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Sikhism: An Introduction

Sikhism: An Introduction
Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

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Almost from the moment, some five centuries ago, that their religion was founded in the Punjab by Guru Nanak, Sikhs have enjoyed a distinctive identity. This sense of difference, forged during Sikhism's fierce struggles with the Mughal Empire, is still symbolised by the 'Five Ks' ('panj kakar', in Punjabi), those articles of faith to which all baptised Sikhs subscribe: uncut hair bound in a turban; comb; special undergarment; iron bracelet and dagger (or kirpan) - the unique marks of the Sikh military fraternity (the word Sikh means 'disciple' in Punjabi). Yet for all its ongoing attachment to the religious symbols that have helped set it apart from neighbouring faiths in South Asia, Sikhism amounts to far more than just signs or externals. Now the world's fifth largest religion, with a significant diaspora especially in Britain and North America, this remarkable monotheistic tradition commands the allegiance of 25 million people, and is a global phenomenon. In her balanced appraisal, Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh reviews the history, theology and worship of a community poised between reconciling its hereditary creeds and certainties with the fast-paced pressures of modernity.

She outlines and explains the core Sikh beliefs, and explores the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus in Sikhism's Holy Scriptures, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (more usually called just the 'Granth'). Further chapters explore Sikh ethics, art and architecture, and matters of gender and the place of women in the tradition. The book attractively combines the warm empathy of a Sikh with the objective insights and acute perspectives of a prominent scholar of religion.

Table of Contents

Guru Nanak and the Origins of Sikhism
Guru Arjan and the Crystallization of the Sikh Faith
Guru Gobind Singh and the Cultivation of Sikh Identity
Sikh Metaphysics, Ethics and Aesthetics
Worship, Ceremonies, and Rites of Passage
Feminist Text in a Patriarchal Context
Colonial Encounters
Sikh Art
Sikhs in the Diaspora
Select Bibliography

Author Info

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh is the Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the department at Colby College, Waterville, Maine. She is Co-Chair of the Sikh Studies Section of the American Academy of Religion. Her books include The Guru Granth Sahib: its Physics and Metaphysics (1981), The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent (1993) and The Name of My Beloved: Verses of the Sikh Gurus (2001).


In this delightful study Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh introduces the reader to the history, religion, and culture of the Sikhs, highlighting the various issues related to doctrine, worship, ethics, art, architecture, and diaspora. Her bold critique of patriarchal structures of Sikh society is refreshing. Written in accessible style this exciting book will appeal not only to undergraduate students of Sikh studies, religion, medieval Indian history, and literature, but also to lay readers who will gain firsthand information about the youngest world religion.
– Pashaura Singh, Professor and Dr. Jasbir Singh Saini Endowed Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies University of California, Riverside

Nikky Singh's latest publication provides an eloquent introduction to Sikhism, grounded in reference to the scriptures and articulate with a sharp awareness of contemporary issues. Students will find Singh's Sikhism: An Introduction a clearly organised text, written in an engaging style, and usefully augmented by a substantial bibliography. Sikhism: An Introduction is the fruit of many years of immersion in Sikh Studies and of sharing it through the author's university teaching. This excellent illustrated guide to the Sikh tradition offers readers not only key factual material but also Singh's own insights into gender and her substantial attention to the arts, to colonial encounters and diasporic life stories.
– Eleanor Nesbitt, Professor of Religions and Education, University of Warwick and author of Sikhism:  A Very Short Introduction

A solid and lively introduction to key events in Sikh history, Sikhism: An Introduction paints a vivid portrait of Sikh spirituality, arts, politics, and gender and family life. This engaging text takes readers from the origins of Sikhism in Guru Nanak’s life and teachings to contemporary Sikh life in India and the Sikh diaspora. Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh’s call to Sikhs to reflect on the founding principles of their tradition gives Sikh and non-Sikh readers alike insight into the challenges all religions face as they evolve over time.
– Robin Rinehart, Professor of Religious Studies and Asian Studies Program Chair, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania

Based on years of scholarship and real empathy, this book covers all the major themes in the study of Sikhism. Nikky Singh writes with a deftness and ease that is all too rare these days. This attractive and eminently readable introduction to Sikhism will be of immense value to students, scholars of religion and the wider public.
– Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, S.C.S.B. Endowed Professor of Sikh Studies, University of Michigan


Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh at the launch of Sikhism: An Introduction.

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: I.B. Tauris Introductions to Religion

ISBN: 9781848853218
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2011
Number of Pages: 288
Height: 216
Width: 134
Illustrations: 20 bw integrated illustrations, 2 maps

ISBN: 9781848853201
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2011
Number of Pages: 288
Height: 216
Width: 134
Illustrations: 20 bw integrated illustrations, 2 maps

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