The Punjab is the homeland of the Sikhs although the presence of large populations of Hindus, Moslems and Christians means that it is not exclusively a Sikh state. The founder of the Sikh religion was Guru Nanak (1469–1539) who gained a large following during his lifetime and for Sikhs all over the world is the revered teacher and spiritual fountain of their beliefs. Guru Nanak preached a monotheist belief that emphasied salvation through religious devotion.
Guru Nanak spread a simple message of Ek Oankar meaning God is one. Guru Nanak expressed the belief that there is but one God and many paths and the name of God is "Truth": Sat Nam. A fundamental belief of Sikhism is respect for other religions. Guru Nanak was born a Hindu and his belief that all paths to God are true shows the close connection between Hindu beliefs and Sikhism.
Guru Nanak's followers were Sikhs (seekers of truth). He taught them to bow only before God and to link themselves to the Guru, the Light of Truth. Sikhs believe that their Gurus are connected to the direct consciousness of God; experiencing no separation. Gurus demonstrate to their followers, through words and example, how to experience God within themselves; bringing them from darkness into light. Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak was the first humble bearer of this Light of Truth and the hymns he composed express the core beliefs of Sikhism. These hymns were written down and form the beginning of the Sikh Holy Book which is called the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs observe and celebrate numerous festivals; two of the most important are Vaisakhi - the formation of the Sikh identity and the Khalsa - the brotherhood of the Sikhs. Sikhs also celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
The 5 k's are articles of faith which devout Sikhs wear :
- kesh - uncut hair
- khanga - comb to keep the hair tidy
- kachera - white shorts to symbolise purity
- kirpan - sword
- kara - steel bangle showing that there is no beginning or end to God
All of these are worn by true amritari Sikhs who have taken amrit in the initiation cermony and thus joined the Khalsa. They promise to earn an honest living, to stay faithful, not to commit adultery, not to consume alcohol or tobacco or drugs unless for medical purposes and to give 10% of what they earn to charity.
Origins Of The Sikhs
Sikhism, as a religion and name, is a relatively new phenomena in India's long history and the genetic origins of the Sikhs is a disputed area. Some scholars believe that Sikhs are of Aryan stock but General Sir John Gordon in his book The Sikhs (1904) states that they may be the descendants of the Scythian invaders that entered North India over two thousand years ago. Modern scholars are using DNA analysis in an attempt to discover the origins of the people of North India. The genetic diversity of the people of the Punjab region is not contested. The Punjab region is the northern gateway to India and Aryans, Greeks, Parthians and many others have migrated or invaded this region and left their mark. The genetic roots of the Sikhs may point to a joint Aryan and Scythian descent through an earlier custom of intermarriage. The one fact that is not disputed is that the Sikhs have been in the Punjab region for thousands of years.