Sikhs CultureAug 20 2022 Sikhs Sikhs Culture
Sikh culture is composed of many different aspects. Like in all cultures, Sikh culture consists of many festivals and ceremonies. In fact, there are songs sung in religious practices also, but they are different from normal songs because they are hymns in praise of God.
99.9% of people with turbans in US are Sikhs.
Used to cover long, uncut hair and provides the distinct identity.
Approx. 15 feet of cloth wrapped neatly around the head every time it is put on
Symbolizes discipline, integrity, humility, and spirituality. Religious requirement – must be worn at all times in public
A turban is not a hat. It cannot be casually taken on and off. It must be carefully retied each time it is removed
Turbans are a mandatory part of Sikh faith, not a social custom
Sikhs feel humiliated if asked to remove their turban in public, as doing so exposes an intimate part of their body
Sikh Americans are easily identified by their colorful turbans and unshorn hair
More about Sikhs turbans.
Sikh festivals are occasions for Sikhs to rededicate themselves to the Faith. Even martyrdoms and death anniversaries of the Gurus are festivals to inspire the faithful and remind them of their history and the value of sacrifice for a good cause. People of various faiths are invited to these celebrations to give them a view of the Sikh faith and way of life.
Baisakhi is a New Year Festival in the Sikh calendar. Khalsa was created by Guru Gobind Singh Ji on this day by performing the Amrit ceremony in 1699. Traditionally, on this day which usually falls on 13th April, ‘Nishan Sahib’, the Sikh Flag, is replaced by a new one. A service in the open compound is held, led by ‘Panj Pyara’. The Flag post is taken down and ‘Chola’, the flag cloth, is removed and the flag post is cleaned and washed. It is covered with a new ‘Chola’ and re-hoisted. The ceremony is completed by an Ardas. The whole scene is very inspiring.
In common with other festivals, ‘Akhand Path’ (continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib for 48 hours) is arranged to 2 days earlier and ‘Bhog’ (completion ceremony) takes place on the morning of Baisakhi. This is followed by the singing of divine hymns. Later, learned preachers give talks on the importance of Baisakhi.
Amrit ceremony is performed at most places for those ready to take Amrit. Competitions are held in sports, martial arts, poetry and essay writing on the festival theme. In addition the Sikh men, women and children take part in ‘Sewa’ in Langar which stays open throughout the three days for the worshipers.
Diwali means the Festival of Lights. The Sikhs celebrate Diwali because Guru Hargobind reached Amritsar on Diwali day after his release from Gwalior jail. He had also got 52 princes freed from prison. That is why this festival is very important for the residents of Amritsar. The Golden Tempe complex is illuminated and wonderful displays of fireworks are held. Priceless historic treasures and weapons used by the Gurus are put on display..
The Indian festival of lights held around October 25th. Guru Amar Das institutionalized this as one of the special days when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Gurus blessings at Goindwal. In 1577 the foundation stone of The Golden Temple was laid on Diwali.
On Diwali 1619 the Golden Temple was illuminated with many lights to welcome home and celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind from imprisonment in Gwalior fort. Sikhs have continued this annual celebration with lamps being lit outside gurdwaras and sweets distributed to all. The largest gathering happens at The Golden Temple which is lit up with thousands of lights.
An annual festival of thousands held at Anandpur Sahib. It was started by Guru Gobind Singh as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the Indian festival of Holi. The mock battles were followed by music and poetry competitions. The Nihang Singh’s carry on the martial tradition with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding.
There are also a number of durbars where Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present and kirtan and religious lectures take place. The festival culminates in a large parade headed by the Nishan Sahibs of the gurdwaras in the region. Hola Mohalla is held around March 17.
There are special ceremonies for events like birth, initiation, marriage and death in a Sikh family. They are done to seek blessing from God and to renew the spirit of devotion and service. All Sikh ceremonies are held in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and include singing of hymns, Ardas, or a formal prayer suitable to the occasion, Hukamnama, or a random reading from the Guru Granth Sahib Ji that is the order of the day, and distribution of Karah Parshad, or sacred pudding made from flour, butter, sugar and water. Langar is provided for all the guests. Some of the major Sikh Ceremonies are:
After the birth of a child, the mother and the child, when in good health, go to the Gurdwara with their relatives and friends for the naming ceremony. The Granthi or a senior member of the congregation stirs water and sugar crystals in a bowl with a ‘Khanda’ placed in front of the Guru Granth Sahib while reading the ‘Mool Mantra’ and the first five verses of the ‘Japji Sahib’. A few drops of this holy water are then put into the child’s mouth and the remaining is given to the mother to drink.
Hymns are recited or sung to bless the child. Then ‘Ardas’ is recited and the ‘Hukam’ read. The child’s name is chosen to begin with the first letter of the ‘Hukam’. The title of Singh (lion) is given to the male and Kaur (princess) to the female child. For example if the first letter is ‘R’, the child may be named Ranjit Singh in case of a boy. or Ranjit Kaur in case of a girl. Karah Parshad is distributed to the congregation. The use of caste or surname in addition to one’s personal name is discouraged.
A very important and exciting event in the life of a Sikh boy comes when he starts tying the turban. Sometimes the family will have a special function to celebrate the occasion. It is called Dastar Bandi. He is seated in front of Guru Granth Sahib. An elder relation ties the turban on his head. The Granthi explains why he must keep long hair and wear a turban. Prayers are said to invoke Guru’s blessing on the boy.
Anand Karaj – Marriage Ceremony
The Sikh marriage is called ‘Anand Karaj’ which means the ceremony of joy. The Sikh wedding is held in the morning in a Gurdwara. The bridegroom dressed in fine clothes accompanied by his family and friends reaches the Gurdwara Sahib where the brides relatives and friends receive them. After the
Milni ceremony (close relatives of the couple garland each other in a spirit of goodwill) and refreshments, everyone enters the Gurdwara congregation hall where bride sits alongside the bridegroom facing the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. A short prayer is said and then the wedding ceremony begins and the Ragees sing the hymn of ‘Palla’ which is bridegroom’s scarf. The brides father gives the Palla into the hands of bride which is symbolic of giving away the bride.
This is followed by ‘Lavaan’, the wedding ceremony. It consists of four verses. The first verse is recited by the Granthi while the couple sits. Then the Ragees sing the same verse and the couple walk gracefully clockwise around the Guru Granth Sahib the bride following the bridegroom. Same way the other three verses are recited.
The six verses of ‘Anand Sahib’ (the hymns of joy) are then sung followed by the Ardas. Order of the day is read from Guru Granth Sahib Ji followed by the distribution of Karah Parshad. Lunch is provided by the brides family. Usually a reception is held later in the evening in a hall.
This is the sacred ceremony for the initiation into the Khalsa brotherhood. It should be taken only by those who are fully mature enough to realize the commitment required and the significance. The initiate may be a man or woman of any caste or previous religion. Generally they are encouraged to start behaving, acting and looking like a Sikh before seeking baptism.
The baptism is done in a quiet place away from distractions where Sri Guru Granth Sahib has been installed. The initiate is required to wash their hair, cover their head, wear clean clothes and the 5K’s before presenting themselves before 6 amritdhari Sikhs (those who are already baptized). Five amritdhari Sikhs will conduct the ceremony while one reads Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The principals of Sikhism are explained to the initiate and this is followed by Ardas and taking of the Hukam (opening of Sri Guru Granth Sahib to a random page and reading of a hymn). Amrit (sweet sugar water) is prepared in a steel bowl and stirred with a Kirpan by the five beloved ones while Japuji, Jaap, Ten Sawayyas, Bainti Chaupai and 6 verses from Anand Sahib are recited.
This is followed by Ardas and the initiate drinking the Amrit five times in cupped hands and exclaiming Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh (The Pure Belong to God, Victory to God). Amrit is then sprinkled on the hair and eyes of the initiate and any leftover is drunk by all present. This is followed by an explanation of the code of conduct and discipline required for a Khalsa.
The Khalsa is required to wear the 5K’s and abstain from 1) cutting hair, 2) eating Muslim halal meat, 3) cohabiting with a person other than ones spouse and 4) using intoxicants such as tobacco. Other breaches of the code of conduct are also explained before Ardas is once again repeated. This is followed by taking Hukam and eating of Karah Parshad (sacred pudding) from a common bowl. If a person does not have a Sikh name, they take a new name at this time.
In Sikhism death is considered a natural process and God’s will. Any public displays of grief at the funeral such as wailing or crying out loud are discouraged. Cremation is the preferred method of disposal, although if it is not possible any other method such as burial or submergence at sea are acceptable.
Worship of the dead with gravestones, etc. is discouraged, because the body is considered to be only the shell, the person’s soul is their real essence. The body is usually bathed and clothed by family members and taken to the cremation grounds. There hymns are recited which induce feeling of detachment are recited by the congregation. As the body is being cremated, Kirtan Sohila the nighttime prayer is recited and Ardas is offered.
The ashes are disposed of by immersing them in the nearest river. A non continuos reading of the entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib is undertaken and timed to conclude on the tenth day. This may be undertaken at home or in the Gurdwara. The conclusion of this ceremony marks the end of the mourning period.
Important anniversaries associated with the lives of the Gurus are referred to as Gurpurbs. These are usually marked at gurdwaras with Akhand Path (continuos cover to cover reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib) concluding on the specific day. There is also kirtan (musical recitation of hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib) as well as katha (lectures on Sikhism).
Some places also have nagar kirtan, where there is a procession with Sri Guru Granth Sahib led by 5 Sikhs carrying Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag). Free sweets and langar are also offered to the general public outside some gurdwaras.
Among the larger Gurpurb celebrations are:
Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (Founder’s Day)
First installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Golden Temple by Guru Arjan Dev Ji
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji
Birth of Guru Gobind Singh Ji
Martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji
Martyrdom of the Sahibzadas
This is the time when the sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the next, it is the start of the new month in the Indian calendar. The beginning of the new month is announced in the gurdwaras by the reading of portions of Bara Maha, Song of the 12 Months, by Guru Arjan Dev (pg. 133) or sometimes Bara Maha by Guru Nanak Dev (pg. 1107).
This day just marks the beginning of the new month and is not treated as being greater or better than any other day.