This article is third in a series about world religions. Sikhism, also known as Sikhi, is an Indian religion that originated in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent around the end of the 15th century CE. It is one of the youngest of the world's major religions and stands as the fifth-largest worldwide, with about 25–30 million adherents known as Sikhs.
Sikhism developed from the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak, the faith's first guru, and the nine Sikh gurus who succeeded him. The tenth guru, Gobind Singh, named the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib as his successor, establishing the scripture as the 11th and last eternally living guru, a religious spiritual/life guide for Sikhs.
The core beliefs of Sikhism include faith and meditation in the name of one creator; divine unity and equality of all humankind; engaging in seva ('selfless service'); striving for justice for the benefit and prosperity of all; and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder's life. Sikhism rejects claims that any particular religious tradition has a monopoly on Absolute truth.
Sikhs are guided by three main principles:
- Be always absorbed in meditation and prayer.
- Make an honest income by honorable methods.
- Share earnings and selflessly serve others.
Sikhs also avoid five sins of ego: Pride, Lust, Greed, Anger, Attachment. Many Sikhs undergo a voluntary ritual baptism as a critical part of religious practice. It symbolizes becoming spiritually reborn by taking part in the baptism ceremony conducted by the "Five Beloved" Sikhs.
Sikhs wear five visual signs of their dedication to their faith:
- Wear the Sikh undergarment for modesty and health
- Wear a wooden comb in the turban to keep hair clean and untangled
- Wear a steel wristlet as a sign of faith
- Wear hair uncut, to honor the creator’s intention
- Wear a small sword symbolic of defending the religious rights of all faiths.
Sikhs practice their faith through both personal and communal activities, which often involve service, prayer, and remembrance of God. Here are some key practices:
1. Prayer and Meditation (Naam Japna): Sikhs are encouraged to engage in daily meditation and prayer, focusing on the name of the one creator.
2. Honest Living (Kirat Karni): Sikhs believe in earning a living by honest means and hard work. They also emphasize the importance of leading a family life.
3. Community Service (Vand Chakna): Sharing with others, especially with those in need, is a significant part of Sikh practice. This is often done through the institution of langar, or free community kitchen, where meals are served to all regardless of faith, gender, age or social status.
4. Reading and Understanding Gurbani: The teachings of the Sikh Gurus, as recorded in the Guru Granth Sahib, guide the spiritual and everyday life of Sikhs. Reading, reciting, singing and understanding the spiritual wisdom of Gurbani is a central practice.
5. Observing the Five Ks: Baptized Sikhs observe the Five Ks (or five articles of faith), which include Kesh (uncut hair), Kara (a steel bracelet), Kanga (a wooden comb), Kaccha (cotton underwear), and Kirpan (a strapped curved sword).
6. Celebrating Sikh Festivals: Sikhs celebrate various religious festivals such as Guru Nanak Gurpurab (the birth of Guru Nanak), Vaisakhi (the creation of the Khalsa), and Bandi Chhor Divas (the release of Guru Hargobind from prison).
7. Attending the Gurdwara: The Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, is a place for community gathering and worship. Sikhs visit the Gurdwara to pray, sing hymns, listen to sermons, and partake in the langar.
These practices help Sikhs to live out their faith in their everyday lives.
As of 2021, it is estimated that there are around 500,000 Sikhs in the United States. However, estimates vary from 200,000 to 1,000,000. This makes Sikhs the country's sixth-largest religious group.
One of the largest Sikh festivals in the United States is the Nagar Kirtan festival in Yuba City, California. This annual celebration takes place during the first weekend of November and captures the essence of what it means to be a Sikh in America. The festival kicks off with fireworks and ends with a parade, wrapping up the festivities. People travel from all over the world to attend this world’s largest Sikh festival with over 100,000 members of the Sikh community flocking to Yuba City.