Hinduism and Sikhism

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Sikhism and Hinduism are both Indian religions. Hinduism is an ancient set of traditions that have developed over several millennium, while Sikhism was founded in the 15th-century, during the Mughal Empire era, by Guru Nanak Dev who was born and raised in a Hindu family.[1]

Sikhism and Hinduism are distinct religions, but share many philosophical concepts such as Karma, Dharma, Mukti, Maya and Saṃsāra.[2][3] In the days of Mughal oppression, in which Hindus were being converted to Islam through oppression and force, Sikhism came to their defence against the Mughals in India.[4] The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was the first to raise voice against the rule of Islamic ruler Babur, the then ruler of India.[4]

History of similarities and differences[edit]

Scholars state that in its origins, Sikhism was influenced by the nirguni (formless God) tradition of Bhakti movement in medieval India.[5] Nanak was raised in a Hindu family and belonged to the Bhakti Sant tradition.[1] The roots of the Sikh tradition are, states Louis Fenech, perhaps in the Sant-tradition of India whose ideology grew to become the Bhakti tradition.[6] Furthermore, adds Fenech, "Indic mythology permeates the Sikh sacred canon, the Guru Granth Sahib and the secondary canon, the Dasam Granth and adds delicate nuance and substance to the sacred symbolic universe of the Sikhs of today and of their past ancestors".[7]


Main article: Ik Onkar

Ik Onkar, iconically represented as in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (although sometimes spelt out in full as ਏਕੰਕਾਰੁ) is the iconographic statement in Sikhism that is 'there is one God'.[8][9] The phrase is an expression of monotheistic unity of God.[10]

The Onkar in () of Sikhism is related to Om () of Hinduism.[10] Some Sikhs disagree that Ik Onkar is same as Om.[10] Onkar is, states 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".[11] In Ek Onkar, explains Gulati, "Ek" means One, and Onkar is "equivalent of the Hindu "Om" (Aum)".[12]

Oankar ('the 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[13]

Guru Tegh Bahadur[edit]

Guru Gobnd Singh bowing to the severed head of Guru Tegh Bahadur who sacrificed his life against oppression

During the Mughal Empire period, the Sikh and Hindu traditions believe that Sikhs helped protect Hindus from Islamic persecution, and this caused martyrdom of their Guru.[14] The Sikh historians, for example, record that the Sikh movement was rapidly growing in northwest India, and Guru Tegh Bahadur was openly encouraging Sikhs to, "be fearless in their pursuit of just society: he who holds none in fear, nor is afraid of anyone, is acknowledged as a man of true wisdom", a statement recorded in Adi Granth 1427.[15][16][17] While Guru Tegh Bahadur influence was rising, Aurangzeb had imposed Islamic laws, demolished infidel schools and temples, and enforced new taxes on non-Muslims.[16][18][19]

According to records written by his son Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru had resisted persecution, adopted and promised to protect Kashmiri Hindus.[15][17] The Guru was summoned to Delhi by Aurangzeb on a pretext, but when he arrived with his colleagues, he was offered, "to abandon his faith, and convert to Islam".[15][17] Guru Tegh Bahadur and his colleagues refused, he and his associates were arrested, tortured for many weeks.[20][21][17] The Guru himself was beheaded in public.[22][23][16]


Monotheism versus pluralism[edit]

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion; Sikhs believe there is only one God, who has infinite qualities and names. Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, agnosticism, deism and atheism.[24]

Recent Relations[edit]

1984 Saw the mass murder of over 3000 Sikhs mostly by Hindus due to Indira Ghandhi being assassinated by 2 Sikh Bodyguards in retaliation for Operation Blue Star.


Sikhs do not believe in rituals, and believe that only meditation on the naam (name) of Waheguru is appropriate. Different schools of Hinduism have different theories about rituals[25][26] and on salvation (moksha).[27]

Idol worship[edit]

Main article: Idolatry in Sikhism

Sikhs reject idol worship.[28] Hindus accept the worship facilitated with images or murtis (idols), particularly in Agamic traditions, such as Vaishnavism and Shaivism.[29] Some scholars state it is incorrect to state that all Hindus worship idols, and more correct to state that for some the idol is a means to focus their thoughts, for some idol is a manifestation of spirituality that is everywhere, and for some even a linga, a sunrise or a river or a flower serves the same purpose.[30][31] Both Hindus and Sikhs have temples.


The Sikh concept of salvation is similar to some schools of Hinduism, and it is called mukti (moksha) referring to spiritual liberation.[32] It is described in Sikhism as the state that breaks the cycle of rebirths.[32] Mukti is obtained according to Sikhism, states Singha, through "God's grace".[33] In the teachings of the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib, the devotion to God is viewed as more important than the desire for Mukti.[33]

I desire neither worldly power nor liberation. I desire nothing but seeing the Lord.
Brahma, Shiva, the Siddhas, the silent sages and Indra - I seek only the Blessed Vision of my Lord and Master's Darshan.
I have come, helpless, to Your Door, O Lord Master; I am exhausted - I seek the Sanctuary of the Saints.
Says Nanak, I have met my Enticing Lord God; my mind is cooled and soothed - it blossoms forth in joy.

Sikhism recommends Naam Simran as the way to mukti, which is meditating and repeating the Naam (names of God).[32][33]

The six major orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy offer diverse soteriological views on moksha, including whether moksha can be achieved in this life, or after this life.[35] The Nyaya, Vaisesika and Mimamsa schools of Hinduism consider moksha as possible only after death.[35][36] Samkhya and Yoga schools consider moksha as possible in this life. In Vedanta school, the Advaita sub-school concludes moksha is possible in this life.[35] The Dvaita and Visistadvaita sub-schools of Vedanta tradition, highlighted by many poet-siants of the Bhakti movement, believe that moksha is a continuous event, one assisted by loving devotion to God, that extends from this life to post-mortem. Beyond these six orthodox schools, some heterodox schools of Hindu tradition, such as Carvaka, deny there is a soul or after life moksha.[37]

Dietary requirements[edit]

Hinduism does not explicitly prohibit eating meat, but it does strongly recommend Ahimsa – the concept of non-violence against all life forms including animals.[38][39] As a consequence, many Hindus prefer vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian lifestyle, and methods of food production that is in harmony with nature and compassionate, respectful of other life forms as well as nature.[38]

The tenets of Sikhism do not advocate a particular stance on either vegetarianism[40] or the consumption of meat,[40][41] but rather leave the decision of diet to the individual. Sikh sects and groups that have a "Vashnavite" influence (AKJ, GNNSJ, 3HO, Namdhari's etc.) tend to be vegetarians.[40][41] Other Sikhs eat meat that has been prepared by the Jhatka method (meat prepared by sudden death of the animal), and consider only that meat as expressly forbidden that is Halal (Kutha meat, the meat of animals prepared by slowly bleeding it to death). Sikhs Singha explains the Jhatka meat requirement to have origins in the Hindu tradition, as follows,

According to the ancient Aryan Hindu tradition, only such meat as is obtained from an animal which is killed with one stroke of the weapon causing instantaneous death is fit for human consumption. However, with the coming of Islam into India and the Muslim political hegemony, it became a state policy not to permit slaughter of animals for food, in any other manner, except as laid down in the Quran - the kosher meat prepared by slowly severing the main blood artery of the throat of the animal while reciting verses from the Quran. It is done to make slaughter a sacrifice to God and to expiate the sins of the slaughter. Guru Gobind Singh took a rather serious view of this aspect of the whole matter. He, therefore, while permitting flesh to be taken as food repudiated the whole theory of this expiatory sacrifice and the right of ruling Muslims to impose it on the non-Muslims. Accordingly, he made jhatka meat obligatory for those Sikhs who may be interested in taking meat as a part of their food.

— HS Singha, Sikhism, A Complete Introduction[42]


Similarities between Hinduism and Sikhism:

  • Sikhism believes in one god; though largely polytheistic, certain traditions within Hinduism may be considered "monotheistic", referring to the highest God as Brahman
  • Both Hindus and Sikh are cremated after death
  • Both believe in reincarnation
  • Both believe in karma
  • while Sikhs learn from a guru, Hindus can learn from Hindu gurus, yogis, sages and saints.
  • Hindus and Sikhs use the word Atma or atman to describe the "Self, Soul".

Guru Granth does not deny the existence of Hindu gods and goddesses. Rather, he states that Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva were born along with the elements air, fire, water, items which sustain life.

  • By the order of God, Brahma obtained a body. By the order of God, Shiva was born. By the order of God, Vishnu was born. Everything is created by God (Benti Chaupai Sahib, Pauree 7).
  • God is the creator of all. He created air, water, fire, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva" (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, 504).
  • He created Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; they act according to His will (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, 948).
  • Why do some people worship Brahma but hesitate to worship God when Even Brahma and his sons sing God's Praises; Sukdayv and Prahlaad sing His praises as well (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, 1224)
  • Everyone must serve the One Lord, who created Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. O Nanak, the One True Lord is permanent and stable. He neither dies, nor does He take birth" (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, 1130).
  • God, who made Shiva a yogi. God, who gave Brahma the kingdom of Vedas. God, who has shaped the entire universe. Is the one we salute (Benti Chaupai Sahib, Pauree 8).

Mutual views[edit]

In the Hindu and Sikh traditions, there is a distinction between religion and culture, and ethical decisions are grounded in both religious beliefs and cultural values. Both Hindu and Sikh ethics are primarily duty based. Traditional teachings deal with the duties of individuals and families to maintain a lifestyle conducive to physical, mental and spiritual health. These traditions share a culture and world view that includes ideas of karma and rebirth, collective versus individual identity, and a strong emphasis on spiritual purity.[1]

The notion of dharma, karma, prasad, moksha and a belief in rebirth are very important for both Hindus and Sikhs. Unlike the linear view of life taken in Abrahamic religions, for Hindus and Sikhs life, birth and death are repeated, for each person, in a continuous cycle.[citation needed]

Culture and marriages[edit]

There is an organic relation of Sikhs to Hindus, states Zaehner, both in religious thought and their communities, and virtually all Sikhs' ancestors were Hindus.[43] Marriages between Sikhs and Hindus, particularly among Khatris, were frequent.[43] Some Hindu families brought up a son as a Sikh, and some Hindus view Sikhism as a tradition within Hinduism, even though the Sikh faith is a distinct religion.[43]

Dogra states that there has always been inter-marriage between the Hindu and the Sikh communities.[44] Charing and Cole state that "Sikhism originated and developed within Hinduism. Hindus and Sikhs are very close in faith, and they have what is termed as Roti Beti di Sanjh; that is they eat together and intermarry".[45]

William Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi state that for many Sikhs, intermarriage between Hindus and Sikhs of same community is preferable than other communities.[46]

The relationship between the Hindus and the Khalsa remained extremely close as long as they were confronting the Mughals, Persian and Afghan conquerors. Hindu youths coming to join the Khalsa simply let their hair and beards grow, accepted pahul (baptism) without breaking their family ties, it was during this period that the custom of bringing up one son as a Sikh grew amongst many Punjabi Hindu families. When Sikhs assumed power in Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh (ad 1780-1839), Punjabi Hindus had even more reason to turn to the Khalsa. The Maharaja, though a devout Sikh, would also revere Brahmins, worship in Hindu temples and bathe in the Ganga. He made killing of cows a criminal offence punishable by death. Although he rebuilt the Harmandir in Amritsar in marble and gold leaf, when it came to disposing the Koh-i-Noor diamond his first preference was to gift it to the temple at Jaganathpuri.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sikhism, Encyclopedia Britannica (2014), Quote: "In its earliest stage Sikhism was clearly a movement within the Hindu tradition; Nanak was raised a Hindu and eventually belonged to the Sant tradition of northern India,"
  2. ^ Sikhism and death BBC
  3. ^ Reincarnation and Sikhism (religion), Encyclopedia Britannica
  4. ^ a b Singh, Harbans. Guru Nanak and origins of the Sikh faith. Asia Publication House. p. 11. 
  5. ^ David Lorenzen (1995), Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791420256, pages 1-2, Quote: "Historically, Sikh religion derives from this nirguni current of bhakti religion"
  6. ^ Louis Fenech (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 35, Quote: "Technically this would place the Sikh community's origins at a much further remove than 1469, perhaps to the dawning of the Sant movement, which possesses clear affinities to Guru Nanak's thought sometime in the tenth century. The predominant ideology of the Sant parampara in turn corresponds in many respects to the much wider devotional Bhakti tradition in northern India."
  7. ^ Louis Fenech (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 36, Quote: "Few Sikhs would mention these Indic texts and ideologies in the same breadth as the Sikh tradition, let alone trace elements of their tradition to this chronological and ideological point, despite the fact that the Indic mythology permeates the Sikh sacred canon, the Guru Granth Sahib and the secondary canon, the Dasam Granth (Rinehart 2011), and adds delicate nuance and substance to the sacred symbolic universe of the Sikhs of today and of their past ancestors."
  8. ^ 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. ... 
  9. ^ Singh, Khushwant (2002). "The Sikhs". In Kitagawa, Joseph Mitsuo. The religious traditions of Asia: religion, history, and culture. London: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 114. ISBN 0-7007-1762-5. 
  10. ^ a b c Doniger, Wendy (1999). Merriam-Webster's encyclopedia of world religions. Merriam-Webster. p. 500. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0. Retrieved 2015-09-23. 
  11. ^ Wazir Singh (1969), Guru Nanak's philosophy, Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 1, Issue 1, page 56
  12. ^ Mahinder Gulati (2008), Comparative Religious And Philosophies : Anthropomorphlsm And Divinity, Atlantic, ISBN 978-8126909025, pages 284-285; Quote: "While Ek literally means One, Onkar is the equivalent of the Hindu "Om" (Aum), the one syllable sound representing the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - the God in His entirety."
  13. ^ Pashaura Singh (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 227
  14. ^ Mir, Farina (2010). The social space of language vernacular culture in British colonial Punjab. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 207–237. ISBN 978-0-520-26269-0. 
  15. ^ a b c Seiple, Chris (2013). The Routledge handbook of religion and security. New York: Routledge. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-415-66744-9. 
  16. ^ a b c Pashaura Singh and Louis Fenech (2014). The Oxford handbook of Sikh studies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 236–237. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8. 
  17. ^ a b c d Gandhi, Surjit (2007). History of Sikh gurus retold. Atlantic Publishers. pp. 653–691. ISBN 978-81-269-0858-5. 
  18. ^ Guru Tegh Bahadur BBC Religions (2009)
  19. ^ Gobind Singh (Translated by Navtej Sarna) (2011). Zafarnama. Penguin Books. p. xviii-xix. ISBN 978-0-670-08556-9. 
  20. ^ William Irvine (2012). Later Mughals. Harvard Press. ISBN 9781290917766. 
  21. ^ Siṅgha, Kirapāla (2006). Select documents on Partition of Punjab-1947. National Book. p. 234. ISBN 978-81-7116-445-5. 
  22. ^ SS Kapoor. The Sloaks of Guru Tegh Bahadur & The Facts About the Text of Ragamala. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-81-7010-371-4. 
  23. ^ Gandhi, Surjit (2007). History of Sikh gurus retold. Atlantic Publishers. p. 690. ISBN 978-81-269-0858-5. 
  24. ^ Julius J. Lipner (2009), Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, 2nd Edition, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-45677-7, page 8; Quote: "(...) one need not be religious in the minimal sense described to be accepted as a Hindu by Hindus, or describe oneself perfectly validly as Hindu. One may be polytheistic or monotheistic, monistic or pantheistic, even an agnostic, humanist or atheist, and still be considered a Hindu."
  25. ^ [a] Karl Potter (2008), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies Vol. III, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120803107, pages 16-18, 220; [b] Basant Pradhan (2014), Yoga and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Springer Academic, ISBN 978-3319091044, page 13 see A.4
  26. ^ Christian Novetzke (2007), Bhakti and Its Public, International Journal of Hindu Studies, Vol. 11, No. 3, page 255-272
  27. ^ Andrew Fort (1998), Jivanmukti in Transformation, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791439043
  28. ^ Pashaura Singh (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 131
  29. ^ V Bharne and K Krusche (2012), Rediscovering the Hindu Temple: The Sacred Architecture and Urbanism of India, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ISBN 978-1443841375, pages 37-42
  30. ^ Jeaneane Fowler (1996), Hinduism: Beliefs and Practices, Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 978-1898723608, pages 41-43
  31. ^ Swarup Chandra (1998), Encyclopaedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Swarup & Sons, ISBN 978-8176250399, page 149
  32. ^ a b c Geoff Teece (2004), Sikhism: Religion in focus, ISBN 978-1-58340-469-0, page 17
  33. ^ a b c d HS Singha (2009),Sikhism: A Complete Introduction, Hemkunt Press, ISBN 978-8170102458, pages 53-54
  34. ^ Guru Granth Sahib P534, 2.3.29
  35. ^ a b c A. Sharma (2000), Classical Hindu Thought: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195644418, pp 117
  36. ^ Note: Each school has a different meaning for Moksha. For example, Mimamsa school considers moksha as release into svarga (heaven), it does not recognize samsara; while Nyaya school considers moksha as linked to samsara and a release from it; See: The Purva-Mimamsa Sutra of Jaimini, Transl: M.L. Sandal (1923), Chapter II, Pada I and Chapter VI, Pada I through VIII; Also see Klaus Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism, 3rd Edition, ISBN 978-0-7914-7082-4, Chapter 26
  37. ^ Miller, A. T. (2013), A review of “An Introduction to Indian Philosophy: Perspectives on Reality, Knowledge, and Freedom”, Religion, 43(1), pages 119-123
  38. ^ a b Susan Dudek (2013), Nutrition Essentials for Nursing Practice, Wolters Kluwer Health, ISBN 978-1451186123, page 251
  39. ^ Angela Wood (1998), Movement and Change, Nelson Thornes, ISBN 978-0174370673, page 80
  40. ^ a b c A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh, World Sikh University Press, Delhi ISBN 9788170231394 However, it is strange that nowadays in the Community-Kitchen attached to the Sikh temples, and called the Guru's Kitchen (or, Guru-ka-langar) meat-dishes are not served at all. May be, it is on account of its being, perhaps, expensive, or not easy to keep for long. Or, perhaps the Vaishnava tradition is too strong to be shaken off.
  41. ^ a b Guru Granth Sahib, An Analytical Study by Surindar Singh Kohli, Singh Bros. Amritsar ISBN 8172050607 The ideas of devotion and service in Vaishnavism have been accepted by Adi Granth, but the insistence of Vaishnavas on vegetarian diet has been rejected.
  42. ^ HS Singha (2009), Sikhism: A Complete Introduction, Hemkunt Press, ISBN 978-8170102458, pages 81-82
  43. ^ a b c Robert Zaehner (1997), Encyclopedia of the World's Religions, Barnes & Noble Publishing, ISBN 978-0760707128, page 409
  44. ^ R. C. Dogra & Urmila Dogra: Hindu and Sikh wedding ceremonies pub. 2000. Star Publications. ISBN 9788176500289.
  45. ^ Douglas Charing and William Owen Cole: Six world faiths pub. 2004, page 309. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 9780826476838.
  46. ^ William Owen Cole, Piara Singh Sambhi: Sikhism and Christianity: a comparative study, Volume 1993, Part 2, pub. 1993. Macmillan. Page 22. ISBN 9780333541067.
  47. ^ http://www.sikh-heritage.co.uk/research/genesis/genesishindu.html

Cited sources[edit]

  • Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge, xiii-xiv. ISBN 0-415-26604-1.
  • Rosetta William, Sikh Gurus, Har-Anand Publications PVT Ltd (India), 2002, First edition, ISBN 8124107165
  • Professor Kartar Singh, Biography of Guru Nanak, Hemkunt Press (India), 1995, Sixth edition, ISBN 81-7010-162-X

Further reading[edit]

  • K.P. Agrawala: Adi Shrî Gurû Granth Sâhib kî Mahimâ (Hindi: "The greatness of the original sacred Guru scripture")
  • Elst, Koenraad: Who is a Hindu?, 2001. ISBN 81-85990-74-3 [2]
  • Rajendra Singh Nirala: Ham Hindu Hain, 1989. Ham Hindu Kyon, 1990. Delhi: Voice of India.
  • E. Trumpp. Adi Granth or the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi 1970.
  • McLeod, W.H.:(ed.) Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism. Manchester University Press, Manchester 1984., -: Who Is a Sikh? The Problem of Sikh Identity. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1989.
  • Harjot Oberoi, The Construction of Religious Boundaries : Culture, Identity, and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition, University Of Chicago Press 1994.
  • Rajendra Singh: Sikkha Itihâsa mein Râma Janmabhûmi.
  • Swarup, Ram: Hindu-Sikh Relationship. Voice of India, Delhi 1985. -: Whither Sikhism? Voice of India, Delhi 1991.
  • Talib, Gurbachan (1950). Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947. India: Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. Online 1 Online 2 Online 3 (A free copy of this book can be read from any 3 of the included "Online Sources" of this free "Online Book")