What is the Sikh attitude to divorce?

Sikhism favor family life and monogamy. The ideal family is one where there is mutual love and respect between the husband and the wife and their children and grand children if any. The Anand Marriage Act, 1909, gave a wife status equal to that of her husband. The marriage establishes a permanent relationship between the partners and there is no provision for a divorce under this Act, for the Sikh marriage (Anand Karaj) is a sacrament and not a civil contract. However, in olden times if the marriage broke down, the woman would leave her husband and go and stay with her parents. Nowadays, the partners may live separately, or apply for a divorce after some time, under the Hindu code or the civil marriage Act. At that time, it is for the court to decide to grant a divorce or not, and in case the divorce is decided by the Court, it may make a provision for the support of the woman and the custody of the children and their maintenance. The Sikhs have no Personal Law, but they are covered under the Hindu Code in India. However, in certain cases, the custom of chaddar, which implies the present of a bedsheet by a man to a woman indicating his decision to take her as his wife is legal in Punjab.

Generally, grounds like cruelty, adultery, change of religion, suffering from an incurable disease and in some cases incompatibility of temperaments are accepted by Courts for purposes of divorce. A second marriage after divorce is permissible. The remarriage of a widow or widower is encouraged in Sikhism.

Sikh Saints

Bhai Mardana (1459 to 1520)
Bhai Mardana was the lifelong companion and first disciple of Guru Nanak. Bhai Mardana was born in 1459 at Nankana Sahib to Muslim parents Bhai Badre and Mai Lakho. He belonged to a caste of musicians which sang and danced at festivals and weddings. Bhai Mardana became friends with Guru Nanak when they were both children, Mardana being 10 years older than Guru Nanak. Bhai Mardana accompanied Guru Nanak on most of his great journeys, he would play the rebeck (a string instrument) while Guru Nanak would be singing and composing his hymns. Three of Bhai Mardana’s hymns are included in the Guru Granth Sahib. Bhai Mardana passed away in 1520 on the banks of the river Khuram in Afghanastan. He was returning with Guru Nanak on the Gurus fourth and last great journey to Mecca and Medina. Guru Nanak personally performed the last rites of Bhai Mardana. Bhai Mardana is considered the founder of the musical tradition of the Sikhs.

Baba Buddha (1506 to 1631)
Baba Buddha was the great Sikh saint who had the pleasure of serving under the first six Gurus. Baba Buddha was born in 1506 in the village of Kathu Nangal. When he was a young boy herding cattle in the fields when he met Guru Nanak who was visiting the village. The boy served the Guru milk and Guru Nanak exclaimed that though young in age, he was a Buddha (old man) in terms of his understanding and wisdom. Baba Buddha converted to the path of Sikhism and became an exemplary disciple of the Gurus. Baba Buddha was responsible for the guruship ceremony of the next five Gurus from Guru Angad to Guru Hargobind. Under Guru Arjan Dev, Baba Buddha was appointed the first custodian (granthi) of the Guru Granth Sahib in the Golden Temple in 1604. Baba Buddha was also responsible for the early education of Guru Hargobind as a child and helped to personally construct the Akal Takht. Baba Buddha passed away in 1631 at village Ramdas and had his last rites personally performed by Guru Hargobind.

Bhai Gurdas (1560 to 1629)
Bhai Gurdas was a great Sikh scholar who was the scribe of the original copy of the Guru Granth Sahib under the guidance of Guru Arjan Dev. Bhai Gurdas was born around 1560 at Goindwal and was the son of Datar Chand, the younger brother of Guru Amar Das. Bhai Gurdas learned Sikhism from his uncle Guru Amar Das and upon the Gurus death was sent by Guru Ram Das as a missionary to preach Sikhism at Agra. Under the guidance of Guru Arjan Dev, Bhai Gurdas spent a year with the Guru at Armitsar and helped to scribe the original copy of the Guru Granth Sahib. Bhai Gurdas also met the mughal emperor Akbar and convinced him that the Guru Granth Sahib was not derogatory to Islam. Bhai Gurdas was also a great writer and provides the best information that we have about the early days of Sikhism. He composes 40 vars (ballads) and 556 kabits (couplets) which Guru Arjan Dev blessed as being “the key to the Guru Granth Sahib”. Out of his humility Bhai Gurdas did not have any of his compositions included in the Guru Granth Sahib, but they are part of the writings outside the Guru Granth Sahib that are approved for recital by Sikhs. While Guru Hargobind was imprisoned at Gwalior Fort, Bhai Gurdas along with Baba Buddha were in charge of running the affairs of the Sikh community. Bhai Gurdas also helped to construct the Akal Takht. Bhai Gurdas died in 1629 at Goindwal and had his last rites personally performed by Guru Hargobind.

Bhai Nand Lal (1633 to 1715)
Bhai Nand Lal was a great poet and close associate of Guru Gobind Singh. Bhai Nand Lal was born in 1633 at Ghazni where his father was a high government official. Bhai Nand Lal became an accomplished poet and was fluent in Persian and Arabic. He married a Sikh girl and eventually became a disciple of Guru Gobind Singh. He lived in close association with the Guru from 1697 onwards. Bhai Nand Lal personally accompanied Guru Gobind Singh to Deccan where the Guru was assassinated. Bhai Nand Lal produced a number of works about the teaching of Guru Gobind Singh and the code of conduct he laid down. The works of Bhai Nand Lal are given equal respect as those of Bhai Gurdas and are read in gurdwaras. Bhai Nand Lal died in 1715 at Multan.

The Panj Piaras (The Five Beloved Ones)
The Panj Piaras were the first five Sikhs to be initiated into the Khalsa brotherhood by Guru Gobind Singh on Baisakhi day in 1699. A very large gathering of Sikhs had arrived at Anandpur Sahib on that day as per the Gurus instructions. After prayers Guru Gobind Singh stood up with his sword and asked the large congregation, “Is there anyone here ready to lay down his life at my call? This sword of mine is crying for the blood of a dear Sikh of mine.” The congregation was shocked and afraid, the third time Guru Gobind Singh repeated his call, Daya Ram stood up and offered his head. Guru Gobind Singh took him into a tent. The sound of a sword cutting a body was heard and blood trickled out of the tent. Guru Gobind Singh emerged from the tent and asked for another Sikh. Dharam Das stood up and volunteered. Again the same episode was repeated. Three more Sikhs offered their heads to the Guru in the same way, Mukham Chand, Himmat Rai and Sahib Chand. After some time Guru Gobind Singh brought the five Sikhs before the congregation dressed in new clothes and revealed to the congregation that he had really slaughtered five goats inside the tent. Guru Gobind Singh then baptized them with amrit (sweetened water) stirred with his Khanda, The Guru called them his Beloved Ones and gave them the last name ‘Singh’ which means Lion. Guru Gobind Singh then humbly bowed before the Five Beloved Ones and asked them to initiate Him into the Khalsa Brotherhood. All of the Five Beloved Ones remained with Guru Gobind Singh for the rest of their lives and they are remembered every day in Ardas (the common prayer).

Bhai Daya Singh (1669 to 1708)

The first Beloved One, Bhai Daya Singh was born to Khatri parents in Lahore in 1669. He attended Guru Gobind Singh in leaving Chamkaur Sahib during the famous battle in 1704. Bhai Daya Singh also personally delivered Guru Gobind Singhs letter Zafarnama to emperor Aurangzeb in the Deccan. Bhai Daya Singh accompanied Guru Gobind Singh to Nander and died there in 1708.

Bhai Dharam Singh (1666 to 1708?)

The second Beloved One, Bhai Dharam Singh was born to Jat parents at Hastinapur or Delhi in 1666. Bhai Dharam Singh was also assigned to look after Guru Gobind Singhs personal safety during the battle of Chamkaur in 1704. It is unclear whether he died fighting in the battle or accompanied Guru Gobind Singh to Nanader and died there in 1708.

Bhai Mukham Singh (1663 to 1704)

The third Beloved One, Bhai Muhkam Chand was born in 1663 to a washerman of Dwarka. He died fighting in the battle of Chamkaur in 1704.

Bhai Sahib Singh (1662 to 1704)

The fourth Beloved One, Bhai Sahib Singh was born to a barber family in 1662. He died fighting in the battle of Chamkaur in 1704.

Bhai Himmat Singh (1661 to 1704)

The fifth Beloved One, Bhai Himmat Singh was born to a water carrier in 1661. He died fighting in the battle of Chamkaur in 1704.

Bhai Mani Singh (1670 to 1737)
Bhai Mani Singh was a great Sikh scholar and martyr who was the scribe of the final version of the Guru Granth Sahib under the guidance of Guru Gobind Singh and who compiled the Dasam Granth following the death of Guru Gobind Singh. Bhai Mani Singh was born to Jat parents at the village of Sunam in 1670. He was the younger brother of Bhai Dyala who was martyred along with Guru Tegh Bahadur in 1675. Bhai Mani Singh was raised from a young age with Guru Gobind Singh by the Gurus mother Mata Gujri. Bhai Mani Singh became a great preacher of Sikhism and spent almost a year with Guru Gobind Singh at Damdama Sahib compiling the final and current version of the Guru Granth Sahib in 1705. After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, Bhai Mani Singh was installed as the head granthi at the Golden Temple in 1721. Here he produced many works on Sikhism and under the insistence of Guru Gobind Singhs widow Mata Sundri compiled the works of Guru Gobind Singh and produced the Dasam Granth. In 1737 Bhai Mani Singh took permission from the muslim governor of Lahore for the Sikhs to celebrate Diwali at the Golden Temple on the payment of Rs. 5,000 as tax, a practice which had been banned. Not enough people attended Diwali that year because they were afraid of the muslim authorities and as a result not enough money was collected. The muslim authorities arrested Bhai Mani Singh and publicly executed him in Lahore.

Banda Singh Bahadur (1670 to 1715)
The great Sikh soldier and martyr who avenged the death of Guru Gobind Singhs two younger sons. He was born as Lachhman Das in 1670 at Rajouri in Jammu to Rajput parents. He spent many years in hindu monasteries in central India and established a ashram at Nanded in Maharashtra where he lived for fifteen years before meeting Guru Gobind Singh. He was given the name “Banda” meaning slave of the Guru and became a Khalsa. His name was changed to Gurbax Singh but he was popularly known as Banda. When Guru Gobind Singh was in the south at Deccan he sent Banda to Punjab to punish the enemies of the Khalsa. He attacked Samana in 1709 and captured Sirhind in 1710. The killer of Guru Gobind Singh’s two sons Wazir Khan the ruler of Sirhind was also killed. Banda Singh Bahadur became the leader of the Khalsa following the death of Guru Gobind Singh and struck coins in the name of Guru Gobind Singh. In 1712 Banda conquered the Lohgarh Fort. A huge army of 20,000 men amassed by the muslim governor of Lahore besieged Banda for eight months at a fort in Gurdaspur in 1715. Banda Singh Bahadur along with 600 Sikhs were finally captured and brought to Delhi where they were all tortured to death for refusing to convert to Islam.

Baba Deep Singh (1680? to 1762)

Baba Deep Singh was a great Sikh scholar who became a soldier and martyr for the defense of Sikhism. Not much is know about his early life but when he visited Anandpur Sahib in 1700, he became a Khalsa and decided to stay. There he learned Gurmukhi from Bhai Mani Singh along with horse riding, archery as well as other arms training. Baba Deep Singh met Guru Gobind Singh at Damdama Sahib where Guru Gobind Singh told him to start preaching the message of Sikhism. Between 1715 and 1728 Baba Deep Singh and Bhai Mani Singh produced a number of hand written copies of the Guru Granth Sahib for distribution among the Sikhs. When Bhai Mani Singh became the head granthi at the Golden Temple, Baba Deep Singh stayed on as the head at Damdama Sahib. In 1710 Baba Deep Singh joined Banda Singh Bahadur in the battle of Sirhind. Baba Deep Singh was also a survivor of the Chotta Ghalughara (Small Holocaust) in 1755 when 10,000 Sikhs were killed. In 1762 Ahmed Shah Abdhali the Afghan invader ordered the Golden Temple blown up and the sacred pool filled in with refuse. Baba Deep Singh came out of scholarly retirement at Damdama Sahib and asked Sikhs to march with him to Amritsar to avenge the desecration. Along the way to Amritsar 5,000 Sikhs joined Baba Deep Singh. On the outskirts of Amritsar Baba Deep Singh and the heavily outnumbered Sikhs fought two fierce battles against a mughal force of 20,000. In the second engagement Baba Deep Singh was fatally wounded in the neck but had vowed to die in the precincts of the Golden Temple. Although mortally wounded Baba Deep Singh was able to continue fighting until he was able to make his way to the Sacred Pool of the Golden Temple where he finally expired.

The Sahibzadas

These were the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh who bravely sacrificed their lives for Sikhism and are remembered every day in Ardas (the common prayer).

Baba Ajit Singh (1687 to 1704) and Baba Jujhar Singh (1689 to 1704)

Baba Ajit Singh was the oldest son of Guru Gobind Singh and was born on January 7, 1687 at Anandpur Sahib. Baba Jujhar Singh the Gurus second son was born in March 1689. Both brothers received religious education as well as training in the weapons of war. During the battle of Chamkaur in 1704 in which the Guru and 40 Sikhs fought against overwhelming odds, both brothers died in battle. During the battle Baba Ajit Singh asked his fathers permission to go out of the fort and fight the enemy. He said, "Dear father, my name is Ajit or Unconquerable. I will not be conquered. And if conquered, I will not flee or come back alive. Permit me to go, dear father." Guru Gobind Singh hugged and kissed his beloved son before sending him into battle where he fought heroically until his last breath. Baba Jujhar Singh having watched his brother fight, asked Guru Gobind Singh, "Permit me, dear father to go where my brother has gone. Don’t say that I am too young. I am your son, I am a Singh or Lion of yours. I shall prove worthy of you. I shall die fighting, with my face towards the enemy, with God and the Guru on my lips and in my heart." Guru Gobind Singh embraced him and said, "Go my son and wed life-giving Death. We have been here for a while. Now we shall return to our real home. Go and wait for me there. Your grandfather and elder brother are already waiting for you." Thus the Guru watched his two sons achieve eternal peace through martyrdom.

Baba Zorawar Singh (1696 to 1704) and Baba Fateh Singh (1698 to 1704)

The two youngest sons of Guru Gobind Singh, Baba Zorawar Singh was the third son and was born in 1696 while Baba Fateh Singh was the youngest son and was born in 1698. During the crossing of the river Sarsa following the departure of the Guru and his family from Anandpur Sahib, the Sikhs were attacked by the treacherous mughals who had guaranteed them safe passage. During the ensuing battle and confusion, both sons along with Mata Gujri, Guru Gobind Singhs mother, were separated from the others. Eventually through the treachery of a Brahmin named Gangu they fell into the hands of Nawab Wazir Khan the governor of Sirhind. The Nawab gave the two young brothers a choice of either converting to Islam or being put to death. Baba Zorawar Singh said to his little brother, "My brother, the time to sacrifice our lives has arrived. What do you think? What should be our reply?" Baba Fateh Singh his younger brother replied, "Brother dear, our grandfather, Guru Tegh Bahadur parted with his head; he stoutly refused to part with his religion. We should follow his example. We have received the baptism of the spirit and the sword. We are the Guru’s lions. Why should we fear death? It is best that we should give up our lives for the sake of our religion. I am prepared to die". Baba Zorawar Singh replied, "That is good, indeed. The blood of Guru Arjan, Guru Hargobind, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh runs in our veins. We are their descendants. We cannot do anything unworthy of our family". Both sons were bricked up in a wall and had their heads cut off but they steadfastly refused to convert to Islam.


Sikh Beliefs

  • Goal: The goal of Sikhs is to build a close, loving relationship with God.

  • Deity: Sikhs believe in a single, Formless God, with many names, who can be known through meditation. his concept is similar to Islam whose followers believe in a single God who has 99 names. The Mool Mantar, the first hymn composed by Guru Nanak, is recited daily by many Sikhs. It contains a description of many of the attributes of God: There is only one God; His Name is Truth; He is the Creator; He is without fear; He is without hate; He is beyond time (i.e. is immortal); He is beyond birth and death; He is self-existent. 1 Only he can be worshiped. Rahras, a Sikh evening prayer states: "[O God] since I have fallen at your feet, I do not care for anybody else. I do not follow the religious ways preached by various religions believing in Ram, Mohammed, Puran or Qur'an. The Simritis, Shastras and the Vedas lay down different doctrines. But I do not recognize any of these. O God, I have written these hymns with your grace and kindness. All that has been said is in fact spoken by you." 2
    bullet Reincarnation: They believe in samsara (the repetitive cycle of birth, life and death), karma (the accumulated sum of one's good and bad deeds, and reincarnation the belief of a rebirth following death. These beliefs are similar to Hinduism. "Each individual has many reincarnations, but being born a human means the soul is nearing the end of rebirth. God judges each soul at death and may either reincarnate the soul or, if pure enough, allow it to rest with him." 1
    bullet Caste system: Sikhs have rejected the caste system of the Hindu religion. They believe that everyone has equal status in the eyes of God. This is a very important principle that permeates all Sikh beliefs, behaviors, and rituals.
    bullet Code of Conduct: During the 18th century, there were a number of attempts to prepare an accurate portrayal of Sikh customs. None received the support of most Sikhs. Sikh scholars and theologians started in 1931 to prepare the Reht Maryada -- the Sikh code of conduct and conventions. It is "the only version authorized by the Akal Takht, the seat of supreme temporal authority for Sikhs. It's implementation has successfully achieved a high level of uniformity in the religious and social practices of Sikhism" 3 throughout the world. It contains 27 articles. Article 1 defines who is a Sikh:

    "Any human being who faithfully believes in
    1) One Immortal Being,
    2) Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh,
    3) The Guru Granth Sahib,
    4) The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and
    5) the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh."

  • There are a number of traditions within Sikhism. Thousands of Sikhs, both in India and worldwide, follow living gurus who have lineages traceable back to Guru Gobind Singh. In Canada and elsewhere, major strains are becoming evident between liberal and conservative wings of the religion, as some Sikhs accommodate to the surrounding culture.