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Sikhism Became a Religion
Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was a Hindu reformer in the devotional Sant tradition of northern India. He taught that people escaped rebirth into this world by meditating on the divine name of God. His followers, known as Sikhs (disciples), created a new religion called Sikhism. This religion is distinct from Hinduism in that it has its own set of scriptures, rituals, regulations, holy places, and organization. Nanak was the first of ten personal gurus (spiritual teachers) who helped to create a distinctive religious identity for Sikhs.

Images of Nanak and Ram Das 1999 Sewa Singh Khalsa (sewa@mail01.citylinq.net), image of Gobind Singh 1999 Smiling Kaur Khalsa. All images courtesy of www.sikhnet.com.

The fourth guru, Ram Das, established Amritsar as the holy city of the Sikhs. His son and successor, Guru Arjan, collected the writings of the first five gurus into a book called the Adi Granth, which is the most basic sacred scripture. The Golden Temple in Amritsar was built to house the Adi Granth, and soon other Sikh temples were built to store copies of the scriptures.

Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, appointed no successor to guide Sikhs in belief and behavior. Instead, he taught that Sikhs should follow the Adi Granth and the decisions of the Panth, or the Sikh community of believers.

Gobind Singh Founded the Khalsa
The growth in numbers and power of the Panth aroused first suspicion and then hostility of the Mughal rulers. Several of the gurus were imprisoned, and one was executed by the Mughal dynasty.

Therefore, the tenth guru, Gobind Singh, created the Khalsa as a way to defend the Sikhs in the late 17th century when the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was attempting to suppress Sikhism and Hinduism in order to spread Islam. The Khalsa order is made up of Sikhs who are most militant in asserting their religion. The Khalsa also provides Sikhs with a clear identity and discipline to follow.

Sikhs who have been inducted into the Khalsa are supposed to adopt distinctive symbols to demonstrate their faith. These symbols are the so called "five k’s" (kakas):

  • kes--uncut hair
  • kangha--comb in the hair
  • kara--steel bracelet
  • kirpan--dagger
  • kachi--military-style knee breeches Image 1999 Sewa Singh Khalsa (sewa@mail01.citylinq.net) courtesy of www.sikhnet.com.

Some Sikhs argue that only those who undergo the Khalsa initiation and obey the Rahit (rules of Khalsa duty) are true Sikhs. Others believe the Sikh community (Panth) includes those who revere the gurus, the Adi Granth, and Sikh temples, even though they have not entered the Khalsa or fully observe the Rahit.

Some Sikhs Want Khalistan
Since the time of Gobind Singh, some Sikhs have wanted to establish an independent state, which they would call Khalistan. The term "khalistan" (land of the pure) derives from the concept of the khalsa, a community of Sikhs who would vigorously express and defend the faith.

In the words of Khushwandt Singh, the "ideal of a sovereign Sikh state is never far from the Sikh mind. In the daily prayers, Sikhs chant that the Khalsa (community of the pure) shall rule." This quotation expresses the hope of many Sikhs.

In Khalistan, Sikhs could practice their religion without any interference from outside pressures. Their demands for a Sikh state independent of India is based on three main objectives: to preserve Sikh history and achievements, to resist Hindu and Muslim oppression, and to maintain Sikhism as a unique religion. Photo 1999 Guru Mustuk Singh Khalsa courtesy of www.sikhnet.com.

Sikhs are especially proud of Ranjit Singh, who created a strong Sikh state in the Punjab during the early 19th century (see History of Punjab). He ruled successfully for many years and was a popular leader among his subjects. Many Sikhs believe he was their greatest military and political leader. They believe that an independent state would allow Sikhs to preserve this rich history and achieve the peace and prosperity they experienced as an autonomous state under Singh’s rule.

In an independent state, Sikhs would be able to enact and enforce laws that would adhere to the principles of Sikhism. These laws would not only give them the power to resist Hindu and Muslim oppression, but they would also allow Sikhs to define a national language that would help them to maintain their unique religious identity separate and distinct from Hinduism.

Many Sikhs believe that Sikhism can survive only in a Sikh state where the people can be educated in the Punjabi language, be required to read Sikh scripture, and live in accordance with Sikh values. Currently, Sikhs are losing "their distinctive and separate identity in a state (India) nominally pledged to secularism but in actual practice increasingly Hindu" (K.Singh, Vol. 2, 294).

Over the years, Sikhs have experienced many struggles concerning their status within India and their demands for Khalistan (see Demands for Khalistan).



The Punjab and Its People..| History of Punjab to 1947..|..Partition, 1947..|..Punjab's Prosperity ..|..Sikhism ..|..Demands for Khalistan

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