At the face of it, people may consider Sikhism to be little different from other major world religions as like Christianity, Judaism or Islam because like them, it is a monotheistic religion believing in the idea of one God. But they would be wrong. Originating in the 15th century in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent, it is a relatively young religion compared to others, but it has a rich history that is full of unique philosophy and ideas. In this article, we will explore five key points in Sikh history that make the religion unique:
1. The Founding of Sikhism: The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 in the Punjab region of India. He was a spiritual teacher and mystic who rejected the caste system and the idol worship that was prevalent in Hinduism at the time. He taught that there is only one God and that all people are equal in the eyes of God. This message of equality and the rejection of the caste system was a major departure from the religious norms of the time and made Sikhism a unique and revolutionary religion. During those times, idea of equality was unheard in India and the society was deeply hierarchical. Guru Nanak showed people that it does not have to be that way and that there is a better path forward. Sikhism was as much a reformist movement as it was a spiritual and religious one.
2. The Role of the Gurus: One of the unique features of Sikhism is the role of the Gurus in the religion. The Gurus are spiritual leaders and teachers who were responsible for guiding the Sikh community and spreading the teachings of Sikhism. They were also responsible for creating many of the Sikh religious texts and hymns, which are still used by Sikhs today. The Gurus were also important figures in the political and social history of the region, and they altered Punjab forever. It should be noted that Sikhism is the only religion with an eternal ‘Living Guru’ who is Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. All the teachings of the Sikh gurus and many saints serve as an eternal guide of adherents of Sikhism.
3. The Concept of Miri and Piri: Another unique aspect of Sikhism is the concept of Miri and Piri, which refers to the balance between temporal and spiritual authority. The Miri aspect refers to the temporal or political aspect of Sikhism, while the Piri aspect refers to the spiritual aspect. This balance is reflected in the institution of the Khalsa, which is a community of initiated Sikhs who are responsible for both spiritual and temporal governance. The concept was propounded by the sixth Guru, Guru Har Gobind Ji.
4. The Role of women & gender equality in Sikhism: Sikhism is known for its emphasis on gender equality, and this is reflected in the role of women in the religion. Sikh women have played a significant role in the history of Sikhism and continue to do so today. For example, during the 18th century, the Sikh community was led by a woman, Mata Sundari, who was the wife of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. She was responsible for managing the affairs of the community and preserving the teachings of her husband after his death. She was an accomplished scholar and a respected spiritual leader who contributed greatly to the development of Sikhism. Sikh women have also played a significant role in the formation of the Khalsa and have been given equal rights and responsibilities as men in Sikhism.
5. The Importance of Service and Seva: Another unique aspect of Sikhism is the emphasis on service and seva, which refers to selfless service to others. This can take many forms, such as preparing and serving langar, helping out in a local community, or participating in humanitarian aid efforts. The concept of seva is an important part of Sikhism as it emphasizes the importance of putting the needs of others before our own and practicing compassion and generosity. Whenever there is a tragedy in the periphery of Sikh community, you will always find them amongst the first people to offer help. Sikhism also has a rich history of military tradition and valor, the 10 Sikh Gurus maintained a standing army of Sikhs known as the "Dal Khalsa" and fought against the oppression and tyranny of the Mughal Empire, and the tradition continued later under the British Empire.
The Sikhs have always been known for their bravery and have made significant contributions to the social, political and military history of India. In conclusion, Sikhism is a unique religion that has a rich history and many unique features. From its founding principles of equality and rejection of the caste system, to its role of the Gurus, to its concept of Miri and Piri, to the role of women and importance of service, Sikhism stands out as a religion that emphasizes compassion, equality, and selfless service. These elements of Sikhism's history continue to shape the religion and its followers today, making it a distinct and valuable faith in the world.