I was born into a Sikh family and my grandfather, who arrived in the Black Country in the 1950s, became a devout Sikh – he used Sikh principles and values to earn an honest living and live in what could be described as a hostile environment for many immigrants at the time.
Sikhism is the world’s fifth-largest organised religion, founded by Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The tenth master, Sri Guru Gobind Singh, was born on 22 December 1666 in Patna, Bihar, India. Unlike many of the other gurus, there is no argument over the date of the birthday of Gobind Singh, but as the original western calendar date was set using the Julian calendar in 1666, there can be some variances on the date it is celebrated (which is usually in January).
I’ve always admired the principles of the Sikh faith and its parallels with other religions such as Christianity and Buddhism. As a warrior religion, Sikhs were often persecuted during the times of the gurus and only took up arms as a last resort – it is a faith based on peace and honesty.
Sikhs believe in one God who guides and protects them. They believe everyone is equal before God. Sikhs believe that your actions are important and you should lead a good life. They believe the way to do this is through the following principles:
- Honest earning with dignity and labor: to earn one’s livelihood through creative, productive and honest labour (Kirt Karna)
- To share the fruits of earnings with the needy: sharing with and caring for the needy and sick; helping those people who cannot help themselves (Wand Chhakna)
- Meditation on the Divine Name with love and devotion (Nam Japna)
The Sikh principle to serve others selflessly known as sewa has really come to the fore in recent times. Many Sikhs and Sikh organisations have really stepped up to help those in need during the pandemic with support to the homeless, feeding the needy (through the Sikh concept of angar or ‘free kitchen’) and supporting those who are isolated and lonely. Just this week, a notable global NGO based on Sikh values received the Nobel Peace Prize nomination for their work across humanitarian efforts – it is inbuilt in Sikhs to serve others.
History of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji (5 January 1667 – 21 October 1708)
Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth of the Sikh gurus. Following the death of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Gobind Singh became the leader of the Sikhs when he was only nine years old.
Famed as a great warrior, poet, and philosopher, his contributions to Sikhism were many including the tradition of covering one's hair with a turban. Many Sikhs wear the turban as a symbol of their faith.
Guru Gobind Singh initiated the Khalsa order (‘the pure’), the highest order that can be reached by Sikhs and prescribed the names ‘Singh’ meaning ‘lion’ and ‘Kaur’ meaning ‘princess’ for males and females respecitvely to remind them of courage and dignity in their day to day lives.
A baptised Sikh would also carry the kirpan or small sword which reminds them that it is their duty to protect their faith and defend those in need. It reminds Sikhs to always fight for justice and protect the weak and not use their arms in anger. Today, the kirpan is worn for its symbolism rather than as an actual weapon.
Guru Gobind Singh was the last of the living Sikh gurus, and before he left his earthly life, he passed the guruship of the Sikhs to the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred holy book of the Sikhs. The Granth Sahib then became the 11th and Eternal Sikh Guru which Sikhs abide by to this day.
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