SIKH. The word sikh goes back to Sanskrit sisya, meaning a learner or disciple. In Pali, sisya became sissa. The Pali word sekha (also sekkha) means a pupil or one under training in a religious doctrine (sikkha, siksa). The Punjabi form of the word was sikh. The term Sikh in the Punjab and elsewhere came to be used for the disciples of Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and his nine spiritual successors.

Nanakpanthis (lit. followers of the path of Nanak) was also the term employed, especially in the initial stages. Mobid Zulfiqar Ardastani, a contemporary of Guru Hargobind (1595-1664) and Guru Har Rai (1630-61), defines Sikhs in his Persian work Dabistani Mazahib as “Nanakpanthis better known as Guru Sikhs (who) do not believe in idols and temples.”According to the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, passed by the Punjab legislature, “Sikh means a person who professes the Sikh religion.” The Act further provides that in case of doubt a person shall be deemed to be a Sikh if he subscribes to the following declaration : “I solemnly affirm that I am a Sikh, that I believe in the Guru Granth Sahib, that I believe in the Ten Gurus, and that I have no other religion.

” The Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1971, passed by Indian Parliament, lays down a stricter difinition in that it requires keeping hair unshorn as an essential qualification for a Sikh and that, besides belief in the Guru Granth Sahib and the Ten Gurus, it requires a Sikh to affirm that he follows their teachings.The latter Act thus excludes Sahajdharis (gradualists who profess faith in Sikhism but have not yet complied with the injunction about unshorn hair). The Sikhs believe in the unicity of God, the Creator who is formless and eternal, transcendent and all pervasive. The unicity of God implies, on the one hand, non-belief in gods and goddesses, idols and idol worship, and on the other rejection of divisions among men on the grounds of birth, caste or country.

In the Sikh temple called gurdwara no images are installed or worshipped. The sole object of reverence therein is the Holy Book. The Sikhs, considering God`s creation to be real and not mere illusion, believe in the dignity of worldly living provided, however, that it be regulated according to a high moral standard.The human birth is a valued gift earned by worthy actions, and must be utilized to do prayer and engage in devotion and perform good deeds. The popular Sikh formula for an upright living is nam japna, kirat karni, vand chhakna (constant remembrance of God`s Name, earning one`s livelihood through honest labour, and sharing one`s victuals with others).

Their faith requires the Sikhs to be energetic and courageous. A hymn by Guru Ram Das, Nanak IV, adjures a Sikh to rise early in the morning, make his ablutions, recite gurbani, the holy hymns, and not only himself remember God while performing his normal duties but also assist others to do likewise. Guru Tegh Bahadur, Nanak IX, defines the ideal man as one who frightens no one, nor submits to fear himself.Sikhs are generally householders. There is no priestly class among them.

All on condition of fitness can perform the priestly function. Women among them enjoy equal rights. Although a person born and brought up in a Sikh family is generally accepted as a Sikh, yet, .strictly speaking, initiation through a specified ceremony is essential. Up to the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, initiation through charan pahul was in vogue. According to it, the novice was required to drink water touched by or poured over the Guru`s toe.

Guru Gobind Singh introduced khande da amrit or rites of the double edged sword and prescribed the wearing of five symbols including kesa or unshorn hair, which form is obligatory for all Sikhs.Exemption, that also temporary, is claimed by Sahajdhari Sikhs. G.S. SIKH, a play by Bipinbihari Nandi, published in Bengali in 1909, traces the consolidation of the Sikhs as Khalsa under Guru Gobind Singh. Written in long patches of descriptive dialogue, in blank verse, often running to over 15 to 20 lines at a stretch, the book is divided into six scenes with five major characters of historical significance, including Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh and Emperor Aurangzib.

It opens with Aurangzib discussing with one of his trusted generals plans of operations against the Sikhs charging, in absentia, Guru Tegh Bahadur with waging war against the State. The second scene witnesses Guru Tegh Bahadur brought to Delhi under custody.Guru Gobind Singh appears in the third scene vowed to end the tyrannical Mughal rule. The creation of the Khalsa is interpreted as a call for all self respecting and righteous persons to come under one banner to fight bigotry and injustice. Guru Gobind Singh`s resounding victories led Aurangzlb`s successor Bahadur Shah to make overtures of peace.

The last scene presents the Emperor as a devotee of the Guru. He is on his deathbed, but has been able to draft a plan of long-term settlement with the Sikhs. The book projects Guru Gobind Singh as the symbol of India`s unity and honour. Those were the years when many Bengali intellectuals and writers were trying to build up a militant front against the colonial rule of the British.They drew inspiration from the life of Guru Gobind Singh. The book, however, suffers from grave inaccuracies of fact and interpretation.

H.B. SIKH, by Rajanikanta Gupta, is a brief monograph in Bengali on the history of the Sikhs from Guru Nanak (1469-1539) to the conquest of the Punjab by the British in 1849. Gupta had earlier published in one of his books in 1880 a life sketch of Guru Nanak. In March 1883, he gave a lecture on the Sikhs in the City College, Calcutta, which was published as a monograph under the title Sikh (April 1883), For his source materials, the author depends mainly on Malcolm and Cunningham.Although he treats of the Sikhs as part of the Hindu complex, his description of events such as the birth of the Khalsa (1699) and Guru Gobind Singh`s armed resistance to the Mughal rule under which Hindus and Muslims suffered alike is fairly critical.

The monograph also alludes briefly to the 18th century Sikh struggle for liberation and attributes the Sikhs` triumph in the end to their superior military organization, able leadership and heroic spirit of self sacrifice. The rise of Ranjit Singh is traced in the background of the declining authority of the misls. The extinction of Sikh power is blamed on the intrigues of the British and the treacheries of courtiers such as Lal Singh and Tej Singh. In a subsequent edition, the author took into account later developments such as the conversion and migration to England of the deposed sovereign, Duleep Singh, his eventual disillusionment with the British and his bid to return to the Punjab to receive the rites of the Khalsa.

References :

1. Trilochan Singh, “Theological Concepts of Sikhism”, in Sikhism. Patiala, 1969
2. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990
3. Ganda Singh, tr. “Nanak Panthis” (translation from Dabistan-i-Mazahib by Zulfikar Ardistani) in The Panjab Past and Present. Patiala, April 1967
4. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983
5. Teja Singh, Sikhism : Its Ideals and Institutions. Bombay, 1937
6. Farquhar,J.N., Modern Religious Movements in India. London, 1924