Hinduism and Sikhism

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The historical interaction between Sikhism and Hinduism occurred because both were founded on the Indian Subcontinent. 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.[1] The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was the first to raise voice against the rule of Babur, the then ruler of India.[1] Though Hinduism began in India about 5000 years ago, Sikhism began with the advent of Guru Nanak Dev in 1469 A.D. Sikhism is an independent religion from Hinduism as its basic principles are entirely different from the latter.[2]

History of similarities and differences[edit]

Though Guru Nanak, was born in a Hindu Khatri family but he declared that all are equal in the eyes of God in his famous proclamation "I am not a Hindu, nor am I a Muslim." With this he started a new religion called Sikhism.[3]

Before Guru Nanak's death, he instructed his disciple Guru Angad Dev to carry on the teachings of his religion as Guru Angad had shown selflessness, compassion and endless service and was attuned to the teachings of his Master, Guru Nanak. The Khalsa, ordained by Guru Gobind Singh, is regarded by many Sikhs as being the completion of the development of the Sikh religion.

Guru Tegh Bahadur[edit]

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

In 1675 Aurangzeb caused the death of Guru Tegh Bahadur. He had gone to Aurangzeb on behalf of Kashmiri Pandits, who requested him to plead against their forceful conversion. Aurangzeb asked Guru Tegh Bahadur to convert and had him executed after he refused to convert to Islam.[4] According to Kushwant Singh, when "Guru Tegh Bahadur was summoned to Delhi, he went as a protector of the Kashmiri Hindu community and encourage them to stand against the increasing oppression of the Mughals. He was executed in the year 1675. His son who succeeded him as Guru later described his father's martyrdom as in the cause of the humanity. Guru Tegh Bahadar undertook the supreme sacrifice for the protection of the most fundamental of human rights - the right of a person to freely practice his or her religion without interference or hindrance. This is why Guru Tegh Bahadur is also known as Tegh Bahadur, Hind Di Chadar" (Tegh Bahadur, Shield of India). Many Sikhs view Guru Tegh Bahadur as "Insaaf Di Kand" (blockade of injustice), stopping the unjust conversions to Islam.

Guru Tegh Bahadur is also honored by Punjabi Hindus and the Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom Day is also observed by many Punjabi Hindus.[5]


Guru Nanak and other Sikh Gurus rejected many tenets of Brahmanical Hinduism, such as:

  • 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 (see Hindu views on monotheism), the Hindu concept of Paramatma is similar to that of the Sole Creator in Sikh texts.
  • The Janeu (Hindu sacred thread), or 'confirmation' ritual of Hinduism. Guru Nanak refused to wear this thread terming it as a material thing which can't improve one's life.[6]
  • Sikhs do not believe that going on pilgrimages or bathing at holy rivers will give you mukti (salvation) but only meditation on the naam (name) of Waheguru will.

One may read all the books of the Vedas, the Smritis and the Shaastras, but they alone will not bring liberation.

— Page 747, Line 18

The majority accept that the two belief systems have been separate from the beginning of Sikhism.[7] Sikhs believe that the Gurus were receiving the beliefs and practices from God as the Gurus constantly stated that they were not part of the Hindu or Muslim religions. One belief in Sikhism that is commonly cited in support of this is the belief in equality between men and women, regardless of background or race.

Differences between Sikhism and specific Hindu traditions[edit]

Idol worship[edit]

The worship of murtis (icons) is an important part of several Hindu traditions, such as Vaishnavism and Shaivism, although some Hindu denominations like Arya Samaj and Satya Mahima Dharma have rejected idol worship.

Main article: Idolatry in Sikhism

Sikhs regards idol worship as false practice and followers are considered as animals having low intellect,[8][9] hence strongly rejects in worship of any sort of physical idol, symbol, picture, or statue. Pictures of gurus and the book itself are not directly prayed to or revered in place of Sikhism's formless God. Pictures of gurus are not a requirement in the Gurdwara, and they are often not even displayed in the Darbar Sahib (prayer hall), but by the eating areas and the shoe-removing areas. This shows the low level of spiritual reverence for physical representations of the Gurus, as opposed to prayer (prayer is not a "verbal idol"). Fanning of the Guru Granth Sahib is a tradition carried over from Punjab to protect the Granth and its reader from airborne debris, as outside worship was common. Only recital of prayers and listening to hymns make up Sikh prayer.

Where Kabir states that idol worshiper will drown in river of darkness, there Guru Gobind Singh does not hesitate from calling the idol worshiper, an animal of low intellect or stone mind. Guru Nanak also used term blind and mute, the blindest of the blind and ignorant fools for idol worshipers.

Dietary requirements[edit]

Some Hindu traditions, such as Vaishnavism, emphasize strict vegetarianism.The tenets of Sikhism do not advocate a particular stance on either vegetarianism[10] or the consumption of meat,[10][11][12] but rather leave the decision of diet to the individual.[13] Sikhs who follow sects and groups that have a "Vashnavite" influence (AKJ, GNNSJ, 3HO, Namdhari's etc.)[10][12][14] believe that there is to be strict vegetarianism while the majority, that follow the Official Sikh Code of Conduct (Rehat Maryada[15] ) state the fact that, the only meat that is expressly forbidden for Sikhs to consume is Halal/Kosher (Kutha meat, the meat of animals slowly and ceremoniously killed in sacrificing rituals). Several Gurus such as Guru Hargobind Sahib[16] and Guru Gobind Singh[16] hunted frequently and consumed non-Halal.[17][18]

Cultural differences[edit]

According to a 1960 book by P. Thomas, Hindu-Sikh intermarriage is rare.[19] However, a 2000 book by R C Dogra says that there has always been inter-marriage between the Hindu and the Sikh communities.[20] Douglas Charing etal., writing in 2004, state that "caste is a more important factor than religion in so far as Hindu-Sikh relationships are concerned".[21] William Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi (1993) write that for many Sikhs, intermarriage between Hindus and Sikhs of same community is preferable to a Sikh marriage between different ones.[22]

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.[23]


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, or what some would call the "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).[24]

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 many Hindus and Sikhs as they make ethical decisions surrounding birth and death. 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. What a person does in each life influences the circumstances and predispositions experienced in future lives. In essence, every action or thought, whether noble or sinful, has consequences that are carried forward into the next life. When a similar situation is encountered, memories of past lives arise in the consciousness as an impulse to perform actions or think thoughts similar to the earlier ones. This impulse does not necessarily compel the person to repeat the act or thought. As proclaimed in the Guru Granth Sahib:

Mortals obtain a human body as a result of good deeds but he reaches the gate of salvation with God's kind grace. (Guru Nanak).

Foundation of Sikh Panth[edit]

  • 1478: Guru Nanak Dev stated that he wanted nothing to do with a religion that only allowed the highest classes in society to be regarded as religious.
  • 1479: Guru Nanak stand up for the will of God by taking Junior and Kilian (the 2 prophets from Hundi) from the back.
  • 1480: Guru Nanak refused to wear Janeu (sacred thread of Hindus) at the age of eleven years.
  • 1509: Guru Nanak's declaration "I am not a Hindu, nor am I a Muslim" Alah rām kė pind parān. ||4||

My body and breath of life belong to Allah - to Ram, God . ||4|| .[25]

  • 1509-1539: Guru Nanak preached against idol worship. He did not attach any importance to penance and fasting.
  • 1539: The followers of Guru Nanak are called Sikhs
  • 1699: Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, established the Khalsa order and the five Ks to ensure that Khalsa kept a distinct identity and were able to defend themselves in war.
  • 1873: The first Tat Khalsa Singh Sabha was founded in Amritsar. They worked towards spreading the essence of Sikh scriptures against, what they considered as attempts to subvert Sikhism from within.[26] In a short span of time the number of Singh Sabhas rose to 117 in Punjab.
  • 1879: Another Tat Khalsa Singh Sabha; popularly known as Lahore Singh Sabha.
  • 1909: Max Arthur Macauliffe published "Sikh Religion:Its Gurus, Sacred Writings, and Authors." He is widely accredited for the translation of the Guru Granth Sahib from Gurmukhi to English.
  • 1920: Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) formed.
  • 1920s: Nankana Sahib, Punja Sahib, Harimandir Complex (Golden Temple), TarnTaran Sahib taken over from the mahants. The mahants had maintained the shrines since the dissolution of the Sikh Empire.
  • 1915, 1931: New Reht Maryada compiled to replace existing Rahits after consultations with distinguished Sikh scholars.
  • 1950: Sikh Reht Maryada was approved.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Singh, Harbans. Guru Nanak and origins of the Sikh faith. Asia Publication House. p. 11. 
  2. ^ Nabha, Kahan Singh. "Hum Hindu Nahi". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Adi Granth Page 1136 ਏਕੁ ਗੁਸਾਈ ਅਲਹੁ ਮੇਰਾ ॥ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਤੁਰਕ ਦੁਹਾਂ ਨੇਬੇਰਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ I have One, who is both Gusain (Hindu Lord) and Allah, who administers both Hindus and Turks. ਨਾ ਹਮ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਨ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨ ॥ ਅਲਹ ਰਾਮ ਕੇ ਪਿੰਡੁ ਪਰਾਨ ॥੪॥ I am neither a Hindu or Muslim, but a body made alive by Allah/Ram. ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਇਹੁ ਕੀਆ ਵਖਾਨਾ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪੀਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਖੁਦਿ ਖਸਮੁ ਪਛਾਨਾ ॥੫॥੩॥ Kabir has said this - meeting with Guru/Pir I have recognized the lord. W.H McLeod believes that the verse is by Kabir and not Nanak.
  4. ^ Vedalankar, Kshitish: Storm in Punjab. Word Publ., Delhi 1985 (1984). (This work contains the full text of Guru Tegh Bahadur's reply to Aurangzeb)
  5. ^ Ram Prakash: Guru Tegh Bahadur, the Patriot by Excellence. Suruchi Prakashan, Delhi 1987., and Koenraad Elst: Who is a Hindu (2001)
  6. ^ Nabha, Kahan Singh. Mahaan Kosh. 
  7. ^ Chahal, Dr. Devindar Singh (Jan–June 2006). "Is Sikhism a Unique Religion or a Vedantic Religion". Understanding Sikhism 8 (1): 3, 4, 5.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  8. ^ Line 10, Tav Parsad Svaiyey, Dasam Granth
  9. ^ Bachitar Natak, Line 99, Dasam Granth
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Misconceptions About Eating Meat - Comments of Sikh Scholars," at The Sikhism Home Page
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Randip Singh, Fools Who Wrangle Over Flesh, Sikh Philosophy Network, 7 December 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  14. ^ Sikhs and Sikhism by I.J. Singh, Manohar, Delhi ISBN 9788173040580 Throughout Sikh history, there have been movements or subsects of Sikhism which have espoused vegetarianism. I think there is no basis for such dogma or practice in Sikhism. It is surprising to see that vegetarianism is such an important facet of Hindu practice in light of the fact that animal sacrifice was a significant and much valued Hindu Vedic ritual for ages. Guru Nanak in his writings clearly rejected both sides of the arguments - on the virtues of vegetarianism or meat eating - as banal and so much nonsense, nor did he accept the idea that a cow was somehow more sacred than a horse or a chicken. He also refused to be drawn into a contention on the differences between flesh and greens, for instance. History tells us that to impart this message, Nanak cooked meat at an important Hindu festival in Kurukshetra. Having cooked it he certainly did not waste it, but probably served it to his followers and ate himself. History is quite clear that Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh were accomplished and avid hunters. The game was cooked and put to good use, to throw it away would have been an awful waste.
  15. ^ http://www.sgpc.net/sikhism/sikh-dharma-manual.html The Sikh Code of Conduct
  16. ^ a b ibid
  17. ^ I. J. Singh. Sikhs and Sikhism. Delhi: Manohar. ISBN 9788173040580. 
  18. ^ J.S. Grewal. Sikh History from Persian Sources: Translations of Major Texts. ISBN 978-8185229171. Many person became his disciples. Nanak believed in the Oneness of God and in the way that it is asserted in Muhammadan theology. He also believed in transmigration of souls. Holding wine and pork to be unlawful, he had [himself] abandoned eating meat. He decreed avoidance of causing harm to animals. It was after his time that meat-eating spread amongst his followers. Arjan Mal, who was one of his lineal successors, found this to be evil. He prohibited people from eating meat, saying 'This is not in accordance with Nanak's wishes.Later, Hargobind, son of Arjan Mal, ate meat and took to hunting. Most of their [the Gurus] followers adopted his practice. 
  19. ^ Thomas, P.: Hindu Religion Customs and Manners pub. 1960. pg. 50
  20. ^ R. C. Dogra & Urmila Dogra: Hindu and Sikh wedding ceremonies pub. 2000. Star Publications. ISBN 9788176500289.
  21. ^ Douglas Charing, W. Owen Cole, William Owen Cole: Six world faiths pub. 2004, page 309. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 9780826476838.
  22. ^ William Owen Cole, Piara Singh Sambhi: Sikhism and Christianity: a comparative study, Volume 1993, Part 2, pub. 1993. Macmillan. Page 22. ISBN 9780333541067.
  23. ^ http://www.sikh-heritage.co.uk/research/genesis/genesishindu.html
  24. ^ http://www.realsikhism.com/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1248369578&ucat=7
  25. ^ Page 1136
  26. ^ Singh, Patwant (2000). The Sikhs. Knopf. p. 184. ISBN 0375407286. 


  • 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")