SIKHISM, a religion of India, whose followers (Sikhs) are principally found in the Punjab, United Provinces, Sind, Jammu and Kashmir.
Sikhism was founded by Nanak, a Khatri by caste, who was born at Talwandi near Lahore in A.D.
The doctrines of Sikhism as set forth in the Granth are that it prohibits idolatry, hypocrisy, class exclusiveness, the concremation of widows, the immurement of women, the use of wine and other intoxicants, tobacco-smoking, infanticide, slander and pilgrimages to the sacred rivers and tanks of the Hindus; and it inculcates loyalty, gratitude for all favours received, philanthropy, justice, impartiality, truth, honesty and all the moral and domestic virtues upheld by Christianity.
Sikhism mainly differs from Christianity in that it inculcates the transmigration of the soul, and adopts a belief in predestination, which is universal in the East.
This doctrine of philosophic quietism was common to his successors, until in the time of the sixth guru, Har Govind, it was found necessary to support the separate existence of Sikhism by force of arms, and this led to the militant and political development of the tenth and most powerful of the gurus, Govind Singh.
There may first be mentioned the zealots such as the Akalis, who, though generally quite illiterate, aim at observing the injunctions of Sikhism Guru Govind Singh; secondly, the true Sikhs or Singhs who observe his ordinances, such as the prohibi tions of cutting the hair and the use of tobacco; and, thirdly, those Sikhs who while professing devotion to the tenets of the gurus are almost indistinguishable from ordinary Hindus.
Sikhism attained its zenith under the military genius of Ranjit Singh.
Peace returned, and during the next twenty or twenty-five years Sikhism reached its lowest ebb; but since then the demand for Sikhs in the regiments of the Indian army and farther afield has largely revived the faith.
The establishment of Singh Sabhas, of Sikh newspapers, and the spread of education have largely tended in the same direction, but the strict ethical code of Sikhism and the number of its obligatory divine services have caused many to fall away from the faith: nor does the austere Sikh ritual appeal to women, who generally prefer Hinduism with its picturesque material worship and the brightness of its innumerable festivals.
At the present day the stronghold of Sikhism still remains the great Phulkian states of-, Patiala, Nabha and Jind and the surrounding districts of Ludhiana, Lahore, Amritsar, Jullundur and Gujranwala.
It is doubtful if Buddhism, and still more so if Jainism and Sikhism, all of which are commonly recognized as distinct religions, ever differed from Hinduism to a greater extent than did the tenets of the earlier followers of Chaitanya in Bengal or those of the Lingayats in Mysore; and yet these latter two are regarded only as sects of Hinduism.
Considerations of their history and past political importance have led to the elevation of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism to the rank of independent religions, while the numerous other schismatic bodies are held to be only sects.
In this way both Buddhism (q.v.) and Jains have almost been swallowed up by Hinduism; Sikhism (q.v.) is only preserved by the military requirements of the British, and even the antagonism between Hindu and Mahommedan is much less acute than it used to be.
The actual proportion of the total population of India (294 millions) included under the name of "Hindus" has been computed in the census report for 1901 at something like 70% (206 millions); the remaining 30% being made up partly of the followers of foreign creeds, such as Mahommedans, Parsees, Christians and Jews, partly of the votaries of indigenous forms of belief which have at various times separated from the main stock, and developed into independent systems, such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism; and partly of isolated hill and jungle tribes, such as the Santals, Bhils (Bhilla) and Kols, whose crude animistic tendencies have hitherto kept them, either wholly or for the most part, outside the pale of the Brahmanical community.