Key Terms on Sikhism
Key Terms for the Lecture on Sikhism:
1. Sufism: In Islam, there was “Sufism”, the Islamic mystical tradition (some scholars
maintain that Sufism derived much early inspiration from Hinduism)
2. Sant tradition: There was also the North Indian “Sant tradition” (the term “Sant” may
carry the meaning of “holy ascetic”, “truth” or “saint”) Three elements contributed to the
rise of the Sant tradition:
1. Bhakti or devotional practice
2. Tantric yoga
3. Sant poets: Ascetic poets who believed divinity to exist beyond all forms of description.
There were many influential Sant poets, including Namdev, Ravidas, Kabir
4. Nanak: The first teacher: Nanak (1469-1539). Composed more than 900 hymns,
compiled as the Adi Granth. He said he had experienced God directly, and the experience
revealed to him was that:
there is only one God, beyond all names and conceptions. Style of clothing of Nanak:
Deliberately blended Hindu and Muslim elements, wore a Hindu dhoti, along with an
orange Muslim coat and cap, and adorned his forehead with Hindu religious markings
(tilak). Sensing his own end approaching at age 70, Nanak passed on his authority and
work to a chosen disciple. Nanak is commonly called “Guru Nanak”, and is recognized as
the first of a line of “Ten Gurus”. Nanak accepted a belief in reincarnation and karma,
though he resisted Hindu rituals and disdained Hindu polytheism. Also criticized both
Islam and Hinduism for their deficiencies in helping the poor and the oppressed. Nanak’s
view of God: although God is beyond personhood, God has “personal” qualities such as
knowledge, love, justice, and compassion.Nanak saw God as the primary guru.
5. Adi Granth: Literally, ‘original book’; first complied by Guru Arjan in 1604 & invested
with supreme authority as the Guru Granth Sahib after the death of Guru Gobind Singh.
6. Sat Guru: Guru Nanak referred to the fundamental divine reality as the “Sat Guru” (True
Teacher) or “Om kara” (Divine One). He insisted that God should be experienced, rather
than talked about. There is no Hindu and there is no Muslim (the movement did not bring
into consideration Jainism and Buddhism). In spiritual training, the Sikhs should reject
ego-centered living and embrace the inner life of opening to the divine Sat Guru within
7. Om kara: Divine One
8. Mardana: Nanak and his friend Mardana visited the holy sites throughout northern India
Nanak preached, sought disciples (“Sikh”), and sang devotional songs, while Mardana
played musical accompaniment. Nanak was raised in a Hindu family, while Mardana was
9. Sikh: the disciples sought by Nanak when he visited the holy sites in Northern India and
10. Angad: The second guru. Guru Angad (1504-1552). Developed the Gurmukhi, which is
the script of the Punjabi language. The fact that this language is chosen shows the
rejection of all languages used in other religions.
11. Amardas: The third guru. Guri Amardas (1479-1574). Developed the Bani. Instituted
celebrations like Baisakhi & Diwali. He abolished the wearing of the veil and sati, and
permitted widows to remarry. Appointed women missionaries.
12. Ramdas: The fourth Guru. Guru Ramdas (1534-1581). Construction of a large pool in
Amritsar which became a place of pilgrimage. Later used for the construction of the
Golden Temple. Added to the liturgy. Expanded the number of ragas & melodies.
13. Arjan: Guru Arjan (1563-1606) This is when Jahangir comes into rule. Constructed the
Golden Temple.. The next stage began with the fifth Guru, Arjan (1563-1606), son of
Ramdas . Arjan created the sacred book of the Sikhs, the Adi Granth (“original
collection”). Canonized the Adi Granth. In 1606, he was executed by Jahangir which was
seen as martyrdom
14. Hargobind(1595-1644): Arjan’s son, Hargobind, took a more self-defensive direction,
adopted the practice of wearing a sword. He constructed the Akal Takhat (Throne of the
Timeless Being) facing the Darbar Sahib, to resolve internal disputes within the
community. Under his leadership, the Sikh Panth took up arms to defend itself against
15. Har Rai: The seventh guru (1630-61)
16. Harkishan: The eighth guru (1655-64)
17. Tegh Bahadur: The ninth guru (1621-75): This is the time period in which things with the
Mughal empire were getting worse. He encouraged his followers to be fearless in their
pursuit of a just society. Aurangzeb called Tegh Bahadur to his court to force him to
accept Islam, and when he refused, he was publicly executed.
18. Gobind Rai (Gobind Singh): The tenth Guru (died in 1708). Gobindrai, better known as
“Gobind Singh” (Gobind the lion), inaugurated a special military order for men, called
the Khalsa. He asked for a group of 5 are called the cherished 5 & he vested authority in
them. He wanted the community to be outwardly distinguished. Community initiates
them into khalsa. He closed off the Adi Granth & the succession of the Gurus.
19. Khalsa: Literally, ‘pure’ or ‘crown estate’; hence an order of Sikhs bound by common
identity & discipline. Gobindrai, better known as “Gobind Singh” (Gobind the lion),
inaugurated a special military order for men, called the Khalsa. The Khalsa was open to
all castes. All male within the Khalsa took the name Singh. Five practices were adopted
by the members of the Khalsa to promote strength and self-identity. To the westerners,
these five practices are known as the Five K’s.In addition, members were required to
avoid all intoxicants
20. Akbar: The emperor Akbar found Sikhism a tolerant monotheistic practice and regarded
the followers as a disciplined moral community. The successors of Akbar felt distrustful
about the Sikhs’ growth and political influences. It was in response to the growing
persecution that moved Sikhism to its next stage.
21. Kes: uncut hair and beard, symbolizing spirituality & saintliness
22. Kangha: Hair comb (wooden) symbolizing order & discipline in life
23. Kachh: short trousers symbolizing moral restraint
24. Kirpan: a miniature sword, symbolizing divine grace, dignity & courage.
25. Kara: a steel ‘wrist-ring’, signifying responsibility & allegiance to the Guru
26. Gurdwara: Literally, ‘Guru’s door’; the Sikh place of worship