Sikhism, Shakti and Bhakti movement

Some scholars call Sikhism a Bhakti sect of Indian traditions. In Sikhism, "nirguni Bhakti" is emphasised – devotion to a divine without Gunas (qualities or form), but it accepts both nirguni and saguni forms of the divine. The Guru Granth Sahib, the scripture of the Sikhs, contains the hymns of the Sikh gurus, fourteen Hindu bhagats, and one Muslim bhagat. Some of the bhagats whose hymns were included in the Guru Granth Sahib were bhakti poets who taught their ideas before the birth of Guru Nanak – the first of Sikh Guru.

The fourteen Hindu Bhagats whose hymns were entered into the text were poet-saints of the Bhakti movement, and included Kabir Saheb Namdev, Pipa, Ravidas, Beni, Bhikhan, Dhanna, Jayadeva, Parmanand, Sadhana, Sain, Surdas, Trilochan, while the one Muslim bhagats were Sufi saint Farid. Most of the 5,894 hymns in the Sikh scripture came from the Sikh gurus and the rest from the Bhagats.

The three highest contributions in the Sikh scripture of non-Sikh bhagats were from Bhagat Kabir (292 hymns), Bhagat Farid (134 hymns), and Bhagat Namdev (60 hymns). While Sikhism was influenced by the Bhakti movement, and incorporated hymns from the Bhakti poet-saints, it was not simply an extension of the Bhakti movement. Sikhism, for instance, disagreed with some of the views of Bhakti saints Kabir and Ravidas.

Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru and the founder of Sikhism, was a Bhakti saint. He taught, states Jon Mayled, that the most important form of worship is Bhakti. Nam-Simran – the realisation of God – is an important Bhakti practice in Sikhism. Guru Arjan, in his Sukhmani Sahib, recommended the true religion is one of loving devotion to God.

The Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib includes suggestions for a Sikh to perform constant Bhakti.

The Bhakti themes in Sikhism also incorporate Shakti (power) ideas. Some Sikh sects outside the Punjab region of India, such as those found in Maharashtra and Bihar, practise Aarti with lamps in a Gurdwara. Arti and devotional prayer ceremonies are also found in the Ravidassia religion, previously part of Sikhism.


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