Sikh Missionary Society U.K. (Regd)
10, Featherstone Road. Southall, Middx, U.K. UB2 5AA
Tel: +44 020 8574 1902
Fax: +44 020 8574 1912
Reg Charity No: 262404
by Gurinder Singh Sacha
The Sikhs and Their Way Of Life
ContentsChapter 1 - General Introduction
The Panjab & the Sikh Home Land
Sikh characteristics & contributions
Sikh Attitudes & Social Behaviour
Chapter 2 - The Founder of The Sikh Faith
The Sikh & The Guru
The Divine Call
The Four Great Journeys
The Three Principles
Chapter 3 - Guru Nanak’s Successors
Guru Har Rai
Guru Har Krishan
Guru Tegh Bahadur
Guru Gobind Singh
The Inauguration of Khalsa PanthGuru Granth Sahib Ji
Chapter 4 - After the Guru period
From Persecution to power (Banda Singh Bahadur)
Maharaja Ranjit Singh
The Fall of Sikh Raj (Maharaja Daleep Singh)
Sikhs During British Raj
Sikhs Since 1947 (Struggle for Panjabi Suba)
Further Struggle Ahead (Between Two Tercentenary Celebrations)
Chapter 5 - Some Sikh Institutions & Concepts
Visiting a Gurdwara
The Panj Piaray
Important Sikh Concepts
Sangat & Pangat
Chapter 6 - Sikh Ceremonies & Festivals
The Naming Ceremony
The Sikh Baptism Ceremony
The Anand Kaarj (Wedding Ceremony)
About Sikh MarriagesThe Death Ceremony
|Chapter 7 - More about Sikh
Identity & Faith
The Sikh Scriptures
Dasam Granth & other titles of early Sikh religious literature
The Sikh Articles of Faith
The Sikh Turban
Sikh Basic Belief
Sikh National Anthem
Sikh Code of Conduct
Chapter 8 - Some other Topics
Sikh Devotional Music
Sikh Folk Music
Sikh Martial Art – Gatka
Sikh Articles of Faith & the Law
The Panjabi Script
Chapter 9 - Important Sacred Sikh Shrines
Sikh Art & Architecture
Sri Darbar Sahib
The Five Takhats
The Akal TakhatPhotographs of some Historical Gurdwaras
Chapter 10 - Some Stories from the life of Sikh Gurus
The True Bargain
Bhai Ghanaya’s ‘Red Cross’
Chapter 11 - Appendix
Some prominent Sikhs of the 20th Century
Bhagat Puran SinghSikh Gurus on Environment
The Singh Sabha Movement
The Akali Movement
Sat Sri Akal - Status and significance
The Rehat Maryada
(The Sikh Code of Conduct & Conventions)
Glossary of Sikh terms
Selected Book List on Sikhs & Sikhism
About the Author
The Sikhs do not believe in the worship of idols or icons. No one painted a portrait of Sikh Gurus in their lifetime. All the pictures of the Sikh Gurus in this book are imaginary and hence more important for their educational value rather than for their religious reverence.
Like their homeland Panjab, the home language of the Sikhs is Panjabi, which was the most common language used by the Sikh Gurus in their message. Thus, out of reverence for the Sikh Gurus’ divine utterances, which constitute the Sikh scriptures, the language and script of this holy Granth became popular with a new name Gurmukhi. However, many of these listed Sikh terms were used by Panjabis long before Sikhism came to the scene and, indeed, are part of ancient Indian heritage, which includes Hinduism and Budhism.
In order to improve pronunciation, the spelling of some Panjabi words used in this book may differ from traditional (Roman English) spelling used by many other authors.
Akaal Purkh: ‘Akaal’ literally means timeless or immortal. ‘Purkh’ means person and ‘Sri’ is a (Sri Akaal) title. Thus both the terms refer to God, the Eternal one.
Akaal Takhat: Literally, ‘Eternal Throne’. Proper name of the Gurdwara building facing the ‘Golden Temple’ in Amritsar. The institution, representing the spiritual and temporal sovereignty of the Khalsa Panth.
Akhand Patth: ‘Akhand’ means uninterrupted and ‘Patth’ is the holy reading of scriptures. Thus, refers to the continuous, ceremonial reading of the Guru Granth Sahib from beginning to end, which takes approximately 48 hours.
Amrit Chhakna: ‘Amrit’ literally means nectar, elixir of life, and ‘chhakna’ means drinking or eating. Sikh initiation ceremony of taking Amrit, also called Khande di Pahul.
Anand Kaarj: ‘Anand’ means bliss and ‘Kaarj’ is an act or ceremony. Therefore, the ceremony of bliss. Proper name for the Sikh religious marriage ceremony.
Ardaas: The Sikh prayer - formal act of praying in a standing position with palms together.
Baisakhi: Baisakhi often pronounced as Vaisakhi is named after an Indian month of Vaisakh, which starts in the middle of April (usually 13th) and marks the change of season in the year. Vaisakhi refers to a major Sikh festival celebrating the inauguration of the Sikh Order of the Khalsa (Khalsa Panth).
Bhangra: Originally, a popular folk dance of the people of Panjab, which was associated with the harvest festival of Vaisakhi.
Chaanani: A canopy over the Guru Granth Sahib, used as a mark of respect, often made of rich fabric and decorative design.
Chaur: A respectful symbolic (fly whisk like) hand held fan waved over the Holy Scripture (Guru Granth) representing authority.
Dhaadi: Professional ballad singer and narrator of Sikh history. Usually, a group of three or four singers is called Dhaadi Jatha.
Giani: Giani, literally means a knowledgeable person. The word is often used as a title for Sikh priests, like the title ‘reverend’, and hence Giani Ji. However, the Sikhs do not have formally ordained priests.
Granthi: A professional reader of the holy Granth e.g. Giani Ji.
Guru: Literally, a teacher. A more common meaning of guru is a spiritual leader. However, the word ‘Guru’ with capital ‘G’ stands for prophet Nanak, and his successors and their living spirit in the form of ‘Guru Shabad’ (Guru Granth Sahib) which is the way to Ultimate Reality, the Waheguru (God).
Gurbaani: Literally, Guru’s utterances.
Sikhs believe Gurbaani is the Divine Word revealed by the Gurus. This
constitutes the ‘shabads’ complied to form the holy Guru Granth.
Gurdwara: Literally, Guru’s door/place. Gurdwara is essentially a Sikh place of worship. The use of word ‘Sikh temple’ for a Gurdwara is inappropriate, as it would be like calling a church a ‘Christian temple’, or a temple a ‘Hindu church’.
Gurmat: ‘Gurmat’ means Guru’s wisdom or advise.
Gurmatta: Gurmatta is a resolution discussed and passed in Guru’s presence or guidance.
Gurmukhi: Literally, ‘from Guru’s mouth’ or ‘like Guru’s face’. This word has been popularly but mistakenly used for the Panjabi script (only words come from the mouth, not script). Indeed, Gurmukhi is the visible form of Gurbaani as seen and written in the holy Guru Granth Sahib.
Gurpurb: Guru’s remembrance day (birth anniversary or death anniversary or installation to Guruship).
Guru Granth: The Sikh scriptures, regarded as the spirit or voice of the Guru, and hence Guru Granth; also respectfully called by its full name Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Hukam: ’Hukam’ literally means order, but in Sikh terminology it stands for ‘God’s Will’.
Hukamnama Hukamnama is any order, action, advice or sermon by the Guru or in the name of the Guru.
Ik Onkar: Only one god. (<) This first letter/phrase at the beginning of the holy Sikh scriptures is also used as a Sikh symbol, like a Khanda.
Janam Saakhi: Literally, birth story, but in Sikh terminology it refers to a hagiographic life story of Guru Nanak.
Karah Parshad: Sanctified, soft sweet dish made from plain flour, sugar and purified butter in equal quantifies, usually distributed at the conclusion of a Sikh ceremony and prayer.
Keertan: Devotional singing of the holy verses (shabad) from the Sikh scriptures to the accompaniment of musical instruments such as Vaaja & Tabla.
Khalsa: ’Khals’ means pure. The Initiated Sikh who has vowed to be pure at heart.
Khalsa or Khalsa Panth also refers to the Sikh religious order or the Sikh community as a whole, but more strictly to the fully practising Sikhs who must adhere to the following five Articles of Faith called 5Ks.
Kesh: Uncut hair, well cared, with turban as article of Sikh faith; Keeping hair uncut is symbolic of humility and acceptance of God’s Will.
Kangha: Specially designed small wooden comb kept in hair all the time, as an article of Sikh faith. Symbolic of cleanliness.
Kachh: Specially designed pair of shorts. One of the five articles of Sikh faith. Also called Kachhera or Kachha. Used as underwear but may also be worn of its own. Symbolic of continence and high morals.
Karra: Specially designed steel bangle worn on the right wrist as an article of Sikh faith. Symbolic of bond with the Guru and the Khalsa Panth.
Kirpaan: Sword. One of the five articles of Sikh faith. Symbolic of authority and justice Specially designed small kirpaan is worn all the time by fully practising Sikhs.
Kaur: Literally princess, lotus flower. Suffix for all female Sikhs, e.g. Parminder Kaur, Jagjit Kaur to which one’s family name or husband’s Surname may or may not be added.
Khanda: Double-edged sword used for the Amrit ceremony. The Sikh emblem is also called Khanda (>), which is named after its central symbol.
Langar: Kitchen often called ‘Guru Ka Langar’ is Guru’s free kitchen. All visitors to the Gurdwara are served free food irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or status.
Manji Sahib: Manji is a small bedstead like seat where the Guru Granth Sahib (scripture) is placed open to read. It is also called ‘Singhaasan’ (throne).
Mool Mantar: The basic statement of belief in One God, given at the beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib. Basic precept giving attributes of God.
Nishan Sahib: Sikh flag and the flag post usually seen at the front of Gurdwaras.
Panjab: Literally, the land of five rivers. A geographical area in the north-west of India, now divided into two politically separate states within India and Pakistan.
Panjabi: The Language of the people of Panjab which is a geographical and administrative area in the northwest India. Also refers to Panjabi script.
Panj Baania: Five pieces of holy compositions of the Gurus to be recited daily by practising Sikhs, essentially Amritdharis.
Panj Kakaar: 5K’s.(the five articles of Sikh faith)
Panj Piaray: The five beloved ones. May refer to the original first five members of the Khalsa. Today any representative body of five fully practising Sikhs may perform an assigned task, rite or ceremony.
Panj Takhat: Five historical seats (Gurdwaras) of Sikh authority.
Pangat: Principle of sitting in rows while sharing communal food in a Langar.
Panth: Often referred as Sikh Panth or Khalsa Panth, meaning the Sikh community.
Parshad: Literally food. Small and symbolic serving of blessed food (sweet) usually after the conclusion of Sikh congregational prayer. Also called ‘Karrah-Parshad’, being prepared in a big Karrahi (wok).
Raagi: Professional singer of the holy verses from the Sikh scriptures.
Rehat Maryada: Sikh code of conduct or discipline and procedure. (Also published in the form of a booklet by the S.G.P.C. Amritsar.)
S.G.P.C. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the supreme body of about 180 Sikh representatives to administer mainly the affairs of major Sikh Gurdwaras.
Sabha: Literally a society or organisation. ‘Singh Sabha’ refers to a Sikh organisation constituting the general membership of a Gurdwara.
Sangat: Congregation of Sikhs in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib Ji; also called
Seva: Selfless service for the benefit of the community without distinction.
Shabad: Literally word. A hymn or a verse from the Guru Granth Sahib.
Sikh: Literally learner or student. A person or a disciple who believes in the Guru’s teachings and has no other religion.
Singh: Literally lion. Suffix for all male Sikhs. e.g. Parminder Singh or Jagjit Singh to which one’s family name or surname may or may not be added according to one’s preference or persuasion, e.g. Parminder Singh or Parminder Singh Sidhu.
Takhat: Literally throne. Takhat refers to five historical Gurdwaras, which are regarded as the seats of Sikh authority.
Waheguru: The Wonderful Guru, the Sikh word
1. Banerjee I.B. - Evolution of the Khalsa
2. Barrier & Dusenbery - The Sikh Diaspora
3. Chahil P.S. - Sri Guru Granth Sahib trans. (4 Vols)
4. Cole O. & Sehmbi - The Sikhs, Beliefs & Practices
5. Dalgeer H.S. - Akal Takhat Sahib
5. Dillon G.S. - Insights into Sikh Religion & History
6. Duggal K.S. Ranjit Singh - Secular Sikh Sovereign
7. Cunnungham J.D - History of the Sikhs
8. Gill P.S. - Encyclopedia of Sikh History and Religion (3 Vols.)
9. Gill M.K. - Role & Status of Women in Sikhism
10. Greenless Duncan - The Gospel of the Guru Granth
11. Grewal J.S. - Guru Nanak in History
12. Gupta H.R. - Punjab on the Eve of First Sikh War
13. Johar S.S. - Guru Gobind Singh
14. Johar S.S. - The Universal Faith
15. Kapur S.S. - Sikh Religion & Sikh People
16. Kaur Gurnam - Reason & Revelation in Sikhism
17. Kaur Upinderjit - Sikh Religion & Economic Development
18. Kohli S.S. - A Critical Study of Adi Granth
19. Latiff S.M. - History of the Panjab
20. Loehlin C.H. - The Granth of Guru Gobind Singh
21. Macauliffe M.A. - The Sikh Religion (3 Vols.)
22. Mansukhani G.S. - Guru Nanak, Apostle of Love
23. Massey James - Doctrine of Ultimate Reality in Sikh Religion
24. McGregor W.L. - History of the Sikhs (2 Vols)
25. Mcleod W.H. - Guru Nanak & the Sikh Religion
26. Narang G.C. - Transformation of Sikhism
27. Nayyar K. and K.Singh - Tragedy of Panjab: Operation Blue Star and After
28. Parry R.E. - The Sikhs of the Panjab
29. Payne C.H. - A Short History of the Sikhs
30. Seetal S.S. - Rise of Sikh Power and Maharaja Ranjit Singh
31. Sethi A.S. - Universal Sikhism
32. Scott G.B. - Religious and Short History of the Sikhs
33. Singh Daljit - Guru Nanak
34. Singh Darshan - Sikhism, Issues and Institutions
35. Singh Ganda - Private Correspondence Anglo Sikh Wars
36. Singh Gopal - Sri Guru Granth Sahib in 4 Vols.
37. Singh Harbans - The Heritage of the Sikhs
38. Singh Kapur - The Baisakhi of Guru Gobind Singh
39. Singh Khazan - History and Philosophy of Sikhism
40. Singh Khushwant - A History of the Sikhs (2 Vols)
41. Singh Manmohan - Guru Granth Sahib (Eng. Translation 8 Vols.)
42. Singh Narain - Guru Nanak Re-interpreted
43. Singh Parkash - Guru Gobind, the Saint Warrior
44. Singh Patwant - The Sikhs (1999)
45. Singh Puran - The Spirit Born people
46. Singh Ranbir - Glimpses of the Divine Masters
47. Singh Sher - Philosophy of Sikhism
48. Singh Tarlochan - Guru Nanak
49. Singh Teja - The Sikh Religion
50. Tully Mark and Satish Jacob - Amritsar: Mrs
Gandhi’s Last Battle
Gurinder Singh Sacha arrived in England in the spring of 1965 equipped with six years experience of teaching in India. For almost two years he worked at a factory in Warwick whilst also studying to improve his English language skills but by 1967, Mr Sacha found himself to be the only turbaned, Sikh geography teacher in a British high school. He soon became a source of encouragement and pride to other Sikhs, many of whom had been finding it difficult to maintain their religious identity during those early, less tolerant days. Having gained more confidence in his professional field, Mr Sacha began to take keen interest in the affairs of the Asian community, especially the Sikh community. He was particularly concerned with the lack of knowledge regarding Sikhs and Sikhism, not only within the host community and other non-Sikhs, but also within British born Sikh children who were also losing out in their ability to communicate in their own mother tongue, Panjabi. With the aim of making a voluntary and positive contribution, he soon joined pioneer members of the newly formed Community Relations Council for the London borough of Barking and Dagenham, later to be called the Council for Racial Equality. In 1975, Mr Sacha was elected as vice-chairman of this council, the position he held until 1985.
During the early years of his professional career, Mr Sacha also joined the like minded professionals to form a voluntary body named, the National Council for Mother Tongue Teaching (NCMTT), thus taking a leading role by actively promoting the importance and the provision of teaching community languages in British schools. By 1979, Mr Sacha was fully dedicated to the work of coordinating the teaching of Asian community languages, and by 1985, he was a Senior Advisory Teacher for Examinations in Community Languages for all the 12 education districts of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA). After the demise of ILEA he worked with the Advisory team in the Strategy and Inspection Division of the Lewisham Education Authority until he took early retirement in September 1991.
As well as teaching, Mr Sacha has also specialised in examination assessment techniques and has served a number of major examination boards1. In addition, he has served some teacher training colleges as a visiting lecturer on the subject of Examinations and Assessment in Community Languages. He has also been an Honorary Fellow at the University of London Institute of Education and a member of the Advisory Subject Committee for Modern Languages—a constituent of Schools Examinations & Assessment Council (SEAC) for England and Wales (1990-92).
At every opportunity, Mr Sacha has taken a leading role in representing the needs of the minority community within the British community at large; often contributing to public awareness, both at local and national level, through talks to parents and professional groups, public speeches and contributions in the national press, including The Guardian and Times Educational Supplement, as well as, the ethnic press such as Des Pardes Weekly and The Panjab Times.
As an author, Mr Sacha has made a significant
contribution in disseminating knowledge about the Sikhs and their way
of life, thus helping to clear many misconceptions and stereotypes
about the Sikhs and their religious practices. In collaboration with Mr
S Kang, he has voluntarily dedicated his time and energy to writing
suitable, high quality teaching materials for both teachers and
students of the Panjabi Language2.
1 Sole Examiner, (Preliminary to Final Diploma
Panjabi), The Institute of Linguists, London (1981 - 85) ;
Principal Examiner, GCE ‘O’Level Examination in Panjabi, The Joint Matriculation Board, Manchester (1982 - 86);
Assessor, Diploma in Teaching Community Languages, The Royal Society of Arts Examinations Board (1986 - 92);
Principal Moderator, GCSE in Panjabi, University of London Schools Examinations Board (1988-91);
Reviser, GCSE in Panjabi, Northern Examination and Assessment Board (NEAB) (1987 - 2001);
Reviser, ’’ ’’ ’’ Assessment & Qualification Alliance (2001-- );
Chief Examiner, GCE A’Level Panjabi, NEAB (1990 - 2000); Principal Examiner AQA (2000--);
Chair of Examiners, GCE A’Level Panjabi, NEAB (1992 - 2000), AQA (2000 -- ).
2 The Sikhs & Their Way of Life. Published
Sikh Missionary Society UK, 1983, 1987.
Examinations in Community Languages. Published by ILEA, 1986.
Panjabi for Beginners (Through English). Published by The Sikh Missionary Society U.K, 1995.
Panjabi & Sikh Studies (GCSE Level) Published by Singh Sabha London East Barking, 1995.
Panjab & Sikh Studies (Advanced Level). Published by The Sikh Missionary Society U.K, 1999.