What is Sikhism?

Introduction to Sikh Relgion, Beliefs, and Practices

If you have questions about Sikhism you may be able to find some of the answers you are looking for here. This brief introduction is for anyone new to Sikhism, or who is unfamiliar with the Sikh people and Sikh Faith.

What is Sikhism?

Sikhism is the religion of the Sikh people. The word Sikh means one who seeks after truth. The first word in the Sikh scripture is "Sat", which translates to truth. Sikhism is based on truthful living.

Who is a Sikh?

Amritsanchar Panj Pyara
Amritsanchar - Panj Pyara. Photo © [Ravitej Singh Khalsa / Eugene, Oregon / USA]

A Sikh is defined as a person who believes in:

How Many Sikhs Live in the World and Where?

Welcome to Yuba City Parade
Welcome to Yuba City Parade. Photo © Khalsa Panth

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world. There are about 26 million Sikhs worldwide. The vast majority of Sikhs live in the Panjab, a part of northern India. Sikhs live in just about every major country around the world. It is estimated that nearly one million Sikhs live in the United States.

Who is Waheguru?

Waheguru Etched in Marble
Waheguru Etched in Marble. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Waheguru is the Sikh name for God. It means wonderful enlightener. Sikh believe that repeating Waheguru keeps God ever present in the mind, which is considered is the key to overcoming ego and becoming enlightened.

Sikhs believe the creative aspect of one God is manifest in all of creation as intelligent design. Sikhs worship only one God. Favors sought from images, icons, pictures, nature, or other deities, is not condoned, and considered idol worship.

What is the Practice of the Three Primary Principles?

3 Golden Rules of Sikhism
3 Golden Rules of Sikhism. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Sikhs believe in meditation as a way of life.

  • The Sikh ideal is to remember God while carrying out daily duties.
  • A Sikh is to remember God while employed in honest work.
  • Sikhs believe in sharing what they earn with others in need. Charitable work is considering the same as giving service to God, if carried out while meditating and keeping God in mind.

How do Sikhs Avoid the Five Sins of Egoism?

Amritsanchar - Maryada (Code of Conduct)
Amritsanchar - Maryada (Code of Conduct)). Photo © [Ravitej Singh Khalsa / Eugene, Oregon / USA]

Indulgence is considered to be an entrapment of ego. Sikhs believe meditation is a means of moderation to guard against excess pride, desire, greed, and attachment, which can result in anger and diminish the soul’s connection with God.

What are the Four Commandments Sikhs Follow?

The Panj Pyara Prepare Amrit
The Panj Pyara Prepare Amrit. Photo © [Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]

At the time of baptism, initiated Sikhs are instructed in the Sikhism Code of Conduct and given four commandments:

  • Honor the intention of the creator by keeping all hair intact.
  • Uphold the values of family life by abstaining from adultery.
  • Refrain from eating animals who suffer a ritualistic death.
  • Observe temperance by avoiding the use of intoxicants.

What is Adherence to the Five Articles of Faith?

Amritdhari Wearing Five Kakar
Amritdhari Wearing Five Kakar. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Sikhs maintain a distinctive appearance. Baptized Sikhs keep five articles of faith with them at all times.

  • Part of the religious duty is to keep every hair intact and unaltered. Men, wear turbans to keep long hair tidy. Women wear turbans or long silky scarves.
  • Long hair is groomed daily with a wooden comb.
  • A loose undergarment is worn for modesty.
  • A steel bangle is worn as a sign of faith.
  • Sikhs wear a small sword. It symbolic of battling the senses. It also signifies the Sikh ideal of protecting the innocent against aggressive force.

What is the Traditional Sikh Way of Dress?

An orange khanda displayed on a blue chola.
An orange khanda displayed on a blue chola. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Many Sikhs wear traditional clothing, especially when gathering to worship. Men and women both wear long tops over loose trousers. Men’s clothing tends towards solid colors. Women frequently wear prints, or vivid colors embellished with embroidery. Very devout Sikhs often wear shades of blue, white, or yellow.

What are the Common Misconceptions About Sikhism?

Interfaith Symbols
Interfaith Symbols. Photo © [S Khalsa]

The Sikh faith originated in Pakistan and North India, about 500 years ago. Sikhism is sometimes confused with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism because of geographical proximity and cultural similarities.

Sikhs are sometimes confused with terrorists because of their martial history and dress. Sikhs live to a code of honor in service of all humanity. Sikh ethics advocate equality for men and women of every race and religion. Sikhs have a history of being the defenders of the defenseless. Sikhs are known for acting against the terror of forced conversion. Many Sikhs throughout history are respected for having sacrificed their own lives, so that people of other religions may have freedom to worship in the manner of their choice.

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