Glossary of Sikh Terms

Sikh(literally the word Sikh means a student or learner) A Sikh is a member of a religious order founded by Guru Nanak in the 15th century. He is a believer in one ‘God’ and a keeper of His ‘IMAGE’. To say that SIKHISM is a branch of Hinduism is as much correct or incorrect as to say that Christianity is a branch of Judaism.
Guru(literally the word guru means teacher) Second level of its meaning is that the guru is a spiritual leader, a saint, a maharishi, a yogi or a swami. However, the meaning of the word Guru in Sikh terminology is at a further higher level, and it stands for the ‘prophet’.
Waheguru(literally, the wonderful teacher) To Sikhs ‘Waheguru’ stands for ‘the God’, the Lord, the Creator.
Gurdwara(literally, Guru’s door/place) A Gurdwara is a place of worship of the Sikhs. The use of the word ‘temple’ or ‘Sikh temple’ for a Gurdwara is as much correct or incorrect as to call a church- a Christian temple or a temple as a Hindu Church.
GurpurbGuru’s remembrance day- the birth or death. May be treated as a holy day and holiday.
Guru-Granth(lit. Granth means a large book) It is also called as the ADI-GRANTH; ‘adi’ means the original, first. The holy Guru Granth is not only the scriptures of the Sikh, it is regarded as the living ‘body’ (voice) of the Gurus, and thus accorded an extreme respect worthy of a prophet.
GranthiThe professional reader of the Guru Granth
Khalsa(lit. ‘Khalsa means pure) The Sikh brotherhood.
KhandaKhanda The emblem of the Sikh nation named after the double edged sword in the middle.
Singh(literally means lion) Suffix for all male Sikh names- e.g. Ranjit Singh, Parminder Singh.
Kaur(literally means Prince or Princess) Suffix for all female Sikh names- e.g. Ranjit Kaur, Parminder Kaur.
Amrit(literally means the elixir of life) The holy water for the baptising ceremony; the nectar.
Amritsar(lit. sar or srovar means the pool or the tank – thus the pool of nectar or elixir) Amritsar is the name of the holy city of the Sikhs.
ArdasThe prayer- or the act of praying with palms together
Parshad(lit. food) The holy symbolic food (sweet) served after the conclusion of Sikh service and Ardas. Also called ‘Karrah-parshad’.
LangarThe kitchen- which serves free food to all people irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or status. Where there is a Gurdwara, there is LANGAR.
Shabad(lit. means word) The ‘revealed word’ uttered by the Guru; a hymn or a verse from the Holy Granth.
KeertanThe reciting or singing of the ‘Shabad’ with the help of musical instruments- e.g. Baja and Tabla
RaaggiThe professional singer of the holy word or the ‘shabad’.
DhadhiThe professional ballad singer and narrator of Sikh history.
BaisakhiThe new year and the harvest festival of Punjab. Also an important Sikh festival marking the birth of the KHALSA.
BhangraThe popular ‘folk dance’ of the people of Punjab.
KeshLong hair. Sikhs keep long hair as a symbol of humility and an acceptance of ‘God’s Will’.
KanghaA special small wooden comb. Also symbolic of cleanliness and care.
KarraThe steel bangle which is symbolic of strength, unity and bondage.
KacchaA special type of pair of shorts or underpants.
KirpaanA Sikh sword. A small 15cm (6″) kirpaan (sword) which a Sikh wears is symbolic of respect, justice and authority.
Panj Piarey(lit. the five beloved ones; the original members of the Khalsa) Nowadays a body of any five baptised or fully practicing Sikhs (male or female) is regarded as capable of making decisions and making judgements on most Sikh matters.
PanthThe organized body of Sikhs- the ‘Khalsa Panth’.
SangatThe congregation in a Gurdwara.
Sabha(lit. a society or an association) ‘Singh Sabha’ means Sikh Organization.