The Sikhs

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In the year 1469 a man named Guru Nanak was born into a Punjabi-Hindu family. His name means "He who was born at the home of his mother's parents", which was in Talwandi, near Labone ("Sikhs" 647). We know little about Nanak's life but a lot about his beliefs from a book called " Adi Granth" or " Granth Sahib", which means holy book. Some of his beliefs were the reality of "karma" and "reincarnation".These are beliefs that our actions in this life determine how high or low we'll be in our next life. The Hindus and Muslims believe it is best to worship, missionize, study and write the sacred scriptures, and other religious public actions and behaviors. Nanak believed that this is wrong. He felt that the people should be involved in inward meditation to the God, Akal Purakh (Nanak was a monotheist, believing in one god). Nanak believed that Akal Purakh is the almighty creator and sustainer of the universe and he has no form.

If one is truly devoted to Akal then Akal may reveal himself to you in "nam" or the divine name. Since Akal created the world and everything in it then, the world can be considered an expression of "nam",(McLeod 5). Akal, to reveal himself through "nam", speaks the "sabad" or divine word, through a loyal believer. This believer acts as the eternal guru, or teacher, speaking in the mystical voice of Akal through the "sabad". A guru can achieve this divine harmony with Akal by the practice of "nam simaran". This can be accomplished in many ways. One way is by the repeating of a "mantra", a word that expresses the divine reality. Another way is to sing devotional songs or even to have deep mystical concentration. Guru Nanak attracted many disciples, or "sikha" (this is where the name Sikh comes from). These "sikhas" were the original Sikhs. Before Guru Nanak died he appointed a successor from among his disciples to be the second guru. This started the chain of the ten Sikh gurus which lasted 439 years from the birth of Nanak to the death of Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, in the year 1708, ("Hindus and Sikhs" 11). Nanak appointed as his successor Lehna or Lahina, who later changed his name to Angad (Angada was a lesser legendary hero of that time). Guru Angad is the person responsible for the thinking up the idea of a "Granth Sahib", the holy book. Angad appointed as his successor Amar Das, who did two things that differed from Nanak's beliefs. He made his own village, Goindual, a city for pilgrims, though Nanak said that missionizing was not good.

In addition, Amar Das collected materials for the forming of "Granth Sahib", though Nanak said you shouldn't make sacred writings. Guru Amar Das appointed, as his successor, his son-in-law Jetha or Ram Das. Guru Ram Das built the golden temple in Amritsar on the land given to him by emperor Akbor. Before then the Guru- ship was given to someone who deserved it, but from that point on it was given to a family member. So, Ram Das gave it to his third son Arjan Dev, a legendary hero of his time. Guru Arjan Dev put together the "Granth Sahib", supposedly taking it from the works of Amar Das. Before he died, Guru Arjan told his son Hargobind to wear, when he became Guru, not one but two swords because one stood for "piri", the continuing authority of the Guru and the other stood for "miri" the newly assumed secular authority (McLeod 4). It was from his secular authority that the Panth or Sikh community developed, always arming themselves out of fear of the Mughal forces. The death of Arjan is not clear but it probably did occur while he was in Mughal custody. Guru Hargobind was forced to change the Panth from Nanak-Panth, the Panth similar to the days of Nanak, to a military Panth. After Guru Hargobind, Hari Rai took over. In his days, and in the short days of the next guru, Guru Hari Krishan, the Mughal authorities didn't disturb the Sikhs.

After these two gurus, Tegh Bahadun became the next guru.

Guru Tegh Bahadun was beheaded by Aurangzeb in 1675 for not accepting Islam ("Sikhs" 647). After him came the last guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Gobind Singh had to do "pahul", the Sikh initiation. The Sikh initiation involves stirring together sugar with water with a two-sided dagger. This mixture must be drunk by the person about to be inititated.

After this ritual water, water and sugar, drinking, the person purifies himself five times. After this, he then yells the Sikh war cry and forever wears the five k's. They are "kes" which is uncut hair, "kachh", pants reaching only to the knee, "kara", an iron bangle, "kirpan", a sword (or "khanda", a small dagger), and "khanga", a hair comb. The first four of five k's have soldierly uses and Guru Gobind Singh was an excellent warrior. He also instituted the "kara parshad", when flour is mixed with butter and sugar and all castes eat it together. This was done in order to destroy the caste system so that no one could feel superior to their neighbor. In 1708 Guru Gobind Singh was assassinated at Nander in the Deccan. Nowadays, the Sikhs are fighting with the Indian government for a separate homeland for themselves in Punjab. In 1984, after the Sikhs assassinated the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, Hindus rioted and killed hundreds of Sikhs. Since that time, the amount of violent crimes and murders by Sikhs and to Sikhs has been growing rapidly. Sikh terrorists, or rather militants, freedom-fighters or "majheddin", as they like to be called, killed over one thousand people in 1987 and almost twice that amount in 1988, ("Hindus and Sikhs" 11). In 1990, the Sikhs killed almost four thousand five hundred people in their attempt to gain independence, the highest amount for any year, ("Throwing Punches" 30). Newspapers and magazines in the United States have written about many of the horrible acts of terror occuring right now in India. One article told of Sikh militants fighting Indian police in Bombay, seven hundred-eighty miles southwest of Punjab ("Sikhs Attack Bombay" A12). The Indian police seem to be very afraid of the violence of the Sikhs. It has been reported that the police are willing to pay children thirty rupees, the equivalent of $1.70 a day, to fight Sikhs. Unfortunately, many of these children either run away with the guns given to them by the police or join the Sikh militants, ("Throwing Punches" 30) It is very dangerous for journalists to write about the Sikhs. In the past few years. seventeen journalists have been killed by the Sikhs because they have written unfavorable articles about the Sikhs and their terrorist activities, ("Throwing Punches" 30). A recent Sikh terrorist act involved Sikh "freedom-fighters" stopping a train in Punjab. They boarded the train and killed forty-seven innocent people, ("Forty-seven Killed" A1). Sikhism has changed from the time of Guru Nanak, where it was a peaceful, inward religion to the present where there is much violence by the Sikhs and pride in their violent ways. Bibliography "Forty-seven Killed by Sikh Militants". Wall Street Journal 27 Dec. 1991: A1 "Hindus and Sikhs". Scholastic Update 10 Mar. 1989: 11 McLeod, W. H. The Sikhs. N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1986. "Sikhs". Encyclopedia Brittanica. 1963 edition.

"Sikhs Attack Bombay" New York Times 6 Mar. 1992: A12 "Throwing Punches in Punjab" The Economist 5 Jan.

1991: 30