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5 Things You Did Not Know About Sikhism

Sikhism, or Sikhi, is one of the largest religions in the world. The Sikh community focuses on three major teachings and emphasizes unity and equality of all humankind. Though many beliefs and theories differ by family, the following ideas are widely recognized and accepted.

1. Sikh and Gurus

The Sikh community believes in Sikhism, and the language we speak is called Punjabi. Sikhism was founded by the first Sikh Guru who preached a message of love and selflessness, while criticizing religions who blindly followed rituals, superstitions and idol traditions. Sikh translates to a learner, student or disciple who follows the teachings of the eleven Sikh gurus. Guru translates to teacher and Sikhism has eleven teachers who we have been taught the message of God through.

2. Pronunciation

There has always been major confusion from onlookers and within the Sikh community of what the correct pronunciation of Sikh is. Some believe it is pronounced as “sick”, while others believe it is pronounced “seek”. Personally, my family and I pronounce it as seek. This is because we like to think of ourselves as Sikh’s being learners and seekers of knowledge and understanding. Though there are differing opinions, the teachings, messages and major directions are the same.

3. Singh and Kaur

Though there are many Sikhs all over the world, it is very uncommon to the average person that every Sikh male has the middle name of Singh (pronounced sing) and every female has the middle name of Kaur (pronounced kore). Singh translates to lion, whereas Kaur translates to princess. Though it is currently used as a middle name, my great grandparents tell me that originally it was used as a last name. Women were considered the property of their parents and then their husbands and this was symbolized by women being given the husband’s last name. When the first guru created the names of Singh and Kaur, the goal was to diminish the belief that women are the property of men and diminishing the tradition where women are given the males last name in order to symbolize who she belongs to. Further, the translation of Singh to lion and Kaur to princess is not associated with inequality, but women and men being able to identify themselves as separate and equal beings.

4. One God

A common misconception in Sikhism is the confusion between Gurus and God. To clarify, Gurus are simply our teachers who we have learned about God and our teachings through. There are ten Gurus of the Sikhs in human form, and the eleventh Guru is a compilation of the Gurus teachings and messages in form of a text. The eleventh guru is regarded as the final and eternal Guru and outlines the major teachings and lessons of Sikhism. The one God that Sikhs believe in does not have an image and is considered to be everywhere and within us. God is also neither male nor female, which further exemplifies the fact that gender equality is a major ideology for Sikhs.

5. Temple

The Sikh temple is formally known as the Gurdwara, meaning the door to the guru. People of all faiths are welcome in the temple, and while inside a head covering must be worn to show respect towards God. It is quite unknown, but the Sikh temple is also a free community kitchen. Anyone is allowed to enter and eat a meal and any volunteer is allowed to help prepare food or wash dishes. This stems from the fact that one of our major teachings is selflessness and service. This means that Sikhs should focus on volunteering and giving those in need extra assistance. This practice in Sikh temples also emphasizes the principles of service, humility and equality. Further, when praying, everyone sits on the floor to reinforce the idea of seeing everyone as equal and no person or cast being above another.

Thank you for reading! I hope you have gained some insight into the Sikh religion! If you are ever in need of a meal, any Gurdwara will provide you with a free meal and shelter.

Isha Pabla

Wilfrid Laurier '24

Writing has always been a passion of Isha's, and while pursuing a major in business and computer science, she finds it wonderful to be able to exercise her creativity and activism with Her Campus. Isha enjoys writing about social justice issues, community engagement and social wellness.
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