Hinduism and Sikhism

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Hinduism and Sikhism are both Indian religions. Hinduism is an ancient set of traditions that have developed over several millennia, while Sikhism was founded in the 15th-century, during the Mughal Empire era, by Guru Nanak Dev Ji who was born and raised in a Hindu family.[1]

Hinduism and Sikhism share many philosophical concepts such as Karma, Dharma, Mukti, Maya and Saṃsāra.[2][3] In the days of Mughal oppression, in which Hindus were being converted to Islam through oppression and force, Sikhism came to their defence against the Mughals in India.[4] The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was the first to raise voice against the rule of Islamic ruler Babur, the then ruler of India.[4]

History of similarities and differences[edit]

Scholars state that in its origins, Sikhism was influenced by the nirguni (formless God) tradition of Bhakti movement in medieval India.[5] Nanak was raised in a Hindu family and belonged to the Bhakti Sant tradition.[1] The roots of the Sikh tradition are, states Louis Fenech, perhaps in the Sant-tradition of India whose ideology grew to become the Bhakti tradition.[6] Furthermore, adds Fenech, "Indic mythology permeates the Sikh sacred canon, the Guru Granth Sahib and the secondary canon, the Dasam Granth and adds delicate nuance and substance to the sacred symbolic universe of the Sikhs of today and of their past ancestors".[7]


Ik Onkar, iconically represented as in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (although sometimes spelt out in full as ਏਕੰਕਾਰੁ) is the iconographic statement in Sikhism that is 'there is one God'.[8][9] The phrase is an expression of monotheistic unity of God.[10]

The Onkar in () of Sikhism is related to Om () of Hinduism.[10] Some Sikhs disagree that Ik Onkar is same as Om.[10] Onkar is, states Wazir Singh, a "variation of Om (Aum) of the ancient Indian scriptures (with a slight change in its orthography), implying the seed-force that evolves as the universe".[11] In Ek Onkar, explains Gulati, "Ek" means One, and Onkar is "equivalent of the Hindu "Om" (Aum)".[12]

<poem> Oankar ('the Primal Sound') created Brahma, Oankar fashioned the consciousness, From Oankar came mountains and ages, Oankar produced the Vedas, By the grace of Oankar, people were saved through the divine word, By the grace of Oankar, they were liberated through the teachings of the Guru. </poem>

— Ramakali Dakkhani, Adi Granth 929-930, Translated by Pashaura Singh[13]

Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji[edit]

File:Bhai Nanu.jpg
Guru Gobind Singh Ji bowing to the severed head of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji who sacrificed his life against oppression

During the Mughal Empire period, the Sikh and Hindu traditions believe that Sikhs helped protect Hindus from Islamic persecution, and this caused martyrdom of their Guru.[14] The Sikh historians, for example, record that the Sikh movement was rapidly growing in northwest India, and Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was openly encouraging Sikhs to, "be fearless in their pursuit of just society: he who holds none in fear, nor is afraid of anyone, is acknowledged as a man of true wisdom", a statement recorded in Adi Granth 1427.[15][16][17] While Guru Tegh Bahadur influence was rising, Aurangzeb had imposed Islamic laws, demolished Hindu schools and temples, and enforced new taxes on non-Muslims.[16][18][19]

According to records written by his son Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Guru had resisted persecution, adopted and promised to protect Kashmiri Hindus.[15][17] The Guru was summoned to Delhi by Aurangzeb on a pretext, but when he arrived with his colleagues, he was offered, "to abandon his faith, and convert to Islam".[15][17] Guru Tegh Bahadur and his colleagues refused, he and his associates were arrested, tortured for many weeks.[17][20][21] The Guru himself was beheaded in public.[16][22][23]


Monotheism versus pluralism[edit]

<poem> I do not adore Ganesha in the beginning and also do not mediatate on Krishna and Vishnu; I have only heard about them with my ears and I do not recognize them; my consciousness is absorbed at the feet of the Supreme Kal (the Immanent Brahman) </poem> Sri Dasam Padishah Ke Granth P733[24]

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion; Sikhs believe there is only one God, who has infinite qualities and names. Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, agnosticism, deism and atheism.[25]


Sikhs believe in naam jap (reciting God's name), and focus on listening to the hymns from Guru Granth Sahib, the central religious scripture of Sikh faith. The Guru is the focal point of worship in any Sikh Gurdwara, and the worshippers bow before it. Guru Granth Sahib is installed every morning and put to bed at night in many Gurdwaras.[26]

Different schools of Hinduism have different theories about rituals[27][28] and on salvation (moksha).[29] However, they are primarily based around puja (idol worship), and yajna (ritual sacrifice in front of a holy fire).

Idol worship[edit]

Sikhs shun idol worship as a part of their faith.[30]

Hindus accept the worship facilitated with images or murtis (idols), particularly in Agamic traditions, such as Vaishnavism and Shaivism.[31] Some scholars state it is incorrect to state that all Hindus worship idols, and more correct to state that for some the idol is a means to focus their thoughts, for some idol is a manifestation of spirituality that is everywhere, and for some even a linga, a sunrise or a river or a flower serves the same purpose.[32][33] Hindu temples are called Mandirs, while Sikh temples are called Gurdwaras.


The Sikh concept of salvation is similar to some schools of Hinduism, and it is called mukti (moksha) referring to spiritual liberation.[34] It is described in Sikhism as the state that breaks the cycle of rebirths.[34] Mukti is obtained according to Sikhism, states Singha, through "God's grace".[35] In the teachings of the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib, the devotion to God is viewed as more important than the desire for Mukti.[35]

<poem> I desire neither worldly power nor liberation. I desire nothing but seeing the Lord. Brahma, Shiva, the Siddhas, the silent sages and Indra - I seek only the Blessed Vision of my Lord and Master's Darshan. I have come, helpless, to Your Door, O Lord Master; I am exhausted - I seek the Sanctuary of the Saints. Says Nanak, I have met my Enticing Lord God; my mind is cooled and soothed - it blossoms forth in joy. </poem>

Sikhism recommends Naam Simran as the way to mukti, which is meditating and repeating the Naam (names of God).[34][35]

The six major orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy offer diverse soteriological views on moksha, including whether moksha can be achieved in this life, or after this life.[37] The Nyaya, Vaisesika and Mimamsa schools of Hinduism consider moksha as possible only after death.[37][38] Samkhya and Yoga schools consider moksha as possible in this life. In Vedanta school, the Advaita sub-school concludes moksha is possible in this life.[37] The Dvaita and Visistadvaita sub-schools of Vedanta tradition, highlighted by many poet-saints of the Bhakti movement, believe that moksha is a continuous event, one assisted by loving devotion to God, that extends from this life to post-mortem. Beyond these six orthodox schools, some heterodox schools of Hindu tradition, such as Carvaka, deny there is a soul or after life moksha.[39]

Dietary requirements[edit]

Hinduism does not explicitly prohibit eating meat, but it does strongly recommend Ahimsa – the concept of non-violence against all life forms including animals.[40][41] As a consequence, many Hindus prefer vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian lifestyle, and methods of food production that is in harmony with nature and compassionate, respectful of other life forms as well as nature.[40]

The tenets of Sikhism do not advocate a particular stance on either vegetarianism[42] or the consumption of meat,[42][43] but rather leave the decision of diet to the individual. Sikh sects and groups that have a "Vashnavite" influence (AKJ, GNNSJ, 3HO, Namdhari's etc.) tend to be vegetarians.[42][43] Other Sikhs eat meat that has been prepared by the Jhatka method (meat prepared by sudden death of the animal), and consider only that meat as expressly forbidden that is ritually slaughtered like Kosher or Halal (Kutha meat, the meat of animals prepared by slowly bleeding it to death). HS Singha explains the Jhatka meat requirement to have support in the Hindu tradition as well, as follows,

According to the ancient Aryan Hindu tradition, only such meat as is obtained from an animal which is killed with one stroke of the weapon causing instantaneous death is fit for human consumption. However, with the coming of Islam into India and the Muslim political hegemony, it became a state policy not to permit slaughter of animals for food, in any other manner, except as laid down in the Quran - the kosher meat prepared by slowly severing the main blood artery of the throat of the animal while reciting verses from the Quran. It is done to make slaughter a sacrifice to God and to expiate the sins of the slaughter. Guru Gobind Singh took a rather serious view of this aspect of the whole matter. He, therefore, while permitting flesh to be taken as food repudiated the whole theory of this expiatory sacrifice and the right of ruling Muslims to impose it on the non-Muslims. Accordingly, he made jhatka meat obligatory for those Sikhs who may be interested in taking meat as a part of their food.

— HS Singha, Sikhism, A Complete Introduction[44]


  • Both Hindus and Sikh are cremated after death[45]
  • Both believe in karma and reincarnation[46]
  • Both Sikhs and Hindus revere the concept of a Guru.[47]
  • Hindus and Sikhs use the word Atma or atman to describe the "Self, Soul".[48]

In the Hindu and Sikh traditions, there is a distinction between religion and culture, and ethical decisions are grounded in both religious beliefs and cultural values. Both Hindu and Sikh ethics are primarily duty based. Traditional teachings deal with the duties of individuals and families to maintain a lifestyle conducive to physical, mental and spiritual health. These traditions share a culture and world view that includes ideas of karma and rebirth, collective versus individual identity, and a strong emphasis on spiritual purity.[1] [archive]

The notion of dharma, karma, moksha and a belief in rebirth are very important for both Hindus and Sikhs. Unlike the linear view of life, death, heaven or hell taken in Abrahamic religions, for Hindus and Sikhs believe in the concept of Saṃsāra, that is life, birth and death are repeated, for each soul, in a cycle until one reaches mukti or moksha.[49][50]

Culture and marriages[edit]

There is an organic relation of Sikhs to Hindus, states Zaehner, both in religious thought and their communities, and virtually all Sikhs' ancestors were Hindus.[51] Marriages between Sikhs and Hindus, particularly among Khatris, were frequent.[51] Some Hindu families brought up a son as a Sikh, and some Hindus view Sikhism as a tradition within Hinduism, even though the Sikh faith is a distinct religion.[51]

Dogra states that there has always been inter-marriage between the Hindu and the Sikh communities.[52] Charing and Cole state that "Sikhism originated and developed within Hinduism. Hindus and Sikhs, in initial years of Sikhism, used to have what is termed as Roti Beti di Sanjh; that is they eat together and intermarry".[53]

William Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi state that for some Sikhs, intermarriage between Hindus and Sikhs of same community was preferable than other communities.[54]

See also[edit]


  • The second damage that has been done, with full co- operation of the secularists, is that the status of Sikhism as a separate religion has become firmly established in the minds of many Sikhs. This separate status is entirely a British fabrication, later amplified by Sikh who, like many Hindus, had come to think that being a Hindu is a shameful thing. The Sikhs have always been one of Hinduism’s many panths (sects). The claim to being a separate religion, which is now being propped up in many anti-Hindu books, has been conclusively disposed of by Rajendra Singh Nirala, an ex-granthi who came to realize that what the Akalis told him was not the same as what he used to recite from the Granth.
    • Elst, K. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society, 1991. New Delhi: Voice of India.
  • K.P. Agrawal took the trouble of counting how may hundreds of times Hindu names and concepts, like Parambrahma, Omkara, Veda, Hari, appear in the Guru Granth. "Ram" figures about 2400 times.
    • Elst, K. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society, 1991. New Delhi: Voice of India.
  • Ram Swarup relates how the British had been disappointed with the conclusions of the first scholar who investigated and translated Sikh Scriptures, the German Indologist and missionary Dr. E. Trumpp, who had found Guru Nanak a 'thorough Hindu' and his religion ‘a Pantheism derived directly from Hindu sources’....So, according to Ram Swarup, other scholars were put to work to rewrite Sikh history in the sense desired by the British: ‘Max Arthur Macauliffe, a highly placed British administrator (...) told the Sikhs that Hinduism was like a 'boa constrictor of the Indian forest' which 'winds its opponent and finally causes it to disappear in its capacious interior'. The Sikhs 'may go that way', he warned. He was pained to see that the Sikhs regarded themselves as Hindus which was 'in direct opposition to the teachings of the Gurus'.
    • Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • The Guru Granth equally contains writings of some non-Sikh bhakti poets including Kabir, and thousands of references to such Hindu concepts and characters as Rama, Krishna, Veda, Omkara, Amrit. (An near-exact count is given in K.P. Agrawala: Adi Shrî Gurû Granth Sâhib kî Mahimâ (Hindi: “The greatness of the original sacred Guru scripture”), p.2, and in Ram Swarup: “Hindu roots of Sikhism”, Indian Express, 24-4-1991. Examples: ca. 8,300 times Hari (630 times by Nanak alone), 2,400 times Râma (the god-name whose constant remembrance leads to Liberation), 550 times Parabrahman (the Absolute), 400 times Omkâra (the primeval sound Om).) Sikh names are full of Hindu elements: Hari (= Vishnu), Rama, Krishna and his epithets (Har-kishan, Har-govina), Arjun, the Vedic god Indra (Yog-indr, Sur-indr). (About Sikh devotion to Ram, see Rajendra Singh: Sikkha Itihâsa mein Râma Janmabhûmi.) The Hari Mandir, dedicated to Hari/Vishnu, is as sacred to Vaishnavas as any of their non-Sikh temples; its tank was already an old Hindu place of pilgrimage, where Maharana Ikshvaku is said to have performed yajnas. (The 1875 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica says in its entry on Amritsar that it has sacred tank with a temple dedicated to Vishnu in the middle).
    • Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • A more specifically religious indication is that Master Tara Singh, the acknowledged leader of the Sikhs since at least the eve of Partition, was a cofounder of the Vishva Hindu Parishad in 1964.(...) Even Khushwant Singh admitted that RSS and BJP activists had saved many Sikhs while Congress secularists were killing them: “It was the Congress leaders who instigated mobs in 1984 and got more than 3000 people killed. I must give due credit to RSS and the BJP for showing courage and protecting helpless Sikhs during those difficult days. No less a person than Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself intervened at a couple of places to help poor taxi drivers.”
    • Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8


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  6. Louis Fenech (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 35, Quote: "Technically this would place the Sikh community's origins at a much further remove than 1469, perhaps to the dawning of the Sant movement, which possesses clear affinities to Guru Nanak's thought sometime in the tenth century. The predominant ideology of the Sant parampara in turn corresponds in many respects to the much wider devotional Bhakti tradition in northern India."
  7. Louis Fenech (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 36, Quote: "Few Sikhs would mention these Indic texts and ideologies in the same breadth as the Sikh tradition, let alone trace elements of their tradition to this chronological and ideological point, despite the fact that the Indic mythology permeates the Sikh sacred canon, the Guru Granth Sahib and the secondary canon, the Dasam Granth (Rinehart 2011), and adds delicate nuance and substance to the sacred symbolic universe of the Sikhs of today and of their past ancestors."
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  18. Guru Tegh Bahadur [archive] BBC Religions (2009)
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  26. William Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi (1995), The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 978-1898723134, page 44
  27. [a] Karl Potter (2008), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies Vol. III, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120803107, pages 16-18, 220; [b] Basant Pradhan (2014), Yoga and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Springer Academic, ISBN 978-3319091044, page 13 see A.4
  28. Christian Novetzke (2007), Bhakti and Its Public, International Journal of Hindu Studies, Vol. 11, No. 3, page 255-272
  29. Andrew Fort (1998), Jivanmukti in Transformation, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791439043
  30. Pashaura Singh (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 131
  31. V Bharne and K Krusche (2012), Rediscovering the Hindu Temple: The Sacred Architecture and Urbanism of India, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ISBN 978-1443841375, pages 37-42
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  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 Geoff Teece (2004), Sikhism: Religion in focus, ISBN 978-1-58340-469-0, page 17
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 HS Singha (2009),Sikhism: A Complete Introduction, Hemkunt Press, ISBN 978-8170102458, pages 53-54
  36. Guru Granth Sahib [archive] P534, 2.3.29
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 A. Sharma (2000), Classical Hindu Thought: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195644418, pp 117
  38. Note: Each school has a different meaning for Moksha. For example, Mimamsa school considers moksha as release into svarga (heaven), it does not recognize samsara; while Nyaya school considers moksha as linked to samsara and a release from it; See: The Purva-Mimamsa Sutra of Jaimini, Transl: M.L. Sandal (1923), Chapter II, Pada I and Chapter VI, Pada I through VIII; Also see Klaus Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism, 3rd Edition, ISBN 978-0-7914-7082-4, Chapter 26
  39. Miller, A. T. (2013), A review of "An Introduction to Indian Philosophy: Perspectives on Reality, Knowledge, and Freedom", Religion, 43(1), pages 119-123
  40. 40.0 40.1 Susan Dudek (2013), Nutrition Essentials for Nursing Practice, Wolters Kluwer Health, ISBN 978-1451186123, page 251
  41. Angela Wood (1998), Movement and Change, Nelson Thornes, ISBN 978-0174370673, page 80
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh, World Sikh University Press, Delhi ISBN 9788170231394 However, it is strange that nowadays in the Community-Kitchen attached to the Sikh temples, and called the Guru's Kitchen (or, Guru-ka-langar) meat-dishes are not served at all. May be, it is on account of its being, perhaps, expensive, or not easy to keep for long. Or, perhaps the Vaishnava tradition is too strong to be shaken off.
  43. 43.0 43.1 Guru Granth Sahib, An Analytical Study by Surindar Singh Kohli, Singh Bros. Amritsar ISBN 8172050607 The ideas of devotion and service in Vaishnavism have been accepted by Adi Granth, but the insistence of Vaishnavas on vegetarian diet has been rejected.
  44. HS Singha (2009), Sikhism: A Complete Introduction, Hemkunt Press, ISBN 978-8170102458, pages 81-82
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  47. Joel Mlecko (1982), The Guru in Hindu Tradition, Numen, Volume 29, Fasc. 1, pages 33-61
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  49. W.O. Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (2016). Sikhism and Christianity: A Comparative Study [archive]. Springer. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-1-349-23049-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  50. Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed [archive]. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-4411-5366-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 Robert Zaehner (1997), Encyclopedia of the World's Religions, Barnes & Noble Publishing, ISBN 978-0760707128, page 409
  52. R. C. Dogra & Urmila Dogra: Hindu and Sikh wedding ceremonies pub. 2000. Star Publications. ISBN 9788176500289.
  53. Douglas Charing and William Owen Cole: Six world faiths pub. 2004, page 309. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 9780826476838.
  54. William Owen Cole, Piara Singh Sambhi: Sikhism and Christianity: a comparative study, Volume 1993, Part 2, pub. 1993. Macmillan. Page 22. ISBN 9780333541067.

Cited sources[edit]

  • Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge, xiii-xiv. ISBN 0-415-26604-1.
  • Rosetta William, Sikh Gurus, Har-Anand Publications PVT Ltd (India), 2002, First edition, ISBN 8124107165
  • Professor Kartar Singh, Biography of Guru Nanak, Hemkunt Press (India), 1995, Sixth edition, ISBN 81-7010-162-X

Further reading[edit]

  • K.P. Agrawala: Adi Shrî Gurû Granth Sâhib kî Mahimâ (Hindi: "The greatness of the original sacred Guru scripture")
  • Elst, Koenraad: Who is a Hindu?, 2001. ISBN 81-85990-74-3 [2] [archive]
  • Rajendra Singh Nirala: Ham Hindu Hain, 1989. Ham Hindu Kyon, 1990. Delhi: Voice of India.
  • E. Trumpp. Adi Granth or the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi 1970.
  • McLeod, W.H.:(ed.) Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism. Manchester University Press, Manchester 1984., -: Who Is a Sikh? The Problem of Sikh Identity. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1989.
  • Harjot Oberoi, The Construction of Religious Boundaries : Culture, Identity, and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition, University Of Chicago Press 1994.
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