From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Sikh Rehat Maryada)

Rehat (Punjabi: ਰਹਿਤ, alternatively transliterated as Rehit, Rahit, or Rahat) refers to the rules and traditions which govern the unique Sikh lifestyle and determines correct Sikh orthodoxy and orthopraxy.[1] The Sikh Rehit Maryada[2][3][4] (Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖ ਰਹਿਤ ਮਰਯਾਦਾ, Sikkh Rahit Maryādā; also transcribed as Sikh Reht Maryada or Khalsa Rehat Maryada)[5] is a code of conduct and conventions for Sikhism. The final version of the Rehat Maryada was approved by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar in 1945.[6] The Rehat Maryada was created to provide guidance to Sikhs (and those desirous of embracing the Sikh faith) on practical and functional aspects of daily life, including the operations of Sikh Gurdwaras,[7] and religious practices to foster cohesion throughout the community.[8] Rehitnāma (meaning "epistles of conduct;[9] plural: Rehitnāme) is a Punjabi term that refers to a genre of Sikh religious literature which expounds upon specifiying an approved way of life for a Sikh.[10]


Rehat derives from the Punjabi word rahiṇā (to live, to remain) and means "mode of living". Maryādā derives from a Sanskrit compound word composed of marya (limit, boundary, mark) and ādā (to give to oneself, to accept, to undertake), meaning bounds or limits of morality and propriety, rule, or custom.[1]


Before the passing of the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, in 1708, he transferred the Guruship and authority to the Sikh Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, and the body of initiated Sikhs, called the Khalsa Panth. Before his death, Guru Gobind Singh provided what is known as 52 Hukams and instructed his followers to formalize them by writing Rehat Namas. The 52 Hukams are a set of 52 rules on proper conduct. As per Dr. William Hewat McLeod, these set of rules were transcribed into the Rehatnamas by Sikh scholars Bhai Nand Lal, Bhai Dessa Singh, Bhai Chaupa Singh, Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Prahlad Singh. However, for the next almost 100 years, persecution at the hands of Mughal rulers put the affairs of Sikh faith into disarray. The control of Sikh Gurdwaras and affairs fell into the hands of Udasis and Nirmala Sikh, who had embraced vedic philosophy. These Nirmala and Udasi Sikhs introduced vedic concepts into the Sikh Rehat, which led sectarianism in the absence of any centralized authority apart from that arranged under British rule from 1849.[11] A range of other codes and collections of tradition existed, which were corrected in 1898 by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, who collected all the old Rehat Namas and removed spurious references to Hinduism.


Rehat Maryada document issued by the Akal Takht in the year 1877. It is written in larivār Gurmukhi

There was no standard rehat but there were many with the same points and concepts, like the Muktinamah (ਮੁਕਤੀਨਾਮਾਹ), Rehatnamah (ਰਹਿਤਨਾਮਾਹ), Tankhahnamah (ਤਨਖਾਹਨਾਮਾਹ), 54 Hukams (੫੪ ਹੁਕਮ) etc. As per Dr. McLeod, several books were published during this period that attempted to provide a renaissance to the faith. Budh Singh published Khalsa Dharm Shatak in 1876, Kahn Singh Nabha wrote Raj Dharm (1884), Ham Hindu Nahin (1898) and Mahan Kosh (1930), Gurmat Sudhakar (1898 Hindi, 1901 Punjabi). In 1915, Chief Khalsa Diwan published Gurmat Parkash Bhag Sanskar while Teja Singh Bhasaur published Khalsa Rahit Parkash in 1911 and Bhai Jodh Singh's Gurmati Niranay was published in 1932. Finally Sikh Rahit Maryada was brought out by the SGPC in 1945. These publications showed a significant attempt by the Sikh intelligentsia and bodies to develop appropriate code of conduct reflective of the Sikh philosophy.

The early Sikh rahit namas were markedly anti Mughal, the rahits derided Mughals as being "polluting"; injunctions included avoiding contact with the ritually sacrificed meat of all faiths, a ban on sexual contact with Muslim women, and a proscription on all intoxicants. Furthermore, an early rahit-nama asserted that karah parsad, whilst to be distributed to everyone irrespective of their religious background, was not to be consumed by a Sikh in the company of a Mughal. William Hewat McLeod writes that these injunctions were a reflection of a period of extended warfare between the Sikhs and Muslims during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Pashaura Singh writes that the Tat Khalsa scholars refused to accept the anti Muslim injunctions and remarks as the work of Guru Gobind Singh and quietly removed them from their revised rahit-namas.[12][13][14][15] Six Rahitnamas were placed in the time of Guru Gobind Singh, the Tankhahnama of those in particular stresses hostility towards Mughal Aristocrats, referred to as "Turks". Although there was unanimous hostility and antipathy directed towards Mughals in the Sikh writings of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the works of Chaupa, Kesar Singh Chibbar, and Koer Singh are considered the apotheosis of this aversion.[16][17][18] The twentieth century versions of the rahit; drawing upon and furthering developing earlier forms of rahits were representative of an effort to systemize codes presented in different versions and modify them in line with the evolving Sikh orthodoxy associated with the Singh Sahba reform movement. W.H McLeod further comments that while Guru Gobind's utterance of the rahit does not oppose nor is it inconsistent with the traditional version used today, it is suggested that he announced a considerably simpler one. Only a portion of the current Rahit dates to the time of Guru Gobind Singh, and it evolved according to the conditions and circumstances of the time. While the early eighteenth century rahits feature considerable variation; W.H. McLeod noted a few consistent features among them;

"a sense of deepening problems and the ultimate triumph of the community; a set of behavioral injunctions meant to distinguish the Sikhs from other religious communities; with a clear sense that the Sikh community saw itself in conflict with Muslims; and, within several versions, the declaration of a Vaishnava savior in relation the triumph of the community."[19]

Louis Fenech notes that the eighteenth century Sikh literature consisting of the rahit-namas and gur-bilas genres impart hostile attitudes towards Muslims and Islam and mention that Muslims were desirous of converting all Indians.[20] He also noted that while the eighteenth century rahits disagreed on many points, a universal belief that the Khalsa was the principal sovereign not just of India, but the entire world, was accorded among them, and that many of the earliest rahit-namas violated certain Sikh precepts in the Guru Granth Sahib- including observation of caste status. He also notes that the eighteenth and nineteenth century Sikh manuscripts proclaimed Guru Gobind Singh to be the avatar of Vishnu and four of the five Panj Pyare as the incarnations of a Hindu demigod (Lava) and three Hindu bhakts (the exception being Himmat Singh- considered an incarnation of a hunter). He adds that the Tat Khalsa expunged the Hindu elements of the Panj Pyare tradition within these manuscripts. The Tat Khalsa's origins are said to be influenced by contemporary nineteenth century European understanding of religion and modernity; their objective became to reduce the Sikh faith of its contemporary plurality, multiplicity and diversity to a single solidarity identity centered around the Khalsa and to inculcate firm religious boundaries within the community through various methods including purging content they deemed offensive and non Sikh in the early rahit-namas and the permuting of Sikh history towards a certain trajectory.[21]

Many Sikhs today assert that during the early 1800's, many Brahmanical & other Hindu influences came into the writings of Sikhs, which led to a "corruption" of the rehitnamahs.


In 1925, the Sikh Gurdwaras Act was made in Punjab, legislating the establishment of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), an elected body of Sikhs, for the purpose of administering Gurdwaras.

A general meeting of the SGPC was held on 15 March 1927 to establish a subcommittee with the task of producing a draft Code of Conduct. The subcommittee at the time consisted of 29 high-profile Sikhs,[22] listed by name in the Introduction to the Sikh Rehat Maryada.


A preliminary draft was circulated to Sikhs in April 1931, for comment. The subcommittee met on the 4th and 5 October 1931, then on the 3rd and 31 January 1932, at the Akal Takht in Amritsar. During this time the number of subcommittee members present at meetings reduced, and other people were listed as present.[23]

On March 1, four members were exited from the subcommittee, and eight more were appointed. Of the four who were exited, one had died and another was excommunicated.[22] The subcommittee met again to deliberate and consider the draft on 8 May and 26 September 1932. On 1 October, the sub-committee submitted its report to the SGPC Secretary recommending a special session of the Committee be convened to consider the final draft and approve it for acceptance.[23]


The SGPC arranged a conclave of Sikhs on 30 December, where 170 individuals attended and debated the draft. Only nine attendees were members of the original sub-committee, and the conclave ultimately failed to reach an agreement.[22] The SGPC then received comments on the draft from a subcommittee of 50 individuals and 21 Panthic Associations (including international organisations), all of whom are listed in the Introduction to the Sikh Rehat Maryada.[23]

After nearly three years, on 1 August 1936, the broader subcommittee approved the draft, and the general body of the SGPC ratified it on 12 October 1936.[22][8] Thereafter, the Rehat was implemented.


At their meeting on 7 January 1945 the SPGC's Advisory Committee on Religious Matters recommended some changes to be made to the Code. The Advisory Committee consisted of eight individuals as listed in the Preface to the Sikh Rehat Maryada. The SGPC accepted the recommendations at their meeting on 3 February 1945.[8] Since then, several minor updates have been made to clarify content, but no significant review has been undertaken.

Principal points of the Sikh Rehat Maryada[edit]

The Sikh Rehat Maryada ordained by the SGPC addresses key issues such as the definition of a Sikh, personal and communal obligations such as meditation and volunteer service, rules for gurdwara services to include appropriate music and festivals, and the conduct of assorted Sikh ceremonies.[24]

Definition of Sikh[edit]

A Sikh is defined as any person, male or female, who faithfully:

  • believes in the existence of One Eternal God
  • follows the teachings of, and accepts as their only Spiritual guides, the Guru Granth Sahib and the ten human Gurus
  • believes in the baptism (Amrit Sanchar), as promoted by the tenth Guru

Sikh living[edit]

There are two aspects to a Sikh living: first is the adherence to a personal discipline and the development of a strong family life; the other is the involvement in communal life and to ensure community well-being and infra-structure for support of the weak within the community local and globally. This is the practical aspect of the three pillars of Sikhism promoted by Guru Nanak called Vand Chhako ('share what you eat [or have]').

A Sikh is always to live and promote the tenets stipulated by the Gurus.

  • Belief in One God
  • Equality of All the Human race
  • Respect for All, irrespective of gender, age, status, color, caste, sexual orientation, etc.
  • Self-Control – Kill the Five Evils; no rituals or superstitions; no gambling, tobacco, alcohol, intoxicating drugs, etc.
  • Self-Improvement – Promote the Five Virtues

Communal life[edit]

In the communal life, the Sikh has a duty to actively contribute to the community outside the family unit. A Sikh should undertake free voluntary service (seva) within the community at Gurdwaras, community projects, hospitals, old peoples homes, nurseries, etc. At every opportunity, a Sikh ought to dedicate their free time to voluntary community work, and devote at least 10% of their wealth in time or money to support community projects. This also includes positively supporting weaker members within the community.

Time needs to be given to the greater Sikh community and the even wider world community. It is the duty of the Sikh to hold a continuous dialogue with all members of the larger community, to treat them as equals, and respect their religions and their customs. Sikhism offers strong support for a healthy community life and a Sikh must undertake to support all worthy projects which would benefit the community and promote Gurmat principles. Importance is given to inter-faith dialogue, support for the poor and weak, better community understanding and co-operation.

Seva (voluntary service) is an important prominent part of the Sikh religion and all Sikhs must get involved in this communal service whenever an opportunity arises. This in its simple forms can be: sweeping and washing the floors of the Gurdwara, serving water and food (Langar) to or fanning the congregation, offering provisions or preparing food and doing other 'house keeping' duties.

Guru ka Langar ('Guru's free food') is a very important part of Sikhism. When Langar is being served or when sangat is being sat down “Sat-Naam Waheguru" must be chanted. The main philosophy behind the langar is two-fold: to provide training to engage in seva and an opportunity to serve people from all walks of life; and to help banish all distinctions between high and low castes.

Personal life[edit]

In their personal life, a Sikh should live humbly and with love in an extended family group encouraging Gurmat principles and offering moral support within this extended structure. A Sikh should undertake free voluntary service (seva) within the community at Gurdwaras, community projects, hospitals, old peoples homes, nurseries, etc. At every opportunity, a Sikh ought to dedicate their free time to voluntary community work, and devote at least 10% of their wealth in time or money to support community projects. This also includes positively supporting weaker members within the community.

Following the teachings of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh is commanded by the Gurus to lead a disciplined life and to not blindly follow rituals and superstitions that bring no spiritual or material benefit to the person or community. A Sikh must not eat meat that has been slaughtered in a ritualistic way (Kutha meat) and refrain from using all forms of intoxicants; hence, alcohol and tobacco are strictly prohibited.[25] Sikhs must also refrain from rituals, superstitions and other anti-Sikh behavior such as gambling, etc. The Sikh is to practice and promote complete equality between the genders, castes, races, religions, etc. Apart from their spouse, a Sikh must treat all people as their kin; treat all females as daughters, sisters, or mothers, and males as sons, brothers, or fathers, depending on their age.

The Sikh is to meditate on God's Name (Naam Japna or Naam Simran) and recite the holy scriptures.[26] This includes remembering God at all times and reciting his name whenever possible. The Sikh is to arise in the early hours and recite Nitnem, a collection of Gurbani to be read in the morning (Five Banis), evening (Rehras), and night (Kirtan Sohila), followed each time with the Ardas prayer. The Ardas signifies that the Sikh need only seek the support of the Almighty Lord before beginning any new task or venture.

A Sikh must also follow the principle of Kirat Karni, thereby leading their life in accordance with the Guru's teachings. This includes engaging in an honest profession, work, or course of study, as well as promoting the family way of life giving time to children in an active way so as to ensure their proper awareness of the Sikh way of life.

Meditation and scripture[edit]

Sikhs engage in personal and communal meditation, Kirtan and the study of the holy Scriptures. Meditating and understanding of the Guru Granth Sahib is important to the development of a Sikh. One should not only study Gurmukhi and be able to read Gurbani but also understand the meaning of the text. Translations and other material may be used to assist the Sikh. The Sikh should revert to the Guru Granth Sahib for the all spiritual guidance in one's life.

Congregation and Gurdwara service[edit]

It is believed that a Sikh is more easily and deeply affected by Gurbani when engaged in congregational gatherings. For this reason, it is necessary for a Sikh to visit Gurdwaras, the places where the Sikhs congregate for worship and prayer. On joining the holy congregation, Sikhs should take part and obtain benefit from the joint study of the holy scriptures.

No one is to be barred from entering a Gurdwara, no matter in which country, religion, or caste he/she belongs to. The Gurdwara is open to all for the Guru's darshan (seeing the holy Guru) and Langar. However the person must not have on his/her person anything, such as tobacco or other intoxicants, which are tabooed by the Sikh religion. Shoes must be removed, one's head must be covered, and respectful clothing is a must.

During service (seva) in a Gurdwara and while congregational sessions are in session, only one activity should be done at a time in one hall in the presence of the Guru—performing of kirtan, delivering of discourse, interpretative elaboration of the scriptures, or the reading of the scriptures. Before taking a hukam from the Guru, an ardas must be done: all the congregation would stand for the ardas and then sit down and carefully listen to the Hukam of the Guru.


Sikhs, though anyone with correct pronunciation and understanding of Gurbani who desires to take part in the congregation, perform kirtan (spiritual hymn singing) in a congregation and only hymns (shabad) from the holy scriptural compositions in traditional musical measures should be sung. Only shabads from Guru Granth Sahib Ji Gurbani and the compositions of Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal, may be performed. It is improper to sing kirtan to rhythmic folk tunes or popular film tunes.

Akhand Paath and Sadharan Paath[edit]

An Akhand Paath is the non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib carried on during difficult times or during occasions of joy and celebration. The reading takes approximately forty eight hours of continuous and uninterrupted reading by a relay of skilled Gurbani readers. The reading must be done in a clear voice and with correct and full pronunciation. Reading the Gurbani too fast, so that the person listening in cannot follow the contents, is discouraged and is considered as disrespect for the Scriptures and the congregation (sangat).

A Sadharan Paath is a non-continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and one can take from seven days to many months to complete the full reading of the 1430 Anga of the text.

Festivals and ceremonies[edit]

The important Sikh festivals that are celebrated include Gurpurbs, in celebration of the birthday and other important anniversaries (martyrdom, etc.) from the lives of the Gurus; and Vaisakhi, celebration of the first Amrit Sanchar and Harvest festival.

Along with other rites and conventions, Sikh ceremonies include:

Other codes[edit]

Sikh Rehat Maryada is based on earlier codes (Rehat nama), including:

  • Tanakhah-nama (Nasîhatnâme) Samvat 1776 (1718–1719 CE), ten years after Guru Gobind Singh gave up his mortal body.
  • The Prahilad Rai Rehat-namab
  • Sakhi Rehat ki: about 1735 CE
  • Chaupa Singh Rehat-nama: 1740–1765 CE (1700 CE according to Piara Singh Padam). Chaupa Singh was a member of the Guru's retinue. He was entrusted with the care of infant Gobind Das by Guru Tegh Bahadur. Some members of Chaupa Singh's family became martyrs with Guru Tegh Bahadur in Delhi and others served under the 10th Guru.
  • Desa Singh Rehat-nama: late 18th century
  • Daya Singh Rehat-nama.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Harbans Singh. Patiala: Punjabi University. 1992–1998. pp. 424–426. ISBN 0-8364-2883-8. OCLC 29703420.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ Haynes, Jeffrey (30 Jun 2008). "19". Routledge handbook of religion and politics (1 ed.). Routledge. p. 316. ISBN 978-0-415-41455-5. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  3. ^ Singh, Nirmal (2008). "10". Searches In Sikhism: thought, understanding, observance. New Delhi: Hemkunt Publishers. pp. 184 onwards. ISBN 978-81-7010-367-7. OCLC 320246878. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  4. ^ Kapoor, Sukhbir Singh; Mohinder Kaur Kapoor (2008). "Introduction". The Making of the Sikh Rehatnamas. New Delhi, India: Hemkunt Publishers. p. 9. ISBN 978-81-7010-370-7. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  5. ^ "Preface to the English Version of Reht Maryada". Secretary, Dharam Parchar Committee (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar). Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  6. ^ Singh, I. J. (Jul 22, 2005). "A History of the Sikh Code of Conduct: A review of Darpan Sikh Rehat Maryada (Punjabi) by Gurbaksh Singh Gulshan". The Sikh Times. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  7. ^ Singh, Teja. [1932] 1994. "Introduction: Report of S.G.P.C.'s Code of Conduct and Conventions Sub-Committee." In Sikh Reht Maryada. Amritsar. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Singh, Kulraj. 31 August 1994. "Preface to the English Version of Reht Maryada." In Sikh Reht Maryada. Amritsar. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  9. ^ Maini, Darshan Singh (1999). "The Moment of the Khalsa: Vision, Values, and World View". Nishaan Nagaara magazine - premiere issue (PDF). p. 10.
  10. ^ The encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Harbans Singh. Patiala: Punjabi University. 1992–1998. pp. 426–431. ISBN 0-8364-2883-8. OCLC 29703420.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ Kalsi, Sewa Singh. 1995. "Problems of Defining Authority in Sikhism." DISKUS 3(2):43–58. ISSN 0967-8948.
  12. ^ McLeod, W. H. (1989). The Sikhs: History, Religion, and Society. Columbia University Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-231-06815-4.
  13. ^ Fenech, Louis E.; McLeod, W. H. (2014-06-11). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 214. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1.
  14. ^ Hawley, John Stratton; Mann, Gurinder Singh (1993-07-01). Studying the Sikhs: Issues for North America. SUNY Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-7914-1426-2.
  15. ^ Singh, Pashaura (2004). Sikhism and History. Oxford University Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-19-566708-0. Under Ranjit Singh, feelings slowly became more subdued and by the time the Singh Sabha emerged there was some embarrassment at the unconcealed enmity of the inherited rahit -namas. Tat Khalsa scholars in particular viewed such anti-Muslim items as the kind of utterance that Guru Gobind Singh could never have made and quietly dropped them from their revised rahit-namas.
  16. ^ Fenech, Louis E. (2013-02-07). The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of the Mughal Empire. Oxford University Press. pp. xv (Preface). ISBN 978-0-19-993143-9.
  17. ^ Grewal, J. S. (2019-07-25). Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708): Master of the White Hawk. Oxford University Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-19-099038-1.
  18. ^ Malhotra, Anshu; Lambert-Hurley, Siobhan (2015-10-23). Speaking of the Self: Gender, Performance, and Autobiography in South Asia. Duke University Press. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-8223-7497-8. From the time of the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699, some from within the Sikhs, more specifically the Khalsa, tried to create religious norms and codes of behavior that worked toward imparting a distinct Sikh identity partly by distancing from the Muslims. A stream within the Khalsa set about creating codes of conduct, the rahit literature, that began "othering" the Muslim/Turak (used interchangeably), passing tenets that included the avoidance of halal meat associated with the Muslims, and sleeping with Muslim women.
  19. ^ Murphy, Anne (2012-11-29). The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in Sikh Tradition. Oxford University Press. pp. 56–59. ISBN 978-0-19-991627-6.
  20. ^ Fenech, Louis E. (2003). Religious Conversion in India: Modes, Motivations, and Meanings. Oxford University Press. p. 173.
  21. ^ Singh, Pashaura; Fenech, Louis E. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 240–248. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
  22. ^ a b c d Singh. "A History of the Sikh Code of Conduct: A review of Darpan Sikh Rehat Maryada (Punjabi) by Gurbaksh Singh Gulshan". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. ^ a b c Singh, "Report of SGPC's Code of Conduct and Conventions Sub-Committee."
  24. ^ "Sikh Reht Maryada, the Definition of Sikh, Sikh Conduct & Conventions, Sikh Religion Living, India". Archived from the original on 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  25. ^ "Sikh Reht Maryada, the Definition of Sikh, Sikh Conduct & Conventions, Sikh Religion Living, India". Archived from the original on 2002-02-02. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  26. ^ "Sikh Reht Maryada, the Definition of Sikh, Sikh Conduct & Conventions, Sikh Religion Living, India". Archived from the original on 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  • Piara Singh Padam. Rehatname. Patiala, 1974.
  • W.H. Mcleod. Sikhs of the Khalsa : History of Khalsa Rehat. Oxford Press 2003.
  • Sikh Rehat Maryada: A Guide to the Sikh Way of Life. Published by the SGPC and re-printed by many Sikh missionary groups.

External links[edit]