Where Did Sikhism Originate?

Sikhism originated in the late 15th century in the area of South Asia called the Punjab, which is now part of India and Pakistan. Its founder, Guru Nanak, was born in the Punjabi village of Talwandi, now known as Nankana in Pakistan.

Born a Hindu, Nanak became dissatisfied with the religion in which he had been raised. He traveled extensively in India, China and the Middle East expressing his belief in one creator and preaching against the caste system and idolatry. According to the Sikhs, he was the first Guru in whom the spirit of the eternal Guru resided. Nine other human Gurus followed. The fifth Guru, Arjan, established Amritsar in present-day India as the capital of Sikhism and compiled the Adi Granth, the book of Sikh scripture. In 1606, he was executed as a threat to the state. The sixth Guru, Hargobind, began to militarize the Sikhs.

The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, while forcing his subjects to embrace Islam, arrested and killed the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, in 1675. In 1699, the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, re-established the Sikhs as a military group called the Khalsa. He also established the Sikh ceremony of initiation and the five defining characteristics of the appearance of a Sikh, which include uncut hair, a steel bracelet, a wooden comb, cotton underwear and a steel sword. The Sikhs believe that the 10th Guru was the last human incarnation of the eternal Guru, and that the Guru now dwells in the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture.