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Sikhism was founded in the Punjab district of what is now India and Pakistan in the 15th century and is one of youngest popular world religions.
The founder of Sikhism is said to be Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak was one of the ten ”Enlightened Masters.” In the history of the Sikh religion, there were ten living masters or prophets who achieved Guru status. It is important to note that these Gurus were human beings, not Gods.
The Sikh scripture has also been given Guru status. This scripture is called the Guru Granth Sahib and Sikhism differs from many other religions because it is this scripture, rather than a living person or group of people that many Sikhs turn to when they need to consult a spiritual authority. The Guru Granth Sahib is given the same treatment and is showed the same respect as a human Guru would be shown. It is considered disrespectful to turn your back to the Guru Granth Sahib and shoes must always be worn in its presence. Because the scripture is considered to be a living master anyone who owns a copy of the scripture is usually required to give the Guru Granth Sahib its own room. The Guru Granth Sahib should also be kept atop a stack of pillows, covered by material when it is not being read from.
Sikhs believe in a single, formless, genderless God and they strive to achieve a close relationship with this God through meditation, treating people equally, being generous and working hard. Sikhs generally believe that it is more important to live an honest life and treat people well than to retreat from the world to pray and carry out religious rituals.
Most adult Sikhs belong to the Khalsa, which is a spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood. When a person is initiated into the Khalsa they are required to wear the ”Five Ks” to demonstrate their dedication to Sikhism.
The Five Ks:
- Kesh – Sikhs believe that since hair is natural and given by God it should not be cut. Most Sikhs (men and women) will therefore refrain from cutting all facial and body hair. Men will also wear turbans, which are said to represent crowns of spirituality.
- Katchera – This is cotton underwear worn as a reminder of purity and chastity.
- Kara – This is a steel bracelet worn to symbolize a commitment to truth.
- Khanga – This is a wooden comb worn to symbolize cleanliness.
- Kirpan – The kirpan is a sword carried to demonstrate a commitment to defending the truth.
Sikhism is generally accepting of other religions. It also welcomes people who are interested in converting or learning more about the faith.