April is the month when millions of Sikhs around the world celebrat Vaisakhi, the holiest day in the Sikh calendar that marks the day Sikhism was born as a collective faith in 1699. We talk to Jag Sanghera, a HR Project Manager at DLG, about what it’s like to be a Sikh in 2021.
For Jag and her family, being a Sikh in Britain today includes, listening to prayers through Alexa and trips to their local Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in their jeans and jumpers but the core value of helping those in need remains unchanged.
Jag says, “I was brought up in a traditional Sikh family where my mum always taught my brother and I about our faith. We attended a Punjabi school at our local Gurdwara where we got to learn so much about Sikh history. We always celebrated every Sikh festival, traditionally at the Gurdwara (a temple where Sikhs go to pray”.
A lot of people still don’t know much about Sikhism. Principles include earning an honest living, sharing with others and treating everyone equally. Jag says that they are also taught to stand up for what’s right, protect those in need and practise martial arts as a form of self-defence.
She continues, “When I was young in the 90s, I didn’t learn martial arts as my mum felt like a minority and uncomfortable at local clubs. Times are changing and my four-year-old daughter is on a waiting list to join a local club when lockdown eases - she can’t wait to get started! Although I haven’t been baptised as a Sikh, I try to follow my religion as much as possible. I can’t read all the prayers, but thankfully I have Alexa on hand to play them every morning and evening. We visit the Gurdwara every weekend, which has continued throughout much of lockdown.
Jag says that community is important and throughout the pandemic she has been volunteering with the Guru Nanak Seva and South London Sikh Youth helping to prepare and deliver free hot food to those who’ve been shielding.
Jag continues, “There’s nothing I’m prouder of than my history and the religion I was born into. It’s because of our principles I made a conscious decision to follow this faith, and not just because I was brought up in a Sikh family”.
Five facts about Sikhism
- Sikhs believe in one God called Waheguru which means wonderful Lord or wonderful teacher. Waheguru gives life to everything, and all life is a part of Waheguru.
- Sikhs say five prayers in the morning, another one in the evening, and a final prayer before we go to bed.
- Their holy building is called a Gurdwara, which means “doorway to the guru" and it's open every day and everyone is welcome. Inside the Gurdwara, everyone takes off their shoes, covers their heads and sits on the floor to show that we're all equal and part of the same sangat - the same community. We pray together and sing hymns, which we call kirtan, but mainly we go to listen to the words of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
- For Sikh people, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji is not a book, but a living Guru because it contains Waheguru's words. We give the Guru Granth Sahib Ji all the respect that would have been given to a human Guru, and it's read aloud by a man or woman, called a granthi.
- Sikh’s who have been baptised during the ceremony wear five symbols they are called the Five Ks because in the Punjabi language, they all begin with a K: kara - a steel bangle; kesh - uncut hair; kangha - a comb; kaacha - undershorts; and kirpan - a short sword. Some Sikhs, especially men, also wear a turban.