Sikh Movement

  • The Sikh Movement had origins in the medieval period when saintpreacher Guru Nanak, founded the Sikh Religion, which started as a minor religion, but developed into a prominent religion over the centuries.
    • There were ten recognised living Gurus in the Nanak line.
    • It was developed through the successive Gurus who appeared in the form of the same divine light and reached its climax with the creation of Khalsa by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
  • Sikhism was born at a time when there was a growing conflict amongst the two dominating religious traditions of Hinduism and Islam in India
  • Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, is generally depicted as a reconciler of the two conflicting traditions.
  • Guru Nanak got his enlightenment in Sultanpur in 1496. After enlightenment, he travelled extensively to spread the message of love and brotherhood.
  • The number of Guru Nanak’s followers increased through the sixteenth century under his successors. They belonged to a number of castes, but traders, agriculturists, artisans and craftsmen predominated. They were also expected to contribute to the general funds of the community of followers. 
  • By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the town of Ramdaspur (Amritsar) had developed around the central Gurdwara called Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple). It was virtually self-governing, and modern historians refer to the early seventeenth-century Sikh community as ‘a state within the state’.

Guru Nanak (c.1469–1539 CE)

  • Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, was born in Talwandi (near Lahore in Pakistan), now known as Nankana Sahib in Pakistan and belonged to Bedi gotra in 1469.
  • Guru Nanak received his early education in Sanskrit and Persian. He was one of the greatest saints of the Bhakti movement.
  • Guru Nanak (1469–1539) was the first Guru. 
  • Rejected the authority of the Vedas and preached the new idea of God as the supreme, universal, all-powerful, truthful, formless, fearless, without hate, self-existent, everlasting creator of all things, the eternal and absolute truth.
  • He denounced caste distinctions and rituals like bathing in holy rivers, and promoted equality of all human beings, including women. He argued that the caste and honour should be judged by the acts or the deeds of individuals. He laid stress on concepts of justice, righteousness, and liberty.
  • His conception of religion was highly practical and sternly ethical. He exhorted people to give up selfish-ness, falsehood and hypocrisy and to lead a life of truth, honesty and kindness. He advised people to follow the principles of conduct and worship: sach (truth), halal (lawful earning), khair (wishing well of others), niyat (right intention), and service to the lord. “Abide pure amidst the impurities of the world” was one of his famous sayings.
  • His philosophy consists of three basic elements: a leading charismatic personality (the Guru), ideology (Shabad), and organisation (Sangat).
  • He repudiated idol worship and did not favour pilgrimage, nor did he accept the theory of incarnation. He condemned formalism and ritualism.
  • He introduced the concept of Langar (a community kitchen).
  • The three important percepts of Guru Nanak are:
    • Contemplation of One God (nam- japna); 
    • Earning one’s livelihood (kirat karna) and 
    • Sharing one’s earnings with others (vand chhakna). 
  • His main teachings can be summarised as:
    • Faith in one true lord
    • Worship of the name
    • Necessity of the guru in worship of the name
  • God conceptualised as Nirguna (attribute less) and Nirankar (formless)
Baba Guru Nanak
Baba Guru Nanak

Guru Angad (c.1539–1552 CE)

  • His real name was Bhai Lehna.
  • He standardised and popularised the Gurumukhi script of the Punjabi language.
  • He established new religious institutions to strengthen the base of Sikhism and opened many new schools.
  • He popularised and expanded the institution of Guru ka Langar.
  • He started the tradition of Mall Akhara for physical as well as spiritual development.

Guru Amardas (c.1552–74 CE)

  • He reformed the Langar and gave more importance to it.
  • Divided his spiritual empire into 22 parts called Manjis, each under a Sikh and also Piri system.
  • Strengthened the Langar community kitchen system.
  • Preached against the Hindu society’s sati system (the act of burning alive of a wife at the pyre of her deceased husband), advocated widow-remarriage, and asked the women to discard the purdah (veil worn by women).
  • Asked Akbar to remove the toll-tax (pilgrim’s tax) for non-Muslims while crossing Yamuna and Ganges rivers.

Guru Ramdas (c.1574–81 CE)

  • Composed the four Lawans (stanzas) of the Anand Karaj, a distinct marriage code for Sikhs separate from the orthodox and traditional Hindu Vedic system.
  • Had very cordial relations with Akbar. Akbar granted him a plot of land where the Harmandir Sahib was later constructed. Interestingly, the first brick of Harmandir Sahib was laid down by Hazi Mian Mir (a Muslim).– Guru Ramdas also laid the foundation stone of Chak Ramdas or Ramdas Pur, now called Amritsar.
  • Strongly decried superstitions, caste system, and pilgrimages.

Guru Arjun Dev (c.1581–1606 CE)

  • Compiled the Adi Granth, i.e., Guru Granth Sahib, and installed it at Sri Harmandir Sahib.
  • Completed construction of Amritsar, Taran, and Kartarpur.
  • Executed by Jahangir for helping his rebellious son Khusrau, and was thus hailed as the first martyr of the Sikh religion, and as Shaheedan-de-Sartaj (The crown of martyrs).

Guru Har Govind (c.1606–1644 CE)

  • Longest tenure as Guru. He transformed Sikhs into a militant community, established the Akal Takht, and fortified Amritsar.
  • Waged wars against rulers Jahangir and Shah Jahan, and defeated a Mughal army at Sangrama.
  • Took the title of Sachcha Padshah.
  • Shifted his headquarters to Kartarpur.
  • Was the proprietor of the concept of miri and piri (keeping two knives).

Guru Har Rai (c.1644–1661 CE)

  • Gave shelter to Dara Shikoh (brother of Aurangzeb, and his rival to the throne), and thus was persecuted by Aurangzeb, who framed charges of anti-Islamic blasphemy against the Guru and the Guru Granth Sahib.

Guru Har Kishan (c.1661–1664 CE)

  • Was forcibly summoned to Delhi, the imperial capital of Aurangzeb, under framed charges.
  • According to tradition, he died at a young age of 8 years due to smallpox, which he contracted while healing the sick people during an epidemic.

Guru Tegh Bahadur (c.1665–1675 CE)

  • Revolted against Aurangzeb, but was executed by him and was beheaded before the public in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk in 1675 CE. The Sis Ganj Sahib Gurudwara stands at the site of his martyrdom today.
  • He appointed Banda Bahadur as the military leader of the Sikhs.
  • Credited with spread Sikhism to Bihar and Assam.

Guru Gobind Singh (c.1675–1708 CE)

  • Last Sikh Guru in human form, who passed the Guruship of the Sikhs to the Guru Granth Sahib. He died of complications from stab wounds inflicted by an Afghan, believed to have been sent by the Mughal governor, Wazir Khan.
  • Was born in Patna and organised the Sikhs as community at warriors and called them Khalsa in c.1699 CE.
    • The Khalsa are men and women who have been baptized in the Sikh faith and who adhere to the Sikh Code of Conduct and Conventions, as well as wearing the five K’s – Kesh (uncut hair)Kangha (a wooden comb)Kara (an iron bracelet)Kachera (cotton underwear), and Kirpan (an iron knife).
  • To create a sense of unity among the Sikhs, the Guru started some practices which were to be followed by Sikhs. These were:
    • initiation through baptism by the double-edged sword,
    • wearing uncut hair,
    • carrying arms, and
    • adopting the epithet Singh as part of the name.
  • He selected five persons known as the Panj piyare (the five beloved), and requested them to administer the pahul (amrit chakhha) to him.
  • Compiled the supplementary granth of Deswan Padshan Ka Granth.

11th Sikh Guru

  • Nine gurus followed Guru Nanak and there is no living human successor, but the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, is considered the 11th Sikh Guru and eternal. 
  • Apart from the hymns of the Sikh Gurus, the Guru Granth Sahib also contains the composition of the Muslim and Hindu saints, some of them belonging to the so-called lower caste of the Hindu society. 
  • Therefore, the Sikh Holy Book can be considered as a unique example of the ecumenical spirit of the Sikh faith. 

Teachings of Sikh Religion

  • The teachings of Sikh Religion are as follows:
    • God – Sikhism believes in the monotheistic concept of One God, who is Transcendent and Immanent; Impersonal and Personal; Nirguna and Sarguna.
    • Soul – There is an identical relation between God and soul, which is mentioned as ‘the Lord abides in the soul and the soul in the Lord.’ The aim of man’s life is to rediscover the real nature of the self which is in no way different from God, but indulgence in mundane aspirations reinforce his ego and strengthens this false notion of separateness.
    • Divine Will – In the Sikh religion, the concept of Divine Will (hukam) as an imperative has a specific metaphysical significance. Divine Will is all-pervasive and immanent and manifests itself in different ways which are incomprehensible to the human mind. Not only the creation but also the sustenance of the universe is in accordance with the Divine Will. 
    • Divine Grace – It is often referred to in the scripture as kirpa, karam, Prasad, mehar, daya or bakhsis. One can not understand God through cleverness, but He can be realized through Grace. 
    • Salvation – The immortality of the soul is also conceived in the sense of realization of the eternity of values in the temporal world.  Karma and rebirth are closely related to the moral life of man.

Sikh Institutions

  • The disciples of Sikhism come to the sacred places to take the blessings of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book and eternal Guru of Sikhs.
  • The most sacred Sikh Shrines and Heritage are listed and briefed below:


  • The worship places of Sikhs are known as the Takhts which literally means ‘the seat of the divine power’. 
  • There are only five Takhts. 
  • It is said that ‘Takhts’ are places where various social and political settlements were done by the Gurus.
The Five TakhtsDescription
Akal Takht SahibIt is founded by Guru Hargobind Singh. 
Takht Sri Keshgarh SahibIt is a place where Khalsa Panth originated. 
Takht Sri Damdama SahibIt is a place where the complete version of Guru Granth Sahib was written by Guru Gobind Singh. 
Takht Sri Hazur SahibIt is a place where Guru Gobind Singh last breathed. It is located on the bank of River Godavari in the ‘Sanctified City’ of Nanded in Maharashtra.
Takht Sri Patna SahibIt is situated on the banks of the River Ganga. 


  • Gurudwara stands for ‘the doorway to the master’. 
  • In India, there are several Gurudwaras but only five Takhts. 
  • Lakhs of people, particularly the Sikhs, visit the Gurudwaras to commemorate the Gurus. Therefore, Gurudwaras hold significance from a pilgrimage point of view. 
  • Two popular Gurudwaras in India are:
    • Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab 
      • It is called the Golden Temple owing to the gilded dome that adorns the crown of the Gurudwara.
      • It is the most sacred for the Sikhs. 
      • The town was founded by Guru Ram Dass, the fourth Sikhs Guru in 1577 on the land gifted by Akbar. 
      • The fifth Guru Arjun Dev completed the temple. 
      • When Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered the upper half of the temple, first with copper and then with pure gold leaf, it came to be known as the Swarna Mandir.
    • Bangla Sahib in Delhi 
      • It is one of the most impressive and fascinating edifices in India and is intricately linked with the history of Sikhism. 
  • The other Sikh shrines in India include:
    • Gurudwara Paonta Sahib, Himachal Pradesh
    • Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, New Delhi
    • Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Delhi
    • Hemkund Sahib, Uttarakhand

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