Pronounced “Aad granthh.” See Guru Granth Sahib.
Category Archives: Sikhism
Pronounced “BUK-tee.” A Sanskrit term meaning “loving devotion to God,” bhakti inspired major Indian religious movements, including Sikhism, by focusing on the individual’s relationship to the divine.
Pronounced “dee-VAH-lee.” The Hindu “festival of lights” is one of the most celebrated in the Hindu diaspora. It symbolizes the victory of dharma, and good over evil. The word is a variation of the Sanskrit word “Deepavali” and refers to the rows of earthen lamps celebrants place around their homes. Hindus believe that the light from these lamps symbolizes the illumination within the individual that overwhelms ignorance, represented by darkness. Diwali commemorates the return of the avatar Lord Ram (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu), his wife Sita and brother Lakshman to their capital, Ayodhya, after 14 years of exile. The residents of Ayodhya, overjoyed at the return of their beloved king, lit lamps in his honor. Thus, the entire city looked like a row of lights. Diwali is also observed by Sikhs, who celebrate the release of the Sixth Guru, Hargobind, from captivity by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, and Jains, who commemorate the day Lord Mahavira attained nirvana, or liberation, after his death in 527 B.C.
Pronounced “ka-CARS.” The five articles of the Sikh faith are: kara, a steel bracelet; kanga, a comb; kirpan, a ceremonial dagger; kach, undergarments; and kesh, long uncut hair that men and some women wrap in a turban. Most Sikhs wear some of the articles, while Sikhs who have taken amrit (Sikh baptism) wear all five. Nearly all people who wear turbans in America are Sikh.
The holiest Sikh temple, located in the city of Amritsar in the Indian state of Punjab. The temple was built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi responded to a security threat by ordering an attack on the Golden Temple, destroying parts of the temple complex, which has since been rebuilt. Also known as Harmandir Sahib.
Pronounced “GUR-dwahr-uh.” A Sikh place of worship that houses the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib.
Pronounced “GOOR-pur-ab.” A Sikh holiday that commemorates the birth or death of a Sikh guru. The most significant gurpurab is the birthday of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh teacher, celebrated in November.
Pronounced “GOO-roo.” Broadly used to refer to a teacher of any subject, but especially of spiritual matters. In Hinduism, one’s spiritual guru is seen to be a representative of the divine, through whom one is given the teachings and practices necessary for enlightenment. Guru Gobind Singh: The 10th teacher of the Sikh religion, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) led Sikhs in a battle for autonomy and has come to represent the Sikh ideal of the saint-soldier. In 1699, he formed Sikhs into the Khalsa, a spiritual sister- and brotherhood, and gave them five articles of faith (the Five Kakaars). He passed the guruship on to the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib.
Pronounced “goo-ROO grunt sah-EEB.” Holy book of the Sikh religion, considered the 11th and lasting guru. It is a compilation of the devotional poetry of Guru Nanak, other Sikh gurus, and saints of other religions. Sikhs consider it the supreme spiritual authority and living guide of the Sikh religion. It is installed under a canopy in every Sikh gurdwara (house of worship) where Sikhs sing, recite and meditate on the scripture. It is also called the Adi Granth.
Pronounced “goo-ROO NAN-ek.” The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak was born in the mid-15th century in Punjab, now North India and Pakistan. He is said to have disappeared by the river for three days and emerged with a revelation: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.” In other words, beneath all husks and labels, humanity is one. He wandered the countryside with Muslims and Hindus as companions, singing devotional (bhakti) poetry in wonder of One Formless God. His teachings became the foundation of the Sikh religion and were later recorded in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book and living guide.
Undershorts worn by Sikhs as a symbol of dignity, modesty and the control of sexual desire. They are one of the articles of faith known as the Five K’s (or kakars) — outward symbols of Sikh faith — ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
A small comb worn by Sikhs under their turbans to tidy their uncut hair. It is one of the articles of faith known as the Five K’s (or kakars) — outward symbols of Sikh faith — ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
A steel bangle worn by Sikhs as a reminder to carry out God’s work. It is usually worn on the right arm and is one of the articles of faith known as the Five K’s (or kakars) — outward symbols of Sikh faith — ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
Pronounced “core.” A last name shared by all women who practice the Sikh religion, it means “daughter of kings” or “princess.” The 10th Sikh teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, gave Sikhs the same last names as a sign of equality (traditional last names in 17th-century North India indicated caste). Women are seen as equals in the Sikh tradition.
The wearing of long uncut hair by Sikhs as a symbol of respect for the natural perfection of God’s creation. It is one of the articles of faith known as the Five K’s (or kakars) — outward symbols of Sikh faith — ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
The name adopted by proponents of an independent Sikh homeland in India. It means “land of the pure.” Khalistani separatists declared their independence from India on Oct. 7, 1987, but this declaration has not been recognized by any nation.
Pronounced “KAHL-sa.” The spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood of Sikhs formed by the 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
Pronounced “KIR-pon.” A ceremonial dagger, it is a Sikh article of faith that symbolizes a commitment to fight against injustice.
Pronounced “LUN-ger.” A Sikh congregational meal served in a free and open kitchen at every gurdwara (Sikh house of worship). The institution of langar represents the central teaching of service (seva) in the Sikh tradition. It also represents equality – regardless of gender, religion, class or race, people sit on the ground and eat together as equals.
The Sikh code of conduct. It is designed to create uniformity in the religious and social practices of Sikhism and has been in place since the birth of Sikhism in the 15th century.
The belief that a person’s soul is reborn in another body after physical death. It is common in many Asian traditions — including Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism — as well as some Native American traditions. According to Hinduism and Buddhism, incarnation in the next life is determined by one’s previous actions. See karma.
The traditional pronunciation is “SICK-ism,” but it is commonly pronounced “SEEK-ism.” The Sikh religion is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Followers are called Sikhs (meaning students). It originated in 15th-century Punjab (now North India and Pakistan) when Guru Nanak, the first Sikh teacher, turned against the caste system, forced conversion and empty ritual in medieval Hinduism and Islam. Through devotional (bhakti) poetry and music, he taught that all religions lead to One Formless God, that all people, including women and the poor, are equal, and that all may realize liberation here and now through living an honest life of love and service (seva). Nine gurus succeeded him, and in 1699, the 10th teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, formed Sikhs into the Khalsa: a spiritual sister- and brotherhood where men share the last name Singh (“lion”) and women share the name Kaur (“daughter of kings”). All were given five articles of faith (the Five Kakaars), including long uncut hair, which men and some women wrap in a turban. The 11th and lasting Sikh teacher is the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, also known as the Adi Granth.
Sikhism has no clergy, but spiritual guides may be called gurus; capitalize this title before a name.
Pronounced “singg.” A last name shared by all men who practice the Sikh religion, it means “lion.” The 10th Sikh teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, gave Sikhs the same last names as a sign of equality (traditional last names in 17th-century North India indicated caste).
Cloth wrapped around the head as cultural attire in many regions of the world, the turban has religious significance for Sikhs. Observant Sikh men and some women wrap their long uncut hair (an article of faith) in a turban. Nearly every person who wears a turban in America is Sikh.
Pronounced “VA-sock-ee.” A spring harvest festival in Punjab that usually falls on April 13, the solar new year. For Sikhs, Vaisakhi marks the beginning of the Sikh new year and commemorates the founding of the Khalsa (spiritual sister- and brotherhood) in 1699. Also known as Baisakhi.
Most often associated with body poses, stretching exercises and breathing techniques developed in India. It is a Sanskrit term that means union; yoga is a discipline found in Hinduism. It is the philosophy, process, disciplines, and practices whose purpose is the unification of individual consciousness with transcendent or divine consciousness. One of its eight “limbs” is referred to as asana (also known as “hatha yoga”) and involves various body postures meant to keep the body physically relaxed and healthy as an important prerequisite for meditation.