Rituals (Karam Kand) in Sikhism



Truth is Bitter series 8,( part 1)
Rituals (Karam Kand) in Sikhism

Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism rejected all the rituals practiced at that time as they were not factual, purposeful, relevant, reasonable, practical and logical. One can say for sure that the rituals have no place in Sikhism.

Sikhism stayed ritual free about 200 years after Guru Nanak. The time when Sikhs were fighting for their survival, took refuge in jungles for protection, the Nirmalas and Udasis the anti- Sikh groups took control of Sikh shrines. They started practicing rituals which were against Guru Nanak’s philosophy. Sikhs were aware what was happening in their religious institutions but they were helpless as they had bigger battle on their hand for survival. Over time the Sikhs established themselves and they become the rulers. During the Sikh raj , Sikhs did not pay any attention to the practice of rituals in Gurdwaras, which resulted these non- Sikh rituals to become Sikh traditions.

There are large numbers of rituals performed by Sikhs in their Gurdwaras and in their homes as listed below :

1. Akhand Paths

2. Nagar Kirtans

3. Sikh weddings and during Anand Karaj

4. Langar served to non-needy or not hungry people in Canada, USA, UK and other developed countries.

5. Majority Gurdwaras are ritual centers instead  of Gurbani wisdom learning centers.

6. Certain days for certain tasks

7. Some Amrit dhari Sikhs practice rituals due to lack of standardization of the Amrit ceremony.

8. Worship dead person’s grave or worship forefathers

9. Put Amrit in newborn infant’s mouth and in dead person’s mouth

10. Taking dead person’s ashes to certain places with some household dishes and beddings.

Below I have touched on the first two rituals:

1. Akhand Paths:

Akhand Path is a ritual as it does not serve any purpose apart from financial gain to the religious institutions. Akhand Path is the most common ritualistic and money wasting tradition  practiced in modern Sikhism. A person or a family having an Akhand Path get very little or nothing (Guru’s wisdom) in return for the money, time and effort spend during the ceremony. The only thing they enjoy, is the social get together. Akhand Paths are the main source of income for the Gurdwaras, Deras and SGPC ( Amritsar) India. This is the reason, the Gurdwara committees, Deradars and religious leaders at Amritsar do not discourage the innocent Sikh public against this ritual, instead they are promoting the centuries old “Belief System”, which is against Guru Granth Sahib’s philosophy. During Akhand Path the bani is read at fast speed, 2 minutes per ang (page) not possible for the listener to retain, most of the time the reader reads silently or just glance at the bani and keep turning the pages. The larger Akhand Path centers, where 20 or more Akhand Paths are performed at a time are mostly done this way. It is not uncommon to have a mail-order Akhand Path and receive Hukamnama in the mail. It seems that, the whole process is invented in such a way that no wisdom could be learnt from Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

2. Nagar Kirtans :

Nagar kirtan’s main purpose is to show Sikh unity for political gain, there is nothing for Sikh sangat to learn Guru’s wisdom. Actually the hidden agenda is to promote the “Belief System” that by walking along Guru ji, you can achieve Guru’s Khushiaan. This ritual is gaining popularity as it is another source of easy income for the organizing Gurdwaras and Deras. The majority of the people who attend these functions call it “mella”(fair). Their main purpose of going is to enjoy free food and socialization. I do not hesitate to say that  the Nagar Kirtans are high jacked by political and business sectors, hardly any thing to do with religion apart from taking Sri Guru Granth Sahib for a ride.

The Nagar Kirtans depends upon Sikh community‘s involvement including paying for all the expenses by one way or the other , however there are 3 other groups who take advantages of these large gatherings. These groups are: 1. Gurdwara management committees or Deradars,  2. Political parties or politicians 3. Business sector. The political parties are there to influence the voters by making fake promises and they look at the big crowd as their future vote bank. The business sector has golden opportunity to display and advertise their merchandise. The Gurdwara management committees the organizers  earn large sum of money for the their Gurdwaras and they get  chance to meet the invited dignitaries and politicians for future connections ( personal gain). The innocent Sikh community, who paid all the expenses, worked hard as volunteers and gathered in large numbers to show Sikh “Unity” to others, did not get much compared to other 3 groups. It is very common to hear the Gurdwaras heads or the Deradars ask the Sikh sangat come to Nagar kirtan and receive “Guru’s Khushiaan”(blessings), to date I have never met anyone who got Guru’s Khushiaan after they come back from the Nagar Kirtan, in matter of fact they complained about their sore feet, tired and sick of eating too much free food.

Sikh community waste millions of dollars on these rituals, this money could be put into good use such as in Education for the betterment of Sikh community and Sikh youth. Sikh religious institutions and religious leaders like to keep the Sikh public in dark so they are encouraging the Sikhs to keep practicing these rituals, that is the reason the present form of Sikhism is full of rituals.

A dishonest / corrupt person or an organization or a government will always prey on innocent individuals, community or public at large. One wonders, how to escape from these corrupt people ? The answer is simple, one has to get Educated, become Knowledgeable and gain Wisdom from Shi Guru Granth Sahib by reading yourself.

I am afraid to say that majority of Sikh nation (95%) believe in or perform some sort of ritual without knowing that it is a ritual. The ritual roots have grown very deep in Sikhism, as they had been practiced for the past 300 years. It is not possible to get rid of these rituals overnight, it may take long time to become ritual free ( Guru Nanak’s Sikhism).

There is a simple solution to solve this problem, Review The System.

It is common that a successful person or an organization or a political party or an education institution, have one thing in common, that is they all perform Reviews of their systems(protocols) or policies at set intervals. These reviews help in making upgrades or bring necessary changes to the present system or policies. This review system could apply to our ritual infiltrated Sikhism. I would like to request every Sikh to review / analyse every Sikh tradition he or she is practicing to see if it will pass the test of logic, purpose, relevant, truth, fact, practical and scientific. The tradition which failed the test , is a ritual and it should be discontinued at once and try to inform or educate others. I also like to put forward another suggestion that during conversations at small or large Sikh gatherings, could be in Gurdwaras or family get together, discuss ideas,  how to get rid of rituals in Sikhism? Once we all decided to take some responsibility, it would not take long for Sikhism to become ritual free and in return we all should receive Guru’s Khushiaan.

Ramjit Singh Mann