Sikh Festivals and Sikhism Obervances
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Home: Religion: Sikhism: Sikh Festivals & Observances.

Sikh Festivals and Observances

Festivals in Sikhism mostly centre around the lives of the Gurus and Sikh martyrs.

Sikh Festivals

Festivals in Sikhism mostly centre around the lives of the Gurus and Sikh martyrs. The SGPC, the Sikh organisation in charge of upkeep of the gurdwaras, organizes celebrations based on the new Nanakshahi calendar. This calendar is highly controversial among Sikhs and is not universally accepted.

Several festivals (Hola Mohalla, Diwali, and Nanak's birthday) continue to be celebrated using the Hindu calendar. Sikh festivals include the following:

  • Gurpurabs are celebrations or commemorations based on the lives of the Sikh gurus. They tend to be either birthdays or celebrations of Sikh martyrdom. All ten Gurus have Gurpurabs on the Nanakshahi calendar, but it is Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh who have a gurpurab that is widely celebrated in Gurdwaras and Sikh homes. The martyrdoms are also known as a shaheedi Gurpurab, which mark the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur.
     
  • Vaisakhi or Baisakhi normally occurs on 13 April and marks the beginning of the new spring year and the end of the harvest. Sikhs celebrate it because on Vaisakhi in 1699, the tenth guru, Gobind Singh, laid down the Foundation of the Khalsa an Independent Sikh Identity.
     
  • Bandi Chhor Divas or Diwali celebrates Guru Hargobind's release from the Gwalior Fort, with several innocent Hindu kings who were also imprisoned by Jahangir, on 26 October 1619.
     
  • Hola Mohalla occurs the day after Holi and is when the Khalsa Panth gather at Anandpur and display their warrior skills, including fighting and riding.

Sikh Observances


Observant Sikhs adhere to long-standing practices and traditions to strengthen and express their faith. The daily recitation from memory of specific passages from the Gurū Granth Sāhib, especially the Japu (or Japjī, literally chant) hymns is recommended immediately after rising and bathing. Family customs include both reading passages from the scripture and attending the gurdwara (also gurduārā, meaning the doorway to God; sometimes transliterated as gurudwara). There are many gurdwaras prominently constructed and maintained across India, as well as in almost every nation where Sikhs reside. Gurdwaras are open to all, regardless of religion, background, caste, or race.

Worship in a gurdwara consists chiefly of singing of passages from the scripture. Sikhs will commonly enter the temple, touch the ground before the holy scripture with their foreheads, and make an offering. The recitation of the eighteenth century ardās is also customary for attending Sikhs. The ardās recalls past sufferings and glories of the community, invoking divine grace for all humanity.

The most sacred shrine is the Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar, famously known as the Golden Temple. Groups of Sikhs regularly visit and congregate at the Harimandir Sahib. On specific occasions, groups of Sikhs are permitted to undertake a pilgrimage to Sikh shrines in the province of Punjab in Pakistan, especially at Nankana Sahib and other Gurdwaras. Other places of interest to Sikhism in Pakistan includes the samādhī (place of cremation) of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore.

Sikhism Ceremonies and Religious Customs

Nanak taught that rituals, religious ceremonies, or idol worship is of little use and Sikhs are discouraged from fasting or going on pilgrimages. However, during the period of the later gurus, and owing to increased institutionalisation of the religion, some ceremonies and rites did arise. Sikhism is not a proselytizing religion and most Sikhs do not make active attempts to gain converts. However, converts to Sikhism are welcomed, although there is no formal conversion ceremony.

The morning and evening prayers take about two hours a day, starting in the very early morning hours. The first morning prayer is Guru Nanak's Jap Ji. Jap, meaning "recitation", refers to the use of sound, as the best way of approaching the divine. Like combing hair, hearing and reciting the sacred word is used as a way to comb all negative thoughts out of the mind. The second morning prayer is Guru Gobind Singh's universal Jaap Sahib. The Guru addresses God as having no form, no country, and no religion but as the seed of seeds, sun of suns, and the song of songs. The Jaap Sahib asserts that God is the cause of conflict as well as peace, and of destruction as well as creation. Devotees learn that there is nothing outside of God's presence, nothing outside of God's control. Devout Sikhs are encouraged to begin the day with private meditations on the name of God.

Upon a child's birth, the Guru Granth Sāhib is opened at a random point and the child is named using the first letter on the top left-hand corner of the left page. All boys are given the middle name or surname Singh, and all girls are given the middle name or surname Kaur. Sikhs are joined in wedlock through the anand kāraj ceremony. Sikhs are required to marry when they are of a sufficient age (child marriage is taboo), and without regard for the future spouse's caste or descent. The marriage ceremony is performed in the company of the Guru Granth Sāhib; around which the couple circles four times. After the ceremony is complete, the husband and wife are considered "a single soul in two bodies."

According to Sikh religious rites, neither husband nor wife is permitted to divorce. A Sikh couple that wishes to divorce may be able to do so in a civil court—but this is not condoned. Upon death, the body of a Sikh is usually cremated. If this is not possible, any means of disposing the body may be employed. The kīrtan sōhilā and ardās prayers are performed during the funeral ceremony (known as antim sanskār).

Baptism and the Khalsa

Khalsa (meaning "pure") is the name given by Gobind Singh to all Sikhs who have been baptised or initiated by taking ammrit in a ceremony called ammrit sañcār. The first time that this ceremony took place was on Vaisakhi, which fell on 29 March 1698/1699 at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. It was on that occasion that Gobind Singh baptised the Pañj Piārē who in turn baptised Gobind Singh himself.

Baptised Sikhs are bound to wear the Five Ks (in Punjabi known as pañj kakkē or pañj kakār), or articles of faith, at all times. The tenth guru, Gobind Singh, ordered these Five Ks to be worn so that a Sikh could actively use them to make a difference to their own and to others' spirituality. The 5 items are: kēs (uncut hair), kaṅghā (small comb), kaṛā (circular iron bracelet), kirpān (dagger), and kacchā (special undergarment). The Five Ks have both practical and symbolic purposes.
 

 
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