Prohibitions in Sikhism

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There are a number of religious prohibitions in Sikhism.

  1. Haircuts: Cutting or removing hair from any body part is strictly forbidden despite shaving or trimming facial and nostril hairs for both Amritdhari (formally baptized) and Keshdhari (non-baptized and practicing) Sikhs.
  2. Intoxication: Consumption of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, and other intoxicants is not allowed for Amritdhari Sikhs and Keshdhari Sikhs. Drugs, alcohol and tobacco are forbidden for all. [1][2][3] Cannabis (sukha) is prohibited in smoking form , but ritually consumed in edible form by some Sikhs, (Shaheedi Degh).[4][5]
  3. Gambling: Gambling, also called Jooa in traditional Indian languages, be it in any form like lottery or tambola, is prohibited in some codes of conduct, such as the Sikh Rehat Maryada.
  4. Blind spirituality: Superstitions and rituals should not be observed or followed, including pilgrimages, fasting and ritual purification; circumcision; idols, grave worship; compulsory wearing of the veil for women. Observation of the 5 K's, is not considered blind superstition.
  5. Material obsession: Obsession with material wealth is not encouraged in Sikhism.
  6. Sacrifice of creatures: Practices such as sati (widows throwing themselves on the funeral pyre of their husbands and wives) and ritual animal sacrifice to celebrate holy occasions are forbidden.
  7. Non-family-oriented living: A Sikh is encouraged not to live as a recluse, beggar, yogi, monastic (monk/nun) or celibate.[citation needed]
  8. Worthless talk: Bragging, gossip, lying, slander, "back-stabbing", etc. are not permitted. The Guru Granth Sahib tells the Sikh, "Your mouth has not stopped slandering and gossiping about others. Your service is useless and fruitless."[6]
  9. Priestly class: Sikhism does not have priests, as they were abolished by Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th Guru of Sikhism).[7] The only position he left was a Granthi to look after the Guru Granth Sahib; any Sikh is free to become Granthi or read from the Guru Granth Sahib.[7]
  10. Eating meat killed in a ritualistic manner (Kutha meat): Sikhs are strictly prohibited from eating meat killed in a ritualistic manner (such as halal or kosher, known as Kutha meat[8] ), or any meat where langar is served except Jatkha meat.[9] For many Sikhs (and in some small Sikh sects, e.g. Akhand Kirtani Jatha) eating any meat cooked by Jews and Muslims is believed to be forbidden, this is a universally held belief.[10] The meat eaten by Sikhs is known as Jhatka meat.
  11. Having extramarital sexual relations:[1][2][11][12] Adultery is prohibited meaning Sikhs are not allowed to cheat on husbands and wives.
  12. Cutting turbans whilst worn: Cutting turbans too short when worn (excepting excessive material) will be damaged by scissors as it is strictly forbidden the same way as cutting hair.
  13. Swimming water through turbans: Swim caps are a different head gear to wear as a substitute to turbans when all Sikhs go to swimming pools at leisure centres.
  14. Photography inside temples: Sikh temples are ruled to switch off the cameras in golden areas.
  15. Headgear changes on motorbikes: Motorcycle helmets are not allowed to replace turbans or fit over turbans whilst riding motorbikes.

Violation of prohibitions[edit]

Not all Sikh-identified people subscribe to these prohibitions. The Sahajdhari Sikhs reject most of the prohibitions, including trimming of hair (Kesh). Some young Sikhs are now cutting their hair to the dismay of spiritual leaders.[13] According to the Sikh clergy, "the fad among youth to shed the pagri" is being observed more commonly among the Sikh youth in Punjab than Sikhs in other Indian states.[14]

Nihang Sikhs of Punjab, who are defenders of historic Sikh shrines, are an exception and consume an intoxicant called bhang (cannabis sativa), opium and other narcotics to help in meditation[15][16][17] saying that it is puratan maryada (Punjabi for "old tradition"). Bhang is common in India; according to a legend, even the Hindu God Shiva was fond of bhang and it became his favourite food.[18] In 2001, Baba Santa Singh, the Jathedar of Budha Dal, along with 20 Nihang sect chiefs, refused to accept the ban on the consumption of bhang by the highest Sikh clergy.[19] Baba Santa Singh was excommunicated and replaced with Baba Balbir Singh, who agreed to shun the consumption of bhang.[20]

The Udasis, who consider themselves as a denomination of Sikhism, lay emphasis on being ascetic, thus violating the "Non-family-oriented living" principle. Sri Chand, the ascetic son of Guru Nanak, was the founder of the Udasi.


  1. ^ a b Sikh Reht Maryada, The Definition of Sikh, Sikh Conduct & Conventions, Sikh Religion Living, India
  2. ^ a b Sikh Reht Maryada, The Definition of Sikh, Sikh Conduct & Conventions, Sikh Religion Living, India
  3. ^ Sikh Code Of Conduct
  4. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (March 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. OUP Oxford. pp. 378–. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
  5. ^ Pashaura Singh; Michael Hawley (7 December 2012). Re-imagining South Asian Religions: Essays in Honour of Professors Harold G. Coward and Ronald W. Neufeldt. BRILL. pp. 34–. ISBN 90-04-24236-8.
  6. ^ "Sri Granth: Sri Guru Granth Sahib".
  7. ^ a b "Sikhism Religion of the Sikh People".
  8. ^ Sikhs and Sikhism, Dr. I.J.Singh, Manohar Publishers.ISBN 978-8173040580
  9. ^ "Sikhism, A Complete Introduction" by Dr. H.S. Singha & Satwant Kaur Hemkunt, Hemkunt Press, New Delhi, 1994, ISBN 81-7010-245-6
  10. ^ "Sikh Identity: An Exploration of Groups Among Sikhs" by Opinderjit Kaur Takhar, pg. 51, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2005, ISBN 0-7546-5202-5
  11. ^ The Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Four | Gateway to Sikhism-Gateway to Sikhism
  12. ^ Doris R. Jakobsh. Relocating Gender In Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp.39-40
  13. ^ Young Sikh Men Get Haircuts, Annoying Their Elders. New York Times. March 29, 2007.
  14. ^ "'Pagri not very attractive, out of tune with times'". The Times of India.
  15. ^ Richard Beck, David Worden. Gcse Religious Studies for Aqa. p. 64. ISBN 0-435-30692-8.
  16. ^ "Hola Mohalla: United colours of celebrations". The Times of India.
  17. ^ "The Telegraph – Calcutta : Opinion".
  18. ^ Richard Beck, David Worden. Gcse Religious Studies for Aqa. p. 63. ISBN 0-435-30692-8.
  19. ^ Nihangs ‘not to accept’ ban on bhang. The Tribune. March 26, 2001.
  20. ^ No ‘bhang’ at Hola Mohalla. The Tribune. March 10, 2001.

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