Sikhs and Hindus and the followers of Hinduism and Sikhism, two religions that originated on the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism claims an existence of more than 30 centuries ago, but wasn’t clearly formed until around 800–200 BC, while Sikhism came into being around five centuries ago.
1. Different Origins
Hinduism is considered as the oldest religion in the world whose origins can be dated back around 1500 BC in the Indus Valley after the Indo-Aryan people migrated to the Indus Valley. The Vedas were written from 1500 to 500 BC. From around 500 BC to 500 AD, Hindus began the worship of various deities, especially Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesh and Devi and formed many branches.
Not founded by any single person, Hinduism is a multi-faceted religion combining several varying systems of philosophy, belief, and ritual.
This means that it is difficult to define Hinduism as there are many variations in beliefs. However, there are a few core principles that most Hindus believe in. These include the existence of numerous gods, the idea of Brahman as the universal soul, and the idea of samsara, which is the cycle of rebirth.
Unlike Hinduism which is a very old religion Sikhism is a much newer religion formed in the 15th century by one founder, Guru Nanak. The term ‘Guru’ means teacher and gurus are not seen by Sikhs as divine, but as wise and respectable teachers. After Guru Nanak, nine more Sikh gurus propagated the religion.
Guru Nanak -founder of Sikhism
Guru Nanak disapproved of Hindu practices and one day had a miraculous vision of a new way to live. After this, he started teaching a new philosophy that was different from Hinduism and would later become Sikhism.
Sikh is mainly distributed in the state of Punjab in modern day India and in Pakistan with over 30 million Sikhs. As the birthplace of Sikhism, about 60% of the population of Punjab is Sikh. Punjabi Sikhs follow Punjabi culture such as use the Punjabi calendar for the festivals and the traditional dress like Punjabi salwar suit (for women) including Patiala salwar (women’s trousers), Punjabi tamba and kurta (skirt and shirt for men), and Punjabi juttis (embroidered shoes).
2. Different Perspectives on God(s)
Hinduism recognizes thousands of gods and goddesses and Hindus can decide on their god or goddess of preference. Because of this, there are denominations of Hinduism including Vishnu worshipers, Shiva worshipers, and so on.
Hindus do not refrain from depicting their gods in the form of an image or statue. It is very common for Hindus to use images or statues to facilitate worship. This is evident when you see a Hindu’s home.
Gods and Goddesses for Hindus
On the other hand, Sikhs believe that there is only one god who has many names. They emphasize this with their symbolic phrase Ik Onkar, which means ‘there is one God’. Moreover, they believe that god is without form and that the worship of statues or images is immoral.
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3. Different Scriptures
Hindus consider the Vedas to be their main holy scripture. A Veda is considered divine and Vedic mantras are often recited during prayers or rituals. Sikhs do not believe in the Vedas and instead consider the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib to be their guiding scripture.
While the Vedas contain a large collection of ancient hymns often used for ritual purposes, the Guru Granth Sahib is more practical and teaches its followers how to be humble, free of egoism, and how to achieve enlightenment.
sikhm spiritual symbol
4. Different Views on the Caste System
Traditionally, there was a rigid caste system in Hindu culture which divided everyone into five groups: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisyas, Shudras, and untouchables. Each caste is assigned a certain ‘dharma’, or duty, and expected behavior. This system once even directed people’s decisions including with regards to who they would marry.
Sikhs, on the other hand, believe that all human beings are equal. There is no caste system to dictate that a certain person’s status is higher than the other. This is reiterated through the practice of serving free food in the communal kitchen of their temples called a Langar. In the kitchen, people of any background, gender, or wealth sit next to each other cross-legged, eating the same food. This symbolizes the equality of everyone.
The largest Langar in India is located at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. There they serve free food for up to 100,000 people every day. The food is all served and provided by volunteers. Non-Sikhs and people of different backgrounds are also welcome to participate.
5.Different Views on Women and Marriage
Most women in India have a distinctly different and separate role from men. This is because Hindus traditionally believe that women are always dependent on men and that their purpose is to assist men in their lives, whether as a daughter, wife, or mother. While this is changing with modernization as more women enter the workforce, this cultural belief is still deeply ingrained.
Hindu marriage usually happened within the same caste and the same region and usually the dowry needed to be paid by the woman’s family, and if the man was not satisfied with the dowry, he could refuse to marry.
Sikhs believe that women have an equal status to men and are encouraged to be independent and capable. They are allowed to participate in Sikh religious and cultural activities. Many historical figures in Sikhism are women.
In Sikhism, marriage is a sacred institution. Sikhs believe that marriage is an equal partnership that helps them to unite each other’s souls in the presence of God and a dowry is not necessary. Instead of that, the bride’s and the groom’s families exchange gifts.
Traditional Indian Wedding
In Hinduism, menstruation is perceived as something defiling and women who are menstruating are not allowed to participate in religious activities or even touch other people due to their impurity. However, Guru Nanak believed otherwise. He argued that the menstrual cycle is a natural and essential process, thus Sikh women can participate in religious activities during their menstruation.
6. Different (Religious) Appearances
Hindus are more flexible in regards to their appearance. Men can go bare-headed, wear a cap, or dress in any way they like. Hindu women traditionally wear saris. A sari is not only cultural, but also a spiritually significant attire for women. It is believed to offer many benefits including increasing modesty, maternal feelings, and even spiritual energy.
On the other hand, Sikhs are very distinct in their appearance because of the turban and facial hair typically seen on men. Both Sikh men and women wear a turban to cover their long hair, but for women it is not mandatory. Sikhs are also expected to follow the rule of not cutting their hair no matter their gender.
The Sikhs’ standardized appearance was initiated by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, in order to keep his followers accountable so that they are more likely to abide by a high moral standard.
Sikhs with turbangs
7. Different Views on Fasting
Fasting is a moral and spiritual act for Hindus to purify their body and mind and acquire divine grace from God like young woman will do fast on Mondays for good husband in the future. The most common fast is Ekadashi that take place on the eleventh day of each ascending and descending moon.
While in Sikhism, fasting is not encouraged and is not considered a spiritual act. Sikhs think fasting is merely a form of austerity and that the hungering of the body cannot achieve anything spiritually. They call only for moderation when eating and in choice of food.
How Do Sikhs and Hindus Get Along?
Sikhs and Hindus believe in different religions, but they are intertwined with similarities. Their religious relationship is somewhat like father and estranged son. DNA testing has shown that 63 percent of the ancestors of Sikhs are Hindus.
There was a conflict between Hindus (other Indians) and Sikhs for political reasons centered around Punjabi autonomy in the early 1980s. In general though, Sikhs and Hindus have always co-existed peacefully. Now marriage between Sikhs and Hindus is quite common both in India and abroad.
Exploring India with Asia Highlights
India is the birth-place of Sikhism and Hinduism, and visiting India is an excellent way to learn about these two religions in context. You will be able to see clearly that Sikhs and Hindus share many intriguing similarities, but also have distinct differences in their beliefs and practices.
Contact us for a tailor-made tour to help you plan for a memorable journey across this enchanting country.
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