By Sukhbir Singh

Sikh religious practices and institutions have been undergoing a transformation —a transformation which are not evolutionary, progressive, or a natural product of times, but are a regression to some baser and undesirable forms. The emerging forms had lied dormant, and now appear to be successfully overcoming the Sikh resistance.

THE great movement of Sikhism started with a clean break from Hinduism by rejecting a number of its fundamental tenets, The Sikhs developed unique institutions which are models of simplicity itself: The institutions of Guru Da Langar Guru’s kitchen, was a master stroke to cut down the barriers of Chhoot  Chhat  untouchibility, and Zaat Paat Caste system. It adapted a regional language Punjabi in Gurmukhi script, instead of the literary Sanskrit, Persian or Arabic for its business. Sikhism thus gave currency to worship in the familiar lingua franca. The Sikhs made a mockery of the ritualistic practices of worship by the Hindus and Muslims, and adopted ceremonies which were simple and required no intermediaries. The Sikhs also broke free from the need of intervention of any organized priestly classes to interpret the ways of gods. Meaningless repetitions of Mantras mystical sounds and words were replaced by rapturous love songs in praise of God. It confirmed and reinforced a Sikh’s daily experiences the hand of the Supreme Being in everything around him. Sikhism stood for the Tights of women, and advocated the equality of human beings. It championed the freedom of worship of God who is unborn, creator and protector, and but loves everyone equally. Instead of philosophical speculations, Sikhism relied upon the simplicity of basic human values and love of God’s creation.

The Sikh of today has also inherited some remnants of Hinduism which continue to be constant irritants and are dragging him ever tenaciously into the Hindu fold. The virus of Hinduism which lay dormant in the politely tolerated and overlapping social, cultural, and religious practices is raising its ugly head once again. The “moderate Sikhs” have retained some Hindu practices as a dual nationality, and continue to advocate an “accommodation”. This is done, actually to placate the Sarkar ruler and master; but is professed to be an imperative of interfaith marriages, and political Realities. The case doesn’t seem to be an involuntary regression of Sikhism into the folds of Hinduism, but is actually a steady and flagrant adaptation of Hindu practices by the Sikhs!

Granted the similarity of Sikh and Hindu institutions; granted they share a common past; granted their cultures overlap; but are these good enough reasons to eliminate the goodness of Sikhism an to change it into another of those “also ran” type of protestant movements of Hinduism?


Sikhism for an average Sikh is more a way of life than a rigid set of intellectual convictions. His public activities demonstrate the way he implements the principles and practices of Sikhism. Here most of his corporate actions give him away as he the practitioner of Hinduzed Sikhism. However, these actions are generally seen to be acted more out of innocence than due to any planned and conscientious violation. But their widespread and steady occurrence shows an erosion of the very postulates which set Sikhism apart from Hinduism. One gets this nasty feeling that the very virtues of Sikhism have been compromised, but the phenomenon is not something which is being forced upon the Sikhs! Regrettably, the Sikhs are conscious and unwitting victims of their own simpleminded fairness; their own brand of logic that others are as good as we like to see them. They hesitate to question the actions and practices of their coreligionists, lest they be proved wrong, or they might lose some friends! Any objection to waywardness invariably meets a loud and aggressive bluff, in the style of the legendary Kali Dass: Daso Ji Kithe Likhya Eh “where is it written, show me?” Tusaan Gurbaani Parhi Eh “Have you studied the holy book, eh”? The matters, for the sake of harmony, remain ever unresolved; and the Sikhs thus continue to assist in the decline of Sikhism. Examples of Hinduization of Sikhs are numerous and varied such as:


Guru Da Dewan Ya Bhajan Mandali: Guru’s court or an idol worshipping crowd? The Sikhs have such an unshakable confidence in their own opinions, and such a shallow understanding of their traditions that they are more impressed by astray “foreigner “in their midst than a thousand Sikh scholars. They feel so “honored” and have such a need for acceptance by others that whenever a nonSikh ventures into a Gurdwara they implore him to “say something”. This is apparently done in the interest of political integration and to demonstrate their broad minded respect for other’s beliefs. There also is a general conviction that Sikh religion is so open that everyone is welcome to join in worship, and it is so simple that anyone can propound upon the beauties and principles of Sikhism.

It certainly is commendable that in some places the “Hindu friends” are regular fixtures in the Guru Da Dewan. Unfortunately, to the discredit of Sikhs, some of these friends are also invited to sing Bhajans compositions extolling the virtues of the members of the Pantheon of Hindu gods. One witnesses such pleadings as: Jamna Parsad ji, tusin vi kujh gao“Mr. Jamna Parsad, please, you also sing something”. This is done knowing fully well that the person is going to sing about an Avtar person born of human flesh and claiming to be the God! Such avatars may have had godly qualities but they are no way equivalent of God! We are told that Guru Ayan did not include Mira Bai’s compositions in our holy book, because she was an “idol worshiper” and bestowed her affections upon an Avtar! I thought Sikh MaryadaSikh tradition, forbids dissemination of any composition other than Gurbani sacred compositions by the Gurus, in the Guru Da Dewan. Only exceptions are the writings of Bhai Gurdas and Nandlall Goya. (Some writings/ poems are apparently permitted to be recited in a Kavi Darbar “gathering for poetic tributes to the Guru’s”, organized on the occasions of historical importance).

Some time ago I attended a Guru Da Dewan; where a Bhajanapparently a film song, was being sung with great deal of rapture. One of its lines went something like this: man rahe tere charnoon men, chaahe desh chor ke niklnaa ho Will alwaus love you, even if Tam forced to leave the country”. I wondered what that had to do with worship, or Gurbani or Sikh Maryada. It may say a great deal about the Accommodating nature, or tolerance of the Sikhs, but it is corrupting a great institution. Such practices do propagate the popular yield belief that Sikhs, believe in avatars, and they worship their holy book as if it were a god! That is one time I missed “the ways of Khalsa”.


The Sikhs surround the Guru Granth Sahib the holy book, with symbols of royalty such as Chaananicanopy, Chauraa fly flicker, and RumalaasSilken coverings, etc., They are enjoined to respect the holy book, particularly when opening, reading or closing it, as the “pargat Guran kideh” the embodiment of the Guru. Here the Guru Granth Sahib is referred to and addressed as the Sachhaa Paadshaahthe one and the only earthly emperor! Such show of respect along with bows and prostrations in front of the Sachhaa Paadshaah is misinterpreted by many uninformed observers as: “The Sikhs worship their holy book”! Sikhs defend it and explain away their actions as: “No, no, we worship God alone; what you notice is a Sikh offering his respect to the Holy Book”. “Just as some people kiss their holy books, as a manner of salutation, the Sikh bow to theirs”. “It is an Indian custom, an ultimate mark of respect by a devotee, to do the Dandvat Pranaam  to prostrate at the freet of a person worthy of his respect; the devotee may also touch his knees or feet”.

Granted the Guru Granth Sahib is the pargat Guran kideh, and we prostrate before it or bow to it; but why do we bow to some pictures apparently likenesses of Guru’s portraits? Often Babe di Gadi Guru’s throne, is almost completely obliterated by a massive display of pictures. Sikh maryada does forbid this practice. Sikh Maryada also expressly forbids ritualistic practices of worship, and any use or display of iconoclastic symbols or images in Sikh ceremonies. To my knowledge, no known portrait, or photograph of the Gurus ever existed. Sardar Sobha Singh’s renderings of Guru’s likeness are his perceptions of Guru’s personalities. If Guru Granth Sahib is pargar Guran ki deh, then why have such a prominent display of poster like pictures of the Guru, and in his own presence? The practice, obviously, is the equivalent of Hindu practice of using iconoclastic symbols and Moortis images or idols, as aids in worship. In fact the Hindus when worshipping, elevated these “aides” to the rank of the master himself”.


The ceremony of Akhand Path uninterrupted recitation of the Granth Sahib, is engaged in by the Sikhs with great abandon. Here a relay of Granthis takes tums to read the holy book, from beginning to end, in 39 and 48 hours. The ceremony concludes mostly with Keerian and Guru Ka Langar. Whatever the objectives to undertake it, the Akhand Path has become an excellent vehicle for arranging gatherings of the Sikh community. This ceremony is now central to a Sikh’s social and community life, throughout the Sikhdom. The Path Recitation also suffices for a good “crash course” on Gurbani for the participants.

Whatever their origin, the practice of Akhand Path, seems to be an extension of Hindu rituals, and is a perfect example of Hinduization of Sikh institutions. In similar Hindu practices people vow to undertake some masochistic feat or do some penance to appease the gods. They vow to “do such and such”, uninterrupted, till “such and such is accomplished”: The penance may consist of continuous and repetitious reading and singing of Mantras or scriptures. The Akhand Path is now a Sikh equivalent of such Hindu practice.

These days whatever happens Sikhs resort to “Akhand Path rakh lao ji” “Let us have an Akhand Path”: Someone decides to sponsor the Akhand Path; Granthis volunteers or hired hands make the participants; and any audience other than during brief periods at the beginning and conclusion of the ceremony, is invariably the Granthi himself, who is busily trying to finish his quota! Everyone sponsors and Granthis alike, feel that they have participated in a great pious and meritorious feat, and done some Parchaar “spreading the Gospel”, as well. One popular scenario: A family engages the services of a Gurdwara, to undertake an Akhand Path on its behalf. Here the hired Granthis reads the Granth Sahib, and the family stays home, busy in its own affairs! Another popular scenario: Here the Gurdwaras have a number of “blanket” Akhand Path readings going on simultaneously. The candidate Sikh sponsors merely pays the Gurdwara to have the Path credited to his account!

The Akhand Path, of all the Sikh ceremonies, qualifies as a perfect example of a ritual. How is this exercise any different from the Hindu Hawan — ritualistic burning of great deal of food stuffs, accompanied by endless intonations of Mantras; presumably to appease the gods, cleanse air, and to purify the audience! To me it is nothing less than the practices of those Pandaas of Hardwaar  who for a fee promised to maintain ‘our ancestors in worldly comforts. Or how about the selling of salvations by the Pope!

The practice of Akhand Path is probably not destroying the fabric of Sikhism; but it is not contributing to the Sikh piety either. The practice is definitely a godsend boon for the Granthis. No self-respecting Sikh wants to be caught dead and not sponsor an Akhand Path! It is a practice which the Gurus would certainly have spoken against as meaningless, and a Pakhand dramatic fake. One is reminded of the Guru’s admonitions: Parhiah par qurhiah nahin literate but uneducated; or, Jk bhao lathi naatian, doi bha charios hor “he shed one sin, but contracted two more”.


The Sikhs continue to suffer from a complex that they are serving the cause of peace, and go out of their way to practice “moderate Sikhism”. For instance every any Guru Da Dewan, Discussion, Conference, Study Group, Essay Contest, or Sikh Youth Camp is mostly restricted to Guru Nanak — his life or interpretations of his views on such esoteric subjects as Yoga, Sarguna Nirguna, and unity of God or Naam— word signifying God, etc. Anything beyond this is apparently considered to be controversial! Guru Nanak is such a safe subject that it can be profusely talked about or prolifically written on. The Sarkari Government sponsored, Sikh scholars continue to flourish! Here, when the Guru’s philosophy is “interpreted” by a Toap Chand big gun, a Das or a Lal it seems to make more sense than when it is explained by a Singh. The Sikhs go rapturous and rush to bestow a Sarop a highest award in Sikhdom, on the “scholar”! Whereas, if a Singh pleads for some sanity or cautions against the sheep like plunge after the Minister Sahib, or begs for the destiny of the Sikhs, he is summarily branded as an extremist. One witnesses such polite invitations as “ehnoon baahr kadho ji ” throw the rascal out!

GIFT WORLD SIKH NEWS And Win An Enlightened Friend

Article extracted from this publication >> April 29, 1988