Who are Sikhs and what is Sikhism?
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism, a monotheistic, monist, pantheist religion that originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of India, and a member of the Sikh people. A Sikh is a disciple/subject of the Guru.
According to the Guru Granth Sahib (holy scripture), the Guru of The Sikhs, the definition of a Sikh follows:
“One who calls himself a Sikh of the Guru, the True Guru, shall rise in the early morning hours and meditate on the Lord’s Name. Upon arising early in the morning, the Sikh is to bathe, and cleanse himself in the pool of nectar. Following the Instructions of the Guru, the Sikh is to chant the Name of the Lord, Har. All sins, misdeeds and negativity shall be erased. Then, at the rising of the sun, the Sikh is to sing Gurbani; whether sitting down or standing up, the Sikh is to meditate on the Lord’s Name. One who meditates on my Lord, Har, with every breath and every morsel of food – that Gursikh becomes pleasing to the Guru’s Mind. That person, unto whom my Lord and Master is kind and compassionate – upon that Gursikh, the Guru’s Teachings are bestowed. Servant Nanak begs for the dust of the feet of that Gursikh, who himself chants the Naam, and inspires others to chant it.”
According to Article I of the “Rehat Maryada” (the Sikh code of conduct and conventions), a Sikh is defined as “any human being who faithfully believes in One Immortal Being; ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh; Guru Granth Sahib; the teachings of the ten Gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru; and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion”. Sikhs believe in the equality of humankind, the concept of universal brotherhood of man and One Supreme transcendent and immanent God (Ik Onkar).
The Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak. It is stated in the Sikh texts that Guru Nanak while in deep meditation by a river was called to the court of God where he received direct revelations from God for three days. It is stated that God asked Nanak to drink from the cup of Naam (Path/Essence of God) and then promoted Nanak to the highest of all status. From there on he was known as Guru Nanak so that he could teach the world that there is one God, that all humanity is one, and that religious divisions are man-made. According to Sikh tradition, the Guru spread his teachings wherever he travelled and demonstrated many miracles when necessary. Near the end of his life the Guru had many followers from many walks of life and religions. The Guruship was consecutively passed down to nine other Gurus, who were stated to have the divine light of God with them. These Gurus strengthened and expanded the Sikh religion and the revelations of God. The final and last Guruship was bestowed upon a combined institution of holy-book (Granth) immersed in The Guru Granth Sahib Ji and people(Panth) i.e the Guru Khalsa.
Most male Sikhs have Singh (lion) and most female Sikhs Kaur (princess) as their last names. Sikhs who have undergone the khanḍe-kī-pahul, the Sikh initiation ceremony, can also be recognised by the Five Ks: uncut hair (Kesh); an iron/steel bracelet (kara); a Kirpan, a sword tucked in a gatra strap; Kachehra, a cotton undergarment; and a Kanga, a small wooden comb. Baptised male Sikhs must cover their hair with a turban, while baptised female Sikhs can choose to wear a turban.
The greater Punjab region in India is the historical homeland of the Sikhs, although significant communities exist around the world.