Idolatry in Sikhism

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Sikhism considers idol worship a false practice and is prohibited.[1] Idolatry or idol worship, also referred to as But-prasati or Pahan Pooja or Murti Pooja, is the worship of any physical object such as statues, images, or sculptures of any deity, human or being with divine attributes.

Sikh texts[edit]

Guru Granth Sahib[edit]

During the era of the Sikh gurus and bhagats, in Hinduism, a murti (Devanagari: मूर्ति), or murthi, or vigraha or pratima[2] was worshiped, rituals were performed, and Sikhs believed that spiritual wisdom was lacking in Indian society. This was believed to have been a manipulation by the priestly caste to keep the power in their hands. Sikh gurus and bhagats spoke out against this practice and informed people about the perceived spiritual disadvantages of idol worship.

Bhagat Kabir[edit]

  • Bhagat Kabir, whose hymns are present in Guru Granth Sahib, was strictly against any form of idol worship. He said Kabeer, someone sets up a stone idol and all the world worships it as the Lord. Those who hold to this belief will be drowned in the river of darkness. ||136|| [3]

Guru Nanak[edit]

  • Guru Nanak, who strictly condemned the idol worship flourishing in Indian society among Hindus also suggested the same in Shalok: The Hindus have forgotten the Primal Lord; they are going the wrong way. As Naarad instructed them, they are worshipping idols. They are blind and mute, the blindest of the blind. The ignorant fools pick up stones and worship them. But when those stones themselves sink, who will carry you across? ||2|[4]

Guru Ram Das[edit]

  • Guru Ram Das, the fourth Guru of the Sikhs, also wrote that an idol worshipping is ignorant (Agyani) and a useless effort. In his hymn in Malhar Raga, he narrated, The ignorant and the blind wander deluded by doubt; deluded and confused, they pick flowers to offer to their idols. They worship lifeless stones and serve the tombs of the dead; all their efforts are useless. ||3||[5]

Guru Arjan Dev[edit]

  • Guru Arjan Dev also emphasise on finding God within his own self and called Idol worshipper a faithless cynic. In his hymn in Suhi Raga, he narrated, Soohee, Fifth Mehl:Within the home of his own self, he does not even come to see his Lord and Master. And yet, around his neck, he hangs a stone god. ||1|| The faithless cynic wanders around, deluded by doubt. He churns water, and after wasting his life away, he dies. ||1||Pause||.[6]
  • In another hymn he exclaimed, Those who call a stone their god-their service is useless. Those who fall at the feet of a stone god-their work is wasted in vain. ||1||.[7]

Dasam Granth[edit]

In letter to Aurangzeb called Zafarnamah, Guru Gobind Singh called himself an "idol breaker" (But-Shikan - ਬੁਤਸ਼ਿਕਨ).[8]

In many compositions Guru Gobind Singh called Idol worshipper a Foolish,[9] Lowest intellect as Animals. In 33 Savaiyey, Guru Gobind Singh states in Line 19 and 20: You will not get a place, even very small one in the abode of the Lord; therefore O foolish creature ! you away become careful even now, because by wearing a garb only, you will not be able to realise that Accountless Lord. Why do you worship stones ?, because the Lord-God is not within those stones; you may only worship Him, whose adoration destroys clusters of sins;

Historical incidents[edit]

Smiting of the nose of Durga's idol[edit]

As per narration of Dabestan-e Mazaheb, Bhai Bhairo, a Sikh, smote the nose of an idol of Hindu goddess at Naina Devi near Anandpur Sahib. Hindu kings made a complaint to Guru Gobind Singh, who asked Bhairo to clarify his position. Bhairo denied that he had removed the nose from the idol and in turn asked the idol to become witness. When the complainant kings argued that the goddess cannot speak, Bhairo replied that if the goddess (idol) cannot speak and protect her own body then what good you expect from her?[10]

Shaligram desecration by Bhagat Sadhna[edit]

Bhagat Sadhana got Shaligram Shilas and used them as weights in his butcher shop. Sadhna annoyed Vaishnav Sadhus and Pundits with this act.[11] On one hand, he was of lower profession and caste, and on the other, he was belittling their idol worship by using the idol while handling the flesh of animals, which is considered a sin by the authorities of this branch of Vaishnavism. Those religious scholars frequently argued and debated with him, and Sadhna always outwitted them. It is recorded that one of Vaishnav saints took the Shaligram Stones with him. Sadhna had no issues with this and did not object. The Vaishnav saint continued worshipping the Shaligram but got no internal pleasure and wisdom, as he had seen in the state, behavior and thoughts of Sadhna. With dashed hopes he returned the Shaligram Stones.[12] Sadhna preached that "Shaligrams Stones" are not god as these are lifeless stones, and can not give any wisdom to a living being.


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. The Encyclopædia Britannica Company. pp. 84–. Retrieved 9 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "pratima (Hinduism)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  3. ^ ਪੰਨਾ 1371, ਸਤਰ 14, Devotee Kabeer, Translation of Guru Granth Sahib, Sant Singh Khalsa
  4. ^ Page 556, Salok Mahalla 1, Translation of Guru Granth Sahib, Sant Singh Khalsa
  5. ^ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੂਲੇ ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਅੰਧੁਲੇ ਭ੍ਰਮਿ ਭ੍ਰਮਿ ਫੂਲ ਤੋਰਾਵੈ ॥ ਨਿਰਜੀਉ ਪੂਜਹਿ ਮੜਾ ਸਰੇਵਹਿ ਸਭ ਬਿਰਥੀ ਘਾਲ ਗਵਾਵੈ ॥੩॥: Page 1264, Malhaar Mahalla 4, Adi Granth,
  6. ^ ਸੂਹੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥ ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਨਦਰਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਗਲ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਹਣੁ ਲੈ ਲਟਕਾਵੈ ॥੧॥ ਭਰਮੇ ਭੂਲਾ ਸਾਕਤੁ ਫਿਰਤਾ ॥ ਨੀਰੁ ਬਿਰੋਲੈ ਖਪਿ ਖਪਿ ਮਰਤਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Page 739, Soohi Mahalla 5, Adi Granth
  7. ^ ਜੋ ਪਾਥਰ ਕਉ ਕਹਤੇ ਦੇਵ ॥ ਤਾ ਕੀ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੇਵ ॥ ਜੋ ਪਾਥਰ ਕੀ ਪਾਂਈ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕੀ ਘਾਲ ਅਜਾਂਈ ਜਾਇ ॥੧॥: Page 1160, Adi Granth
  8. ^ Though you are the king of kings, O Aurangzeb ! you are far from righteousness and justice.94. I vanquished the vicious hill chiefs, they were idol-worshippers and I am [an] idol-breaker.95: Retrieved from Zafarnama, Dasam Granth Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh
  9. ^ You had been wandering with bowed head in the temples of stones, hut you realized nothing; O foolish mind ! you were only entangled in your bad intellect abandoning that Effulgent Lord.: Line 26, 33 Savaiyey, Dasam Granth
  10. ^ Dabistan e Mazahib, Mohsan Fani. Text:ਗੁਰੂ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਕੀਰਤਪੁਰ ਪਹੁੰਚੇ, ਜੋ ਤਾਰਾ ਚੰਦ ਦੀ ਰਾਜਧਾਨੀ ਵਿਚ ਸੀ । ਉਥੋਂ ਦੇ ਲੋਕ ਮੂਰਤੀ ਪੂਜਕ ਸਨ । ਪਹਾੜ ਦੇ ਸਿਰ ਪਰ ਇਕ ਨੈਣਾਂ ਦੇਵੀ ਦਾ ਮੰਦਰ ਸੀ, ਜਿਸ ਨੂੰ ਪੂਜਣ ਲਈ ਆਸ ਪਾਸ ਦੇ ਲੋਕ ਆਇਆ ਕਰਦੇ ਸਨ । ਇਕ ਭੈਰੋਂ ਨਾਮੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਦੇ ਸਿਖ ਨੇ ਮੰਦਰ ਵਿਚ ਪਹੁੰਚ ਕੇ ਨੈਣਾਂ ਦੇਵੀ ਦਾ ਨੱਕ ਤੋੜ ਸੁੱਟਿਆ । ਇਸ ਗੱਲ ਦੀ ਚਰਚਾ ਸਾਰੇ ਫੈਲ ਗਈ । ਪਹਾੜੀ ਰਾਜਿਆਂ ਨੇ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਪਾਸ ਪਹੁੰਚ ਕੇ ਸਿੱਖ ਦੀ ਸ਼ਿਕਾਇਤ ਕੀਤੀ । ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਨੇ ਭੈਰੋਂ ਸਿੱਖ ਨੂੰ ਰਾਜਿਆਂ ਦੇ ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਬੁਲਾ ਕੇ ਪੁੱਛਿਆ, ਤਾਂ ਉਸ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ ਕੇ ਦੇਵੀ ਤੋਂ ਪੁੱਛਣਾ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਓਸ ਦਾ ਨੱਕ ਕਿਸ ਨੇ ਤੋੜਿਆ ਹੈ । ਇਸ ਪਰ ਰਾਜਿਆਂ ਨੇ ਭੈਰੋਂ ਨੂੰ ਆਖਿਆ ਕਿ ਹੇ ਮੂਰਖ! ਕਦੇ ਦੇਵੀ ਭੀ ਗੱਲਾਂ ਕਰ ਸਕਦੀ ਹੈ? ਭੈਰੋਂ ਨੇ ਹੱਸ ਕੇ ਜਵਾਬ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਕਿ ਜੋ ਦੇਵੀ ਬੋਲ ਨਹੀਂ ਸਕਦੀ ਔਰ ਆਪਣੇ ਅੰਗਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਨਹੀਂ ਬਚਾ ਸਕਦੀ, ਤੁਸੀਂ ਓਸ ਤੋਂ ਨੇਕੀ ਦੀ ਕੀ ਉਮੈਦ ਰਖਦੇ ਹੋ? ਇਸ ਗੱਲ ਨੂੰ ਸੁਣ ਕੇ ਰਾਜੇ ਚੁੱਪ ਹੋ ਗਏ ।
  11. ^ Page 235, Selections from the Sacred Writings of the Sikhs- By K. Singh, Trilochan Singh
  12. ^ Bhagat Sadhna Ji, Dr Dharampal Singhal