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Philosophy of Sikhism and Sikh Gurus

Last Updated : 06 Sep, 2022
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Sikhism is an Indian religion that emerged in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent at the end of the 15th century CE. The Sanskrit term shishya, which means student or disciple, is where the word “Sikh” originates and the life, times, and teachings of Guru Nanak form the foundation of Sikhism (1469-1539). It evolved via the subsequent Gurus who manifested as the same divine light, and it culminated with the founding of Khalsa by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it was one of the newest majorly organized religions in the world, with 25–30 million Sikhs as its adherents.

Origin of Sikhism:

Hinduism and Islam, the two main religions in India, were becoming increasingly at odds when Sikhism first emerged. The Sikh faith’s founder, Guru Nanak, is frequently presented as serving as a bridge between the two diametrically opposed religions. Guru Nanak obtained enlightenment in Sultanpur in the year 1496. After achieving enlightenment, he traveled widely to spread the message of love and brotherhood. 

Throughout the sixteenth century, Guru Nanak’s disciples increased under his successors. Although they came from a range of castes, traders, farmers, artists, and craftspeople. They were also required to contribute to society with followers’ donations. Their culture significantly drew from the Vaishnava bhakti. According to Saints, God is nirgun (literally, ‘without form’), not sagun (literally, ‘with form’). 

The Khalsa order, or “The Pure,” was founded by Guru Gobind Singh, the last living guru. They are soldier-saints. The highest Sikh characteristics of devotion, dedication, and social conscience are upheld by the Khalsa.

Philosophy and Teachings:

Sikhism believes that there is one God i.e. Ek Onkar (“Ek” is One and “Onkar” is God). Everyone’s God is the same, regardless of their religion. Before the soul becomes the form of a human, it experiences cycles of birth and death. Our lives should be lived exemplarily in order to become one with God. 

Sikhs should constantly remember God, practice leading a moral and honest life, and strike a balance between their temporal and spiritual commitments. The true way to salvation and union with God does not need celibacy or renunciation, but rather leading a householder’s life, making an honest living, and abstaining from worldly temptations and sins.

Sikhism forbids blind rituals such as fasting, pilgrimage, superstitions, idolatry, etc. According to Sikhism, all persons are created equal by God, regardless of their color, religion, or gender. 

The basic teachings are: God is one and transcends all physical boundaries, Guru or teacher is the word or knowledge of the gurus, one must be willing to make sacrifices and unwavering in their commitment, avoid using alcohol and other intoxicants, one should not steal from others what is theirs by working honestly to gain money, it is important to uphold moral principles and avoid having adulterous relationships, it is improper to worship idols, etc.

Institutions and Practices in Sikhism:

  • Three duties a Sikh has to follow i.e. pray, work, and give. 
  • Three important teachings of Guru Nanak include Naam Japna which means to always keep God in mind, Kirat Karna means earning honestly and Vand Chhakna is giving to charity and showing concern for others.
  • The Takhts, which literally means “the seat of the divine power,” are the Sikhs’ sites of prayer. There are only five Takhts that exist. It is stated that “Takhts” are places where the Gurus carried out a variety of social and political settlements.
  • Gurudwara stands for ‘the doorway to the master’. 
  • The Khalsa are Sikh believers who have undergone baptism. They follow the Sikh Code of Conduct and Conventions and follow the five K’s: Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (wooden comb), Kara (iron bracelet), Kachera (cotton undergarments), and Kirpan (an iron knife).


The first Gurdwara (Sikh House of Worship) was built by Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru and founder of the Sikh faith, in India in the early 1500s. The Sangat (Sikh religious congregation) established the gurdwaras as gathering spots where they could engage in communal prayer by reciting and contemplating the songs found in the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scripture). Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh guru, coined the term “gurdwara” as the Sikh community grew. 

The leading gurdwaras are:

  • India’s most well-known Gurudwara is Hari Mandir Sahib. This Gurudwara, which is in Amritsar, is also known as the ‘Golden Temple’. The holy text known as the Adi Granth was deposited here in 1604 after Guru Arjan erected the cornerstone of this revered temple in 1588.
  • Nankana Sahib(Gurudwara) in Pakistan was the birth place of Guru Nanak Dev. 
  • The fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev, founded Kartarpur Sahib in 1594 in Punjab, next to the Beas River. 
  • Guru Arjan Dev, founded Sri Hargobindpur whereas the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind, founded Kiratpur Sahib in 1627 close to the Sutlej River. 
  • Additionally, Anandpur Sahib, in Punjab, India, was founded in 1665 by Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh founded the famous Paonta Sahib in 1685. Nankana Sahib (Pakistan): Birth place of Guru Nanak Dev.

History of Sikh Gurus:

There were ten Sikh Gurus in total. Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and subsequent gurus carried his teachings and objectives while also making a substantial contribution to the development of various institutions for the Sikh community. The ten Sikh Gurus are:

Guru Nanak (1469-1539):

Guru Nanak is credited as the founding father of Sikhism. He was born in Pakistan in the year 1469 in a location today known as Nankana Sahib. He made no claims to being a Hindu or a Muslim, only that he was a person of faith in God and the truth. Additionally, he advocated for the equality of all those who follow God. 
Guru Nanak spoke out against religious rites, pilgrimages, and the caste system while traveling around India and the Middle East. The caste system was used to divide society into many classes according to one’s level of income or one’s line of work. No matter what their previous creed, caste, or gender was, his disciples all ate in the communal kitchen (langar). He never urged anyone to adopt his beliefs; instead, he advised them to stick to their own religions and to continue having confidence in their own God.

He discussed the importance of having trust in and reflecting on the one true God, human unity, selfless service, social fairness, and conscientious behavior. He put a focus on Bhakti, or devotion to God. The Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred text of Sikhism, has 974 poetic hymns, or shabda, that represent Nanak’s words and his written works were incorporated into the Adi Granth by Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh guru. 

The Guru Nanak asks, “How can they be inferior when they give birth to men? Both men and women participate in God’s grace and are equally accountable to Him for their deeds. He laid the foundation for Sikhism’s three pillars, Naam Japna, Kirat Karni, and Vand Chakna. Aside from the Buddha and Mahavira, he was one of India’s most profound and important religious figures.

Guru Angad Dev(1504 – 1552):

He is the second Guru of Sikhism, born in 1504.  Guru Angad assembled Guru Nanak’s writings and his own teachings in a new script, known as Gurmukhi. It was the only script used to write the Sikh religion’s sacred texts. He was a strong proponent of education, established numerous schools, and contributed to the advancement of people’s reading and writing skills. He also started the practice of Mall Akhara, a type of religious and physical exercise.

Guru Amar Das (1479-1574):

Born in 1479, Guru Amar Das, campaigned against discrimination based on caste. He believed that regardless of wealth, everyone should be treated equally in society. He also expanded on Guru Nanak’s concept of the “free kitchen,” which held that all followers, regardless of wealth or background, should eat together. In doing so, he achieved some degree of accomplishment and increased human equality. He also established new practices that gave women greater liberty and equality, such as the Anand Karaj, a unique type of marriage ceremony.

Guru Ram Das (1534-1581):

In 1534, Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru, was born. The name of this newly established town was Ramdaspur, which eventually underwent a change to become Amritsar, the holiest city in Sikhism. In the Sikh tradition, he is also known for enlarging the manji organization to accommodate administrative positions and donation collecting to theologically and financially support the Sikh movement. He asked Mian Mir, a Muslim Sufi, to lay the foundation stone for the Harmandir Sahib.

Guru Arjan (1563-1606):

Guru Arjan was a distinguished scholar who was born in 1563. The Adi Granth, the Sikhs’ sacred texts, was put together by him. He also incorporated it into hymns honoring Muslim saints in an effort to reach as many people as possible with the texts. Additionally, he completed the work Guru Ram Das began on the Amritsar Golden Temple. To demonstrate that they welcomed people into the temple from everywhere and from all backgrounds, they built it with four doors that faced in four opposite directions. The Mughal Emperor Jahangir gave the order to assassinate Guru Arjan. The reason for this was that he felt Guru Arjan shouldn’t have included Islam in the Sikh sacred text.

Guru Hargobind (1595-1644):

The sixth Guru of the Sikh faith was Guru Hargobind. At the young age of eleven, he had become Guru following the death of his father, Guru Arjan, at the hands of the Mughal emperor Jahangir. He introduced the military into Sikhism, probably in response to his father’s execution and for the sake of safeguarding the Sikh community. He represented it by wearing two swords, which stand for the multiple meanings of Miri and Piri (temporal power and spiritual authority). He built the Akal Takht in front of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar (the throne of the timeless one). The Akal Takht is currently the Khalsa’s greatest point of earthly power.

Guru Har Rai (1630-1661):

Guru Har Rai, who was born in 1630, was a very peaceful ruler. He committed himself to undertake missionary activity and disseminating Guru Nanak’s teachings. This indicates that he traveled to different places to promote the teachings of the previous Sikh gurus and the Sikh religion. He also practiced meditation frequently and urged others to do the same. Despite being a man of great peace, he didn’t abolish the army that his grandfather, Guru Hargobind, had established. Instead, he kept a physical distance from it and refrained from using it to settle disputes with the Empire.

Guru Har Krishan (1656-1664):

He was born in 1656, and five years later he was ordained as a guru. Among all the Sikh gurus, he was the youngest. Being a humanitarian, Guru Har Krishan’s primary objectives were to aid others. He spent the majority of his brief life treating the smallpox outbreak that afflicted Delhi. No matter who they were or what religion they practiced, he assisted a lot of individuals. He, unfortunately, granted his life by helping others, but he eventually developed smallpox himself and passed away.

Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675):

Guru Tegh Bahadur, who led Sikhs from 1665 until his beheading in 1675, was the ninth of the ten Gurus. He was a revered spiritual scholar and poet whose 115 songs are included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the central text of Sikhism. He was regarded as a committed and fierce warrior. He was put to death at Aurangzeb’s command. Delhi’s Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib and Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, two Sikh sacred sites, commemorate the locations of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s execution and cremation. Every year on November 24th, the Shaheedi Divas of Guru Tegh Bahadur honor his martyrdom.

Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708):

Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, was a poet, philosopher, warrior, and spiritual leader. When Aurangzeb executed his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, he was formally installed as the Sikhs’ leader at the age of nine, becoming the tenth and last human Sikh Guru. His four biological sons died during his lifetime—two were killed in combat and two were put to death by Wazir Khan, the Mughal administrator. He established the Khalsa, a society of Sikh warriors, and the Five K’s. The five articles of faith that Khalsa Sikhs wear at all times are among his most important contributions to Sikhism. The Dasam Granth, whose hymns are an important component of Khalsa rites and Sikh prayers, is credited to Guru Gobind Singh. He is also credited with finalizing and establishing the Guru Granth Sahib as the central text of Sikhism and its immortal Guru.

11th Sikh Guru:

The Sikhs’ sacred text is the Guru Granth Sahib, which is regarded as the 11th Sikh Guru, sometimes also referred to as the Adi Granth. The Granth, which was penned in the Gurmukhi script, preserves the same phrases and verses that the Sikh Gurus spoke. Instead of any living person, it is regarded as the Supreme Spiritual Authority and Head of the Sikh religion.


Sikhs believe that five important events led to the creation of their religion. These teachings began with Guru Nanak’s message of liberation via meditation on the divine name. The second was when Guru Hargobind armed the Sikhs. The third was Guru Gobind Singh’s founding of the Khalsa, which had its own set of guidelines that all initiates had to adhere to. The mystical Guru was transferred from its ten human forms to the Guru Granth Sahib at his death, which was the fourth event. The Tat Khalsa launched a significant reform of Sikhism in the early twentieth century, which was the ultimate event. Sikhs hold that each person’s journey is distinct and that we are all still developing as we work to live truthfully.

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