Background and Context
Sikh migration to Britain began as result of Britain’s colonial relationship with India, but did not really begin until after the Sepoy mutiny of 1857
when they were recruited into the British army and entrusted with safeguarding the interests of the empire.
Mass migration, though, began after the Second World War with mostly Sikh males seeking residence. With a shortage of industrial jobs in India
Britain seemed a perfect outlet as there was a labour shortage and an economic boom that made finding work relatively easy. Most new arrivals
settled in London, Birmingham and West Yorkshire. The Sikhs also arrived in Bristol and other places in the South West region. They took up jobs as either unskilled labourers or in foundries and textile factories. A further wave of second and third generation Sikhs migrated from East Africa in the seventies. The British Sikh community is now in its third and fourth generations, with many having firmly established their roots in the UK. They number just over half a million, though their impact on British culture has been much more significant. Sikhs have around 200 Gurdwaras nationally, serving free langar (food) and providing services to the elderly, disabled and needy.
There are an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 Sikhs residing in Bristol. Four Gurdwaras serve the Sikh community. These are:
- The Bristol Ramagharia Board, (Chelsea Road)
- Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak, Prakash
- Singh Sabha (Fishponds)
- Sangat Singh Sabha Gurdwara, (St George)
- Siri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara (Church Road)
Sikhs living in and around Bristol attend the Gurdwaras for worship and to gather socially. In addition to the Gurdwaras, the Sikh Resource and
Community Development Centre serves the community providing a range of services including weekly luncheons for the elderly, exercise classes,
advice and guidance, Punjabi classes for pupils and supplementary English, Maths classes and information on Sikhism. For further information,
please contact Narinder Vir Kaur at the Sikh Resource and Community Development Centre on 0117 9525023.
In 1469 Guru Nanak Dev ji founded the Sikh religion. The aim of his teachings was to encourage the worship of one God, and that God is love. In a highly segregated and unequal society Guru Nanak Dev ji promoted understanding about equality and harmony across all humanity. To reinforce this message the Guru established the langar (communal kitchen), which follows Sikh prayers with the community eating a vegetarian meal together. From Guru Nanak dev ji to Guru Gobind Singh ji, the10 Gurus established the Sikh faith over a period of 200 years and installed their teachings in the scriptures known as the Guru Granth Sahib. The 10th Master Guru Gobind Singh ji instructed the Sikhs that after his departure no other human Guru would be ordained. The Guru Granth Sahib was established as the 11th Guru the eternal Guru of and guiding light of the Sikhs. Sikh belief is a system combining both spiritual and secular authority. The Guru Granth Sahib ji is the ultimate authority informing the Sikh way of life. It is a lyrical, poetical work and although it has been translated into other languages it is best read in its original Gurmukhi form presented in the infinite tense speaking to the soul. Kirtan is the collective singing of compositions from the Guru Granth Sahib ji to the accompaniment of musical instruments, during the service. Sikhs are required to cover their heads
when they attend gurdwara as a mark of respect in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib ji.
Vaisakih (pronounced Baisakhi) is one of the most significant festivals in the Sikh calendar. This festival commemorates the creation of the Khalsa, the formal initiation of Sikhs via the Amrit ceremony making a commitment to their faith. Secondly, Vaisakhi is a harvest festival in Punjab. Other important festivals celebrated by the Sikhs include Diwali, and the birthdays of Guru Nanak Dev ji and Guru Gobind Singh ji.
Sikh Practise and Dress Code
Devout Sikhs observe the five Ks:
»» kesh (uncut hair);
»» kangha (comb);
»» Kirpan (sword);
»» kachhara (loose fitting cotton shorts);
»» kara (steel or iron bangle).
Amrithdhari or baptised Sikhs do not cut their hair. The turban is integral to the Sikh dress code and covers their long hair kesh tied in a top-knot combed neatly with the kangha. Overall more men wear the turban but some Sikh women also choose to wear the turban. Baptised Sikhs wear black, white, blue, orange and yellow turbans, although turbans are also worn in other colours.
The Kirpan is a symbolic reminder to uphold justice and to protect the weak; the kachhara represents sexual restraint and the wearing of the
kara can be interpreted as a symbol of God, infinity and righteousness. Sikhs refrain from smoking, alcohol consumption and the majority of
baptised Sikhs are vegetarians. In general the Sikhs respect the cow as sacred; and avoid the consumption of beef. Those Sikhs who do eat meat
are forbidden to eat meat prepared in the halal tradition.
Life Cycle Rites
The naming ceremony for new born Sikh children takes place in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib ji at a gurdwara. Girls are given a name
ending with Kaur (Princess); and men end their names with Singh (lion). In death, the body is clad in clean clothes, placed on a pyre and prayers
are recited as the eldest son lights the pyre. Sikhs are discouraged in deliberately
manifesting outward grief.
1. Guru Nanak Dev(1469 to 1539)
2. Guru Angad Dev (1504 to 1552)
3. Guru Amar Das (1479 to 1574)
4. Guru Ram Das(1534 to 1581)
5. Guru Arjan Dev(1563 to 1606)
6. Guru Har Gobind(1595 to 1644)
7. Guru Har Rai (1630 to 1661)
8. Guru Har Krishan (1656 to 1664)
9. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621 to 1675)
10. Guru Gobind Singh (1666 to 1708)
»» Bristol Sikh Temple, 71-75 Fishponds Road, Eastville, Bristol, BS5 6SF. www.bristolsikhtemple.co.uk
»» Bristol Ramgarhia Sikh Temple, 81-83 Chelsea Road, Bristol BS5 6AS 0117 955 4929
»» Sikh Resource and Community Development Centre, 114 Saint Mark’s Road, Bristol, BS5 6JD. 0117 952 5023