity to “recite the name of God, work honestly and share their earnings with the less privileged”.

The Fifth Guru Arjan Dev ji chose the hymns of his predecessors, hymns of Saints

(Bhagat) of different religions of similar belief and compiled a Granth (Pothi Sahib) which was installed at the Darbar Sahib, Amritsar in 1604 AD. Baba Buddha ji was appointed as first high priest by Guru Arjan Dev ji, who himself sat on the floor with utmost respect and recited hymns with the congregation.

Completion of Pothi Sahib was done by Guru Gobind Singh ji,  including also hymns of the 9th Guru, Tegh Bahadur Sahib ji. This compilation of 1430 pages was to be known as Guru Granth Sahib ji. In 1708 AD, Guru ji ordained His Sikhs to “Recognise and adopt Guru Granth Sahib ji as the Living Guru from hence to eternity.” Further, “consider the Guru Granth as representing Body of the Guru. From now on, all those who wish to connect with The Guru, find the way in hymns of Guru Granth Sahib ji.”

Extreme humility is dominant theme of all Sikh Hymns. All Ten Sikh Guru’s abhorred the three evils of Greed, Worldly Attachment and Ego.  Guru Gobind Singh ji created the concept of Panj Pyaray (Five Beloved ones) and formed the Khalsa through the baptism  ceremony (Khanday Bata Di Pahul – Amrit) at a congregation of 80,000 Sikh faith followers, at Anandpur Sahib in March 1699.

Guru Gobind Singh ji then requested these five Singhs to serve Amrit to him, as their first disciple. The Guru thus passed on Guruship not to another individual but to corporate body of the Sikhs (Five Beloved Ones), as Guru Khalsa Panth. Tenth Guru himself become the first member of the body. The miracle had happened: people divided as Hindus, Muslims, low caste and ‘high caste’ became united as one Brotherhood, that of the Khalsa.

The social revolution started by Guru Nanak Dev ji had achieved its aim. Those who took Amrit from the same bowl, were resurrected as Sant Sipahis  (Saint Soldiers), to serve society without distinction.

Guru Gobind Singh ji gave the unique, distinguishing identity to Sikhs, naming the men as Singhs and Sikh women as Kaurs. Guru ji asked them to adorn turbans, giving them both dignity and differentiation.

Guru Gobind Singh ji also ordained his Sikhs to carry five essentials, (Panj Kakars):

  • Kesh, unshorn hair as adorned by the creator.
  • Kanga, comb to keep hair tidy.
  • Kara, steel bracelet worn on the right forearm, motivation for righteous and bravery.
  • Kachhera, an under garment of practical design for personal hygiene and chastity.
  • Kirpan or Siri Sahib, short sword as symbol of sovereignty.

The Kirpan is also used to symbolically ‘steel’ Karah Prasad (sanctified food offering) at Sikh religious congregations.

The Sikh religion invokes blessings of the One God for entire humanity and in the daily invocation, prays for all in the world, Sarbat Da Bhalla.

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