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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of the Golden Temple?
The Harmandir Sahib (temple of God) was established by the fifth Guru, with the foundation stone being laid by Sain Mian Mir, a prominent Muslim. It was built with four doors to show that it was open to people of all castes and creeds. It was covered in gold leaf during the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and was labelled the Golden Temple by the British.

Is there a code of conduct for Sikhs?
There are two aspects to the Sikh code of conduct, the physical and the spiritual. The spiritual code is regarded as the prominent and it is this that is expounded on at length in the Sikh Scriptures. However the physical code is regarded as the fence around the spiritual conduct designed to nurture and protect it.

The spiritual code of conduct enjoins a Sikh to rise early in the morning and sing the praises of God, to earn an honest living and to shares the fruits of that living with the less well off, to gather with others of the faith to sing Gods praises and to enjoin others to do the same.

The physical discipline designed to re-enforce the spiritual well being of the Sikh includes the prohibition on cutting hair which symbolises the Sikh’s acceptance of the will of God, the prohibition on adultery to strengthen moral fibre, the prohibition on tobacco or any other drug or intoxicant showing the acceptance by the Sikh of the body as a temple of God and the prohibition on
eating meat from ritually killed animals, showing the Sikhs independent faith which is not beholden to other faiths.

What do Sikhs wear?
Sikhs live in many countries of the world and usually wear what is customary in that country. Men generally wear turbans to cover their hair and women often keep their hair covered with a scarf.

What is the origin of Sikh names?

After a child is born the parents visit the gurudwara, pray and open the Guru Granth Sahib at random. The first letter of the first hymn on that page is taken as the first letter of the child‘s name. The second name of a boy is usually Singh and for a girl is Kaur. These names were given to all Sikhs by the tenth Guru on the first Vaisakhi when the Khalsa was initiated.

How do you become a Sikh?
A Sikh is any person who believes in:

  • one God
  • the ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh
  • the Guru Granth Sahib
  • the utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and
  • the Amrit bequeathed by the tenth Guru.

A Sikh does not owe allegiance to any other religion. Although the majority of Sikhs have origins in the Panjab, there are many people of different races who have become Sikhs.

What are the main Sikh ceremonies or rites of passage?
At birth the child is taken to the Gurdwara to be named as indicated above.
The ‘Khande di Pahul’ or Amrit is an initiation ceremony which brings a person into membership of the Khalsa.
The marriage ceremony, based on the potential of creating a happy and loving life and home together, takes place in the gurdwara with the couple sitting in front of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Sikhs are usually cremated and the daily bedtime prayer is read during the cremation. Family and friends will normally gather at a gurdwara where relevant hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib are sung.

What are the main Sikh festivals?
Vaisakhi, celebrated on 13 or 14 April each year is the most important date in the Sikh calendar and commemorates the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh Ji on Vaisakhi Day in 1699. Sikhs also commemorate the birth anniversaries of the Gurus. Most significant celebrations occur in November for the birth of Guru Nanak and December/January for the birth of Guru Gobind Singh. The martyrdom days of Guru Arjun Dev (June) and Gur Tegh Bahadur (November/December) are also important commemorations. Bandhi Chorr Divas is celebrated on the same day as the Hindu festival of Diwali, as the sixth Guru was freed from the prison fort of Gwalior, and arranged the release of other prisoners of conscience, and after his release, arrived in Amritsar on this day.

How many Sikhs are there in the world today?
There are more than twenty million Sikhs in the world today and most of them live in the Panjab where they form 60% of the population compared to 2% of the population of India as a whole. Approximately 600,000 live in Britain forming the largest community outside India. There are another 450,000 in the USA and Canada and a number of smaller communities in many countries including East Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Iran, Fiji, Australia, Thailand, Germany and Hong

How has Sikhism changed or adapted to contemporary Britain?
Whilst the gurdwaras continue to be a strong feature of community life, many young Sikhs, born and brought up away from India, have become organised, creating a new culture which bridges the traditional and the contemporary. Many Sikhs occupy responsible professional positions whilst others have suffered discrimination - in the early period Sikh men often found it difficult to get jobs until they stopped wearing turbans. Whilst women play a leading role in the services and organisation of the gurdwaras and have jobs outside the home there are different expectations for men and women within the family. As with all other communities their lives today are determined by economic, political and social circumstances as well as cultural and religious factors.

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