10 Ways That Sikhism Differs From Hinduism

A Comparison of Beliefs, Faith, and Practices

Sikh Couple With Hindu Holy Man
Sikh Couple With Hindu Holy Man. Photo © [Courtesy J. Sax]

Sikhs are not Hindus. Sikhism rejects many aspects of Hinduism. Sikhism is a distinct religion having a unique scripture, principles, code of conduct guidelines, initiation ceremony and appearance developed over three centuries by ten gurus, or spiritual masters.

Many Sikh immigrants are from North India where the national language is Hindi, the native name for the country is Hindustan, and the national religion is Hinduism.

Attempts by radical Hindu groups to consign Sikhs to their caste system have made devout Sikhs a potential political target in India, sometimes resulting in violence.

Although Sikhs with turbans and beards have a distinct appearance, people in Western countries who come in contact with Sikhs may assume that they are Hindus. Compare these 10 fundamental differences between Sikhism and Hinduism beliefs, faith, practices, social status, and worship.

10 Ways That Sikhism Differs From Hinduism

1. Origin

  • Sikhism originated in Punjab, in what is now Pakistan, circa 1469 with the birth of Guru Nanak, and is based on on the guru's writings and teachings.
  • Hinduism can be traced as far back as 10,000 B.C. and is considered to be one of the earliest religions practiced by civilized man. Aryan invaders introduced the religion to the Sindhu River of the modern day Indus region of India about 2,000 B.C. The river later became known as the Hindu and the people Hindus.

    2. Deity

    • Sikhism rejects idolatry and has no clergy system. Guru Nanak introduced the concept of one god, Ik Onkar, one creator present in all of creation. Sikhs refer to the divine as Waheguru, the Wondrous Enlightener.
    • Hinduism believes in a hierarchy of deities with Brahman as the foremost all encompassing, followed by the trinity Brahma (creator) Vishnu (sustainer) and Shiva (destroyer). Other important gods are Krishna, Rama, Ganesha, and Hanuman, along with goddesses Lakhsmi, Kali, Durga, and Saraswati. There are many lesser demi-gods and demi-goddesss with some 33 million deities in all, which includie plant, animal, and mineral spirits, all of whom are worshiped by means of idolatry, relying on intervention of pandits, or priests.

      3. Scripture

      • Sikhs believe the scripture of Siri Guru Granth Sahib to be the living word of their Guru or Enlighter. The Guru Granth Sahib offers guidance and instruction on how to be free of egoism and achieve humility, as a means to illuminate spiritual darkness and liberate the soul from the cycle of transmigration.
      • Hindu scriptures are collectively known as Shastra and are comprised of two types:
        • Sutri (conceptualized) - Vedas and Upanishads.
        • Smriti (poetic epics) - Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, and Mahabharata.

      4. Basic Tenets

        5. Worship

        • Sikhs begin the day with meditation and recite morning, evening and bedtime daily prayers. There is no hierarchy of clergy, any Sikh who is knowledgeable may perform religious duties. The congregation gathers with heads covered to worship in the gurdwara where services include:
        • Hindus worship in a mandir, or temple, where idolatry rituals, and Puja rites and ceremonies are performed by high caste priests. Hindu males don a ritual sacred thread at about the age of puberty, which is ceremoniously changed each year.

        6. Conversion and Caste

        • Sikhism does not actively seek converts, but accepts anyone, regardless of social background, who wishes to be initiated.
        • Hinduism is based on a rigid caste system which one can only be born into, but can neither marry to become, nor convert to. Devotees are welcome to worship deities, but must wait until a future lifetime to be reborn into the hierarchy of the Hindu caste system. Strict adherence to principle and righteous deeds gives hope, that upon rebirth, they may reincarnate into an upper caste.

        7. Marriage and Status of Females

        • Sikh women are considered to be equal in status to men in every aspect of worship and life. Sikh women are encouraged to be educated, have careers, become community leaders, and are welcome to take part in every ceremony.
        • Sikhism teaches that bride and groom are fused by the four rounds of the Anand Karaj ceremony with the divine sharing one light in two bodies. Dowry is discouraged. Caste is not supposed to be a consideration when choosing a spouse. Widows are permitted to remarry.
        • Hinduism teaches that a women is to be always dependent either on father, or husband, for the duration of her life to insure spiritual advancement.
        • Hindu marriage is performed according to conditions of the Hindu Marriage Act between any two Hindus generally of the same caste. Dowry is also a consideration when arranging marriage. The marriage is performed by bride and groom taking seven steps around a sacred fire. Hindu widows have little, or no status in India.

        8. Dietary Law & Fasting

        • Sikhism scripture counsels against consuming intoxicants and flesh specifically chicken and fish if one wishes to advance spiritually. No kind of meat is ever served in any gurdwara, however a Sikh who decides to indulge in meat eating is restricted only against eat an animal slaughtered ritually according to Muslim law halal. Sikhism does not believe in ritual fasting as a means to spiritual enlightenment.
        • Hindu dietary law forbids eating meat from a cow. Fasting is done on auspicious occasions for a variety of reasons, and to purify body and soul.

        9. Appearance

        • Hindu men may go bare-headed, wear a cap, or a festive turban over cut hair. Aesthetics may shave heads, or grow hair and a beard, but generally do not wear turbans, although some may. Hindu religious headgear is seldom worn outside of India. Hindu women never wear turbans. Hindu men traditionally wear dhotis, and women saris.

        10. Yoga

        • Sikhism scripture and code of conduct consider ritualistic yoga to be an entrapment which may present an obstacle to spiritual growth.
        • Hinduism outlines a very detailed of 8 limbs and 4 types of yoga designed to perfect the body and soul.
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        Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "10 Ways That Sikhism Differs From Hinduism." ThoughtCo, Jun. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/ways-that-sikhism-differs-from-hinduism-2992955. Khalsa, Sukhmandir. (2017, June 3). 10 Ways That Sikhism Differs From Hinduism. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ways-that-sikhism-differs-from-hinduism-2992955 Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "10 Ways That Sikhism Differs From Hinduism." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ways-that-sikhism-differs-from-hinduism-2992955 (accessed October 22, 2017).