Prohibitions in Sikhism

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Adherents of Sikhism follow a number of prohibitions. As with any followers of any faith or group, adherence varies by each individual.


These prohibitions are strictly followed by initiated Khalsa Sikhs who have undergone baptism. While the Sikh gurus did not enforce religion and did not believe in forcing people to follow any particular religion in general, the Sikh community does encourage all people to become better individuals by following the Guru's Way (Gur-mat), as opposed to living life without the Guru's code of disciple (Man-mat):

4 major transgressions:[1]

  • Hair removal – Hair cutting, trimming, removing, shaving, plucking, threading, dyeing, or any other alteration from any body part is strictly forbidden.[2]
  • Eating the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim or Jewish way (Kutha meat).[3] This is the absolute minimum required by all initiated Sikhs. Although vegetarianism is practiced and recommended by some Sikhs, many Sikhs refrain from eating non-vegetarian food, and believe all should follow this diet. This is due to various social, cultural, political, and familial aspects. As such, there has always been major disagreement among Sikhs over the issue of eating non-vegetarian food. Sikhs following the rahit (code of conduct) of the Damdami Taksal & AKJ also subscribe to this view. The Akali Nihangs have traditionally eaten meat and are famous for performing Jhatka.[4][5][6][7] Thus, there is a wide range of views that exist on the issue of a proper "Sikh diet" in the Panth. Nonetheless, all Sikhs agree with the minimum consensus that meat slaughtered via the Muslim (Halal), Jewish (Shechita) methods or any other religiously slaughtered way, is strictly against Sikh principles.[8][9] The Akal Takht represents the final authority on controversial issues concerning the Sikh Panth (community or collective). The Hukamnama (edict or clarification), issued by Akal Takht Jathedar Sadhu Singh Bhaura dated February 15, 1980, states that eating meat does not go against the code of conduct of the Sikhs. Amritdhari Sikhs can eat meat as long as it is Jhatka meat.[10]
  • Adultery: Cohabiting with a person other than one's spouse (sexual relations with anyone who you are not married to- originally a prohibition on sexual intercourse with Muslim women, an injunction was made by Guru Gobind Singh not to seize them during warfare as sexual contact with them was seen as polluting. Kahn Singh Nabha of the Singh Sabha movement had later inferred that the Guru's command was construed as a prohibition on intercourse with a woman other than one's wife.)[11][12][13][14][15][16]
  • Intoxicants – A Sikh must not take hemp (cannabis), opium, liquor, tobacco, cocaine, narcotics, etc. In short, any intoxicant is not allowed.[17][18][19] Cannabis is generally prohibited, but ritually consumed in edible form by some Sikhs.[20][21] Some Sikh groups, like the Damdami Taksal, are even opposed to drinking caffeine in Indian tea. Indian tea is almost always served in Sikh Gurudwaras around the world. Some Akali Nihang groups consume cannabis-containing shaheedi degh (ਭੰਗ), purportedly to help in meditation.[22][23][24]Sūkha parshaad (ਸੁੱਖਾ ਪ੍ਰਰਸਾਦ), "Dry-sweet", is the term Akali Nihangs use to refer to it. It was traditionally crushed and consumed as a liquid, especially during festivals like Hola Mohalla. It is never smoked, as this practice is forbidden in Sikhism.[25] In 2001, Jathedar Santa Singh, the leader of Budha Dal, along with 20 chiefs of Nihang sects, refused to accept the ban on consumption of shaheedi degh by the apex Sikh clergy of Akal Takht - in order to preserve their traditional practices.[26] According to a recent BBC article, "Traditionally they also drank shaheedi degh, an infusion of cannabis, to become closer with God".[27] Baba Santa Singh was excommunicated and replaced with Baba Balbir Singh, who agreed to shun the consumption of bhang.[28]

Other mentioned practices to be avoided, as per the Sikh Rehat Maryada:

  • Piercing of the nose or ears for wearing ornaments is forbidden for Sikh men and women.[29]
  • Female infanticide: A Sikh should not kill his daughter; nor should he maintain any relationship with a killer of daughter.[30]
  • A Sikh shall not steal, form dubious associations or engage in gambling.[31]
  • It is not proper for a Sikh woman to wear veil that covers the face or have the face hidden.[32]
  • Sikhs cannot wear any token of other faiths. Sikhs must not have their head bare or wear caps. They also cannot wear any ornaments piercing through any part of the body.[33]
  • Hereditary priestly class – Sikhism does not have priests, as they were abolished by Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th Guru of Sikhism).[34] The only position he left was a Granthi to look after the Guru Granth Sahib; any Sikh is free to become Granthi or read from the Guru Granth Sahib.[34]
  • Blind spirituality: Idolatry, superstitions, and rituals should not be observed or followed, including pilgrimages, fasting, and ritual purification; circumcision; idol or grave worship; and compulsory wearing of the veil for women. Observation of the five Ks, however, is not considered blind superstition, as they are intended to help Sikhs in their everyday life.
  • Material obsession: Obsession with material wealth is not encouraged in Sikhism.
  • Sacrifice of creatures: Animal sacrifice to celebrate holy occasions are forbidden.
  • Non-family-oriented living: Sikhs are discouraged from living as a recluse, beggar, yogi, monastic (monk/nun), or celibate.[citation needed]
  • Worthless talk: Bragging, gossip, lying, slander, "backstabbing," et cetera, are not permitted. The Guru Granth Sahib tells the Sikh, "your mouth has not stopped slandering and gossiping about others. Your service is useless and fruitless."[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Four, Chapter X, Article XVI, i.; Section Six, Chapter XIII, Article XXIV, p. 1.-4.
  2. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Four, Chapter X, Article XVI, i.; Section Six, Chapter XIII, Article XXIV, p. 1. & q. 3.
  3. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Six, Chapter XIII, Article XXIV, p. 2.
  4. ^ "The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History". Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2010-08-18. A Nihang carries out 'Chatka' on a 'Chatanga' (a specially selected goat for sacrifice). However this is also against the religious beliefs of the sikhs. As Guru granth sahib (the holy book of sikhs) prohibits any type of harm to any living being, if not for self protection.
  5. ^ "The most special occasion of the Chhauni is the festival of Diwali which is celebrated for ten days. This is the only Sikh shrine at Amritsar where Maha Prasad (meat) is served on special occasions in Langar", The Sikh review, Volume 35, Issue 409 – Volume 36, Issue 420, Sikh Cultural Centre., 1988
  6. ^ "The tradition traces back to the time of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji who started the tradition of hunting for Sikhs ... The tradition of ritually sacrificing goats and consuming Mahaparshad remains alive not only with the Nihang Singh Dals, but also at Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib and Sachkhand Sri Patna Sahib (two of the Sikhs holiest shrines)." Panth Akali Budha Dal Archived 2010-05-23 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Another noteworthy practice performed here is that a goat is sacrificed on Dussehra night every year. This ceremony was performed on Diwali day this year (Oct 28, 2008). The fresh blood of the sacrificed goat is used for tilak on the Guru’s weapons.", SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS OF THE SIKH COMMUNITY, Dr Madanjit Kaur, Institute of Sikh Studies Institute of Sikh Studies, Madan Kaur Archived 2010-06-12 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Sikhism, A Complete Introduction" by Dr. H.S. Singha & Satwant Kaur Hemkunt, Hemkunt Press, New Delhi, 1994, ISBN 81-7010-245-6
  9. ^ "Sikh Identity: An Exploration of Groups Among Sikhs" by Opinderjit Kaur Takhar, pg. 51, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2005, ISBN 0-7546-5202-5
  10. ^ Singh, Dharam (2001). Perspectives on Sikhism: Papers Presented at the International Seminar on Sikhism: a Religion for the Third Millennium Held at Punjabi University, Patiala on 27-29 March 2000. Publication Bureau, Punjabi University. p. 89. ISBN 9788173807367.
  11. ^ McLeod, W. H. (2009-07-24). The A to Z of Sikhism. Scarecrow Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-8108-6344-6. The sexual intercourse item, however is evidently a modern development from the 18th century prohibition of intercourse with Muslim women.
  12. ^ Fenech, Louis E.; McLeod, W. H. (2014-06-11). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 214. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1. Sources from the 18th century indicate that sexual contact with Muslim women was polluting, and Guru Gobind Singh is said to have commanded that during warfare they should not be seized for this purpose.
  13. ^ Grewal, J. S. (2019-07-25). Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708): Master of the White Hawk. Oxford University Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-19-099038-1.
  14. ^ Beckerlegge, Gwilym (2001). World Religions Reader. Routledge. p. 456. ISBN 978-0-415-24748-1.
  15. ^ Jakobsh, Doris R. 2003. Relocating Gender In Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. 39–40
  16. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Six, Chapter XIII, Article XXIV, p. 3.
  17. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Four, Chapter X, Article XVI, j.
  18. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Six, Chapter XIII, Article XXIV, p. 4. & q. 1., q. 5.
  19. ^ Macauliffe 1909, p. xxi.
  20. ^ Singh, Pashaura; Fenech, Louis E. (March 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 378–. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
  21. ^ Singh, Pashaura; Hawley, Michael (7 December 2012). Re-imagining South Asian Religions: Essays in Honour of Professors Harold G. Coward and Ronald W. Neufeldt. Brill Academic. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-90-04-24236-4.
  22. ^ Richard Beck, David Worden (2002). Gcse Religious Studies for Aqa. Heinemann. p. 64. ISBN 0-435-30692-8.
  23. ^ Hola Mohalla: United colours of celebrations,
  24. ^ "Mad About Words". 2004-01-03. Archived from the original on January 12, 2004. Retrieved 2014-01-04.
  25. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2010-10-16. Retrieved 2014-01-04.
  26. ^ Nihangs ‘not to accept’ ban on shaheedi degh. The Tribune. March 26, 2001.
  27. ^ Hegarty, Stephanie (2011-10-29). "BBC News - The only living master of a dying martial art". Retrieved 2014-01-04.
  28. ^ No ‘bhang’ at Hola Mohalla. The Tribune. March 10, 2001.
  29. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Four, Chapter X, Article XVI, k.
  30. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Four, Chapter X, Article XVI, l.
  31. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Four, Chapter X, Article XVI, o.
  32. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Four, Chapter X, Article XVI, s.
  33. ^ Sikh Rehat Maryada: Section Four, Chapter X, Article XVI, i.; Section Six, Chapter XIII, Article XXIV, d.
  34. ^ a b "Sikhism Religion of the Sikh People".
  35. ^ "Sri Granth: Sri Guru Granth Sahib".

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