Introduction

Sikhi, commonly known as Sikhism, is a monotheistic religious tradition that was founded by Guru Nanak in late fifteenth-century Panjab in South Asia. Today, Sikhi’s approximately twenty-five to thirty million adherents can be found all over the globe, making it one of the six major religions of the world. Sikhi encompasses a number of religious, social, economic and political institutions, most of which were established and nurtured by Guru Nanak and his nine successors, known as Sikh Gurus. 

For over five hundred years, Sikhs in the Panjab and all over the world have engaged with their scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, through the devotional practices of exegesis, singing, recitation, memorization and calligraphy. 

This course examines the Sikh scripture from a doctrinal and historical perspective by providing an overview of Sikh teachings as well as the historical context within which the scripture evolved and became canonized. It also examines the musical and aesthetic dimensions of the Sikh scripture, as well as ways in which the voluminous text has provided Sikhs with a social, ethical, spiritual and political message to help them respond to and shape the world around them.

No previous knowledge of Sikhi or religious studies is required. This course is part of the World Religions Through Their Scriptures XSeries Program.

What you'll learn:

  • Exploration of a foundational Sikh text, the Japji, which was composed by Guru Nanak and is recited by Sikhs as part of their morning prayers
  • The place of Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, in Sikh life
  • Interpretative skills to engage in a nuanced reading of Guru Granth Sahib
  • Gurmat Sangit, the Sikh musical tradition, as represented in the Sikh scripture and its cultural context
  • The aesthetics of Sikhi, including literature, art, and music
  • The political dimensions of Sikh scripture and its impact on the evolution of Sikhs as a Panth or community 

This course is part of the World Religions Through Their Scriptures series. 

Meet The Faculty

Harpreet Singh

Harpreet Singh

Scholar of Sikhism and South Asian Religions Traditions, Harvard University

Harpreet Singh is a scholar of South Asian traditions and languages. His scholarly interests range from studying the formation of religious identities in the premodern South Asia to the nationalization of religious communities in the modern era. He works with a wide range of sources in Persian, Sanskrit, Classical Panjabi, Brajbhasha, Awadhi and Urdu. His teaching responsibilities at Harvard have ranged from introductory courses on South Asian religions to advanced courses on religious nationalism and literary cultures. He co-founded the Sikh Coalition—the largest Sikh civil rights organization in North America—in the wake of hate crimes against Sikh-Americans after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He received a PhD degree in South Asian Religions from Harvard’s Committee on the Study of Religion and a MTS degree from Harvard Divinity School. Singh currently serves on the Board of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life at Harvard; on the Board of Trustees at the Sikh Coalition and Sikh Scholarship Foundation; and on the Advisory Boards of the Pluralism Project at Harvard, the Institute for Asian American Studies, and the Sikh Research Institute. He also serves as a member of the Harvard Chaplains.

Damanpreet Singh

Damanpreet Singh

Teaching Assistant, Harvard University

Damanpreet Singh is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School.

Ravinder Singh

Ravinder Singh

Teaching Assistant, Harvard University

Ravinder Singh Taneja currently lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he works for a large insurance company. He has an abiding interest in translating Sikh text into the English idiom. He is the Founder and Convenor of a weekly column, called the "Talking Stick Colloquium," which aims to facilitate a melding of the minds through dialogue and conversation that is focused on the spiritual message of Sikhism.

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