Sikh London

Guru Nanak founded Sikhism about 500 years ago. The ultimate aims of Sikhism are similar to those of Hinduism, as the individual strives for union with God. However, Guru Nanak wished to abolish the hierarchy of existing religions and there is much emphasis on equality in Sikhism, which does not have priests, nuns or monks. Nine Gurus, or spiritual guides, succeeded the first.

Sikhs worship in a temple called a gurdwara, where the congregation sings hymns and hears reading from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Scriptures compiled by Guru Arjan. This book includes material by Sikh Gurus, Hindus, Muslims and people considered by Hindus to be 'untouchables'. The original version of the Guru Granth Sahib is in the Golden Temple at Amritsar, Sikhism's spiritual centre in India.

After the service, a free communal meal is provided, the langar. The act of eating together symbolises equality. Other important rituals include baptism, marriage and funerals.

Sikh men do not cut their hair or beards, so usually wear their hair in a turban to keep it tidy. The Sikh name Singh, meaning 'lion' is given to men, while the name 'Kaur', meaning 'princess' is given to women. This was originally to abolish the caste differences indicated by Indian surnames.

Sikhs were dominant in India's Punjab from the end of the 18th century, but in the mid-19th century this region fell under British rule. The Maharajah Duleep Singh, son of the defeated Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was exiled to Britain in 1849. Sikhs went on to play a respected role in the Indian Army under British command.

A Sikh gurdwara was built in Shepherd's Bush in 1902. Many of London's Sikh settlers arrived from the Punjab region of Northwest India during the 1920s, 50s and 60s. In the 1970s, members of the faith from East Africa also arrived in London.

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