American Turban

Reflecting on Sikhism as a “peaceful” religion

An old fresco of Guru Hargobind (1595-1644, seated right), the sixth Guru, and who introduced the marital tradition to the Sikhs. (source: SikhSangat.com)

An old fresco of Guru Hargobind (1595-1644, seated right), the sixth Guru, and who introduced the marital tradition to the Sikhs. (source: SikhSangat.com)

In a thought-provoking article, Jodha, at the blog The Langar Hall, discusses the recent framing of Sikhism as a “peaceful” religion:

My point isn’t whether Sikhs are peaceful or not, individuals come in all shapes and colors.  The level of violence against women, against female fetuses, and often against one another, doesn’t seem to me that we are a particularly ‘peaceful’ people and should be so glib with our descriptions.  Moving from Sikhs to Sikhi – I hope we never forget the reality – Guru Gobind Singh also put a kirpan in our hand.  Sikhi is neither violent, nor peaceful.  We have a duty towards justice.  In order to ‘sanitize’ us so much for a gora audience, are we also willing to sacrifice our values, tradition, and history?

Jodha highlights the violence our community perpetrates against ourselves, and we cannot white wash this.

Further, while Sikhs certainly believe in peace and justice, Sikhs are not pacifists. When he became the sixth Guru of the Sikhs in 1606, in response to persecution of Sikhs and the murder of Guru Arjan by India’s rulers, Guru Hargobind introduced the martial tradition that is still celebrated and practiced among Sikhs today.

Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, formalized this tradition with the creation of the Khalsa, the Sikh militant order. Upon his instruction, Sikhs initiated to this order maintain a sword, the kirpan, as an article of faith to uphold justice and defend the weak and oppressed, particularly when all other means have failed.

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