About Sikhism

Sikh sects

As the religion grew over the centuries, as in any other religion, Sikhism too saw the formation of sub-traditions that believe in an alternate lineage of Gurus, or have a different interpretation of the Sikh scriptures, or believe in following a living guru, or other concepts that differ from the orthodox Khalsa Sikhs.

Non Denominational Kes Dhari

Many Sikhs, probably the vast majority, do not subscribe to any particular organization, but simply keep their hair intact as a testament to their faith, and are known as Kes (kesh) Dhari. Most wear a kara on the wrist. Boys wear patka, and men pagri or any preferred turban style, while girls wear braids, and married women wear hair in a bun at the nape of the neck, and cover hair with a chunni.

Those who are initiated may wear articles of faith, or only symbolic 5 K’s such as a thread about the neck strung with miniature kirpan and kanga, or a wooden kanga embedded with a steel emblem depicting a kirpan. The ​3 Golden Rules are the basis, and foundation of the average Sikh’s life, with Seva considered to be very important. The contributions of non-denominational Sikhs are the backbone of the Sikh Panth, and the major support of the gurdwaras around the world.

Nihang (Akali)

Nihangs, also known as Akalis, are a warrior sect of Sikhism, and the official military armed force of the Khalsa Panth, and provide security at any gurdwara where they reside. The Nihangs were historically headquartered in Akal Bunga of Amritsar, and in modern times congregate in Anandpur.

Nihang Akalis are a chaste sect which generally does not marry, but devotes their lives to training in the Sikh Martial art of Gatka, and horseback riding.
Nihang bana consists of a blue chola, and tall domalla. Nihangs are always armed with shastar weaponry.

There are multiple other organizations and groups as well.

Nihang
udasi

Off-shoots of the Sikh faith

Udasi

  • Created by the eldest son of Guru Nanak – Baba Siri Chand.
  • A celibate, he preached celibacy but maintained close ties with the Gurus over the centuries.
  • When the Khalsa were being persecuted by the Mughals, the udasis were caretakers of all the gurudwaras.
  • Traditionally, there were four Udasi centres (akharas or dhuans) with each controlling a certain preaching area; Nanakmatta, Kashmir, Malwa (Punjab) and Doaba. There is an Udasi gurudwara (temple) in Amritsar, near the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple).
  • Today’s Udasi are predominantly located in northwestern India especially around Punjab Haryana, Gujarat and cities like Haridwar and New Delhi.

Nirmalas

  • As old as 1688, this sect originated when Guru Gobind Singh sent his handpicked followers to Benares and Paunta to learn Sanskrit.
  • As these followers established centres of learning for Sikhism, the teachings drew inspiration from Vedic philosophies and did not resemble the main stream Sikhism, identically.
  • They do not insist on Amrit initiation, but do keep their hair uncut and live a monastic and studious life.
  • The Nirmala centres can be found at Kankhal, Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain, Trimbak, Kurukshtra and Patna.
nirmalas
nirankaris

Nirankaris

  • This sect based their beliefs on the teachings of Baba Dyal who was patronized by the Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
  • They have had several successors and give reverence only to Guru Nanak and not his legacy of Gurus.
  • They strictly preach abstinence from tobacco and alcohol and consign remains of the dead to a flowing river.
  • In 1978, the Sant Nirankaris were excommunicated by the Akal Takht for their belief in a living Guru as opposed to strict adherence to the Guru Granth Sahib.

Namdharis

  • The Namdharis strongly believe that the tenth Guru Gobind Singh lived upto the age of 146 years and then nominated Balak Singh of Hazro as his successor in 1812.
  • They negate the theory that the tenth guru had appointed the Guru Granth Sahib as his successor in 1708.
  • They have a long line of gurus, who succeeded Balak Singh till 1872, when their last guru was exiled by the British in 1872. They strongly believe that their leader will soon return.
  • They are strict vegetarians, animal activists and have strong views against caste system and practice of dowry.
namdharis
Radha Soamis

Radha Soamis

  • This spiritual movement was founded by Shiv Dayal Singh Seth in 1869 in Agra.
  • They hold the Guru Granth Sahib in highest respect, but do not call themselves as Sikhs.
  • They do not have any Amrit ceremony, are strict vegetarians, abstain from all kinds of intoxication and live a peaceful life.
  • Radha or soul they believe aspires to one day attain divine reality or its lord – the Soami.
  • While the movement is still headquartered in Agra, there are over 30 different Radhasoami groups in the world. In 2004, there were an estimated 3 million Radhasoami followers worldwide.

3HO / Happy Healthy Holy Organization

  • Yogi Bhajan was the creator of this esteemed organization. He originally belonged to the Sindh district but moved to the US in 1960.
  • He began by teaching Kundalini yoga, but soon found his disciples ready to soak up the basic principle of keeping hair, wearing white, staying vegetarian, living morally and converted to Sikhism.
  • The 3HO is referred to as the Gora Sikh, is not recognized by the Akal Takht and is widely practiced in the West.
3HO Happy Healthy Holy Organization

Sikh castes

Though the Sikh religion condemns castes there are castes based on their age-old occupations and station in life as practiced in ancient India. The Khatris and the Bhatias were the commercial castes, while the Jat, Kamboh, Mahton and Saini were the agricultural castes.

Jat Sikhs are also now very well educated and have taken up various professions besides agriculture, which is their signature trade. Jat Sikhs are known for their lively spirit and easy-going nature. About 66% of all Sikhs are said to belong to this caste.

Among the artisan castes, Ramgarhia and Kalals are prominent Sikh castes. The Chamars and Chooras, also known as Mazhabi Sikhs make up the service class.

Sikh Legacy