Definition - What does Sikh mean?

Sikh is a term that refers to an adherent of Sikhism, a religion concentrated in the Punjab province of India that has more than 20 million followers worldwide. It shares some principles with other Indian religions, particularly Hinduism, but also has some key differences. Although Sikh technically denotes the person's religion, not ethnicity, many countries recognize Sikh as an ethnic group as well.

Founded in the 16th century by Guru Nanak, Sikhism is based on the guru's teachings and those of the nine gurus who came after him. It is a monotheistic religion and emphasizes good deeds rather than rituals. The men take Singh, meaning “lion,” as their middle or last name, while the women take Kaur, meaning "princess," in their name.

Yogapedia explains Sikh

Sikhs believe in the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth, as well as the concept of karma, in which the quality of a person's life is affected by how he behaved in his previous life. To escape this reincarnation cycle, the Sikh must become one with God and reach a state of liberation known as mukti, which corresponds to the Hindu state of moksha.

Traditionally, Sikhs have not accepted the practice of yoga, and there is a strongly-held belief among some mainstream Sikhs that yoga is incompatible with their religion. However, there are those who cite Gurbani, Sikhism's holy texts, to support yoga as an accepted practice; specifically, yoga's goal of union with the Divine. In fact, the evolution of Sikhism was influenced by the Bhakti yoga movement.

Male Sikhs who have undergone their religion's initiation ceremony are recognizable by their adherence to the following:

  • Uncut hair that is covered, usually by a turban
  • A steel or iron bracelet
  • A sword, known as a kirpan, which is tucked into a belt or strap
  • A small wooden comb, known as a kanga
  • A cotton undergarment resembling boxer shorts called a kachehra
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