He who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God.– Guru Nanak
Sikhism was founded in the late 15th century by Guru Nanak in the Punjab region of (then unified) India, the members are known as Sikhs and their faith is called ‘Gurmat’ meaning ‘the way of Guru’. After being established by Guru Nanak, it was led by nine successors, but Sikhs believe that all the ten Gurus were inhabited by a single spirit. After the death of the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh in 1708, his spirit was transformed into the holy book Guru Granth Sahib, a.k.a. Adi Granth. (You can find a detailed history on the Britannica Encyclopaedia site.)
Naam Japna: Keeping God in mind through the day and night during every activity.
Kirat Karo: Livelihood must be earned through honest and earnest efforts.
Vand Chakko: Selflessly serve others, share what has been bestowed upon you.
The Five Articles of Faith
The most iconic visual of a Sikh is his turban, any man with a turban and his beard is instantly recognised as a Sardar (Sikh). According to Sikhism, hair is a part of God’s creation and should not be cut, thus every follower of the doctrine will have long hair which would be neatly tucked away in a turban. Many also believe that this takes their mind off the aspect of their personal appearance, keeping them above their worldly desires and helps them focus more on God.
Along with the uncut hair (kesh), the other four articles of faith are wooden comb for the hair (kangha), an iron bracelet (kara), a cotton undergarment (kacheri) and a sword or a dagger (kirpan).
Kirpan’s etymology comes from two words ‘Kirpa’ meaning mercy and ‘aanaa’ meaning honour. As Sikhs are expected to live a life of a holy soldier, they have to keep a Kirpan with them at all times to be of service to the ones who treated wrongfully.
Equality and Service to Mankind
Sikhism is one of the few religions in the world that believes that every human is equal. They do not distinguish amongst people based on race, caste, region or even religion. For them, every person is born equal in the eyes of God and to serve mankind as equals is one of the main doctrines of Sikhism
Sikhs’ place of worship, Gurudwara, usually has a place for langar in it. Langar is a community meal service that is offered by Sikhs without distinction of any kind. The meal that is served is free for everyone and is vegetarian. The people that eat there can offer help in many forms, some help by serving the food while some by cleaning the utensils or even by shining shoes of people visiting the Gurudwara, it is one of the most humbling sights of humankind.
Sikhs are known for the help that they provide and usually come to light during difficult times when Sikhism shines a bright light on humankind. They usually provide shelter or langar to the ones in need during their darkest hours, some when protesting, some when surviving the mother nature, the most notable ones in the recent times are
Syria – 2015
Langar-Aid is an extension of UK based NGO Khalsa Aid. It served langar in one of the most dangerous places on Earth, Syria. Instead of providing their usual meals, Langar Aid was setting up bakeries in Syria. It served more than 14,000 refugees daily.
Paris Attacks – 2015
A series of coordinated terror attacks took place in Paris on 13th Nov 2015. The attacks were in the form of suicide bombing and mass shootings. This is when the Sikh community opened their doors and hearts to the city. They provided food, shelter and free rides across Paris along with blood donation camps. This support was provided by United Sikhs, a U.N. affiliated civil rights and humanitarian non-profit organization.
Maharashtra Drought – 2016
In the 2016 drought took hold of some parts in Maharashtra in India. The people in villages were scrambling for drinking and usable water. This is when Khalsa Aid came into action, they bought water at twice the price and gave it to the people in the state.
Bushfires – Australia – 2019
Australia saw one of the worst disasters, a bushfire that lasted for more than half a year. During this trying time, the Sikh community came forward to help the ones affected and the ones supporting relief work. Many organizations and individual volunteers alike, came forward and helped by providing free meals, medical and grocery supplies along with other essential needs to victims and relief workers.
Coronavirus – Delhi – 2020
During the Pandemic of Covid-19, Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee has made the kitchen of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib ready to serve 40,000 meals a day, keeping in mind the migrants stuck in the city and low-income houses in need of help. The regulations of safe distance and sanitization were closely adhered to during this difficult time.
Black Lives Matter – 2020
After the killing of George Floyd, America has been seeing a very strong protest against Police Brutality and Racism. The protestors are there for hours at a stretch and the Gurdwara Sahib of Queens Village in New York are there to help, serving food during the protest to the protestors. (You can read more about Black Lives Matter here)
There are many such incidents where the community has risen above the barriers that our society has constructed. Sikhism is one of the religions that truly understands the meaning of humanitarianism and keeps it in the code of conduct of their religion itself. If there is something you wish to learn from this community, then it should be ‘how and when to be of aid’.
As always, Thanks for Reading.