There are about sixteen million Sikhs in the world today, and this stimulating and informative introduction to their history, doctrines, customs, and society includes extensive translations from their sacred texts. At the heart of their religion are the ten Gurus, who transferred authority from individual leaders to the scriptures and the community itself. Sikhism explores how their distinctive beliefs emerged from the Hindu background of the times, how a number of separate sects split off, and how far the ideals of sexual equality have been observed in practice. The result is a vivid and richly textured overview of one of the world's great religions.
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It's the image you have in your mind of the colonial Indian soldier: long beard, fierce eyes, burly build, turban piled high on the head, sword at the ready. Sikhs were recruited by the British for their fighting prowess, a skill honed over centuries of defending their faith. In Sikhism, Hew McLeod, one of the world's authorities on Sikh religion and society, covers the universe of Sikhism, from origins to present, sacred texts to prohibitions and customs, the forces that Sikh soldiers were resisting, and the modern diaspora. His approach is that of a historian, methodical and removed. He separates the facts from the hearsay, revealing why many Sikhs don't cut their hair, why they chant the divine Name of the eternal Guru, and why Sikh men carry swords with them at all times. But a historian can also stir up controversy when his research conflicts with accepted lore. Sikhism is believed by many to be a mix of Islam and Hinduism, but McLeod shows that it owes little to Islam, while sharing many traits with the Sant sect of Hinduism. Having spent almost a decade in the Indian Punjab, the birthplace of Sikhism, McLeod writes with authority. --Brian Bruya
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