The Sikh Tradition
The Sikh tradition began with a very universal teacher named Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak traveled and taught in the late 15th – early 16th century. He empowered women, encouraged tolerance of different faiths, and challenged the socially-ingrained economic inequality of his time. He taught meditation and sacred songs as a way to find the Divine within oneself and within everything.
Guru Nanak was succeeded by nine teacher/masters who lived until the beginning of the 18th century. Over the course of 250 years, the Sikhs developed their own unique spiritual path based on singing, meditation, honest work and serving others. In addition, because the Mughal rulers of the time often attacked the Sikh community, they developed their own martial arts tradition rooted in the philosophy of “defend but do not attack.”
Sikh Gurus Mentioned in KAUR
Guru Hargobind. (1595-1644) The 6th Sikh Guru, or Master. He created a unique martial arts tradition for the Sikh community, based in the philosophy – defend but do not attack. Mai Bhago’s father, Malo Shah, trained and fought under Guru Hargobind. Learn more at: http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Guru_Har_Gobind.
Guru Teg Bahadur. (1621-1675). The 9th Sikh Guru, or Master. He sacrificed his life defending the rights of the Hindus to practice their religion freely, challenging the brutal conversion tactics of the Mughal regime. Learn more at: http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Guru_Tegh_Bahadur.
Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). 10th Sikh Guru, or Master. Under Guru Gobind Singh, a society of equality, freedom and self-empowerment flourished. The Mughal ruler of the time, Aurangzeb Alamgir, felt threatened. He became jealous of the Sikhs, and sent troops to destroy Guru Gobind Singh. Mai Bhago is a contemporary of the 10th Guru. Learn more at: http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Guru_Gobind_Singh.
Significant Sikh Historical Places and Events Mentioned in KAUR
Anandpur Sahib: This city is the second holiest city in the Sikh faith. Anandpur Sahib served as the Sikh capital during the reign of the 10th Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh. Anandpur Sahib is in the current state of Punjab, in north-west India. Learn more at: http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Anandpur.
Amrit: The Amrit ceremony took place at the first Baisakhi in April of 1699. During the Amrit ceremony, prayers are sung over water, while the water is stirred with an iron sword. Sugar is added. Drinking this mixture initiates a person into the deepest discipline in the Sikh community – living as Khalsa. This discipline includes: not cutting one’s hair; wearing specific articles of faith – including a steel bracelet and a sword; and living a very conscious life. Learn more at: http://www.sikhdharma.org/pages/sikh-vows-and-taking-amrit.
Amritsar: This city is the holiest city in the Sikh faith. Founded by the 4th Sikh Master, Guru Ram Das. Amritsar is home to the Harimandir Shaib, or Golden Temple, the most sacred shrine in the Sikh tradition. The waters around the Golden Temple are said to have powerful healing properties. Mai Bhago and her family lived in a village near Amritsar. Amirtsar is currently in the state of Punjab, in north-west India. Learn more at: http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Amritsar.
Baisakhi: In April of 1699, the 10th Sikh Master asked for all the Sikhs to gather at Anandpur Sahib. Here, he put them through a test of faith – asking for some of his students to literally give their physical heads to him. Five volunteered. The Guru did not actually kill his students, but, through them, created the Amrit ceremony. The Amrit ceremony is meant to instill divine wisdom and spiritual fearlessness in the Sikhs.Learn more ahout Baisakhi at: http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Vaisakhi. http://www.sikhdharma.org/content/first-baisakhi%2C-1699.
Visual References in Mai Bhago’s Story
Golden tipped arrow: Guru Gobind Singh had a reputation for using arrows that included gold. The gold was so that whoever he shot would have the resources to get well. Or if that person died, the gold would help with burial expenses and to compensate the family.
Sikh Prayers and Terms Mentioned in KAUR
Kirtan Sohila: The prayer that Sikhs recite before going to sleep at night. http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Kirtan_Sohila.
Khalsa: Those who live by the purity of their Inner Light. It is a specifically applied to Sikhs who have taken Amrit.
Kaur: Means “princess.” It is part of the name for every Sikh girl.
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh
Traditional greeting for those who have taken Amrit. It means – My purity belong to the great Teacher. My victory belong to the great Teach.
Some Vocabulary Terms
Beti: Means “child” – refers to a female child.
Darshan: to see with the eyes
Roti: Indian flat-bread