The religion that believes in one God & equality of all, Sikhism is engrained in a series of customs & traditions – simple and practical guidelines laid out by the Gurus that mark the Sikh tradition, the discipline & religious ceremonies known as “Rehat Maryada” being the Code of Conduct including the important rites and rituals of the community. These customs preach simple living in the love of fellow humans & their service on the norms of Naam Simran - meditation in the name of God, Kirat Karni - living an honest & humble life of a house-holder and Wand kay Shako emphasizing upon sharing what one has with the community.
The general customs include the ceremonies of
After Sikhs go through the Amrit Ceremony of initiation they take new names & maintain a distinctive identity, which includes the five articles of faith as instituted for the Khalsa Panth—
To Sikhs, keeping hair uncut indicates that one is willing to accept God's gift as God intended it naturally, also regarded as a symbol of both holiness and strength signifying the adoption of a simple & humble life and denial of pride in one's appearance, rather what one achieves with service to mankind, thus reflecting spiritual maturity.
The Kada symbolises restraint and gentility having no beginning and no end eternally bound to the teachings of the Guru, acting as a reminder to not do anything of which the Guru would not approve.
The Kanga symbolizes a pure mind and body, just as it functionally keeps the uncut hair neat and tidy signifying the importance of looking after the body which God has created & presented us with.
Kachera is a pair of breeches that must not come below the knee, symbolising chastity.
The Kirpan symbolizes Spirituality acting as a metaphor for God, symbolising as the defence of the good and the weak and the struggle against injustice.
The Khanda or the Sikh Insignia constitutes three symbols in one - the name derives from the central symbol in the insignia, a special type of double-edged sword which restores the Sikhs' belief in One God, the sword being the creative power of God which controls the destiny of the whole creation - the sovereign power over life and death acting as a metaphor of Divine Knowledge, its sharp edges cleaving Truth from Falsehood.
The circle around the Khanda is the Chakar, being a circle with no beginning and no end it symbolizes the existence of the eternal being – the Almighty himself. The Chakar is surrounded by two curved swords called Kirpans that symbolize the twin concepts of Meeri and Peeri - Temporal and Spiritual authority, emphasizing upon the essentials that a Sikh must adopt in form of spiritual aspirations as well as obligations to society.
FESTIVALS & CELEBRATIONS
Sikhism comes to celebrate & observe important anniversaries & occasions, the significant ones being:
These are anniversaries marking significant occasions associated with the lives of the Gurus, celebrated by the ceremonial reading of the Akhand Path concluding on the very day of the occasion along with congregational sessions of Kirtans & Kathas, while processions are also held alongside. The significant Guruparvs are marked on the commemoration of the following occasions:
Baisakhi first came to be institutionalized & celebrated as a significant festival as declared by Guru Amar Das, for the Sikhs to gather & seek blessings at the Gurudwara at Goindwal in the year 1567. Later in 1699 it also came to mark the founding of the order of the Khalsa – the Khalsa Panth as initiated by Guru Gobind Singh ji, having gathered thousands at Anandpur Sahib & in thee congregational ceremony baptized the Panj Pyare – five brave Sikhs who put their lives at stake as sacrifice for the Guru by means of the Amrit Sanskar which has come to be celebrated around 13 April.
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The day is commemorated marking the return of Guru Hargobind from the imprisonment at Gwalior when the Golden Temple was illuminated with many lights in the year 1619 to celebrate his release, as is illuminated every year marked by the same event.
The occasion commemorates the martyrdom of the “Forty Immortals”, the forty followers of Guru Gobind Singh as they fought bravely against overwhelming Mughal army forces and were martyred thereafter blessed by Guru Gobind Singh & cremated at Muktsar, which hosts an annual fair marking the event, occurring on the first day of Makar Sankranti.
The Hola Mohalla festival is held around the month of March, a tradition established by Shri Guru Gobind Singh having become an annual affair held at Anandpur Sahib for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles as carried forward by the Nihang Singhs. The festival includes mock battles, exhibitions, display of weapons, etc. followed by kirtan, music and poetry competitions. The participants perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters with real weapons), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses and various other feats of bravery, the festival culminating in a large parade headed by the Nishan sahibas of the gurdwaras in the region.
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