Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sikhism, an Indian religion / the Golden Temple of Amritsar at night

Golden Temple at night
Originally uploaded by Paki Nuttah.
Sikhism, pronounced SEE kihz uhm, is one of the religions of India. Its believers call themselves Sikhs, which means disciples.

About 14 million Sikhs live in India, the majority of them in the northern state of Punjab, says World Book.

The first Sikh guru criticized Hindu and Muslim religious practices that he said emphasized outer forms over inner spiritual awakening. He instructed his followers to be aware of God's presence by rising early, bathing, meditating on the divine name, and directing each day's activities to God. By remembering God in this way, and by living a good and simple life, people could free themselves from the cycle of reincarnation. According to Sikh belief, a person's actions (karma) determine whether the soul will enter the next life as a plant, animal, or human being.

In 1526, northern India was conquered by Muslims from what is now Afghanistan, who founded the Mughal Empire. The Sikhs had to defend themselves from Muslim persecution. The ideal of the Sikh became the "saint-soldier."

In the early 1800's, Ranjit Singh established a Sikh kingdom in northern India. In 1849, the kingdom was conquered by the British, who controlled much of India. When India and Pakistan became independent nations in 1947, almost half the Sikhs lived in the area that became Pakistan. Many Sikhs fled to India to escape persecution.

By the 1960's, the Sikh community was playing a leading role in India's agriculture, business and professional work, and military life. Sikh farmers led the "green revolution" that helped increase India's food production.

Many Sikhs demanded more control of Punjab. In 1984, Sikh rebels occupied the Golden Temple and the surrounding sacred buildings in Amritsar. An Indian army action to remove the Sikhs caused great damage and many deaths. Some radical Sikh groups continued to carry out acts of violence and terrorism as part of their movement.

Other points of Sikhism:
* hair & beard not cut.
* steel band, comb, dagger and fighting bloomers are worn.
* Amritsar, site of the Golden Temple, is their capital city.
See more photos of Sikhs atFlickr.com.

Yoga notes:
* compare the American practice of yoga with the popular, if extremely demanding, Pilates. See Joseph Pilates, the German founder of the regimen.

* Was Gandhi a barrister or barista?

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