SOCIAL ASPECTS

Why do Sikhs learn gatka (the Sikh martial arts)?  

Gatka is a Sikh martial art using wooden sticks and shields that is learned in alignment with the belief that the body is God’s temple and needs to be taken care of (physical fitness). 

What is the status of women in Sikh communities?  

Women are considered equal in all aspects of the Sikh faith community. This is one of the core beliefs of Sikhism. They have played and continue to play a leading role in shaping the community’s affairs.  

What is the impact of religion on the Sikh social structure (community)?  

Sikhs gather in a place called a Gurdwara. This provides a center for Sikhs to gather and organize their affairs. It serves as a place of learning, gathering, and worshiping together. There are local bodies and national groups which come together around an issue, but otherwise the Sikh community is loosely organized. There is no hierarchical system in Sikhism.  

What is the religious place of Sikhs called?  

The Sikh place of worship is the Gurdwara. It literally means an institution or a place of learning. In Sikhism, the prayers can be held at any place or time, but Gurdwaras are made for congregations. The most essential part of the Gurdwara is the presence of the Guru in the form of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scriptures. Any person may lead the Sikh service, but the interpretation is done by a trained Sikh preacher.

What is the Sikh service like?  

A Sikh service is held in the presence of the Guru, the Holy Scriptures. During the service, there is hymn singing, readings from the Scriptures, and also congregational prayers for the community-at-large seeking the well-being of all the world.  The attendance at the place of worship is voluntary and open to all communities.   In the Gurdwara, one is required to take off one’s shoes, cover one’s head, and sit all together in the congregation. Head coverings are provided for those who do not have one. 

All Sikh services conclude with a vegetarian community meal called the langar, which is prepared by volunteers and shared with everyone in attendance, even non-Sikhs.  This tradition stresses social equality.

How do Sikhs view pluralism?  

Sikhism, since its inception, has emphasized a pluralistic society where everyone is entitled to their belief system. This includes a social order where each person has the basic right to worship and the right to prosper.   Human rights, social justice, and religious freedom are at the core of Sikh beliefs. The founders of Sikhism encouraged interfaith dialogue and discussions based on mutual respect.

What is the role of the family in Sikhism?  

Sikhism is a householder’s religion, and family life is central to the social structure of Sikh society. A Sikh has to be fully involved in family life, and an ascetic or monastic life is not allowed.  

What is the impact of the Sikh faith on the social structure of the Sikhs?  

The Sikh social structure and culture are driven by the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy scriptures). The Scriptures support freedom of worship and the equality of all humans, and explicitly reject discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, and gender.  For example, visitors of any religious , racial or socio-economic background are welcomed at any Sikh Gurdwara (house of worship), where langar (vegetarian food) is served to people of all origins, who then sit together on the same level of the floor. Any trained teacher can teach from the Scriptures, as there is no hierarchy in the Sikh place of worship.