Question: Are Sikhs Hindus? - 10 Ways Sikhism Differs From Hinduism
Attempts by radical Hindu groups to consign Sikhs to their caste system have made them a potential political target in India sometimes resulting in violence. Many Sikh immigrants are from North India where the national language is Hindi, the native name for the country Hindustan and the national religion is Hinduism. Although Sikhs with turbans and beards have a distinct appearance, people in Western countries who come in contact with Sikhs from India may assume that they are Hindus.
Are Sikhs Hindus?
No. Sikhs are not Hindus. Sikhism rejects many aspects of Hinduism.
10 Ways Sikhism Differs From Hinduism
- Sikhism originated in Punjab, in what is now Pakistan, circa 1469 with the birth of Guru Nanak, and is based on on the guru's writings and teachings.
- Hinduism can be traced as far back as 10,000 B.C. and is considered to be one of the earliest religions practiced by civilized man. Aryan invaders introduced the religion to the Sindhu River of the modern day Indus region of India about 2,000 B.C. The river later became known as the Hindu and the people Hindus.
- Sikhism rejects idolatry and has no clergy system. Guru Nanak introduced the concept of one god, Ik Onkar, one creator present in all of creation. Sikhs refer to the divine as Waheguru, the Wondrous Enlightener.
- Hinduism believes in the a hierarchy of deities with Brahman as the foremost all encompassing, followed by the trinity Brahma (creator) Vishnu (sustainer) and Shiva (destroyer). Other important gods are Krishna, Rama, Ganesha and Hanuman along with goddesses Lakhsmi, Kali, Durga and Saraswati. There are many lesser demi-gods and demi-goddesss with some 33 million deities in all which including plant animal and mineral spirits worshiped by means of idolatry and intervention of pandits, or priests.
- Sikhs believe the scripture of Siri Guru Granth Sahib to be the living word of their Guru or Enlighter. The Guru Granth offers guidance and instruction on how to be free of egoism and achieve humility as a means to illuminate spiritual darkness and liberate the soul from the cycle of transmigration.
Hindu scriptures are collectively known as Shastra and are comprised of two types:
- Sutri (conceptualized) - Vedas and Upanishads.
- Smriti (poetic epics) - Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
4. Basic Tenets:
Sikhism tenets denounce caste, idolatry, and ritual. Sikh beliefs include:
Five essentials beliefs in:
- One creative source.
- Ten gurus of history.
- Authority of Guru Granth.
- Teachings of the ten gurus.
- Initiation rites established by Tenth Guru Gobind Singh.
- Kes and Keski - Uncut hair beard and turban.
- Kanga - Wooden comb worn in hair.
- Kara - Steel bracelet worn on wrist.
- Kirpan - Ceremonial short sword worn at the side.
- Kachhera - Unique undergarment worn for modesty and chastity.
- Five essentials beliefs in:
Hinduism tenets including belief in:
- Sikhs begin the day with meditation and recite morning, evening and bedtime daily prayers. There is no hierarchy of clergy, any Sikh who is knowledgeable may perform religious duties. The congregation gathers with heads covered to worship in the gurdwara where services include:
- Hindus worship in a mandir, or temple, where idolatry rituals and Puja rites are performed by high caste priests. Hindu males don a ritual sacred thread at about the age of puberty, which is ceremoniously changed each year.
6. Conversion and Caste:
- Sikhism does not actively seek converts, but accepts anyone regardless of background who wishes to be initiated.
- Hinduism is based on a rigid caste system which one can only be born into, but can neither marry to become, nor convert to. Devotees are welcome to worship deities but must wait to take birth or rebirth into the hierarchy of the Hindu caste system in hopes that righteous deeds will allow them to reincarnate into an upper caste.
- Sikhism Armitdhari initiates and Keshdhari devotees do not cut or remove hair from the scalp face or body. Devout Sikh men and some women wear religiously mandated turbans in a variety of styles to cover and protect unshorn hair. Sikhs are not permitted to wear caps or hats.
- Hindu men may go bare headed, wear a cap, or a festive turban over cut hair. Aesthetics may shave heads or grow hair and a beard, but generally do not wear turbans. Hindu religious headgear is seldom worn outside of India. Hindu women never wear turbans.
- Sikhism scripture and code of conduct consider ritualistic yoga to be an entrapment which presents an obstacle to spiritual growth.
- Hinduism outlines a very detailed of 8 limbs and 4 types of yoga designed to prefect the body and soul.
9. Marriage and Status of Females:
- Sikh women are considered to be equal in status to men in every aspect of worship and life. Sikh women are encouraged to be educated, have careers, become community leaders and are welcome to take part in every ceremony.
- Sikhism teaches that bride and groom are fused by the four rounds of the Anand Karaj ceremony with the divine sharing one light in two bodies. Dowry is discouraged. Caste is not supposed to be a consideration when choosing a spouse. Widows are permitted to remarry.
- Hinduism teaches that a women is to be always dependent either on father or husband for the duration of her life to insure spiritual advancement.
- Hindu marriage is performed according to conditions of the Hindu Marriage Act between any two Hindus generally of the same caste. Dowry is also a consideration when arranging marriage. The marriage is performed by bride and groom taking seven steps around a sacred fire. Hindu widows have little or no status in India.
10. Dietary Law & Fasting:
- Sikhism scripture counsels against consuming intoxicants and flesh specifically chicken and fish if one wishes to advance spiritually. No kind of meat is ever served in any gurdwara, however a Sikh who decides to indulge in meat eating is restricted only against eat an animal slaughtered ritually according to Muslim law halal. Sikhism does not believe in ritual fasting as a means to spiritual enlightenment.
- Hindu dietary law forbids eating meat from a cow. Fasting is done on auspicious occasions for a variety of reason to purify body and soul.
(Sikhism.About.com. is part of the About Group. For reprint requests be sure to mention if you are a non-profit organization or school.)