Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539). The religion was further developed and defined by nine gurus that came after him and has its roots in the Indian sub-continent. Holy scriptures called Guru Granth Sahib have guided adherents spiritually after the ten gurus. Sikhs believe in one Supreme Being.
The key beliefs of Sikhism include:
- Oneness with humanity
- The release from birth-cycles through enlightenment
- Worship, meditation and service
- Rejection of caste system, rituals and idol-worship
Khallsa (baptized) Sikhs are required to follow Reht Maryada (the Sikh code of conduct) at all times. Reht Maryada includes both the religious and social practices for Sikhs. The Sikh calendar was modified in 1999 and has moved from lunar to tropical solar calculations. Some groups within the faith continue to use the previous calendar and therefore some holy day celebrations may vary based on adherents’ affiliations.
Bandi Chhor Divas
Bandi Chhor Divas means “the day of the prisoners’ release.” This day commemorates the return of Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth Guru, to the holy city Amritsar after he negotiated the release of himself and 52 princes who were being held for political reasons. Sikhs in Amritsar illuminate the city on the day of Diwali, which marks the date of his release.
Birth of Guru Gobind Singh
This day marks the birth of the tenth Guru. He created the Khalsa (the Fellowship of the Pure) and declared the scriptures as the only guru for followers of the Sikh faith after him. Adherents commemorate his birth on different dates depending on which calendar they follow.
Birth of Guru Nanak
This day honours the birthday of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith, and is one of the biggest celebrations in Sikhism. Followers read the Sikh holy book from start to finish continuously for 48 hours (this is done in teams of men and women who each read for a few hours); the readings end in the early morning of the Guru Nanak’s birthday. Flowers, flags, and posters are displayed for decoration, and followers sing, pray and eat special foods.
This is the three-day festival following Holi. It is a time for military preparedness exercises. Activities include mock battles, music competitions and festivities.
Installation of Holy Scriptures of Guru Granth Sahib
"First Parkash" commemorates the installation of the Adi Granth (the first edition of the Sikh Scriptures) at Harimandir Sahib by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, in 1604 ce.
Installation of the Guru Granth as Guru
This day celebrates the installation of the holy scriptures of Guru Granth Sahib in the Golden Temple in 1604. The scripture contains compositions of the first five gurus, the ninth guru, fifteen ghagats (holy men or saints) and eleven bhattas (poets), and is the timeless guru for followers of Sikhism.
This is the first day of the month of Magh. Maghi commemorates the battle at Muktsar, a town in Punjab, India, in which 40 Sikhs (called the Immortal Ones) led by a woman named Maathaa Bhaag Kaur died for Guru Gobind Singh in 1705.
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev
Guru Arjan Dev was the faith’s first martyr and the fifth Sikh Guru. He laid the foundation of the Harmandir (temple) in which Sikhs could learn. The temple was constructed with doors facing all four directions to emphasize that the Sikh way is open to all regardless of caste, creed, or race. Guru Arjan Dev is also remembered for contributing to and compiling the Sikh Scriptures.
Martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur
This day commemorates the ninth Guru, who is remembered for his defence of the Sikh Faith and for willingly giving up his life for religious liberty for all faiths.
Sikh New Year
March 14th marks the Sikh new calendar year. The years in the Sikh calendar begin with the birth of Guru Nanak Dev in 1469.
This is the holiest day of the year for followers of Sikhism and marks the date in 1699 when the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, created the order of the Khalsa and also removed the clerical system from Sikhism, thus reaffirming the connection between Sikhs and the Divine.