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6. Sikhism


Subject Indian Traditions » Sikhism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631182757.1996.00008.x


The term ‘Sikh’ is derived from the Punjabi verb sikhna , to learn. The first Sikhs were the followers of Guru Nanak (1469–1539), who lived in the Punjab region of north-west India. At first ‘sikh’ had no more precise meaning than ‘disciple’ or ‘follower’, but with the passage of time the movement has developed into a distinct religion with its own scriptures, beliefs, practices and values. The term has now a more precise definition, though some Sikhs themselves dispute its appropriateness. The Rahit Maryada , the Sikh Code of Conduct (see below, p. 333), defines a Sikh as ‘any person who believes in God; in the ten Gurus; in the Guru Granth Sahib and other writings of the Gurus, and their teaching; in the Khalsa initiation ceremony; and who does not believe in the doctrinal system of any other religion’ [ 5 : appendix 1]. What all Sikhs agree on is the belief that their religion is distinctive and divinely revealed; it is not a form of Hinduism. The principal primary sources for the study of the Sikh religion during its formative period, the time of the Gurus from 1469 to 1708, are Sikh. In common with other religious movements which have become established independent religions it was not until later in its development that it attracted wider literary attention [ 27 : ii ]. These Sikh documents fall into two categories. First, there are the scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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