Adi Granth: Literally translated, "the first book," the early compilation of the Sikh scriptures by Guru Arjan, the fith Sikh Guru, in 1604.
Adi Shakti: Symbol on the turban pin worn by Sikh women represents the Primal Feminine Creative Energy of the Universe.
Akal Purakh: Literally translated, "a timeless being that never dies." A Sikh name for God.
Akal Takhat: Literally translated, "eternal throne," the pre-eminent of the five seats of Sikh temporal authority, the authority exercised by its Jathedar is not shared by those of the other four Takhats. The actual building is located in the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex of Amritsar, facing the Harimandir Sahib, and was constructed under the direction of Guru Hargobind.
Akali Dal: Literally translated, "eternal army," the main political party of Sikhs in the Punjab.
Akhand Path: A continuous recitation of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, lasting about 48 hours, by a team of readers.
Amrit: Literally translated, "nectar." It is composed of water and sugar and is stirred with a double-edged sword while prayers are spoken. Initiation into Sikhism involves drinking Amrit. Can also refer, more generally, to the ambrosia of God's name.
Amritdhari: A Sikh who has taken part in the ceremonial initiation into the Khalsa.
Amritsar: Literally translated, "pool of nectar," the city located in the northern Indian state of Punjab, where the Harimandir Sahib complex is located.
Anand Karaj: Literally translated, "blissful event." The Sikh wedding ceremony, literally translated as "blissful occasion," the lavan, or four stanzas, are sung to formalize Sikh marriages.
Anandpur: The city in India where the Khalsa was created in 1699.
Ardas: The Sikh congregational prayer, anonymously written during the 18th century. Although it is not in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, it occupies a prominent place in Sikh religious functions. It is said with the daily prayers, and often used to initiate or conclude any significant endeavor (i.e. child going away to school, starting a business venture).
Bhangra: A Punjabi folk dance.
Caste: A ranked, birth-ascribed group, which determines social standing and occupation, based on the tenets of Hindu philosophy. For Sikhs, caste has no religious or social significance.
Chandigarh: The capital of the modern-day Indian state of Punjab.
Chunni: A long, flowing veil worn by some Sikh women with their turban, a symbol that every woman is a princess.
Dasam Granth: A sacred book of writings attributed by some Sikhs to Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs.
Dasvandh: One-tenth of personal income, which a Sikh is religiously obligated to donate to charity.
Gatka: The Sikh martial art form.
Golden Tempie: The Gurdwara of historical, spiritual, and emotional significance to Sikhs, called Harimandir Sahib in Punjabi first conceived by Guru Amar Das, although construction did not begin until Guru Ram Das became the Guru. Maharaja Ranjit Singh had the structure plated with gold in the early 19th century. In 1604, the recently compiled Adi Granth was housed here and was attacked by the Indian army in June 1984.
Giani: Someone learned in the Sikh religion. Often leads the congregation in prayers, such as Ardas, or in singing Kirtan.
Granthi: A ceremonial reader of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Duties include arranging daily religious services, reading from the Sikh scripture, maintaining the Gurdwara premises, and teaching and advising community members. A Granthi is not equivalent to a minister as there are no such religious intermediaries in the Sikh religious tradition.
Gurbani: The revealed wisdom of the Sikh Gurus in their own words, found in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib; The devotional songs of the Gurus.
Gurdwara: Literally translated, "Home of the Guru." Any building or room dedicated to housing the devotional songs of the Guru for the purpose of spiritual practice; A Sikh place of worship, open to anyone. Provides food and shelter to travelers, and the needy.
Gurmukhi: Literally translated, "from the mouth of the Guru." A written form of Punjabi, used in the Sikh scripture and in contemporary India.
Gurpurab: A Sikh holiday to commemorate the birth or death of a Sikh Guru.
Gursikh: A Sikh devoted to Waheguru (see WhaheGuru.com).
Guru: Literally translated, "teacher." One of the most important words in Sikhism, it has a number of related meanings. It can refer, depending on context of usage, to one of the ten Sikh prophets, the Sikh scripture, the Sikh community (Guru Panth), or God. The Sikhs had ten living Gurus, and the 10th Guru transferred the Guruship to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Arjan Dev: The fifth Guru of the Sikhs and their first martyr. He compiled the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. It was on his martyrdom day in June 1984 that the Indian army attacked the Golden Temple.
Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708): The tenth and last living prophet of the Sikhs, he passed the guruship onto the Sikh scripture, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, and the Sikh community (Guru Panth). Guru Gobind Singh Ji founded the order of the Khalsa during Vaisakhi (Baisakhi) 1699.
Guru Granth Sahib or Siri Guru Granth Sahib: The Sikh scripture, written in poetry organized in 31 sections, with each section corresponding to a particular melodic scale, or raag. It includes the poetry of six Sikh Gurus, and 36 other saints, including Muslims and Hindus. It is 1430 pages long and is the embodiment of the spiritual knowledge and authority of all of the Gurus. The words from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib are the central focus at all Sikh Gurdwaras. It is used by Sikhs for meditation, guidance, comfort, and inspiration.
Guru Hargobind: The 6th Guru of the Sikhs. Following the martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, he was the first Guru to maintain a standing army and symbolically wear two swords, representing spiritual and temporal power. He was responsible for the construction of the Akal Takht.
Guru Har Krishan: The 8th Guru of the Sikhs, who was only 5 years old when he became Guru in 1661. He died three years later.
Guru Nanak: The founder of the Sikh faith. Born in 1469, he began his mission by proclaiming that there is "neither Hindu nor Muslim," stressing common truths fundamental to diverse faiths. He preached against caste and advocated the equality of women. See FirstSikhOfSikhDharma.com.
Guru Panth: Literally translated, "Guru’s path." The name used by Sikhs to describe the worldwide Sikh community.
Guru Teg Bahadur: The 9th Guru of the Sikhs who was killed by Mughal rulers in 1675 for defending Hindus facing forcible conversion to Islam. He announced that the Hindus would convert to Islam only after he did.
Harimandir Sahib: Literally translated, "Temple of God." The Punjabi name for the Golden Temple.
Haumai: The self-centeredness (ego) of a human, which can only be overcome through meditation on God’s name (nam).
Hukam: Literally translated, "divine will." A decree by a higher authority. Can also refer to a passage from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, selected randomly daily. The passage is considered the "command of the Guru" for the day.
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale: A charismatic preacher and leader of a group of militants who were killed in the Indian army attack, Operation Blue Star, on the Harimandir Sahib complex in 1984.
Jathedar: A leader of Sikh volunteers. Also refers to the appointed leader of one of the five Sikh takhats.
Jhatka or Chatka: A Sikh warrior tradition involving the principal that shastars (weapons) are living, like the expression 'living steel'. Those shastars that have been in combat and tasted blood must be refreshed every so often to keep them alive. So, at certain times a goat is beheaded. It must be done in a very specific way, with a single stroke. The goat must be calm and not demonstrating fear or nervousness at the time. The Nihangs who do this are very skilled at calming the goat and making sure it is ready before they take the sword. Once the goat has been beheaded, the severed head is placed on a platter and carried into the Gurdwara where with a steel arrow the blood it taken and touched to the blades of shastars, just a drop or so, which is considered sufficient to keep the shastars alive. See http://search.aol.com/aol/image?q=shastars+photo.
Kacha: Undershorts. One of the five Ks, the Sikh articles of faith given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh worn by baptized Sikhs as a symbol of devotion and commitment.
Kanga: Comb. One of the five Ks, the Sikh articles of faith given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh, worn by baptized Sikhs as a symbol of devotion and commitment.
Kara: Steel bracelet. One of the five Ks, the Sikh articles of faith given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh, worn by baptized Sikhs as a symbol of devotion and commitment.
Kaum: A term used by many Sikhs to refer to the corporate Sikh nation or Panth.
Kaur: Literally translated, "Princess," the name given to all female Sikhs.
Kesh: Uncut hair. One of the five Ks, the Sikh articles of faith given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh, worn by baptized Sikhs as a symbol of devotion and commitment.
Khalistan: The proposed name for a sovereign Sikh state in Punjab, that is independent from India.
Khalsa: Literally translated, "belonging only to the divine;" The collective body of all initiated Sikhs, who drink the Amrit instituted by Guru Gobind Singh, and agree to live by the highest ideals of Sikh principles. Committed to one's own purity of consciousness and actions.
Khanda: Double-edged sword. When surrounded by a kirpan on each side and a quoit (ring), a symbol of the Khalsa.
Kirpan: Miniature ceremonial sword. One of the five Ks, the Sikh articles of faith, given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh, worn by a baptized Sikh. Represents the Sikh commitment to Truth and Protection of the weak and innocent.
Kirta: Traditional uniform worn by Sikhs.
Kirtan: The devotional singing of sacred hymns, or shabads (songs) from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, usually accompanied by musical instruments.
Langar: Free community kitchen. Langar is a free kitchen open to all, regardless of religious background, gender or social status as an expression of the Sikh belief in the equality of all humanity, and the rejection of the Hindu caste system, which forbade people of different castes from eating together.
Matha Taykna: Bowing down and touching the floor with one’s forehead in front of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs do not bow before the book as some type of idol worship. By bowing, Sikhs are submitting themselves to the Living Guru, and the knowledge and true words of God contained therein. Sikhs perform matha taykna as they enter the main hall. Most worshippers opt to place a donation in front of the scripture before bowing, which is used for the management of the Gurdwara.
Maya: Literally translated, "delusion." Sikh theology explains that everything in this world is an illusion, i.e., temporary, and that the only true reality is Waheguru. A person affected by Maya is described by the Guru as suffering from the illusion that all things, which are fleeting, are not worth pursuing. A person attached to Maya cannot escape the cycle of death and rebirth, which is the goal of every Sikh. A Sikh strives to avoid rebirth through living a meritorious life of honest work in service to others, and in remembrance of God’s name.
Naam: Name, the Holy Name of God. See Sat Nam.
Naam Simran: Remembering God's name through meditation, this seminal form of worship for Sikhs.
Nitnem: The Sikh prayers recited each day.
Operation Blue Star: The Indian army attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar and other Gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana and Himachel Pradesh in June 1984.
Panj Piare: Literally translated, "Five beloved ones." Five Amritdhari Sikhs. Often refers to the first five initiated Sikhs, during the Vaisakhi (Bhaisakhi) celebrations of 1699 that volunteered to give up their lives as a sign of their faith and love for their Guru. Currently, panj piare are necessary to perform baptisms, make important corporate decisions, and officiate over special occasions.
Panth: The Sikh community.
Patit: A Sikh who has been initiated into the Khalsa, but fails to observe the Khalsa code of conduct.
Prakash: A short ceremony performed when the Siri Guru Granth Sahib is formally opened everyday.
Punjab: Literally translated, "five rivers." The fertile region in South Asia, which today is divided between India and Pakistan, the birthplace of the Sikh religious tradition and the name of a state in both India and Pakistan.
Raag: A term used in Indian classical music to refer to a series of five or more notes upon which a melody is based. The poetic works in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib are categorized according to the raag in which they are sung.
Ragi: A musician who is trained in performing kirtan.
Rehat Maryada: A formalized code of conduct for the Khalsa way of life.
Sangat: Literally translated, "community," the Sikh congregation. Believed to be an essential aspect of living a spiritual and God- centered life.
Sant Sipahi: Literally translated, "Saint-Soldiers." Guru Hargobind decreed that Sikhs should be both devout followers of the teachings of the Gurus, while being prepared to take up arms for self-defense and defense of the oppressed.
Sat Sri Akal: A common Sikh greeting meaning "God is True and Timeless."
Seva: Community service; a central aspect of Sikh theology; Selfless service, which is believed to bring one closer to God.
Shabad: Literally translated, "word." A sacred Sikh hymn.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.): Established in 1920, this elected governance committee, located in Amritsar, is responsible for the administration of Gurdwaras in India.
Sikh: Literally translated, "student, disciple." According to the Sikh Rehat Maryada, a Sikh is someone who follows the one God, the ten Sikh Gurus, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the importance of the Khalsa initiation, and no other religion; "A Seeker of Truth."
Singh: Literally means lion, the name given to all male Sikhs.
Siri Guru Granth Sahib or Guru Granth Sahib: The Sikh scripture, written in poetry organized in 31 sections, with each section corresponding to a particular melodic scale, or raag. It includes the poetry of six Sikh Gurus, and 36 other saints, including Muslims and Hindus. It is 1430 pages long and is the embodiment of the spiritual knowledge and authority of all of the Gurus. The words from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib are the central focus at all Sikh Gurdwaras. It is used by Sikhs for meditation, guidance, comfort, and inspiration.
Sukhasan: A short ceremony performed when the Siri Guru Granth Sahib is formally closed everyday.
Takhat: Literally translated, "throne," one of five centers of Sikh secular authority.
Vaisakhi (Baisakhi): A spring harvest festival in the Punjab, usually held around April 13 holds special significance for Sikhs, as it serves as a time to commemorate the founding of the Khalsa in 1699. Considered the beginning of the Sikh New Year, it is a time of religious observances and festive celebration.
Waheguru (WhaheGuru): Literally translated, "the wonderful Lord"; the most popular Sikh name for God; Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa! Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh! Traditional Sikh expression, which means, "Those who are pure, i.e., meditate on God, belong to God! All life’s victories belong to God!"