Sikhism in India
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1.9% of the Indian Population
|Regions with significant populations|
|Chandigarh · Delhi · Haryana · Jammu & Kashmir · Madhya Pradesh · Maharashtra · Punjab · Rajasthan · Uttar Pradesh · Uttarakhand|
Sikhism is India's fourth-largest religion and has existed for over 500 years, beginning with the birth of its founder Guru Nanak. The Sikhs are predominately located in Punjab, but also in many other parts of India.
Prominent Sikhs in India
Though Sikhs are a small minority in India, the community occupies a significant place in the country. The current Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh is a Sikh, as is former President of India Giani Zail Singh. Almost every council of ministers in India has included Sikh representatives. Sikhs are also conspicuous in the Indian army, primarily because they formed the sword arm of the British empire. The only living Indian officer with a 5 star rank Arjan Singh is a Sikh. Sikhs have also led the Indian army through JJ Singh and the Indian Air Force was led by Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh. Sikhs have been prominent in Indian sports, with the only Indian gold medalist in Olympics, Abhinav Bindra, being a Sikh. Similarly they occupy important official positions, like Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia; governor Surjit Singh Barnala. Sikhs are also known for entrepreneurial business in India. In the entertainment industry, singer Daler Mehndi and Rabbi Shergill are Sikhs. One reason for visibility of Sikhs in the Indian spectrum is the disproportionate role played by the Sikh community during the Indian freedom struggle, with Bhagat Singh remaining a youth icon to Indian youth.
A Sikh place of worship is called Gurdwara. Sikhism does not support pilgrimage to holy sites because according to Sikhism, God is everywhere and not in any certain place. The Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar in Punjab is a prominent Sikh Gurdwara.
Langar (the communal meal)
Sikhism emphasises community services and helping the needy. One of the distinct features of Sikhism is the common kitchen called Langar. In every Gurdwara there is a Langar. Every Sikh is supposed to contribute in preparing a communal meal in the free kitchen. The meals are served to all and are eaten sitting on the floor, as this is to emphasize the point that all who are there are equals. Sikhism does not believe in holding fasts, for the body is God's present to the human being; and therefore humans must foster, maintain and preserve it in good, sound condition, unless fasting is done to foster the human body like healthy diets.
The Guru Granth Sahib
Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and the first Sikh Guru. The last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh passed the Guruship of the Sikhs to the Eleventh and Eternal Guru of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib (the sacred text of Sikhism). Guru Granth Sahib is written in Gurmukhi script. It includes the writings of the Sikh Gurus and the writings of Hindu and Muslims saints.
Sikhs combat with the Mughals
Up through Guru Gobind Singh's term as the Guru of the Sikhs, the ruling empire of Punjab region was the Mughal Empire. Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib saved Hindus from Mughals and was named as Hind Di Chadar. In order to stop their persecution, Guru Gobind decided to make his followers, the Sikhs (meaning learners), a community of fighters. He changed his surname to Singh, which means lion. His followers also changed their surname to Singh. Since then a ceremony of baptizing was established among the Sikhs in which the boys were given the title Singh and the girls were titled Kaur meaning princess. There is a popular misconception that large numbers of Sikhs were originally Rajputs because of the common surname but, in fact, the Guru Gobind Singh fought his first few battles against the Rajput Kings of the Hills. The Rajput king Harichand was defeated and killed in the Battle of Bhangani. This was the Guru's first battle. Rajputs did convert to sikhism like Hindus from every caste but the majority of the converts came from the so-called low castes. A fact to substantiate it is that 4 out of five Panj Piyaras (beloved ones) came from these low castes.
Creating an identity for the Sikhs
In order to make it easier for his followers to recognize each other, Guru Gobind Singh chose five marks or Five Ks, some of which even today symbolize the Sikhs. The five signs were: uncut hair Kesh; bracelet on the right hand wrist Kara; comb Kanga; shorts? Kacchara; and sword or dagger Kirpan. The religious Sikhs dress according to Guru Gobind Singh's order, carrying a sword (kirpan).
The emphasis on military tradition and community service in Sikhism continues even today and many Sikhs serve in the Indian army or police. The Sikhs also have a reputation as experts in steering, from cars to airplanes. They were among the first communities in India who dared to drive vehicles, especially lorries. India, being a vast country, needed drivers who could also travel at night. But many Indians believed in superstitions like ghosts and haunted places, while the Sikhs rejected these kinds of beliefs and therefore traveled at night. Since then they have had a reputation as steering masters of India.
A proposed state in northwest India. It was proposed by Shiromani Akali Dal in 1966.
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