Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Facts About Sikhs

The Sikh temple at Amritsar
It is sad we wait for a tragedy before we try to understand the people we share this earth with and sadder still that no American news agency has seen fit to explain the Sikh religion to Americans.

Who Are the Sikhs?
Sikhism is a religion founded in India in the 15th century. Simplistically, it is an amalgam of Islam and Hinduism. Like Islam it is monotheistic. Culturally it is closer to Hinduism. Sikhism is the sixth largest religion on earth (between Japanese Shintoism and Judaism) and the third largest religion in India.

Where Do They Live?
Most Sikhs live in the Punjab Region of India where it was founded and where they are the majority. Punjab is to the Sikhs what Utah is to Mormons. Large numbers of Sikhs also live in Great Britain and Canada. Some 60,000 Sikhs live in the United States.

What About Those Turbans?
The most notable visible sign of a Sikh is his turban. It is a deliberate act, a sign of their faith. The turban was originally adopted to show that all people are equal in the sight of God. In India in the 15th century only the elite wore turbans; Sikhs rebelled against that by declaring that all may wear a turban.

The turban also has a practical side. Most Sikhs don't cut their hair, believing that God gave us long hair for a reason and it is respectful to allow that hair to grow freely. A properly tied turban allows for long hair and a neat appearance.

They Don't Cut Their Hair?
Nope. It is one of Sikhism's Five Ks. Sikhs don't shave either although they will allow others to trim their hair and beards. It's not that unusual --  Hasidic Jews believe it is a sin to shave their sideburns.

Sikhism's Five Ks?
The five articles of faith of the religion.
Kesh - Unshorn hair
Kangha - A wooden comb for keeping that hair neat
Kara - An iron bracelet that is always worn. Much like those ubiquitous Livestrong bracelets.
Kachera - Sacred underwear.
Kirpan - A curved dagger carried at all times as part of the Sikh duty to protect others. One of the victims of the Wisconsin attack died using his Kirpan to protect others in the temple.

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