Category Archives: Sikhism

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Adi Granth

Pronounced “Aad granthh.” See Guru Granth Sahib.

Filed in Sikhism

amrit sanchar

Pronounced “ahm-RIT sahn-CHAR.” The Sikh initiation ceremony. A Sikh who “receives amrit” becomes a member of the Khalsa, an order established by the 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh, in 1699. See Khalsa.

Filed in Sikhism

Bandi Chhor Divas

A Sikh festival celebrating the release of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, from political imprisonment. The primary celebration takes place in Amritsar, Punjab, India. Occurs in October or November, coinciding with the Hindu festival of Diwali.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “BUK-tee.” A Sanskrit term meaning “loving devotion to God,” bhakti inspired major Indian religious movements, including Sikhism, by focusing on the individual’s relationship to the divine.

Filed in Hinduism, Sikhism

Darbar Sahib

The preferred name for the most prominent Sikh gurdwara, located in Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is commonly known by two other names: Harmandir Sahib, which means “the Temple of God,” and its English-language nickname, the Golden Temple. See also Golden Temple.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “dee-VAH-lee.” The Hindu “festival of lights” is one of the most celebrated in the Hindu diaspora. It symbolizes the victory of dharma, and good over evil. The word is a variation of the Sanskrit word “Deepavali” and refers to the rows of earthen lamps celebrants place around their homes. Hindus believe that the light from these lamps symbolizes the illumination within the individual that overwhelms ignorance, represented by darkness. Diwali commemorates the return of the avatar Lord Ram (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu), his wife Sita and brother Lakshman to their capital, Ayodhya, after 14 years of exile. The residents of Ayodhya, overjoyed at the return of their beloved king, lit lamps in his honor. Thus, the entire city looked like a row of lights. Diwali is also observed by Sikhs, who celebrate the release of the Sixth Guru, Hargobind, from captivity by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, and Jains, who commemorate the day Lord Mahavira attained nirvana, or liberation, after his death in 527 B.C.

Filed in Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism

Five Ks, Five Kakaars

Pronounced “ka-CARS.” The five articles of the Sikh faith. They are: kara, a steel bracelet; kanga, a comb; kirpan, a ceremonial dagger; kachera, undergarments; and kesh, long uncut hair that men and some women wrap in a turban. Most Sikhs wear some of the articles, while Sikhs who have received amrit sanchar (Sikh initiation) wear all five. Nearly all people who wear turbans in America are Sikh. See amrit sanchar and Khalsa.

Filed in Sikhism

Golden Temple

The holiest Sikh temple, located in the city of Amritsar in the Indian state of Punjab. The temple was built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi responded to a security threat by ordering an attack on the Golden Temple, destroying parts of the temple complex, which has since been rebuilt. Also known as Harmandir Sahib and as Darbar Sahib; the latter is the name preferred by Sikhs. See Darbar Sahib.

Filed in Sikhism


A Sikh leader trained in all aspects of maintaining gurdwara decorum, including reading from and caring for Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs often use the terms granthi, gyaani and raagi interchangeably.

A granthi is not clergy. Terms such as priest and minister are not applicable.

Filed in Religious titles, Sikhism


Pronounced “GUR-dwahr-uh.” A Sikh place of worship that houses the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “GOOR-pur-ab.” A Sikh holiday that commemorates the birth or death of a Sikh guru. The most significant gurpurab is the birthday of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh teacher, celebrated in November.

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Pronounced “GOO-roo.” Broadly used to refer to a teacher of any subject, but especially of spiritual matters. In Hinduism, one’s spiritual guru is seen to be a representative of the divine, through whom one is given the teachings and practices necessary for enlightenment.

Filed in Hinduism, Religious titles, Sikhism

Guru Gobind Singh

The 10th teacher of the Sikh religion, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) led Sikhs in a battle for autonomy and has come to represent the Sikh ideal of the saint-soldier. In 1699, he formed Sikhs into the Khalsa, a spiritual sisterhood/brotherhood, and gave them five articles of faith (the Five Kakaars). He passed the guruship on to the Sikh scripture, known as Guru Granth Sahib.

Filed in Sikhism

Guru Granth Sahib

Pronounced “goo-ROO grunt sah-EEB.” Holy book of the Sikh religion.

Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh guru, compiled the text in its original form in 1604. Before dying in 1708, the 10th Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, appointed the text as his permanent co-successor (along with the Khalsa). The name Guru Granth Sahib does not take the definite article.

Guru Granth Sahib is a compilation of the devotional poetry of Guru Nanak, other Sikh gurus and saints of other religions. Sikhs consider it the supreme spiritual authority and living guide of their religion. It is installed under a canopy in every Sikh gurdwara (house of worship), where Sikhs sing, recite and meditate on the scripture. Guru Granth Sahib is also called Adi Granth, but Guru Granth Sahib is the preferred name. See Adi Granth and Khalsa.

Filed in Sikhism

Guru Nanak

Pronounced “goo-ROO NAN-ek.” The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak was born in the mid-15th century in Punjab, now North India and Pakistan. He is said to have disappeared by the river for three days and emerged with a revelation: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.” In other words, beneath all husks and labels, humanity is one. He wandered the countryside with Muslims and Hindus as companions, singing devotional (bhakti) poetry in wonder of One Formless God. His teachings became the foundation of the Sikh religion and were later recorded in Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book and living guide.

Filed in Sikhism

Hola Mohalla

A Sikh festival celebrated with mock battles and displays of horsemanship. The primary celebration takes place in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, India. Occurs in March, one day after the Hindu festival of Holi.

Filed in Sikhism


Undershorts worn by Sikhs as a symbol of dignity, modesty and the control of sexual desire. They are one of the articles of faith known as the Five K’s (or kakars) — outward symbols of Sikh faith — ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.

Filed in Sikhism


A small comb worn by Sikhs under their turbans to tidy their uncut hair. It is one of the articles of faith known as the Five K’s (or kakars) — outward symbols of Sikh faith — ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.

Filed in Sikhism


A steel bracelet worn by Sikhs as a reminder to carry out God’s work. It is usually worn on the right arm and is one of the articles of faith known as the Five K’s (or Kakaars) — outward symbols of Sikh faith — ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. See Five K’s, Five Kakaars.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “core.” A last name shared by all women who practice the Sikh religion, it means “daughter of kings” or “princess.” The 10th Sikh teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, gave Sikhs the same last names as a sign of equality (traditional last names in 17th-century North India indicated caste). Women are seen as equals in the Sikh tradition.

Filed in Sikhism


The wearing of long uncut hair by Sikhs as a symbol of respect for the natural perfection of God’s creation. It is one of the articles of faith known as the Five K’s (or kakars) — outward symbols of Sikh faith — ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.

Filed in Sikhism


The name adopted by proponents of an independent Sikh homeland in India. It means “land of the pure.” Khalistani separatists declared their independence from India on Oct. 7, 1987, but this declaration has not been recognized by any nation.

Filed in Government and politics, Sikhism


Pronounced “KAHL-sa.” The body of initiated Sikhs. One joins by undergoing the amrit sanchar ceremony (colloquially, “taking/receiving amrit”). Afterward, initiates agree to live according to Sikh values, recite the daily prayers without fail and keep five articles of faith (the Five Ks) on their persons at all times: kesh, unshorn hair; kanga, a small comb; kara, a steel bracelet; kachera, soldier shorts; and kirpan, a religious article resembling a knife. A Sikh who has not undergone the amrit sanchar ceremony may nevertheless elect to keep any or all of the articles of faith. A Sikh may join the Khalsa at any age, and many never do. In its capacity as permanent co-guru (along with Guru Granth Sahib) the Khalsa is referred to as Guru Khalsa Panth.

Khalsa can be used as either an adjective or noun (in which case it takes the definite article): is Khalsa, has joined the Khalsa. The term amritdhari is synonymous.

See also amrit sancharFive Ks and Guru Granth Sahib.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “KIR-pon.” A ceremonial dagger, it is a Sikh article of faith that symbolizes a commitment to fight against injustice. Initiated Sikhs wear the kirpan at all times. See Five K’s, Five Kakaars.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “LUN-ger.” A Sikh congregational meal served in a free and open kitchen at every gurdwara (Sikh house of worship). The institution of langar represents the central teaching of service (seva) in the Sikh tradition. It also represents equality – regardless of gender, religion, class or race, people sit on the ground and eat together as equals.

Filed in Sikhism

Reht Maryada

The Sikh code of conduct. It is designed to create uniformity in the religious and social practices of Sikhism and has been in place since the birth of Sikhism in the 15th century.

Filed in Sikhism


The belief that a person’s soul is reborn in another body after physical death. It is common in many Asian traditions — including Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism — as well as some Native American traditions. According to Hinduism and Buddhism, incarnation in the next life is determined by one’s previous actions. See karma.

Filed in Buddhism, Hinduism, Religion and culture, Sikhism


The traditional pronunciation is “SICK-ism,” but it is commonly pronounced “SEEK-ism.”

The Sikh religion is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Followers are called Sikhs (which means students). It originated in 15th-century Punjab (now North India and Pakistan) when Guru Nanak, the first Sikh teacher, turned against the caste system, forced conversion and empty ritual in medieval Hinduism and Islam. Through devotional (bhakti) poetry and music, he taught that all religions lead to One Formless God, that all people, including women and the poor, are equal and that all may realize liberation here and now through living an honest life of love and service (seva).

Nine gurus succeeded him, and in 1699, the 10th teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, formed Sikhs into the Khalsa: a spiritual sisterhood/brotherhood in which men share the last name Singh (“lion”) and women share the name Kaur (“daughter of kings”). All were given five articles of faith (the Five Kakaars), including long uncut hair, which men and some women wrap in a turban. The 11th and lasting Sikh teacher is Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, also known as the Adi Granth.

Sikhism has no clergy, but spiritual guides may be called gurus; capitalize this title before a name.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “singg.” A last name shared by all men who practice the Sikh religion, it means “lion.” The 10th Sikh teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, gave Sikhs the same last names as a sign of equality (traditional last names in 17th-century North India indicated caste).

Filed in Sikhism


Cloth wrapped around the head as cultural attire in many regions of the world, the turban has religious significance for Sikhs. Observant Sikh men and some women wrap their long uncut hair (an article of faith) in a turban. Nearly every person who wears a turban in America is Sikh.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “VA-sock-ee.” The most important Sikh holiday, celebrated annually in mid-April. Originally a harvest festival celebrating the first wheat crop in the growing season and still celebrated as such in North India, Sikhs commemorate the Vaisakhi of 1699, when Guru Gobind Singh established the amrit sanchar ceremony and the Khalsa. See amrit sanchar and Khalsa.

Filed in Sikhism


The most commonly used name for the divine among modern Sikhs.

Filed in Sikhism


Most often associated with body poses, stretching exercises and breathing techniques developed in India. It is a Sanskrit term that means union; yoga is a discipline found in Hinduism. It is the philosophy, process, disciplines, and practices whose purpose is the unification of individual consciousness with transcendent or divine consciousness. One of its eight “limbs” is referred to as asana (also known as “hatha yoga”) and involves various body postures meant to keep the body physically relaxed and healthy as an important prerequisite for meditation.

Filed in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism

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