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Home > History of religion > Sikhism > Origin of Sikhism
Origin of Sikhism
In the 15th century Sikhism rose in Punjab and now it is of utmost importance all over India. Sikhism is Hinduistic in the sense that it accepts the four-fold principles of Karma-Samsara-Jnana-Mukti. It also adopts a general Hindu view of life, poetry and music.

Sikhism was born at a time when India was in a state of political upheaval, social instability and religious ritualism, externalism without much inner illumination and spiritual experience in depth. Sikhism at the hands of the first Guru, named, Nanak was not primarily a political movement. From the social point of view it was founded on the rejection of caste and it promoted egalitarianism. Naturally it did not support untouchability.

Guru Granth Sahib Sikhism of Guru Nanak was essentially a religious reformist movement in the direction of Saint poets of India. Guru Granth Sahib the sacred book of the Sikhs contains four poems of Trilochan, 62 of Namadeva and 240 Sakhis and 227 padas of Kabir. Most of the characteristic teachings of Sikhism like monotheism, crusade against idolatry and caste, externalism (bhaiachara), ritualism could be easily traced to these saint poets, specially Kabir. Kabir appears to be a contemporary of Guru Nanak.

Again, in the beginning, terms like Sikh, Saint, Sadhu, Bhakta and Sevak were used in the same sense. However, now, the term `Guru` is to be used for the first ten Gurus and for Adi Granth Sahib. All poets whose lines have been included in Adi Granth Sahib are called `Saint. But `Guru` is not to be called `Saint`. However, one can note that Guru Nanak: was greatly influenced by Saint Kabir.

Sikh is really derived from the word `Sisya`. Hence, Sikhism is the religion often Gurus and their followers Sisyas. A Sikh is one who is willing to lay down his life for the sake of his Guru.

Guru Nanak was the real founder of Sikhism. He was born in a village called Talwandi, which is some fifty miles south of Lahore in the year 1469.It is now in Pakistan and has been named "Nankana Sahib". Sikhism preached by Guru Nanak was largely a religious and spiritual movement, but even Guru Nanak advised his followers to resist evil even to the point of sacrifice and martyrdom`. Later on Guru Hargobind Singh girded on two swords `miri" (to defend and pursue political end) and `piri` (for safe guarding spiritual pursuit). But it was the last Guru Gobind Singh who infused martial spirit into his Sikh followers called `Khalsa` and -who were to be called `Singh` (lion). The new order of Khalsa had to fight in defence of their faith, home and hearth and their honour.

1. Guru Nanak (1469-1539).
2. Guru Angad (1504-1552). He introduced Gurumukhi script.
3. Guru Amar Das (1479-1574).
4. Guru Ram Das (1534-1581).
5. Guru Arjan Dev (1563-1606).
Golden temple Guru Arjan Dev built a temple `Hari Mandir` which developed into Golden Temple in the 19th Century through the munificence of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He also prepared what ultimately took the form of Adi Granth Sahib in 1604.
6. Guru Hargobind (1595-1644). He assumed two swords Piri and Miri and sat on a seat and called it Akal-Takht. `Miri` stands for earthly power, and, `Piri` stands for spiritual power. Thus a Guru is a soldier and a saint.
7. Guru Hari Rai (1630-1661).
8. Guru Hari Krishan (1656-1664).
9. Guru Teg Bahadur (1621-1674).
10. Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708).

A short reference to Guru Gobind Singh is necessary, for, he changed the whole tenor of life of the Sikhs. He was born at Patna, and, was only nine years old when he was called to assume the sacred trust of being a Guru. Sikhs always had to struggle against the Muslim rulers and there is little doubt that Sikhs were turned into incomparable soldiers as a result of that struggle. However, it was the cruel assasination of the bold but highly virtuous Guru Teg Bahadur that created a sense of revolt against the Muslim rulers in the mind of the Sikhs. After all Guru Teg Bahadur died to safeguard the honour of Sikhism.

Guru Gobind Singh thought and meditated over the matter deeply. His sons too were all killed by Wazir Khan. Naturally the question was `Do or Die`. On Baisakhi day in 1699 Sikhs had assembled, as usual in a large number. He announced in the assembly that he needed five heads as offerings to the Guru. Sword in hand, with unflinching courage he waited for the response. First one and then other four also offered themselves for the supreme sacrifice. Kabir writes,
Sir rakhe Sir jat hai, Sir Kate Sir hoe (He who would cling to his life would lose it, and he who would sacrifice it would gain.)

A new code was announced with emphasis on moral excellence, heroism and strict discipline. In a bowl sweet drink was prepared and from that one bowl all of them were made to drink symbolising brotherhood within the rank and castelessness and absolute equality. They all were to bear the name of `Singh` (lion) and they were given five vows to observe. These five vows known as pancha-Kakara i.e., Kesh (keeping of long hair), Kara (iron bracelet), Kachha (under drawers), Kangha (comb) and Kirpan (Sword). The five heads offered to the Guru were known as panj pyare. They are remembered even now in the daily prayers of the Sikhs. These Sikhs with five K`s are now known as Khalsa (the pure).

Origin and OriginatorThese vows of strict discipline and pancha-Kakara have infused new militancy and a close-knit brotherhood. In addition to this, Guru Gobind Singh abolished the succession of personal Guru-ship. Adi Granth Sahib was to serve as Guru. Its Bani would serve as the guide of the holy assembly. Further, he gave this injunction that wherever five Sikhs with pure heart would gather together, he would be present in their midst for their guidance in spirit. Thus, Guru Gobind Singh invested Guru Granth Sahib with spiritual power and, Panth with temporal sovereignty.
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