Inside Sikhism

One of my best outings while in India was visiting to a Sikh temple in Old Delhi. Now, I don’t really know much about the Sikh religion (except that my cousin Mike married an American-Sikh woman and had a super fun Bollywood-esque wedding party).

But about the religious tenets — Nada! And so I read the free pamphlet “What is Sikhism” with great interest. Here’s what I found out:

Sikh History: The word “Sikh” means “disciple” and is, relatively speaking, a young religion:

  • The religion was founded in the late 15th century near what is now Lahore, Pakistan.
  • The founder was Guru Nanak, who rejected the existing religions’ emphasis on rituals, superstitions and dogmas.
  • Sikhs had their own country from 1780-1839, and then it was annexed by the British.

Sikhism as a Religion: A Sikh is a person who believes in One God and the teachings of the Ten Gurus. These teachings are enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Holy Book). In summary, Sikhs:

  • Believe life emanated from a pure source and therefore is not sinful in its origin.
  • Achieve salvation through living an honest, normal life.
  • Advocate optimism and hope.
  • Will resort to using the sword.
  • Abstain from all forms of alcohol, tobacco, and meat.

Sikhism Today: Here’s a bit about Sikhs in India today. They:

• Comprise only 1.8% of India’s population.

  • Do not recognize the caste system.
  • Do not allow divorce.
  • Are cremated at death, with the ashes thrown in the nearest river.
  • Are expected to meditate each morning and attend temple each day.

Sikh Men: Sikh men are recognized by their adherence to the 5 “Ks”:

  • Kesha – long, unshorn hair
  • Kangha – a comb
  • Kara – a steel bracelet
  • Kachha – pair of shorts
  • Kirpan – a sword

Sikh Women: Women play a strong role in Sikh communities and have many rights. For instance, women:

  • May re-marry if widowed.
  • Do not wear the veil (except in temple).
  • Can participate in and perform all ceremonies, including Baptism.
  • Need not provide a dowry.

Sangat & Pangat = Meal Sharing

Sangat means “congregation” and Pangat means “community kitchen.” The temple’s community kitchen serves food to devotees, pilgrims and visitors. The food is all donated and prepared by volunteers. The sharing of a meal is seen as a way to create equality among all of mankind.

While visiting the Sikh temple, I visited the prayer hall to meditate and observe, then volunteered to help prepare food in the pangat. I got in line with the other men and women, who taught me how to make chapattis, thin dough that’s fried (like a tortilla).

I met a lovely woman next to me named Rachita, who patiently showed me how to make my chapattis round, which they mostly were. I then walked around the communal kitchen while the meal was served. It was super cool seeing all walks of life come together to share a meal.

Really happy I got to learn more about this religion and participate in their temple ceremonies.

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012 and is filed under Asia Pacific.

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