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Sikhism was founded in the Punjab by Guru Nanak in the 15th Century CE and is a religion that believes there is one God, His name is Truth, He is the Creator, He is without fear, He is without hate, Immortal is His form,  He is not born or dies to be born again, By the Guru’s grace He is obtained.

Sikhs believe religion should be practiced by living in the world and coping with life’s everyday problems.

The word ‘Sikh’ in the Punjabi language means ‘disciple’: a Sikh is constantly learning. Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus.

Sikhs believe there is only One God. He is the same God for all people of all religions. Sikhism teaches that people of different cultures, religions, or sex are all equal in the eyes of God. It teaches the full equality of men and women. Women can participate in any religious function or perform any Sikh ceremony or lead the congregation in prayer. Every male should add “Singh” after his name and every female Khalsa should add “Kaur” after her name.

Sikhs believe the soul goes through cycles of births and deaths before it reaches the human form. The goal of our life is to lead an exemplary existence so that one may merge with God. Sikhs should remember God at all times and practice living a virtuous and truthful life while maintaining a balance between their spiritual obligations and temporal obligations. Drugs, smoking, alcohol and stealing are strictly forbidden for Sikhs.

The founder of the Sikh religion was Guru Nanak who was born in 1469. He preached a message of love and understanding and questioned the blind rituals of other religions. Guru Nanak passed on his enlightened leadership of this new religion to nine successive Gurus. The Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh died in 1708. Before his death in 1708 Guru Gobind Singh declared that the Sikhs would no longer have a Guru in human form, but instead in the form of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (also known as the Adi Granth), which is the holy book of Sikhs containing the hymns of Sikh gurus. Sikhism is open to all through the teachings of its 10 Gurus enshrined in the Sikh Holy Book and Living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Sikhism does not have priests. They were abolished by Guru Gobind Singh. Sikhs only have custodians of the Guru Granth Sahib (granthi), and any Sikh is free to read the Guru Granth Sahib in the Gurdwara (a Sikh temple) or in their home.

All people of all religions are welcome to the Gurdwara. A free community kitchen, Langar, which serves vegetarian meals to all people of all faiths, can be found at every Gurdwara . Guru Nanak first started this institution which embodies the basic Sikh principles of service, humility and equality.

The word “Khalsa” means “pure”. Khalsa’s are Sikhs who have undergone the sacred Amrit Ceremony initiated by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. The Khalsa baptism ceremony is undertaken when the initiate is ready to fully live up to the high expectations of Guru Gobind Singh. All Sikhs are expected to be Khalsa or be working towards that objective.

A number of objects (sometimes referred to as “The Five Ks”) have special meaning for Sikhs. Keshislong unshorn hair. A symbol of spirituality showing a Khalsa’s acceptance of God’s will. Kangha, the comb, symbolises of hygiene and discipline. Kara, a steel bracelet, reminds the wearer of restraint in their actions and remembrance of God at all times. Kacherra, under garments, are a symbol of self control and chastity. The Kirpan, or ceremonial sword, symbolises dignity and the Sikh struggle against injustice. It is worn purely as a religious symbol and not as a weapon. Dastar is the turban, a symbol of royalty and dignity worn so that the Khalsa will always have high self-esteem.

Most of Britain’s Sikhs have their origins in immigration either from the Punjab in Northwest India in the 1950s and 60s, or from East Africa slightly later. The 2001 census recorded 336000 Sikhs living in Britain today.

For more detailed information on Sikhism go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/sikhism/ or www.sikhnet.com

For local contacts see The Directory of Northamptonshire Faith Groups

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