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Sikh Vs Punjabi


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Sikh vs Punjabi (from the blog Thought Overflow)

I normally tend to stay away from “controversial” subjects like religion on my blog, but I reckon this post has been coming for some time now.

I just had a very entertaining (let’s put it that way) “conversation” with a batch-mate here at XLRI who was adamant that all Sikhs are Punjabis and vice versa. For the record, Sikhism is a religion and Punjab is a state. Let this debate come to rest once and for all. Anyone hailing from Punjab, who speaks Punjabi (probably) has a right to be called Punjabi (this was a point on which we differed), and Sikhs who do not hail from Punjab, who have lived in other places in India (like me and the last few generations of my family) have no need to call ourselves Punjabi. In fact, South Indian Sikhs (hailing from the Deccan area) are often called Dakhni Sikhs, hailing from the Southern Indian Deccan area.

It is therefore disheartening that Sikhs who do not speak Punjabi are treated as second-class citizens by our own brethren. It’s also sad that people have common misconceptions and absolutely refuse to budge from their stand. It reminds me of how the whole world once believed in the geocentric theory…of course, just because they believed in it did not make it true. Similarly, objectively stating the facts, one does not need to know Punjabi to be a Sikh. Technically, having been baptised, all one needs to be a practising Sikh is to follow the Five Ks. I rest my case.

While I’m on the topic of Sikhism, however, let me add a few more thoughts. Sikhism was, in its time, among the most practical of all religions. We were not expected to give up our worldly ways. Instead, we were to moderate our greed, pride and other ills while still remaining practical. Our religion was founded on the principle of protecting the oppressed, of giving voice to the helpless and of being protectors to those who could not protect themselves. It breaks my heart, when I see now, that instead of following the philosophy of Sikhism, we are now so adamant on following the rituals, something all our Sikh Gurus abhorred from the beginning. In fact, this is the basis on which Sikhism differed from the Hinduism of old.

I hear a lot about the young firebrand Sikhs, who love their religion. In my opinion, they don’t even understand it. Instead of accepting, like we should, each others’ differences, they actively seek to force Sikhs to fall in line. Instead of convincing those on the fence to learn about the philosophy and spirit of the religion, they force them to learn the behaviours and characteristics that are expected. Like in every other religion, interpretation of the rules varies subjectively. However, this active castigation is likely to lead not towards the growth of the religion in the hearts and minds of youngsters, but more towards active desertion of the faith. This is, after all, how rebellion works in our mind. Force something down our throats, and we will puke it out and reject it, irrespective of whether it’s good for us or not.

PS: If you really want to complicate things, Sikhism is not a religion, it’s a philosophy. The “religion” (as embodied by the command to have the Five Ks, etc.) is known as Khalsa.

PPS: If you intend to argue with me, please note that any arguments you make that are contrary to what I have written, whether backed up by fact, research or ordnance, will be deemed null, void and stupid. Basically, come what may, I am right and you are wrong. Thanks, and have a nice day! :)

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