Hinduism and Sikhism

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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 both Indian religions, and they share many philosophical concepts such as karma, dharma, moksha, maya and bhakti. 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.[2] The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was the first to raise voice against the rule of Islamic ruler Babur, the then ruler of India.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4] 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".[5]


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'.[6][7] The phrase is an expression of monotheistic unity of God.[8]

The Onkar in () of Sikhism is related to Om () of Hinduism.[8] Some Sikhs disagree that Ik Onkar is same as Om.[8] 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".[9] In Ek Onkar, explains Gulati, "Ek" means One, and Onkar is "equivalent of the Hindu "Om" (Aum)".[10]

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[11]

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.[12] 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.[13][14][15] While Guru Tegh Bahadur influence was rising, Aurangzeb had imposed Islamic laws, demolished infidel schools and temples, and enforced new taxes on non-Muslims.[14][16][17]

According to records written by his son Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru had resisted persecution, adopted and promised to protect Kashmiri Hindus.[13][15] 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".[13][15] Guru Tegh Bahadur and his colleagues refused, he and his associates were arrested, tortured for many weeks.[18][19][15] The Guru himself was beheaded in public.[20][21][14]


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.[22]

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.[23]

Differences between Sikhism and specific Hindu traditions[edit]

Idol worship[edit]

Main article: Idolatry in Sikhism

Sikhism rejects idol worship.[24] The worship facilitated with images or murtis (idols) is a part of several Hindu Agamic traditions, such as Vaishnavism and Shaivism.[25] 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.[26][27] Both Hindus and Sikhs have temples.

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.[28][29] 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.[28]

The tenets of Sikhism do not advocate a particular stance on either vegetarianism[30] or the consumption of meat,[30][31][32] but rather leave the decision of diet to the individual.[33] Sikhs who follow sects and groups that have a "Vashnavite" influence (AKJ, GNNSJ, 3HO, Namdhari's etc.)[30][32][34] believe that there is to be strict vegetarianism while the majority, that follow the Official Sikh Code of Conduct (Rehat Maryada[35] ) 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[36] and Guru Gobind Singh[36] hunted frequently and consumed non-Halal.[37][38]


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 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.[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.[39] Marriages between Sikhs and Hindus, particularly among Khatris, were frequent.[39] 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.[39]

Dogra states that there has always been inter-marriage between the Hindu and the Sikh communities.[40] 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".[41]

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.[42]

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.[43]

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. ^ a b Singh, Harbans. Guru Nanak and origins of the Sikh faith. Asia Publication House. p. 11. 
  3. ^ 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"
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ 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."
  6. ^ 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. ... 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Wazir Singh (1969), Guru Nanak's philosophy, Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 1, Issue 1, page 56
  10. ^ 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."
  11. ^ Pashaura Singh (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 227
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ a b c Seiple, Chris (2013). The Routledge handbook of religion and security. New York: Routledge. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-415-66744-9. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ a b c d Gandhi, Surjit (2007). History of Sikh gurus retold. Atlantic Publishers. pp. 653–691. ISBN 978-81-269-0858-5. 
  16. ^ Guru Tegh Bahadur BBC Religions (2009)
  17. ^ Gobind Singh (Translated by Navtej Sarna) (2011). Zafarnama. Penguin Books. p. xviii-xix. ISBN 978-0-670-08556-9. 
  18. ^ William Irvine (2012). Later Mughals. Harvard Press. ISBN 9781290917766. 
  19. ^ Siṅgha, Kirapāla (2006). Select documents on Partition of Punjab-1947. National Book. p. 234. ISBN 978-81-7116-445-5. 
  20. ^ SS Kapoor. The Sloaks of Guru Tegh Bahadur & The Facts About the Text of Ragamala. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-81-7010-371-4. 
  21. ^ Gandhi, Surjit (2007). History of Sikh gurus retold. Atlantic Publishers. p. 690. ISBN 978-81-269-0858-5. 
  22. ^ Nabha, Kahan Singh. Mahaan Kosh. 
  23. ^ 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);
  24. ^ Pashaura Singh (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 131
  25. ^ 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
  26. ^ Jeaneane Fowler (1996), Hinduism: Beliefs and Practices, Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 978-1898723608, pages 41-43
  27. ^ Swarup Chandra (1998), Encyclopaedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Swarup & Sons, ISBN 978-8176250399, page 149
  28. ^ a b Susan Dudek (2013), Nutrition Essentials for Nursing Practice, Wolters Kluwer Health, ISBN 978-1451186123, page 251
  29. ^ Angela Wood (1998), Movement and Change, Nelson Thornes, ISBN 978-0174370673, page 80
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Misconceptions About Eating Meat - Comments of Sikh Scholars," at The Sikhism Home Page
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Randip Singh, Fools Who Wrangle Over Flesh, Sikh Philosophy Network, 7 December 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ http://www.sgpc.net/sikhism/sikh-dharma-manual.html The Sikh Code of Conduct
  36. ^ a b ibid
  37. ^ I. J. Singh. Sikhs and Sikhism. Delhi: Manohar. ISBN 9788173040580. 
  38. ^ 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. 
  39. ^ a b c Robert Zaehner (1997), Encyclopedia of the World's Religions, Barnes & Noble Publishing, ISBN 978-0760707128, page 409
  40. ^ R. C. Dogra & Urmila Dogra: Hindu and Sikh wedding ceremonies pub. 2000. Star Publications. ISBN 9788176500289.
  41. ^ Douglas Charing and William Owen Cole: Six world faiths pub. 2004, page 309. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 9780826476838.
  42. ^ William Owen Cole, Piara Singh Sambhi: Sikhism and Christianity: a comparative study, Volume 1993, Part 2, pub. 1993. Macmillan. Page 22. ISBN 9780333541067.
  43. ^ 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")