Sikhism is the fifth largest official religion in the world, boasting numbers of well over 20 million international followers. Its core teachings originate from Guru Nanak Dev and his ten successors (Sikh Gurus), and the religion was originally founded in the 15th century. This religion is also known as Sikh Dharma or Gurmat, which refers to the fact that its basic teachings are from gurus (as opposed to an almighty God or holy, inspired scriptures).

Sikhs believe in a Universal God, Waheguru. Their faith is demonstrated by a highly disciplined form of meditation on God, his name and his message. This faith is rewarded by salvation. God is omnipresent and infinite. However, God and the Universe are held as one and the same, with the same values, requirements and powers. So, rather than follow any teachings of God, Sikh followers obey the teachings of the gurus, who were deemed to be spiritually enlightened. Six of these gurus also wrote works on values and principles, which are followed in much the same way as Christians obey the Bible. Guru Nanak Dev said, "Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living". This is the purpose of every Sikh’s life – to understand truth and to live accordingly.
Image of Golden Temple in Amritsar, India - holy temple of the Sikhs
Golden Temple in Amritsar, India - holy temple
of the Sikhs

Sikhism promotes the belief that all humans, regardless of gender, age, religion, nationality, and so on, are equal. There is no tolerance for discrimination of any kind. In addition, Sikhs do not believe that self-denial is an essential part of salvation but, rather, that living a wholesome life is.

The ultimate reward for following the religion faithfully is a spiritual union with God. Should followers succumb to a weakness for worldly pleasures, discriminations etc..., they will be punished by a never-ending cycle of reincarnation. Although worldly possessions are not shunned, an attachment to them is believed to distract one from the importance of worship, and focusing on God and his name. Furthermore, these worldly goods only bring temporary and superficial happiness. Nanak asserted that true happiness and, therefore, salvation comes only from a strict devotion to God and the teachings of the gurus. This devotion is not about specific actions and rituals, but about the heart, mind and soul.

Another very important part of this religion and the gaining of salvation is the giving of personal goods, food and donations to charities and the community in general. This identifies Sikhs as standing apart from others and promotes the ideals of generosity and peace towards all.

Strict Sikhs observe several customs as part of their worship. Every day, they recite certain passages from the Gurū Granth Sāhib from memory, which they usually do in the morning after washing themselves. Then, families read passages from the scripture and visit one of the many gurdwaras. Here, they sing scriptural passages and make offerings. The Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar is the most famous and sacred shrine of all.

Sikh festivals are usually associated with the Gurus and any martyrs that have died for the sake of the Sikh religion. Some popular festivals include Hola Mohalla, Diwali, Gurpurabs and Vaisakhi or Baisakhi.

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