The Sikh faith began around 1500 CE, when Guru Nanak began teaching a faith that was quite distinct from Hinduism and Islam.
The guiding principle of Sikhism is a belief in one, transcendent, inexpressible and formless divinity, who is manifest everywhere in the world he has created.
Guru Nanak used many names for this god, including the names of several Hindu gods and many of the Islamic names which are used to describe the different attributes of Allah. He believed that through meditating on any of these names, the true nature and essence of the godhead could be revealed. To him, all religious differences were merely the result of maya (illusion), and all forms of external religion were useless if the worshipper's heart remained immersed in the material world.
Guru Nanak was also an important social reformer. He stressed the pitiful plight of the
untouchables and other low Hindu castes by emphasizing the bhakti (devotion) path to enlightenment, in which they, like everyone else, could achieve liberation through devotion to the godhead.
To repudiate what Guru Nanak saw as the iniquities of the caste system, he gave every Sikh the surname Singh
(meaning lion), and established communal eating places in Sikh temples and communities, in which all his disciples were equal.
In fact, this concept of equality is so much stressed in Sikhism that a number
of Sikh saints were born untouchables and rose in rank in Sikh faith to become
Guru Nanak's teachings were collected into two books, the Adi Granth (the First Book) and the Granth Sahib (the Book of the Lord) by Angad, the second Sikh guru.
Nine Gurus followed Nanak and developed the Sikh faith and community over the next centuries.
Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru, completed the establishment of Amritsar as the capital of the Sikh world, and compiled the first
authorized book of Sikh scripture, the Adi
Granth. He was eventually executed for his faith in 1606.
The sixth Guru, Hargobind, started to militarize the community so that they would be able to resist any oppression. The Sikhs fought a number of battles to preserve their faith.
The Moghal Emperor, Aurangzeb, used force to make his subjects accept Islam.
He had the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, arrested and executed in 1675 for
failing to convert to Islam.
The Khalsa and the Last Guru
The tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, recreated the Sikhs as a military group of men and women called the Khalsa in 1699, with the intention that the Sikhs should for ever be able to defend their faith.
He established the Sikh rite of initiation and the 5 Ks which give Sikhs their unique appearance.
(More on Khalsa and the 5Ks.)
The tenth guru was also the last. Before his assassination in 1708, Guru Govind decreed that there should be no more gurus and that from then on the guruship and the earthly authority of the godhead should be vested in the Granth
Sahib. Sikhs now treat their scriptures as their Guru.
Guru Granth Sahib is almost 1400
pages long. It is hand written. A copy of the Guru Granth Sahib is the center piece of all Sikh places of worship called
Sikhism has 36 saints - 6 of them are Sikhs. 3 were born Muslims. Some were untouchables that grew and rose up
in the ranks.
Concept of Guru in Sikhism
In Sikhism the term 'Guru' is not used for a teacher or a guide or an expert or
even a human body. The word Guru is composed of two terms.
GU- means darkness and
RU- means Light.
For Sikhs, Guru is the Light that dispels all darkness. It is called JOT (Divine Light). Guru Nanak, the founder Guru of Sikhism was
regarded as the
embodiment of Divine Light.
The Guru in Sikhism is a perfect Prophet or Messenger of God in whom the
Light of God shines fully, visibly and completely. Guru is in union with Divine.
Thus he ushers the devotees, the seekers of Truth into a spiritual birth.
Through him the Glory of the Lord is transmitted to humanity. On account of
his Divine prerogatives, the Guru, though human in form, is Divine in Spirit.
God is in the Guru and Guru is in God. Though God is everywhere and in
everybody but His traits are illuminated through the Guru. The Jot (Divine
Light) that enshrined Guru Nanak's body and the Primal Jot of God are,
therefore, one and the same.
The guruship and the Jot has been passed from Guru Nanak, the founding Guru
of Sikhism, to the Sikh scripture, Grandh Sahib. When Guru Nanak conferred Guruship
on Guru Angad, the JOT was passed on and Guru Angad too became the embodiment of Divine
Light. In the same way all the nine Gurus were the embodiments of Guru Nanak
Jot. The tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh then conferred the Guruship on Guru
Granth Sahib (Holy Scripture of Sikhs). As a result, Guru Nanak JOT is, enshrined
and preserved in Guru Granth Sahib which became the embodiment of Divine
Light. It is the Living Guru for ever.
1. Guru Nanak Dev
2. Guru Angad Dev
3. Guru Amardas
4. Guru Ramdas
5. Guru Arjan Dev
6. Guru Har Gobind
7. Guru Har Rai
8. Guru HarKrishan
9. Guru Teg Bhadur
10. Guru Gobind Singh
11. Guru Granth Sahib - The Living Guru