The Sikh Religion
Development of Sikhism: The Sikh religion is based on the guru-disciple relationship. The very word ‘Sikh’ comes from the term ‘Shishya’, which means disciple. And in Sikhism, the role of the Guru is very significant, for he is the link who connects man with man and ultimately with God. Since the Guru is the bridge between man and God, he must be perfect in all respects. The Sikh Gurus were perfect and are considered as such in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
India is a vast country with a rich and varied heritage. In this unique country are followed several religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism.
Unlike other religions, Sikhism is comparatively a young religion. It is less than six hundred years old, for its founder Guru Nanak was born only in 1469.
When Guru Nanak appeared on the scene, India was being ruled by Muslim kings. In their enthusiasm to convert non-muslims to Islam, these rulers oppressed their subjects in several ways. They imposed the Jezia – a religious tax paid by all non-Muslims. The most important posts were reserved only for the Muslims. To add to their misery, some ruthless rulers showed open disrespect to some non-Muslim places of worship.
As if the tyrannical Muslim rulers were not bad enough for the Hindus, their own ‘Pandits’ and ‘Brahmins’ too had begun to exploit them by forcing upon them futile and expensive ceremonies and rituals. Such acts of the religious preachers only helped to strengthen the evil caste system.
Religious Corruption of 15th Century
It was not only Hinduism that went downhill; even Islam witnessed deterioration. In fact, both religions were corrupted by the high priests and religious authorities of their respective faiths.
At this juncture, when Guru Nanak offered them the simple ‘Sikh Religion’ teaching the ‘Oneness of God’, there were many willing followers. According to Guru Nanak, there is but one God, whose name is Truth. He cites this simple concept in the following three magic words: ‘EK OMKAR SATNAM’.
Guru Nanak thought of God as the supreme being: universal, all-powerful, and truthful. He placed TRUTH and GOD above all religious ceremonies and manifestations. All the other Sikh Gurus who followed Guru Nanak preached his teachings and wisdom, which they repeated in their own characteristic way.
These teachings by the Sikh Gurus are compiled in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the living Guru of the Sikhs in form of the Holy Book. It includes hymns by the Sikh Gurus as well as those of Hindu, Muslim, and the so-called untouchable saints and sages. It is written in the spoken idiom of the people to whom the Masters delivered their message of devotion to God and service to humanity. The Sikhs regard the Granth Sahib as the embodiment of their Gurus, who are thought of as only one person the light of the first Guru’s soul having been transmitted to each of his successors in turn. So traditionally It is only Nanak who is the Guru, and the rest of the 9 Gurus are his Embodiments.
Development of Sikhism From Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh
Beginning with Guru Nanak Sahib, the line of the Gurus came to an end with Guru Gobind Singh. He ordered that after him the Sikhs should regard the Guru Granth Sahib as the living Guru. Even though Guru Nanak’s teachings formed the basic principles of Sikhism, under the later Sikh Gurus the religion acquired a militant complexion. This was primarily due to the executions of Guru Arjan Dev Ji and Guru Tegh Bahadur at the hands of the Mughal rulers.
After Guru Nanak’s death in 1539, Guru Angad became the next Guru. After Guru Angad’s death in 1552, Guru Amardas succeeded him. Like the founder, Guru Angad and Guru Amardas had set before their disciples very high examples of personal conduct. Guru Amardas died in 1574. He was succeeded by Guru Ramdas, one of the most revered Gurus, to whom goes the credit for creating a rallying center in Amritsar.
His successor Guru Arjan assembled the hymns of his predecessors and compiled these, along with his own and those of other Indian saints, into the Granth Sahib. Guru Arjan’s increasing Popularity among Hindus and Muslims aroused suspicion in the mind of Emperor Jehangir. He ordered that Guru Arjan should be tortured and put to death. When Guru Arjan was cruelly put to death by Jehangir, the Sikhs became livid with rage. They took up arms against their oppressors.
In his book, The Sikhs, General Gordon states:
This became the turning point of their history and started the struggle which changed the whole character of the reformatory movement. Thus the seeds of political leadership were sown. After his father Guru Arjan’s execution, the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind inspired the Sikhs with his own spirit of revenge and hatred towards their oppressors.
Entry of Militia Element by Guru Hargobind
Guru Hargobind was primarily a saint, a Guru, the sixth indirect spiritual inheritance from Guru Nanak. He had taken to martial ways with a view to creating among his people a will to resist and preparing them to stand up to the tyranny and oppression of the ruling race. It was Guru Hargobind who militarized the Sikhs. Under his able guidance and stewardship, new members were added in great numbers to the band of disciples.
Guru Hargobind was succeeded by Guru Har Rai, whose assistance to the fugitive philosopher Prince Dara Shikoh excited Aurangzeb’s wrath. Aurangzeb wreaked his vengeance upon Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru, who had stood up for the cause of the Kashmiri Brahmins, whom Aurangzeb wished to convert to Islam.
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur and his Family
Aurangzeb ordered the beheading of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Already the hatred against their oppressors was steadily mounting and the execution of the ninth guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, father of Guru Gobind Singh seemed the climax that helped establish, Sikhism as a religion and a military power to reckon with.
Guru Gobind Singh the tenth and last of the Gurus, was impressed by the idea that God had been sending saviors from time to time to uphold righteousness and destroy evil. He felt that he himself had this mission to perform in his own country which suffered under the yoke of religious and political tyranny.
Thus, the Sikhs found in their tenth and last guru, Guru Gobind Singh, “the combined qualities of a religious leader, king, warrior and lawgiver.“
Nurturing of Sikh Religion Under the Light of 10 Gurus
A brief discussion on How the Sikh Religion originated from the land of Punjab, and how it evolved from the Spiritual words of Nanak to the Divine sword of his 10th Embodiment.