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World Religions: Sikhism

Use this primer with the lesson The World's Religions to teach about the diversity of faiths in the United States and around the globe.

The Sikh faith originated in Pakistan and North India about 500 years ago. Sikhism is sometimes confused with Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism because of geographical and cultural similarities. Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, with about 26 million followers worldwide. Most Sikhs live in the Panjab in northern India, but they are also found around the world.

Sikhs worship one god called Waheguru, whose name means “wonderful enlightener.” Sikhs live by three primary principals: (1) Be always absorbed in meditation and prayer; (2) Make an honest income by honorable methods; and (3) Share earnings and selflessly serve others. They believe that everyone should be treated equally, and they work to preserve religious freedom.

Sikhs keep special “articles of faith” with them at all times, including a small sword that symbolizes battling of the senses, along with the Sikh ideal of protecting the innocent.

Some religious observances:

Vaisakhi Day

Time of Year: Early April. This holiday commemorates the first Sikh initiation (baptism) ceremony. The day usually begins with a baptism ceremony where initiates (those newly committing themselves to the faith) drink Amrit (a ceremonial drink said to be the ambrosial nectar of gods that makes immortal those who drink it). Other practices may include the retelling of the event, narration of battles fought by Guru Gobind Singh (the tenth guru, or religious leader, of the Sikhs), devotional singing and parades.

Hola Mohalla

Time of year: Mid-March. In this martial arts festival and parade, a special group of performers demonstrates Sikh sword dancing (Gatka). The Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism's Holy Scripture, is also paraded through town. Five Sikh leaders known as the Panj Pyara walk at the head of Guru Granth Sahib, while other floats follow behind. The Sikh congregation sings hymns, known as Kirtan, during the procession.

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Article by Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor
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