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The Development of Sikhism for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Jan 4




The development of Sikhism is an illustrative example in the Empires: Religious Beliefs topic of Unit 3 of AP World History. Read more about the development of Sikhism below!

Guru Nanak Dev Ji
Guru Nanak 2168621533/Shutterstock

Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the late 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia, an area that is now divided between India and Pakistan. Guru Nanak was born in 1469 in the village of Talwandi in modern Pakistan. His parents, Mehta Kalu and Mata Tripta, were Hindu, and his father was an accountant for the local Muslim authorities. From a young age, Nanak exhibited a deep spiritual inclination and a questioning mind.

Nanak's early life was marked by profound experiences and reflections on the divine. At the age of 30, he had a pivotal spiritual experience. Nanak disappeared for three days while bathing in the river Bein. Upon his return, he proclaimed, "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim, so whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God's path. God is neither Hindu nor Muslim, and the path I follow is God's."

This revelation was the cornerstone of Nanak's teachings, emphasizing the unity of God and the equality of all human beings. He began to spread this message through his poetry, hymns, and discourses.

Nanak embarked on a series of journeys, known as "Udasis," to spread his teachings. Over 20 years, he traveled extensively across India, South Asia, and the Middle East. He visited important religious centers, including those of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Jains, engaging in discussions and debates with religious leaders and common people.

During these journeys, Nanak's message was simple yet profound: there is one God, and all human beings are equal. He condemned the caste system, ritualistic practices, and superstitions that were prevalent in society. Instead, he advocated for a direct, personal connection with the divine through meditation, honest living, and selfless service.

Development of Sikhism

Nanak's teachings attracted a large following, and he established a spiritual community that lived by his principles. In 1505, Nanak settled in Kartarpur (now in Pakistan) and founded a commune where his followers, known as Sikhs (learners), lived and practiced his teachings. He emphasized the importance of a balanced life, combining spiritual pursuits with daily work and service to humanity.

Nanak's community was characterized by:

  1. Equality: All members of the community, regardless of caste, creed, or gender, were treated equally. This was a radical departure from the social norms of the time.

  2. Langar: Nanak introduced the practice of "langar," a community kitchen where everyone, irrespective of their background, could sit together and share a meal. This practice symbolized the breaking down of social barriers and promoted equality and unity.

  3. Sangat: The concept of "sangat" (congregation) emphasized the importance of communal worship and collective learning.

Core Teachings of Sikhism

  1. Oneness of God: There is only one God, who is formless, omnipresent, and omnipotent. This God is known as Waheguru.

  2. Equality of Mankind: All human beings are equal in the eyes of God. Discrimination based on caste, creed, or gender is rejected.

  3. Earning an Honest Living: Honest work and earning one's livelihood through truthful means are essential.

  4. Sharing and Giving: Sikhs are encouraged to share their wealth and resources with those in need, emphasizing selflessness and charity.

  5. Remembering God: Constant remembrance of God through meditation and prayer is crucial for spiritual growth.

Guru Nanak appointed his disciple Bhai Lehna as his successor, renaming him Guru Angad Dev Ji, and thus began the line of Sikh Gurus. The teachings of Guru Nanak and the subsequent Gurus were compiled into the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of Sikhism.

Sikhism, as founded by Guru Nanak, emerged as a distinct religion with a unique identity, rejecting the rigid structures and rituals of both Hinduism and Islam. It laid the foundation for a community based on equality, service, and devotion to one God, principles that continue to guide Sikhs around the world today.

Free Printable Reading Passage on the Development of Sikhism

The Development of Sikhism Free Reading Passage

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Empires: Belief Systems

Unit 3: Land-Based Empires

AP World History

The Development of Sikhism

#APWorldHistory #India #Sikhism

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Jan 4




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