Punjabis belief in Hindu gods

Sikh religionTen gurus and one god

Whoever enters the Gurdwara of the Sikhs in Cologne's Buchforst district, a temple, is faced with a magnificently decorated altar - like a small palace in the middle of the prayer room.

Next to it are about a dozen drums which the Sikhs call Dhadd - lyrical verses are recited to the rhythm of these drums during services. Today, however, they remain silent - only a few parishioners sit along the walls and pray, the chants come from a loudspeaker.

"There is only one guru"

The temple used to be a bread factory - only the white-tiled interior walls remain, on which signs with religious verses can be read today. They were written by the ten gurus of the Sikh religion. These gurus founded the monotheistic religion in India around 500 years ago.

Series "We are the others - small religions in Germany"
Christians, non-religious and non-religious, Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Hindus live in Germany. And "other". This is how smaller religious communities are often referred to in statistics. But who is behind it? We met Druze and Jainas, visited a Taoist center and a Sikh temple, talked to Mandaeans, Yazidis and Bahá’i - and after a long search we even found someone who can orient his life towards Shintoism.

"Basically there are not ten gurus, there is only one guru. The method and the teaching is the only one, only the physical forms have changed," explains Damandeep Singh. The 28-year-old industrial engineer is a co-founder of the Sikh Association Germany.

Gurmit Kaur (left) and Damandeep Singh (Deutschlandradio / Tim Baumann)

"The Guru was always the one. And that was from Guru Nanak to the tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh. They are all referred to as Guru because they carried the same vision with them. The same light was transmitted and passed on, in ten physical forms. And in that span of 239 years these relevant teachings that are relevant to the spiritual world have been put together. "

These teachings are found in the scriptures of the Sikhs. It's called Guru Granth Sahib and is written in a specially created script *, Gurmukhi.

"Well, that is already taught in childhood. Sure, you can now do it a little less than the German language, which you learn every day in school, but it is already seen as a priority in the families that the children learn the Gurmukhi , also alone to recite the prayers every day. Well, I learned it earlier in the church, and I also think it is important that my children learn, "says Gurmit Kaur. The 36-year-old office communications clerk is Damandeep Singh's sister, but has not only had a different surname since she got married. Because among the Sikhs all men have the surname Singh, which means lion, and all women the name Kaur, princess. A demarcation from the caste system prevailing in India, in which caste membership - and thus social status - can be read from the name. With the names Singh and Kaur, the Sikhs underline their principle of equality for all people.

(EPA)How did the Sikh religion come about?
Like Buddhism and Jainism, Sikhism is a religious reform movement that originated in India. Only Sikhism is much younger. Its founder, Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), criticized the Indian caste system and questioned some Hindu rituals and traditions. Sikhism gradually developed into an independent monotheistic religion with around 25 million members. In Germany there are around 25,000.

Why don't Sikhs cut their hair?
Sikhs believe that it is God's will for the hair to grow - otherwise they would not do it. This is why many Sikhs - men and women - do not cut their hair, fingernails or toenails. But you always carry a comb with you - to comb your hair, but also as a symbol of discipline and purity.

What is the Sikh religion known for?
The intricately tied turban, called dastar, is the outward feature that Sikhs are most conspicuous with. It comes in different colors and is worn by many men and some women. With the turban, Sikhs have shaped the image of India abroad, so that they are often mistaken for Hindus because their turban is wrongly ascribed to Hinduism.

Sikhs as seekers

There are other aspects of the Sikh religion as well that show that it originated in the context of Hinduism. It is the aim of the Sikhs to leave the cycle of rebirths - something other Indian religions are also striving for. Sikhs seek enlightenment so that their souls can become one with God.

"The essential thing in Sikhi is spiritual development, spiritual enlightenment," says Damandeep Singh. "And acceptance within yourself as a seeker - Sikh means by definition a lifelong knowledge-oriented spiritual student or seeker."

The Holy Scriptures of the Sikhs: Guru Granth Sahib (Deutschlandradio / Tim Baumann)

Damandeep Singh said that those who stop developing in the study of the scriptures also stop being a Sikh. It is therefore of the greatest importance: "That you realize that you are here in order to develop yourself. To get to the core essence, the essential form that we actually are, that we are not this body, that we should not identify with this body, but with the essential substance that peddles in this body, which is religionless, casteless, sexless, and to recognize who we are in our true form. "

Turban, bracelet, dagger

Good deeds to improve karma are also of great importance: be it through free meals in the Gurdwara or through armed service to the community. Because with the baptism and entry into the Khalsa community, Sikhs also take on the duty to protect the weaker with violence if necessary. Many Sikhs illustrate this with a small dagger that they always carry with them. And that's not the only external feature that causes questions, says Gurmit Kaur:

"For example the bracelet, which is striking, the headgear. And then people often ask: Oh, women also wear a turban? Or also with the children in kindergarten: Why do you wear an iron bracelet, what does that mean?"

The bracelet stands for the infinite connection with God. The artistically tied turban covers the long hair of the Sikhs - on most men and also on some women. The men also stand out for their beards.

Damandeep Singh: "If you accept the will of God, you also accept the body as part of nature. The hair is not cut, but it is combed twice a day so that the dead hair that has separated from the hair root is removed . "

Skilled workers and refugees

There are around 25 million Sikhs worldwide - most of them live in the northern Indian province of Punjab. In Germany there are just under 25,000 - enough to maintain one or more Gurdwaras in almost every major city.

"Every Sikh of the immigrant generation has its own story. Our father, for example, came here in '76, but now not politically persecuted, but simply for economic reasons. He studied in India and came here to start a business here," says Damandeep Singh.

(imago / Hindustan Times)Sikhs in India: God is awakened early
For Sikhs there is a spiritual and social control center: the Gurudwara. People sing and pray here, and there is free medical care and free food for tens of thousands of visitors. The sacred must also be close to life. A visit to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in New Delhi.

Like him, many well-trained Sikhs have been coming to Germany since the 2000s - mainly engineers and IT experts.

Damandeep Singh: "On the other hand, there were many who were persecuted as a Sikhs as a minority in India after 1984. A very large wave came afterwards, who fled there."

In 1984 India experienced a spiral of violence: First the highest sanctuary of the Sikhs, the golden temple of Amritsar, was bloodily stormed by Indian troops after militant Sikh separatists declared an independent state there. In response, two Sikh bodyguards shot dead Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This in turn led to massacres in which thousands were killed.

Attack on Gurdwara in Essen

But whether as a refugee or a specialist - Sikhs are also experiencing exclusion in Germany, says Damandeep Singh:

"So the problem is clearly very present that when you are looking for a job you are sometimes not even accepted for no reason, even though you are qualified for the position. Or young Sikhi boys also very often have problems at school. So there are there is a wide range of examples, from the extreme cases where Sikh boys have been spat at, scissors have been threatened to cut their hair, remove their turban or where it gets really vulgar or they are physically threatened. "

(imago / Jochen Tack) Sikhs in Germany: One God for everyone - despite everything
In 2016, Sikhs were victims of an Islamist attack in Essen. The perpetrators have now been convicted. Traditionally, the temples are open to everyone. How do believers deal with fear?

In 2016 a Gurdwara in Essen was the target of an Islamist bomb attack, three people were injured, some seriously. Damandeep Singh does not want to be intimidated by this, but Gurmit Kaur is unsettled:

"Something can always happen somewhere. But you have to keep going. It goes on. If it comes, it will hopefully be over. Of course, when you are in the church, you think: Oh God, not this here now someone comes in armed or something, no, but you are nowhere safe. "

Discrimination in Germany

And in order to counter the discrimination in school and working life, Damandeep Singh co-founded the Sikh Association Germany in 2013. They want to use information material and YouTube videos to educate people about their beliefs in order to break down prejudice. Gurmit Kaur wishes: "That you educate a little bit in childhood so that the Sikh children can just continue to live out their culture. If you are bullied, that doesn't bring you down psychologically, it's very, very difficult for children. "

In addition, the Sikh Association is committed to ensuring that young Sikhs will one day be able to fulfill their traditional role as protectors of the weak in Germany. Damandeep Singh: "We are now seeing a trend among the third generation of Sikhs in Germany that many Sikh boys and young men are very motivated to work in the Bundeswehr or the police."

So far, however, this has not been possible due to the uniform regulations. The problem: the turban. Countries like Great Britain and Canada have already found solutions for this, because the Sikhs are quite ready to adapt the turban to the shape and color of the uniform - but taking it off and exchanging it for a German police hat is out of the question for most Sikhs.

* Originally it was said here that Gurmukhi was a language. But it is a font that a user and scientist pointed out to us.