Sikh Dharam

Origins & beliefs


The Sikh Dharam is a distinct religion revealed through the teachings of the ten successive Gurus, the first of whom was Guru Nanak Dev ji. He made his advent into this world in 1469 CE in the Punjab, the land of the five rivers, Northern India. Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first Guru, was succeeded by Guru Angad Dev ji, Guru Amar Das ji, Guru Ram Das ji, Guru Arjan Dev ji, Guru Hargobind ji, Guru Har Rai ji, Guru Har Krishan ji, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji and Guru Gobind Singh ji. Each Guru was selected by the previous one and are referred to as the second Nanak, third Nanak indicating that the Jot (spirit) was passed on from one to the other. In 1708 the tenth and the last human Guru, Guru Gobind Singh ji, vested spiritual authority in the Sacred Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib ji. The spiritual and temporal authority was vested in the Khalsa Panth - the fraternity of baptised Sikhs.


Spiritual Convictions (Beliefs)
Sikhs strictly believe that there is but only One Satpurakh (God), who is Nirgun (transcendent), Sargun (imminent) and beyond human comprehension. God can however be realized and experienced through prayer, contemplation, service and keertan (the singing of God’s praises).
The object of a Sikh’s life is to move closer to God with the ultimate aim of fusing within Him. A Sikh is to become God-centred as opposed to ego-centred, develop God consciousness and ultimately receive God’s grace. Life presents the opportunity to do so through truthful living and selfless service in the context of a family life. The purpose of a Sikh’s life is to find out where he/she comes from, what is he/she to do while on Earth and what is the ultimate goal of life.
A Sikh’s way of life is guided by the following principles: Naam Simran which is remembering and praying to God at all times; Kirat Karna - earning a living by honest means; Wand Shakna - sharing with the poor and needy; Sewa - selfless service to God and humanity; Equality - to treat all human beings as equal.
A Sikh practices purity of thought, purity of action, and respect and love for God’s Creation. He or she has been given the human form to practice dharam (spirituality).

Customs & worship

Customs and practices:

The Sikh Dharam recognises the complete equality between men and women and does not make any distinctions between people according to race, class, caste, age or gender. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, introduced the concept of equality by instructing Sikhs who had been baptised to share Amrit (holy water), adopt the same religious surname of Singh (lion) for men and Kaur (Princess) for women and wear five articles of faith, commonly known as the Panj Kakaar’s or the Five K’s. These are: Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (a small wooden comb), Kara (an iron/steel bangle), Kirpan (a short sword) and Kachera (special shorts). Wearing of the Dastaar (turban) in addition is mandatory to maintain the sanctity of Kesh (hair) and is treated with utmost respect.  The fraternity of baptised Sikhs is called the ‘Khalsa Panth’. However not all Sikhs are baptised but may partake in this religious ceremony for initiation at any age.
The Guru instructed Sikhs to say prayers in the early morning (Amrit Vela), at sunset and before sleeping, to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and to be ever-compassionate, for compassion is the base upon which Dharam rests.  Sikhs are also to contribute a minimum one-tenth of their wealth, knowledge, and expertise.  They are also required to provide physical manual labour for social good.

Places of worship:

The Sikh place of congregational worship is called a Gurudwara, meaning “Threshold/Doorway to the Guru” or “House of God”. The Gurudwara invariably consists of two halls: a Darbar (Guru’s Court) where prayers take place and a langar hall where the congregation sits together and shares a free community meal from the Guru’s kitchen. Everyone is welcome at the Gurdwara providing they abide by the code of discipline. On entering the Gurudwara and before going into the prayer hall, heads must be covered with a large scarf or handkerchief both for men and women, shoes removed and hands washed. Sikhs revere the ‘Shabad Guru’ – the advice and divine message of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the eternal Guru and Sacred Scripture of the Sikhs.


Main Festivals:

A Gurpurab is a day relating to the Gurus and usually refers to when they came into or left this world. Vaisakhi (13/14 April) celebrates the day in 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh Ji created the order of the Khalsa, the fraternity of baptised Sikhs. Bandhi Chorr Diwas (Diwali) (Oct/Nov) commemorates Guru Hargobind Ji’s return from imprisonment to the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple).

Food and diet:

Tobacco, alcohol and drugs for the sake of intoxication are forbidden. Taking life is forbidden because one needs to exercise compassion in one’s daily life. Many baptised Sikhs keep to a vegetarian diet which excludes eggs and fish, and any food containing animal derivatives.  However some are non-vegetarians and do not consume food prepared ritually.  Meat should not be taken onto a Gurudwara complex.

Concerns of the community:

The five Sikh Kakars and Dastaar should not be removed from a Sikh’s person.   Many Sikhs have faced restrictions in wearing these in schools, at universities and at work. Although policies have been put into place by various governmental sectors (e.g. health, education and social work departments), there needs to be more concerted effort in translating the policies into practice. Clear guidelines should be given regarding the five Sikh Kakars and Dastaar. Welfare state’s policies need to be reviewed and modified to encourage self-reliance, strengthening of families and stability. There should be more emphasis by the education sector on the common human values that are shared by all to promote dialogue, peace and harmony.