Ik Onkar

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Ik Onkār,[1] a Sikh symbol (encoded as a single character in Unicode at U+0A74, )

Ik Onkar, also spelled Ek Onkar (Gurmukhi: or ਇੱਕ ਓਅੰਕਾਰ; Punjabi pronunciation: [ɪkː oːəŋkaːɾᵊ]); literally, "There is only one God[2] or One creator [3] or one Om-maker"[4]) is a phrase in Sikhism that denotes the one supreme reality.[5] It is a central tenet of Sikh religious philosophy.[1]

Ik Onkar are the first words of the Mul Mantar and also the opening words of the Sikh holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib.[6]

Ik (ਇੱਕ) is interpreted as "one and only one, who cannot be compared or contrasted with any other",[7] the "unmanifest, Lord in power, the holy word, the primal manifestation of the Godhead by which and in which all live, move and have their being and by which all find a way back to Absolute God, the Supreme Reality."[8]

Ik Onkar has a distinct spelling in the Gurmukhi script[9] and the phrase is found in many Sikh religious scriptures and inscribed in places of worship such as gurdwaras.[10][11][12]

Etymology and Nomenclature[edit]

While "Ik" is translated as "One", "Onkar" is translated in Punjabi as "God". It is also usually translated as "All is one" or "One Creator"[13][14][15] "Onkar" is a cognate of the Sanskrit word "omkar", meaning "Om Maker",[16][17][18] an epithet or synonym used for God within Hindu traditions. However, the "Ik" within the phrase "Ik Onkar" was designated to emphasize the monotheistic unity of God, signifying a rejection of certain polytheistic traditions. [19]

In Mul Mantar.[edit]

Mul Mantar written by Guru Har Rai, showing the Ik Onkar at top.

Ik Onkar is also the opening phrase of the Mul Mantar, present as opening phrase in the Guru Granth Sahib, and the first composition of Guru Nanak and the final salok is by Guru Angad. Further, the Mul Mantar is also at the beginning of the Japji Sahib, followed by 38 hymns and a final Salok by Guru Angad at the end of this composition.[20]

ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥ ਜਪੁ।। ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਚੁ ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ।। ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ।।

(Ik Oankaar Sati nāmu karatā purakhu nirabha'u niravairu akāla mūrati ajūnī saibha gura prasādi. Japu.. Ādi sacu jugādi sacu hai bhī sacu.. Nānaka hōsī bhī sacu...)

This Being is one, truth by name, creator, fearless, without hatred, of timeless form, unborn, self-existent, and known by the Guru's grace.[21]


Ik Onkar is the statement of oneness in Sikhism, that is 'there is one God'.[22][23]

According to Wendy Doniger, the phrase is a compound of ik ("one" in Punjabi) and onkar, canonically understood in Sikhism to refer to "absolute monotheistic unity of God".[6] Etymologically, the word onkar denotes the sacred sound Om or the Absolute in a number of Indian religions.[6] Nevertheless, Sikhs give it an entirely different meaning.[6][24][25] Pashaura Singh writes that "the meaning of Oankar in the Sikh tradition is quite different in certain respects from the various interpretations of this word in the Indian philosophical traditions",[24] and the Sikhs "rather view Oankar as pointing to the distinctively Sikh theological emphasis on the ineffable quality of God, who is described as 'the Person beyond time,' the Eternal One, or 'the One without form'."[6] Onkar is, according to Wazir Singh, a "variation of Om (Aum) of the ancient Indian scriptures (with a slight change in its orthography), implying the seed-force that evolves as the universe."[26] Guru Nanak wrote a poem entitled Oankar in which, states Doniger, he "attributed the origin and sense of speech to the Divinity, who is thus the Om-maker".[6]

Oankar ('One, whose expression emerges as Primal Sound') created Brahma. Oankar fashioned the consciousness. From Oankar came mountains and ages. Oankar produced the Vedas. By the grace of Oankar, people were saved through the divine word. By the grace of Oankar, they were liberated through the teachings of the Guru.

— Ramakali Dakkhani, Adi Granth 929-930, Translated by Pashaura Singh[27]

Pashaura Singh goes on to state,

"By beginning with 'One,' Guru Nanak emphasizes the singularity of the Divine. That is, the numeral '1' affirms that the Supreme Being is one without a second, the source as well as the goal of all that exists. That is quite evident from the following statement: 'My Master (Sahib) is the One. He is the One, brother, and He alone exists' (AG 350). In a particularly striking instance, Guru Arjan employs the cognates of the Punjabi word ikk ('One') five time in a single line of his Asa hymn to make an emphatic statement of oneness of the Supreme Being: 'By itself the One is just One, One and only One, and the One is the source of all creation.'[24]

He also considers the process of reification of the concept of Ik Oankar as having begun with the writings of Guru Nanak and Guru Arjan themselves,[28] with the numeral ੧ (one) as emphasizing the unity of Akal Purakh in monotheistic terms.[28]

Other common terms for the one supreme reality alongside Ik Oankar, dating from the Gurus' time include the most commonly used term,[24] Akal Purakh, "Eternal One," in the sense of Nirankar, "the One without form," and Waheguru ("Wonderful Sovereign").[24]


In 2019, Air India launched a direct flight from London to Amritsar with the phrase Ik Onkar printed in golden colour with a red background, on the tail of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The plane was launched ahead of and in honour of the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rose, David (2012). Sikhism photopack. Fu Ltd. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-85276-769-3.
  2. ^ Singh, Jagraj (2009). A Complete Guide to Sikhism. Unistar Books. p. 204. ISBN 9788171427543.
  3. ^ Nayar, Dr Kamala Elizabeth (16 April 2020). The Sikh View on Happiness Guru Arjan’s Sukhmani. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 129. ISBN 9781350139893.
  4. ^ Girardot, Norman. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. p. 500. Oankar corresponds to the Sanskrit term Om.....Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh tradition, wrote a long composition entitled "Oankar", in which he attributed the origin and sense of speech to the Divinity, who is thus the "Om Maker
  5. ^ "Basic Articles". SGPC. Archived from the original on 25 July 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Doniger, Wendy (1999). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. p. 500. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
  7. ^ "ਇੱਕ - meaning in English". Shabdkosh. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  8. ^ Dogra, Ramesh Chander, and Gobind Singh Mansukhani. Encyclopaedia of Sikh Religion and Culture. pp 138–39: "Ek-Omkār / Ik-Omkār / Ekankār It is from the Sanskrit word Omkar. The mystic name of God. It is used at the beginning of prayers and holy recitations, and also at the beginning of writing respectful salutations. The unmanifest, God in power, the holy word, the primal manifestation of Godhead by which and in which all live, move and have their being and by which all find a way back to Absolute God. God is the Supreme Reality. His other name is 'Sat Nām'. The Sikhs meditate on God as Ek-Omkar, and not in any other way like worship of idols “Rām Nām Jap Ek-Omkar". (GGS, p. 185) Ek Omkar is the Transcendent Lord of entire creation, who existed before the creation and who alone will survive the creation. (GGS, pp. 296 and 930, and Bhai Gurdas Var, 4011.)"
  9. ^ David Rose, Gill Rose (2003). Sacred Texts photopack. Folens Limited. p. 12. ISBN 1-84303-443-3.
  10. ^ Signs and Symbols. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2019. ISBN 978 0 2413 8704 7. p. 185. "Ek Onkar Meaning 'God is one', these first two words in the Guru Granth Sahib are the ones most repeated by Sikhs. They are one of the cornerstones of Sikhism, and in their written form make up one of the most famous symbols of the Sikh religion."
  11. ^ Britannica Encyclopedia of World Religions. 2006. ISBN 978-1-59339-491-2. p. 500: "IK OANKAR (Punjabi: 'God is One'), expression or invocation that opens the ADI GRANTH, the primary SCRIPTURE of SIKHISM. The expression is a compound of the numeral 1 and the letter that represents the sound “o” in Gurmukhi, the writing system developed by the Sikhs for their sacred literature. Referring to the Sikh understanding of the absolute monotheistic unity of God, the expression is the central symbol of Sikhism."
  12. ^ McLeod, W. H. 2005. Historical Dictionary of Sikhism (2nd ed.), Lanham, MD: Scarecrow. p. 97: "IK-OANKAR. A popular emblem used by Sikhs, a combination of the Gurmukhi figure 1 and the letter O, taken from the Adi Granth, where it is employed as the first part of various invocations. It represents the unity of God ('One Oankar' or One Being). The emblem is a common feature of Sikh logos and frequently appears on buildings, clothing, books, letterheads, and so on. 'Oankar' is actually a cognate of “Om” and can carry the same mystical meaning. Many Sikhs, however, object to any suggestion that they are the same word. For them 'Om' is Hindu whereas 'Oankar' is Sikh."
  13. ^ Cole, W. Owen. Six Religions in the Twenty-first Century. Stanley Thornes. p. 182. ISBN 9780748751679. Another symbol which maybe seen outside many gurdwaras is one formed by two punjabi letters, ik oankar, meaning god is the one being or eternal reality.
  14. ^ Issitt, Micah. Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World's Religious Beliefs: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World’s Religious Beliefs. ABC-CLIO. p. 217. ISBN 9781610694780. The phrase Ek Onkar states one of the basic tenets of the SIkh faith and usually translated as "all is one" or "one creator". The Ek Onkar Symbol takes its shape from the words used for this expression in the punjabi language.
  15. ^ Mead, Jean. What Do Signs and Symbols Mean in Religion?. Evans Brothers. p. 21. ISBN 9780237534080. Ik Onkar is made from the numeral '1' combined with the punjabi word for God.
  16. ^ Dogra, R.C. Encyclopaedia of Sikh Religion and Culture. Vikas Publishing House. pp. 138–139. ISBN 9780706994995. Ek-Omkār / Ik-Omkār / Ekankār It is from the Sanskrit word Omkar
  17. ^ Gulati, Mahinder N. Comparative Religious And Philosophies : Anthropomorphism And Divinity. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 284. ISBN 9788126909025. While Ek literally means One, Onkar is the equivalent of the Hindu 'Om
  18. ^ McLeod, W.H. Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 158. ISBN 9781442236011. Oankar' is actually a cognate of “Om” and can carry the same mystical meaning
  19. ^ Singh, Wazir. Aspects of Guru Nanak's philosophy. Lahore Book Shop. p. 20.
  20. ^ Arvind Mandair (2008), Shared Idioms, Sacred Symbols, and the Articulation of Identities in South Asia (Editor: Kelly Pemberton), Routledge, ISBN 978-0415958288, page 61
  21. ^ Nesbitt, Eleanor (2018), "Sikhism", The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell, pp. 1–12, doi:10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea2186, ISBN 978-0-470-65722-5
  22. ^ Singh, Wazir (1969). Aspects of Guru Nanak's philosophy. Lahore Book Shop. p. 20. Retrieved 2015-09-17. the 'a,' 'u,' and 'm' of aum have also been explained as signifying the three principles of creation, sustenance and annihilation. ... aumkār in relation to existence implies plurality, ... but its substitute Ekonkar definitely implies singularity in spite of the seeming multiplicity of existence. ...
  23. ^ Singh, Khushwant (2002). "The Sikhs". In Kitagawa, Joseph Mitsuo (ed.). The Religious Traditions of Asia: religion, history, and culture. London: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 114. ISBN 0-7007-1762-5.
  24. ^ a b c d e Singh, Pashaura. 2014. The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies, editors by P. Singh and L. E. Fenech. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199699308. p. 227.
  25. ^ "It should be however, be emphasized that the meaning of Oankar in the Sikh tradition is quite different in certain respects from the various interpretations of this word in the Indian philosophical traditions." (Pashaura Singh 2006: 247)
  26. ^ Wazir Singh (1969), Guru Nanak's philosophy, Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 1, Issue 1, page 56
  27. ^ Pashaura Singh (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 227
  28. ^ a b Pashaura Singh (2000). The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority. Oxford University Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-19-564894-2.
  29. ^ "Air India Paints Sikh Symbol On Aircraft In Tribute To Guru Nanak". NDTV.com. Retrieved 28 October 2019.

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