Sikh Rehat Maryada
The Sikh Rehat Maryada (Punjabi (Gurmukhi): ਸਿੱਖ ਰਹਿਤ ਮਰਯਾਦਾ, Sikkh Rahit Maryādā) (alternate transcription Sikh Reht Maryada) is a code of conduct and conventions for Sikhism, approved by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar in 1945. It is one of many Rahitnama (code of conducts) written for Sikhs.
Before Sri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Ji’s (the 10th Sikh Guru) joti jot (his soul merged with the one devine light) in 1708, he transferred his authority to the Sikh Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, and the body of initiated Sikhs, called the Khalsa Panth. However between 1708 and 1925 the Sikh community experienced sectarianism and no centralized authority apart from that arranged under British rule from 1849. A range of other codes and collections of tradition existed, but none represented the entire community (Panth).
In 1925, the Punjab Sikh Gurdwara Act (the Act) was introduced and legislated the establishment of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) (an elected body of Sikhs) for the purpose of administering Gurdwaras.
Timeline of drafting and approval
- March 1927
- October 1931 – January 1932
- A preliminary draft was circulated to Sikhs in April 1931, for comment. The subcommittee met on 4 and 5 October 1931, 3 January 1932, and 31 January 1932, at the Akal Takht, Amritsar. During this time the number of subcommittee members present at meetings reduced, and other people were listed as present.
- March 1932
- May and October 1932
- December 1933
- August and October 1936
- January and February 1945
- At their meeting on 7 January 1945 the SPGC's Advisory Committee on Religious Matters recommended some changes to be made to the Code. The Advisory Committee consisted of eight individuals as listed in the Preface to the Sikh Rehat Maryada. The SGPC accepted the recommendations at their meeting on 3 February 1945.
Since then, several minor updates have been made to clarify content, but no significant review has been undertaken.
The Sikh Rehat Maryada addresses key issues such as the definition of a Sikh, personal and communal obligations such as meditation and volunteer service, rules for gurdwara services to include appropriate music and festivals, and the conduct of assorted Sikh ceremonies.
Definition of Sikh
A Sikh is defined as any person, male or female, who faithfully:
There are two aspects to a Sikh living. One is the adherence to a personal discipline and the development of a strong family life. The other is the involvement in communal life and to ensure community well-being and infra-structure for support of the weak within the community local and globally. This is the practical aspect of the three pillars of Sikhism promoted by Guru Nanak called Wand kay Shako (share and consume).
- Naam Japna – Meditation on God's Name and the recital of the holy scriptures:
- To arise in the early hours and recite Gurbani in the morning (Five Banis), evening (Rehras) and night (Kirtan Sohila), collectively known as the Nitnem, followed each time with the Ardas prayer. To remember God at all times and to recite his name whenever possible. (Naam Simran)
- Seek only the support of the Almighty Lord before beginning any new task or venture. (Ardas)
- Kirat Karni – Leading one's life in accordance with the Guru's teachings:
- Engage in an honest profession or other work or course of study.
- Promote the family way of life giving time to children in an active way so as to ensure their proper awareness of the Sikh way of life.
- To live humbly and with love in an extended family group encouraging Gurmat principles and offering moral support within this extended structure.
- Seva – Undertake free voluntary service within the community at Gurdwaras, community projects, hospitals, old peoples homes, nurseries, etc.
- At every opportunity to spend ones free time to free community work and devote at least 10% of ones wealth in time or money to support community projects.
- To positively support weaker members within the community.
- Disciplined life – The Sikh is commanded by the Gurus to lead a disciplined life and to not follow blindly rituals and superstitions which bring no spiritual or material benefit to the person or community.
- Follow the teachings of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib
- Do not eat meat that has been slaughtered in a ritualistic way (Kutha meat) and refrain from using all forms of intoxicants. Alcohol and tobacco is strictly prohibited.
- Refrain from rituals, superstitions and other anti-Sikh behavior such as gambling, etc.
- Apart from one's wife (or husband) to treat all females (or males) as daughters, sisters or mothers (sons, brothers or fathers) depending on their age.
- To practice and promote complete equality between the genders; castes; races, religions, etc.
The Sikh has a duty to actively contribute to the community outside the family unit. Time needs to be given to the greater Sikh community and the even wider world community. It is the duty of the Sikh to hold a continuous dialogue with all members of the larger community, to treat them as equals, and respect their religions and their customs.
Meditating and scriptures
Sikhs engage in personal and communal meditation, Kirtan and the study of the holy Scriptures. Meditating and understanding of the Guru Granth Sahib is important to the development of a Sikh. One should not only study Gurmukhi and be able to read Gurbani but also understand the meaning of the text. Translations and other material may be used to assist the Sikh. The Sikh should revert to the Guru Granth Sahib for the all spiritual guidance in one's life.
Congregation and scripture
It is believed that a Sikh is more easily and deeply affected by Gurbani when engaged in congregational gatherings. For this reason, it is necessary for a Sikh to visit Gurdwaras, the places where the Sikhs congregate for worship and prayer. On joining the holy congregation, Sikhs should take part and obtain benefit from the joint study of the holy scriptures.
No one is to be barred from entering a Gurdwara, no matter in which country, religion or caste he/she belongs to. The Gurdwara is open to all for the Guru's darshan (seeing the holy Guru) and Langar. However the person must not have on his/her person anything, such as tobacco or other intoxicants, which are tabooed by the Sikh religion. Shoes must be removed, one's head must be covered, and respectful clothing is a must.
Service in gurdwaras
During a service in a Gurdwara and while congregational sessions are in session, only one activity should be done at a time in one hall in the presence of the Guru – performing of kirtan, delivering of discourse, interpretative elaboration of the scriptures or the reading of the scriptures.
Sikhs, though anyone with correct pronunciation and understanding of Gurbani who desires to take part in the congregation, perform Kirtan (Spiritual hymn singing) in a congregation and only hymns (Shabads) from the holy scriptural compositions in traditional musical measures should be sung. Only Shabads from Guru Granth Sahib Ji Gurbani and the compositions of Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal, may be performed. It is improper to sing Kirtan to rhythmic folk tunes or popular film tunes.
Ardas and Guru's Hukam
Akhand Paath and Sadharan Paath
Akhand Paath: Is the non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib carried on during difficult times or during occasions of joy and celebration. The reading takes approximately forty eight hours of continuous and uninterrupted reading by a relay of skilled Gurbani readers. The reading must be done in a clear voice and with correct and full pronunciation. Reading the Gurbani too fast, so that the person listening in cannot follow the contents, is discouraged and is considered as disrespect for the Scriptures and the congregation (Sangat).
The important Sikh festivals that are celebrated are:
Living according to the Guru's Way
To live and promote the tenets stipulated by the Gurus.
- Belief in One God
- Equality of All the Human race
- Respect for All, irrespective of gender, age, status, color, caste, sexual orientation, etc.
- Self-Control – Kill the Five Evils; no rituals or superstitions; no gambling, tobacco, alcohol, intoxicating drugs, etc.
- Self-Improvement – Promote the Five Virtues
- Maintenance of a distinct external image – 5 Ks and Bana
Voluntary service (Kar Seva)
Seva (voluntary service) is an important prominent part of the Sikh religion and all Sikhs must get involved in this communal service whenever an opportunity arises. This in its simple forms can be: sweeping and washing the floors of the Gurdwara, serving water and food (Langar) to or fanning the congregation, offering provisions or preparing food and doing other 'house keeping' duties.
Guru ka Langar (Guru's free food) is a very important part of Sikhism. When Langar is being served or when sangat is being sat down “Sat-Naam Waheguru Must be chanted. The main philosophy behind the langar is two-fold : to provide training to engage in seva and an opportunity to serve people from all walks of life and to help banish all distinctions between high and low castes.
Sikhism offers strong support for a healthy communal life and a Sikh must undertake to support all worthy projects which would benefit the community and promote Gurmat principles. Importance is given to inter-faith dialogue, support for the poor and weak, better community understanding and co-operation.
Sikh Rehat Maryada is based on earlier codes (Rehat nama), including:
- Tanakhah-nama (Nasîhatnâme) Samvat 1776 (1718–1719 CE), ten years after Guru Gobind Singh gave up his mortal body.
- The Prahilad Rai Rehat-namab
- Sakhi Rehat ki: about 1735 CE
- Chaupa Singh Rehat-nama: 1740–1765 CE (1700 CE according to Piara Singh Padam). Chaupa Singh was a member of the Guru's retinue. He was entrusted with the care of infant Gobind Rai by Guru Tegh Bahadur. Some members of Chaupa Singh's family became martyrs with Guru Tegh Bahadur in Delhi and others served under the 10th Guru.
- Desa Singh Rehat-nama: late 18th century
- Daya Singh Rehat-nama.
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