What is Sikhism ?

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Sikhism is one of the youngest religion in the world. It was founded by Siri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in 1469 who laid the basic principles of Sikhism. It offered the people a simple Sikh religion teaching “Oneness of God”, whose name is TRUTH.


Sikhism is a practical religion – a faith of hope and optimism. Its ideals form a large part of the more progressive elements in humanity today. It shows mankind how to lead a worthy and useful life in the World, which elevates it to the status of Universal World Faith. Sikhism preaches universal equality, and therefore, regards all religions and people as equal before the eyes of God.

The conception of God is to us given by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the beginning of the Japji Sahib (morning sikh prayer). It is called the MOOL MANTAR and every Sikh is expected to learn it by heart.


There is only one God.
His name is truth.
He is the Creator.
He is without fear.
He is without hate.
He is beyond time.
He is beyond birth and death.
He is self-existent.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji stimulated a new wave of thought in all human beings so that we all may lead a healthy life. He taught us:
To adjust ourselves to the environment on the basis of Truth and reality without sacrificing our own individuality.
To achieve Oneness with God by living an active life of Gurmukh.
The righteousness and giving up vices are the ways to realize the essence of God.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji asked for total commitment to understand that God’s presence is felt everywhere and in all spheres.
He gave us the concepts of:

  • Naam Japna – To Remember God at all times, which will bring you contentment, truth, humility and virtue.
  • Kirt Karna – To work and earn a livelihood by honest means which preaches against slavery and injustice.
  • Wand Chakna – To share wealth, brings the essence of equality to oneself.

The Sikh religion is strictly monotheistic, believing in One Supreme God (Waheguru), absolute yet all-pervading, the eternal, the creator, the cause of all causes, without enmity, without hate, both immanent in His creations and beyond it. It is no longer the God of one nation, but the GOD OF GRACE. That being so He creates man not to punish him for his sins, but for the realization of his true purpose in the cosmos and to merge in from where he issued forth.

In Sikhism, a human being, in order to attain God, must rise above five basic vices: lust, anger, greed, pride, and ego. Anyone who successfully avoids these five transgressions, and who lives a truthful living, is considered to be a God-conscious person.

Sikhism accepts the idea of reincarnation. Life as a human being is considered the last step before realizing God. Whether or not one attains union with God depends on that one person’s actions in this life. Essentially, according to Sikh philosophy, human beings should free themselves from the cycle of reincarnation (births and deaths) by abandoning self-centeredness and embracing God-centeredness. In Sikhism, God is metaphorically known as Truth. With this in mind, a human being who embraces God-centeredness is living a life devoted to the fulfillment of Truth.


The word “Sikh” means a disciple. A Sikh is a person who believes in Waheguru and teachings of the Ten Gurus enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Book.
In short, a Sikh is a person who faithfully believes in the following:

  • One Immortal Being.
  • Ten Gurus from Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
  • The Guru Granth Sahib.
  • The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and…
  • The baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and not owe allegiance to any other religion.

The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, initiated the Sikh baptism ceremony in April 1699 AD and thus gave a distinctive identity to the Sikhs.

This distinction is represented by five symbols, popularly known as Five K”s, because the first letter of each symbol begins with the letter “K”. These are Kesh (long and unshorn hair), Kangha (a comb), Kara (a steel braclet), Kachera (pair of shorts), and Kirpan (a sword).

When Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Ji created the Khalsa Panth, he ordered them to maintain the five symbols – Panj Kakar. These symbols were not only necessary for the strength and uniformity of the organization, but also for the value they each had in their own right.

Hair (Kesh) was regarded as a symbol of saintliness and Dharma in ancient times. Guru Nanak Dev Ji started the practice of keeping unshorn hair. The keeping of hair is regarded as an indication of living in harmony with the Will of God. The shaving of hair may be construed as interference in nature’s way and considering oneself wiser than God. Keeping hair is the most important symbol. A Khalsa become apostate (Patit) if he shaves or trims his hair.

Comb (Kangha) is necessary for keeping the hair clean and tidy.

Shorts (Kacheraa) is regarded as a symbol of chastity. Moreover, it allows unembarrassed movement in times of action. It is also easy and comfortable to wear when at rest. It serves as a mark of readiness and agility.

Steel bracelet (Kara) is a symbol of restraint and gentility; it also reminds the Sikh that he is bonded to the Guru. When a Sikh looks at it, he will think twice before doing an evil deed. These symbols are kept to preserve corporate unity and to foster the sentiment of brotherhood. They assist a Khalsa to look exactly like Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Ji (form wise) and thus hopefully prompt him to behave like a Guru.

Sword (Kirpan) is an emblem of courage and adventure. In order to have self-respect, the Khalsa should maintain the means to vindicate his honour. The sword is to be used for the defense of oneself or others but not for offence.

People who wear a uniform and who are imbued with disciplined outlook are better able to achieve unity of purpose and acquire a real sense of brotherhood than those who have set no particular standards. A Sikh without these symbols is a non entity. Those who cut their hair or trim their beard commit a breach of the Cardinal Rules of the Order, and considered as ‘apostates’.


Ek Onkar
This symbol translates as ‘One True God’. It is made up of two characters: The Punjabi character for the number ‘one’ and the Punjabi letter ‘Urha’ for ‘Onkar’ meaning ‘God’. The Ek Onkar is the symbol which shows that Sikhs believe in one God.

Sikh Insignia (Khanda)
Khanda is the emblem of the Sikh nation. It consists of two Kirpaans (the Sikh swords), one Khanda (double-edged sword) and one Chakkar (circle). The Sikhs have adopted it as an emblem of their royalty and nationality. The two swords represent spiritual and temporal sovereignty of the Sikh nation, the Chakkar symbolizes the wholeness of the universe as well as creation and the double-edged sword symbolizes initiation. Thus sovereignty, infinity and initiation are the three basic points of the Sikh national emblem.

The Sikh Flag (Nishan Sahib)
The Nishan Sahib is the flag of the Sikh Nation and plays an important role in our community. It is a saffron-colored triangular-shaped cloth, with the Khanda, usually in blue, in the middle of it.

The Nishan Sahib gives the Sikh Nation unity and represents the path to salvation. The fluttering of the flag emits a message of hospitality, safety and shelter for all and offers hope and assures justice, compassion and peace.

Some research suggests that even in the time of Guru Nanak Dev Ji a flag was hoisted which was white with Ek Onkar written on it, but it was at the time of Guru Hargobind Ji when the color was changed to Kesri (saffron) colored flag was hoisted, at the Akaal Takhat Sahib in Amritsar, for the first time in 1609 A.D., after the Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

Initially the Nishan Sahib had only the 2 swords of “Miri”(temporal authority) and “Piri”(spiritual authority) on it. Later in the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji the circle representing humanity, and the Khanda (two edged sword), representing the supremacy and mighty of Waheguru, were added in order to make the Sikh “Coat of Arms”, that we today call the Khanda.

This Nishan Sahib, as a matter of religious injunction, must be hoisted at each and every Gurdwara. It is often seen either on the top of the Gurdwara or near the entrance standing firmly on the platform, overlooking the whole building. It is usually mounted on a long steel pole (which is also covered with saffron-colored cloth) and headed with a Khanda. Sikhs show great respect to their flag as it is, indeed, the symbol of the freedom of the Khalsa.


“Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh”

This is the proper salutation for all the Sikhs and was introduced by Siri Guru Gobind Singh Ji at the time of the manifestation of Khalsa in 1699. In Sikhism, ‘Waheguru’ is the name used to represent God. Sikhs greet each other with folded hands and say, ‘Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.’, meaning “The Khalsa belongs to Waheguru, The victory belongs to Waheguru”. This salutation is also said before and after the deliberations in Gurdwaras and other religious ceremonies.

Nowadays, Sikhs also greet each other by joining their hands and saying ‘Sat Sri Akal’.


Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”

The first part of the slogan, “Bole so Nihal”, means “whoever utters shall be blessed”. The second part “Sat Sri Akal” means “Eternal is The Great Timeless Lord” (in simpler terms, “God is Everlasting”), which is shouted in harmony responding to the call of the first part. This call was initially used in the times of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, to inspire the Sikhs to fight with courage and bravery against injustice and tyranny. It is basically a call to action, or expression of joy or an invocation of Divine aid. This slogan is generally shouted out loud at religious functions and gatherings.