Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh gurus (the last teaching being the holy scripture Gurū Granth Sāhib Ji). It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world, with over 30 million Sikhs.
The word "Sikh" means disciple or student. Sikhs are students and followers of Guru Nanak (b. 1469), the founder of the Sikh religious tradition, and the nine-prophet-teachers—called Gurus—who succeeded him. Though sometimes mistaken for members of a sect of Hinduism or Islam, Sikhs belong to a distinct religion with its own unique, divine scriptures, which are collected in the Guru Granth Sahib, the eternal, spiritual guide of the Sikhs.
Vaisakhi, also spelled Baisakhi, is one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar. It is the Sikh New Year festival and is celebrated on April 13 or 14. It also commemorates 1699, the year Sikhism was born as a collective faith.
Guru Nanak, who founded Sikhism in Punjab in the early part of the sixteenth century, based his new doctrine on simple living, piety, monotheism, opposition to idolatry and magic, and equality of all believers—men and women—before the transcendent god. He was succeeded by nine more gurus, the last of whom was Govind Singh, who founded the Sikh Khalsa (community of the elect) in 1708.
For the first time in 23 years, the U.S. Army is allowing a pair of Sikh Soldiers to keep their hair and beard intact and wear a turban...From 1948 to 1984, men of the Sikh religion were permitted to serve while maintaining their articles of faith. In 1984, Gen. John A. Wickham Jr., then Chief of Staff of the Army, eliminated the exception for Sikhs and others who wore "conspicuous" items of faith.
To put their faith into perspective, there are 25 million Sikhs worldwide, making it the fifth largest religion after Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, and has been in existence for more than 500 years.
The Adi Granth is the central scripture of the Sikh faith. This text contains theological discourses by Guru Nanak, as well as hymns and poems written by Nanak and other poet saints like Kabir.
The Sikhs suffered religious persecution and many martyrdoms during the first half of the 18th century, and the Punjab as a whole witnessed much political and military turbulence as Mughal control weakened in that as other provinces. Roving bands of Sikhs preserved their religious identity and gained ascendancy under a loose organization of twelve misls assembling twice a year at Amritsar. By the end of the century Ranjit Singh had unified the misls and established an empire in the northwest of the subcontinent that lasted until the British annexation of the Punjab in 1849.
The Punjab is the homeland of the Sikhs, because the religion originated there, because almost all its adherents before 1947 lived in undivided Punjab, and because Sikhs form a majority in the present state of Punjab in the Indian Union. Sikhs are also found in all parts of India and are prominent in the worldwide Indian Diaspora, especially in Britain, Canada, and the United States, where they have struggled with some success to have their religious symbols- including beard and turban- recognized as compatible with membership in state services.
A Sikh insurgency, which sought a separate homeland for Sikhs in Punjab, tore at India’s heart in the 1970s and ’80s. In 1984, Indira Gandhi, then the prime minister, ordered a bloody raid on the temple. Hundreds of militants were hiding there, and many were killed. The temple was also damaged. Sikh bodyguards later assassinated Mrs. Gandhi to avenge the attack on the temple.
Despite this history, Sikhs remain resolutely a part of India’s mainstream, holding leading positions in the arts, government and business. India’s current prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh.
Sikhism, which emerged in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century, strongly rejects the notion of caste, which lies at the core of Hinduism.