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Sikhism is a relatively young religion established in the 15th century by a man called Guru Nanak with about 20 million practising Sikhs in the world.
Like Christianity and Islam, it is a monotheistic religion, which means Sikhs worship only one god, Vahiguru.
Sikhs believe there is one god which has no form or gender.
- Sikhs believe that God is inside everyone, and so no matter what they've done, everyone is capable of change
- Sikhs follow the teachings of ten gurus. These were real people who lived at different periods from the 15th to the 17th centuries. The word Sikh comes from the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, and means disciple or student
- The most important thing in Sikhism is each person's internal relationship with God. Sikhs do not believe in unnecessary rituals or religious accessories. They think that problems should be dealt with in the real world
- For Sikhs, doing good deeds in your ordinary life is a way of becoming closer to God. They do not have monks or hermits who live away from society and devote themselves to God
- Carrying out good deeds for other people and trying to help the whole community is one way Sikhs worship God. The community is very important to Sikhs, and living responsibly within it forms a main part of their beliefs
The Sikh community is known as the Khalsa, and every Sikh man and woman is a member.
- Sikhs celebrate martyrs and teachers who were members of the Khalsa
- Every Sikh man and woman belongs to the Khalsa, the body of practising Sikhs
- Sikh teachings say that if the community has a problem that was not addressed by holy books, a decision should be made by the majority of the Khalsa
After they have been initiated into the Khalsa, Sikhs are required to wear five symbols of their faith at all times. They are:
- Kesh (uncut hair) to display obeidience to God
- Kara (a heavy steel bracelet) to show that God has no beginning and no end, and to always remind a Sikh of their duties
- Kanga (a wooden comb) to comb the hair and comb away impure thoughts
- Kaccha - also spelt, Kachh, Kachera (cotton underwear) similar to a soldier's undergarment, to remind a Sikh of their warrior background
- Kirpan (ceremonial small sword) as with the Kaccha, and to show that Sikhs must protect the weak and vulnerable
Like other religions widely practised in India, Sikhs believe in the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Sikhs do not believe that other religions are wrong, but that all religions can offer a way of finding God.
- There are no Sikh priests or clergymen, as there are in other religions. Any man or woman can lead worship, as long as they are able to do so
- Sikh men believe it is wrong to cut your hair, and many of them wear turbans to protect their long hair
- Equality in society and between men and women is very important to Sikhs. They believe that God made everyone equal, regardless of caste, gender or race
- An important festival for Sikhs is Diwali, the festival of light. It is also celebrated by those practising Hinduism - see the section on Hinduism [link to 3j6 Hinduism] for more information