SIKHISM FOR BEGINNERS

To properly immerse oneself in the music of The Partap Brothers, it is essential to consider their faith.


Sikh means "learner" in Punjabi, a language originating in the Punjab region straddling India and Pakistan from which the religion of Sikhism emerged in the 15th century. Here we offer a distillation of some essential elements of the Sikh religion, designed for those who wish to contextualize their listening experience in the divine mysteries and magnificent customs of one of the world's great religions.

 
 
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The Guru Granth Sahib

The Guru Granth Sahib is Sikhism's most sacred scripture. It consists of 1,430 Anks, or pages, and 6,000 sabads, or line compositions, all aligning to the rhythmic forms of ancient north Indian classical music. At the core of the Guru Granth Sahib is a yearning for a world governed by divine justice, without oppression of any kind. When Guru Arjan, the fifth guru of the Sikh religion, compiled the writings and prayers that would eventually become the Guru Granth Sahib, he invited intellectuals from other religions, such as Hinduism and Islam, to submit writings for inclusion.


The 10 Sikh Gurus

Sikhism's guiding principles, philosophies, and practices were established by 10 gurus who lived from 1469 to 1708. The first Sikh guru, Nanak, preached ideas that were radical for his age. He denounced Hinduism's oppressive caste system and Islam's gender discrimination, preaching that all people can commune with the divine equally, without the intervention of rituals or priests. The subsequent gurus were Angad, Amar Das, Ram Das, Arjan, Har Gobind, Har Rai, Har Krishan, Tegh Bahadur, and Gobind Singh. The Guru Granth Sahib, described above, is considered the final and eternal guru.

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The Khalsa and the "5 K's"

The final living guru, Gobind Singh, is credited with establishing the Khalsa, or order of Sikh soldier-saints. They are recognizable by "the 5 K's," their physical articles of faith: the Kesh (unshorn hair and beard), Kirpan (ceremonial sword), Kangha (comb), Kara (steel bracelet), and Kachha (drawers). The Dastar, or turban, is considered a spiritual crown, a token of remembrance of the Sikh principles.


Harmandir Sahib
(The Golden Temple)

Harmandir Sahib is the Sikh religion's most holy temple, or Gurdwara, located in Armitsar in the state of Punjab in northern India. Armitsar itself means "the tank of nectar of immortality," and was founded in 1577 by the fourth guru, Ram Das. The next guru, Arjan, designed the Harmiandir Sahib to sit at the center of this auspicious city. The Golden Temple, as it is called in English in reference to its gold exterior, welcomes men and women of all religions to worship within its walls.

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The Khanda

The Khanda is the symbol of the Sikh people. As a double-edged sword, the Khanda embodies Divine Knowledge, its edges cleaving Truth from Falsehood. Around the Khanda is the Chakar, or circle without beginning or end, representing the perfection of the eternal God. The Chakar, in turn, is guarded by two Kirpans, or ceremonial swords, symbolizing the duel concepts of Meeri and Peeri, emphasizing the equal vigor with with a Sikh must pursue spiritual aspirations and societal obligations.


The Gurbani

The hymns of the 10 Sikh gurus are known as the Gurbani. Shabad Kirtan refers to the singing of the Gurbani. The entirety of the Guru Granth Sahib, described above, is written in a poetic form that maps onto the thirty-one ragas, or patterns of note, rhythm, and embellishment, that form classical Indian music. The Gurbani were received by the 10 Sikh gurus during periods of divine illumination.

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QUANTIFYING SIKHISM

500 year old religion
25.8 million believers
5th largest religion on Earth
75% of the world's Sikhs live in Punjab, India
200,000 to 500,000 Sikhs in America
60% of Americans admit to knowing nothing at all about Sikh Americans
11% of Americans  have a close friend or acquaintance who is Sikh
31% of Americans have seen or interacted with a Sikh person

Statistics derived from the National Sikh Campaign's "Sikhism in the United States" study