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Teacher Material

Author: Neil McKain

Series Editor: Robert Orme

William Collins’ dream of knowledge for all began with the publication of his first book in 1819. A self-educated mill

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Author: Neil McKain

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Knowing Religion provides an overview of the origins and development of religions over the course of history, as well as how they are lived and the challenges they face in the modern world. The books are designed to build students’ thinking from the bottom up, with subject knowledge providing a gateway to a rich and rewarding understanding of religion and religions.

Recent work by cognitive scientists has shown that students need to have a large amount of subject knowledge stored in their long-term memory in order to become competent at any subject. Students are far more capable of thinking critically when faced with topics they know and understand. For this reason, Knowing Religion is designed to teach about religions in a clear and cumulative way, where content knowledge is secured before complex tasks are undertaken.

Like all subjects, religion is best understood by relating new information to prior knowledge. For example, students will better understand the significance of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity if they have previously learnt about the persecution faced by Christians in the first three centuries. Therefore, it is useful to recap information and vocabulary from previous topics before each new one is introduced.

The Teacher Guide suggests a range of activities designed to consolidate and enhance learning from the Student Books. It includes evaluative tasks and those intended to provide both additional support and extra challenge to allow for differentiation in the classroom. Resources are suggested to support some specific activities, and some general resources are provided in addition to these, which may be useful for a range of activities and scenarios to support learning. These have been carefully chosen to seize students’ interest and complement the material in the Student Book.

In each topic, a core narrative or set of ideas is presented. For ease of reference, in the Student Books key content is collected in a ‘Knowledge organiser’ at the end of each unit. Knowledge organisers allow students to test themselves. They also allow teachers to design quick factual recall tests, ensuring that all students master important knowledge at an early stage. To assist in this, the key vocabulary and key people are reproduced in the Teacher Guide too.

Knowing Religion provides an essential framework for students to learn about religions, but it does not pretend to be exhaustive. It should be complemented with as many activities and texts from other sources that you – the teacher – see fit.
Lesson structure

The recommended lesson structure for teaching from Knowing Religion is based on cognitive science and research into highly effective teachers, adapted for use in the RE classroom. It follows a structure of recap, pre-teach, read, condense, apply, review.

1 RECAP previous learning: Start lessons with a short review of previous learning. This serves two purposes:

  • Frequent review of subject content strengthens its place in students’ long-term memory and helps make the recall of words, people, events and concepts automatic.

  • It brings to the front of students’ minds the relevant prior knowledge that they need to draw upon to understand the new content. This may come from the immediately preceding topic, or from earlier in the book. For the benefit of teachers who have not covered all the previous topics, essential knowledge and key words are noted in this guide.

Recap material could be covered through a starter activity, a short quiz or oral question and answer.

2 PRE-TEACH difficult new material: Before reading the text, you may want to ‘pre-teach’ any particularly challenging new material. This could include key terms, complicated geography or a difficult concept.

3 READ new material: Each topic is around 800 words. You may wish to ask students to read sections of the text independently or choose to read it as a whole class. Along the way, make sure that you are continually asking questions, illustrating important points and explaining anything that students may be confused about.

4 CONDENSE new material into an easily understood format: Students should then reproduce the information in a new format that will aid their understanding. This can be something as simple as answering comprehension questions, but activities could also include annotating maps, images or pieces of text.

These activities should be followed by a whole-class check, to ensure that students have completed the task correctly and to clarify any confusion that may have arisen. This can be done through self-assessment, peer-assessment or simple question and answer.

5 APPLY new knowledge: Having acquired new knowledge, it is then time to apply it. This could take place at the end of the lesson or during a following lesson. Ways to apply new knowledge include:

  • further reading: once students have mastered the basic concepts of a topic in Knowing Religion, you may want to introduce a more complex or detailed text. This could include a passage from a holy text, an article from a newspaper or magazine, an extract from a book or from a reputable online source.

  • extended writing: answering a well-designed question encourages students to think more deeply about the content they have studied. The five ‘Check your understanding’ questions at the end of each topic can be used as a basis for such questions. Extended writing should encourage students to make links between different religions they have studied, building increasingly complex networks of understanding.

6. REVIEW material learnt: Lessons should be interspersed with quick diagnostic checks, to ascertain the level of understanding that students have achieved. The quiz questions included in the Teacher Guide (20 per unit) can help with this. Such activities are crucial in helping to strengthen student memory: the more students rehearse and review information, the stronger their memory becomes.

End of unit essays: You may want to end each unit with a piece of extended writing, answering a question that draws upon knowledge from all the topics or scatter these through the 16 topics. The fifth ‘Check your understanding’ question regularly provides students with opportunity and flexibility to do this.

Further reading

Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works, 2009

Peter C. Brown (et al), Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, 2014

Barak Rosenshine, ‘Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know’ in American Educator, 2012

Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby, Making Every Lesson Count: Six Principles to Support Great Teaching and Learning, 2015

Knowing Religion Teacher Guide



1 To develop students’ evaluative writing, discursive statements are frequently used in the fifth ‘Check your understanding’ question in each topic. These can form the basis of paired/class debate as well as offering an opportunity to work on students’ extended writing and prepare them for the demands of evaluative questions asked at GCSE. To add support, it might be useful to show students sample paragraphs of model answers with different elements of the paragraph (e.g. point, evidence, evaluation, link to question) colour coded so that students can see how good paragraphs are structured or formed. You could support students by providing sentence starters and examples of subject-specific vocabulary to be used in answers, as well as non-subject specific vocabulary – for example, give them different connectives that could be used in writing. After completing essays, photocopy the best answer for all students to read through. Annotate strengths and weaknesses as a class so that students can see how to improve their work.

2 Students who have studied religions other than Sikhism in the Knowing Religion series will be able to draw comparisons between them on various issues. This could form the basis of discussion or written activities. For example, students could write the script of a discussion/debate between followers of two or more religions on questions such as:

  • What is God like?

  • What happens when we die?

  • Why is there suffering in the world?

  • Should religions adapt over time or stay the same?

  • Does gender matter?

  • Is it ever right to fight?

  • Alternatively, they could look at different perspectives on a topic within one religion – for example:

  • Are men and women truly equal in Sikhism?

  • Are Sikhs who join the Khalsa ‘better’ than Sikhs who choose not to?

This will help develop students’ understanding of diversity within religion and religions, and enhance their skills in evaluating differing views.


A Sikh website containing a wide range of information about Sikhism.

They also have an excellent YouTube channel for teachers to explore and use.

3 In Unit 1 in particular, students will encounter many key facts, which can be found in the Knowledge organiser at the end of the unit. As a recap exercise at the start of lessons – and to consolidate students’ understanding of chronology – ask students to create an overview timeline, focusing on perhaps 10–15 key facts. A similar activity could be done by placing the key people from the Knowledge organiser in the order that they lived.

4 To further consolidate understanding of chronology based on the topics in Unit 1, ask students to create a picture storyboard / cartoon strip showing key moments in the development of Sikhism in eight captioned images. To add support, students could be given the dates of the events on which each image should be based. This would be a useful task to help students learn and understand the timespan of the ten Gurus.

5 Using one or both of the book’s Knowledge organisers, create a crossword to test students’ knowledge of key vocabulary and people. Crosswords can be made by entering the words into an online crossword-maker and writing appropriate hints for each word/person to reflect student ability.

6 To add greater challenge, give students extracts to read from other texts / news sources / online sources to build on and deepen their understanding of the topics covered in the book. For example:

  • Topic 1.6: Pupils could find out about and debate the decision to allow Sikhs at the Olympic Games to wear the kirpan.

  • Topic 1.7: Pupils could be given printed extracts from a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib. They could focus on what they can learn about Sikh theology from the particular extract, or explore and comment on the language used to describe God.

  • Topic 2.2: If pupils are unable to visit a gurdwara, take a virtual tour online.

  • Topic 2.4: Pupils could find out more about the work of Khalsa Aid. The founder, Ravi Singh, can be contacted via twitter: @RaviSinghKA.


An article about the issue of Sikhs wearing the kirpan at the Olympic Games.

The Guru Granth Sahib.

A website with a photographic tour of a gurdwara in the UK. Other virtual tours are available.

The website of Khalsa Aid.

7 To add greater support, after reading the text, you could give students a printout of a shorter, simplified version of it, with key information missing. They could fill in the gaps by finding the information in the book.

To add greater challenge and help students distil key learning from a topic, ask them to sum up a topic in a set number of words, for example, 50, 20 and then 10.

8 Fast-paced, whole-class recap questioning at the start of lessons will inject energy and focus, and help students commit prior knowledge to memory. Regularly setting revision of key vocabulary definitions and key people descriptions as homework also helps students remember what they have learned. This can be monitored by quick quizzes at the start of lessons. These quizzes could contain ten questions, with difficulty levels adapted to match class abilities. A quick and efficient way to do these quizzes is as follows:

  • Give students half a piece of lined paper when they arrive at the lesson and ask them to write their name and the numbers 1–10 on it. (Alternatively, you can give students a printed copy of questions.)

  • Read out each question twice. Questions with one or two short, clear answers are better than those with a variety of possibilities that students will want to check.

  • Ask them to peer mark in a different colour pen. (Silently swapping papers with someone who is not sitting next to them will help avoid talking/disputes!)

  • Whilst marking, students should correct any wrong answers. This will reinforce the answers and help students remember for future quizzes.

  • Students can stick their quizzes in a book and record their scores with a date in a table at the back. You can also collect scores. The whole process should take no longer than 10 minutes.

Another way of doing this is to give students a list of key words with definitions missing, or vice versa, and ask them to fill in the gaps. To add greater support, give students both the key words and definitions and ask them to match the key words with the correct definitions.

General resources

Videos designed for use in RE lessons on a range of issues relating to Sikhism.

A range of articles relating to Sikhism.


Unit 1: History and belief

1 Approximately how long ago did Sikhism begin?

2 What does the word ‘guru’ mean?

3 What is the name given to stories about the early life of Guru Nanak?

4 Sikhs are monotheists. What does this mean?

5 What was the name of the first Sikh community?

6 What was Angad’s name before he became the second Guru?

7 Which Guru is understood to be the first Sikh martyr?

8 What collection of Sikh hymns and writings has a title meaning ‘first book’?

9 What is the name of the Sikh symbol?

10 Which Mughal emperor was responsible for the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur?

11 In what year did Guru Gobind Singh establish the Khalsa?

12 What name or title is given to female Sikhs who join the Khalsa?

13 What is the name of the metal bracelet worn by Sikhs?

14 How many hymns of Guru Nanak are in the Guru Granth Sahib?

15 What important role in Sikhism does a granthi play?

16 What text in the Guru Granth Sahib summarises Sikh beliefs about God?

17 What are the first two words of the Mool Mantra?

18 What name do Sikhs use to refer to God?

19 What does the word Sikh mean?

20 Which Muslim empire ruled over much of India at the time Sikhism began?

Unit 2: Sikhism in the modern world

1 What is the aim of life for Sikhs?

2 Name the prayer recited by Sikhs during a funeral service.

3 What does the word gurdwara mean?

4 What is sewa?

5 What do the letters in SWAT stand for?

6 What happens during International Langar Week?

7 Name the three forms of sewa.

8 Who is the founder of Khalsa Aid?

9 What name is given to the pool of water that surrounds The Golden Temple?

10 In what year did the Amritsar Massacre take place?

11 What Sikh festival celebrates the establishment of the Khalsa?

12 Bandi Chhor Diwas is an important Sikh festival. What does it commemorate?

13 Festivals to mark the birth and death of the Gurus are known by what name?

14 What is the Zafarnama?

15 The largest Sikh temple outside India can be found where?

16 Name the Sikh leader who occupied the Golden Temple complex in 1984.

17 What is the name of the largest organisation representing Sikhs in the UK?

18 In what year was a memorial unveiled to recognise the contribution and sacrifices of Sikhs who had fought in the British armed services?

19 In the 2016 annual British Sikh Report how did the majority of respondents identify themselves?

20 How many people visit the Golden Temple each year?

Key vocabulary

Unit 1: History and belief

Adi Granth A collection of hymns and writings of the early Sikh Gurus, compiled by Guru Arjan; it means ‘first book’

amrit Sugar that is mixed into water using a sword; it is drunk at the Amrit ceremony

Amrit ceremony The ceremony to become part of the Sikh Khalsa

Bhai A title given to people respected by Sikhs; it literally means ‘brother’

caste A series of social classes that determine someone’s job and status in society

chapati A type of flatbread commonly eaten in India and Pakistan

disciples Followers of a religious leader

The Five Ks Five articles of faith worn by the Khalsa: kesh (uncut hair), kangha (a wooden comb), kara (a steel bracelet), kachera (special cotton underwear) and kirpan (a short sword)

granthi People who read from, and look after, the Guru Granth Sahib; Sikhs do not have religious leaders or priests and anyone can read from the Guru Granth Sahib

gurdwara The Sikh place of worship; it literally means ‘doorway to the Guru’

Gurmukhi A language created by the Gurus and used to write the Guru Granth Sahib

Guru A religious teacher or guide who leads a follower from spiritual ignorance (Gu, ‘darkness’) into spiritual enlightenment (ru, ‘light’)

Guru Granth Sahib The Sikh holy book; the name means ‘from the Guru’s mouth’

initiated Made a member of a particular group through a special ceremony

Janam Sakhis Stories about the childhood and life of Guru Nanak

karah parshad A sweet food shared at the end of the Amrit ceremony

Kartarpur A town in modern Pakistan where the first Sikh community was founded in 1522 by Guru Nanak

Kaur ‘Princess’ – the title given to a female Khalsa Sikh

Khalsa The community of Sikhs founded by the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh

khanda The symbol of Sikhism, made up of two double-edged swords, one sword in the middle and a circle  

langar A word meaning ‘free kitchen’ – a communal eating area found in every Sikh place of worship

martyr Someone who is killed for their beliefs

monotheist Someone who believes in only one God

Mool Mantra The first hymn written by Guru Nanak; it summarises Sikh beliefs about God

Mughal Empire The rulers of the area that is now India and Pakistan in the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries

naam japna Repeating the name of God over and over as an act of worship

Panj Pyare ‘The blessed ones’ – the first five men who volunteered to join the Khalsa

revelation A message revealed by God to humans

Sikh A follower of Sikhism; it comes from the Sanskrit word shishya, which means ‘disciple’ or ‘learner’

Singh ‘Lion’ – the title given to a male Khalsa Sikh

Waheguru the most common name used by Sikhs to describe God meaning ‘wonderful Lord/Guru’

Unit 2: Sikhism in the modern world

atma The soul

Bandi Chhor Diwas A festival where Sikhs celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind from prison

chauri A fan traditionally used by rulers but now waved over the Guru Granth Sahib as a sign of respect

dhan Material sewa

Diwan Hall The main hall in a gurdwara, where worship services take place

Gurmukh Someone who put God and the teachings of the Gurus at the centre of their life

Gurpurb A festival to mark the birth or death of a Guru

Hola Mohall A Sikh adaption of the Hindu spring festival of Holi, involving military displays

karma The law of action that influence people’s future rebirth

Kirtan Sohila An evening prayer that is also said during a Sikh funeral

man Mental sewa

Manmukh Someone who is self-centred and does not put God at the centre of life

Maya The temporary and illusory nature of the world

mukti Union with Waheguru; to escape the world of illusion and the cycle of life, death and rebirth

Nishan Sahib A flag that flies over every gurdwara

pilgrimage A journey taken to a place of religious importance

sarovar The pool of water that surrounds the Golden Temple

Sewa Selfless service to others

Sikh Council The largest organisation representing Sikhs in the UK

takht The throne on which the Guru Granth Sahib is placed each day for services in the gurdwara

tan Physical sewa

Vaisakhi The Sikh festival marking the start of the new year; it also remembers the foundation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699

Zafarnama A letter written by Guru Gobind Singh to the Mughal emperor; it is the basis of many Sikh beliefs about war

Key people

Unit 1: History and belief

Akbar A Muslim Mughal emperor and ruler who was very impressed by the langar and had a good relationship with the Sikhs

Aurangzeb A Mughal emperor during Tegh Bahadur’s time as Guru; he had Guru Tegh Bahadur killed

Guru Nanak (1469–1539) The founder and first Guru of Sikhism

Guru Angad (1539–52) A devoted follower of Nanak who succeeded him as second Guru

Guru Amar Das (1552–74) The third Guru

Guru Ram Das (1574–81) The fourth Guru

Guru Arjan (1581–1606) The fifth Guru, who created the Adi Granth (first Sikh scriptures) and founded the Golden Temple in Amritsar; he was martyred by the Mughal emperor

Guru Hargobind (1606–44) The sixth Guru; a key military leader

Guru Har Rai (1644–61) The seventh Guru

Guru Har Krishan (1661–64) The eighth Guru, who died at the age of eight

Guru Tegh Bahadur (1664–1675) The ninth Guru; executed by the Mughal emperor

Guru Gobind Singh (1675–1708) The tenth and final human Guru, who established the Khalsa

Jahangir A son of Mughal Emperor Akbar who had Guru Arjan killed

Lalo A hard-working carpenter of low caste who became one of the first Sikhs

Malik Bhago A rich and corrupt man who is angered by Guru Nanak eating with Lalo

Unit 2: Sikhism in the modern world

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale A Sikh leader who with his supporters occupied the Golden Temple in 1984, demanding rights for Sikhs

Indira Gandhi Indian Prime Minister who ordered the army to clear Sikh protesters from the Golden Temple in 1984; she was later murdered by two of her Sikh bodyguards

Mahatma Gandhi An Indian Hindu leader who campaigned for Indian independence from Britain in non-violent ways

Duleep Singh The first Sikh to live in the UK

Manmohan Singh The first Sikh Prime Minister of India

Ravinder Singh A British Sikh who founded Khalsa Aid in 1999

Answers to ‘Check your understanding’ questions

1.1 How did Sikhism begin?

1 How many Sikhs are there in the world and where do they live?

There are approximately 25 million Sikhs in the world. Sikhs live all over the world, but the majority live in India.

2 When and where did Sikhism begin?

Sikhism began in Punjab, a region of northern India in the fifteenth century.

3 What was the Mughal Empire?

The Mughal Empire ruled over much of India during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Mughals were Muslim conquerors. Some Mughal emperors promoted religious tolerance, while others persecuted Hindus and Sikhs.

4 Describe what happened when Nanak was 30 years old.

When Nanak was about 30 years old stories say he went to the Kali Bein river to bathe. He disappeared and was thought to have drowned. When he reappeared after three days he told people he had encountered God and given the following message: ‘There is no Hindu nor Muslim, but only man. So whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God’s path. God is neither Hindu nor Muslim and the path which I follow is God’s.’

5 Why is the early life of Guru Nanak important to Sikhs? Give examples to support your points.

The life of Guru Nanak is important to Sikhs as he is the founder of the religion. The story of his disappearance in the river and his encounter with God are a revelation. This means that Sikhs believe Nanak was specially chosen to receive a message from God. The Janam Sakhis are stories about the childhood of Nanak. They include miraculous stories (use examples from the text) that happened to Nanak showing that Sikhs believed him to be a special messenger or Guru.

1.2 How did Nanak spread his message?

1 How many great journeys did Guru Nanak make and where did he go?

It is thought that Nanak went on four long journeys throughout Asia and the Middle East. (see map).

2 What message did Nanak give to Muslims?

When Nanak visited the holy Muslim sites of Mecca and Medina he told Muslims that it makes no sense to pray facing Mecca as God is everywhere.

3 Describe the story of blood and milk in your own words. What might it show about Nanak?

The story of blood and milk is a popular story among Sikhs. It concerns a miracle that Nanak is said to have performed on his first great journey. Nanak visits the houses of two people, Lalo (a poor but hard-working carpenter) and Malik Bhago (a rich but cruel and corrupt man). Nanak takes Lalo to Malik Bhago’s house. When they arrive Nanak refuses to eat anything and Malik Bhago criticises the Guru. Nanak replies by taking a chapati from each of the men and squeezing them. Milk is said to have flowed from Lalo’s chapati while blood drips from Malik Bhago’s. The story shows two key things. Firstly it shows that Sikhs believe Nanak is holy and capable of performing miracles. Secondly, the story shows that Nanak favours hard and honest work as a way to God and that he is critical of people who are rich and cruel to others.

4 Where was the first Sikh community established and what happened there?

After his journeys, Nanak established the first Sikh community at Kartarpur (which means ‘city of God’). The early Sikhs took part in prayer and community work. They welcomed people from all castes and religions.

5 Why was there a disagreement after Nanak died and what do the legends surrounding his death teach Sikhs?

When Nanak died there were arguments about how to treat his body. Those Sikhs who had been Muslim wanted to bury him while the Sikhs who had been Hindu wanted to cremate him. The legend says that they left his body overnight surrounded by flowers on each side and that when they returned in the morning his body had disappeared. This story again shows that Sikhs believe Nanak was holy and therefore very special.

1.3 Who are the Ten Gurus? Angad to Arjan

1 Who was Guru Nanak’s successor and how was he chosen?

Nanak chose his servant Lehna to be his successor. He gave Lehna the name Angad, which means ‘limb’ or ‘part of me’. He was chosen to be Nanak’s successor instead of Nanak’s sons because Lehna passed a series of tests involving menial jobs, which he did without complaining.

2 What happened when Emperor Akbar visited Guru Amar Das?

When the Mughal Emperor Akbar visited the third Guru (Amar Das), many people felt he should be given special treatment. Instead of laying on a special banquet Amar Das insisted that Akbar visit the langar and eat with everyone else before the two met. Akbar is said to have been so impressed by Amar Das and the langar that he and the Sikhs established positive relationships.

3 What else is Guru Amar Das remembered for doing?

As well as establishing the langar, Amar Das is remembered by Sikhs for banning the Hindu practice of sati (when widows would throw themselves onto the burning funeral pyres of their dead husbands). Amar Das encouraged widows to remarry and instructed female Sikhs to spread the teachings of Sikhism.

4 Which holy site was built by Guru Arjan?

Guru Arjan is honoured by Sikhs for arranging the construction of the Harmandir Sahib. It is commonly known as the Golden Temple of Amritsar.

5 Describe the life and death of Guru Arjan. How might he provide inspiration for Sikhs today?

Arjan is considered by many Sikhs to be a particularly important Guru. In life he helped construct the Golden Temple and he also put together the first collection of Sikh scriptures, the Adi Granth. In death he became the first Sikh martyr. He was executed by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1606. Stories say he was killed by being forced to sit on a red hot cooking plate while burning sand and boiling water were poured over him. This story might provide inspiration to Sikhs today who are persecuted for their religious beliefs.

1.4 Who are the Ten Gurus? Hargobind to Gobind Singh

1 What is the meaning of the two swords worn by Guru Hargobind?

The two swords worn by Guru Hargobind have symbolic meaning, as well as being for practical protection. The first shows piri (spiritual authority) and the second shows miri (worldly authority).

2 What is the Khanda?

The Khanda is the symbol of Sikhism. It symbolises the key beliefs of miri and piri and reminds Sikhs of God and their duties on earth.

3 What happened during the reign of the Emperor Aurangzeb?

Aurangzeb decided that subjects of the Mughal Empire would be governed under strict Shari’a law. Hindus and Sikhs were persecuted.

4 Why was Guru Tegh Bahadur executed?

Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed by Aurangzeb. Records suggest that the Guru was tortured to try to force him to convert from Sikhism to Islam. When he refused he was publicly beheaded.

5 ‘It is right to die for your beliefs.’ Discuss this statement, and refer to at least one Sikh martyr in your answer.

Students should refer to Guru Tegh Bahadur and/or Guru Arjan.

In agreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • dying for your religion will be rewarded in the next life or the afterlife

  • without these martyrs and the example they set Sikhism would not have survived.

In disagreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • dying for a belief in a God who does/might not exist is foolish

  • it is better to lie and convert. God would still know you would not mean it.

1.5 Guru Gobind Singh and the Khalsa

1 Who was Guru Gobind Singh?

Gobind Singh was the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur. He became Guru after the execution of his father.

2 What happened at the festival of Vaisakhi in 1699?

At the festival of Vaisakhi in 1699 Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa. (Students can describe the festival by completing the activity on page 16 of the Student Book.)

3 What do the names Singh and Kaur mean?

Singh means ‘lion’; Kaur means ‘princess’.

4 What is the Amrit ceremony and why is it important to Sikhs?

The Amrit ceremony is the initiation rite that Sikhs must go through to become members of the Khalsa. During the ceremony, an iron bowl is filled with amrit, which is a mixture of water and sugar. This is then stirred with a khanda (sword). Those wishing to join the Khalsa drink some of the mixture and have some sprinkled on their eyes and heads.

5 ‘Guru Gobind Singh was the most important of the Sikh Gurus.’ Discuss this statement.

In agreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • he was the last human Guru and is therefore the most important

  • he established the Khalsa, without which Sikhism would not have survived

  • he established the Guru Granth Sahib as the final and living Guru.

In disagreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • Sikhs believe in equality and therefore no Guru is more important than another

  • Guru Nanak is more important as he is the founder of the religion.

1.6 What are the Five Ks?

1 How is a Khalsa Sikh different from other Sikhs?

A Khalsa Sikh is also known as an initiated Sikh. Khalsa Sikhs must wear five key items that show their faith. These five things represent a Sikh’s commitment to both spirituality and defending justice.

2 Why do Sikh men wear turbans?

One of the Five Ks is uncut hair, so male Sikhs who are members of the Khalsa wear a turban to keep their hair tidy and clean. It is also an important sign of religious identity.

3 What are the Five Ks? Explain each in detail.

Kesh (uncut hair): Sikhs believe their bodies are a gift from God. As such, Khalsa Sikhs do

not cut their hair. This is a sign of devotion to God and shows acceptance of what God has given them.

Kangha (a wooden comb): The kangha is a comb that has both a practical and spiritual purpose. The comb is used to keep the hair clean and tidy. The kangha also signifies the importance of discipline and reminds Sikhs that their lives, including work and family,

should be well ordered.

Kara (a simple steel bracelet): The kara is a plain steel bracelet worn around the right wrist. It cannot be made of gold or silver, as these metals are too precious and not in keeping with the Gurus’ teaching on equality. The circular shape represents the Sikh belief in monotheism by reflecting the eternity and oneness of God.

Kachera (special cotton underwear): Kachera are loose-fitting shorts that members of the Khalsa wear under their clothes. Guru Gobind Singh is said to have told his followers to wear them because they made movement in battle easier.

Kirpan (a short sword): The kirpan is a sword worn by Khalsa Sikhs to remind them of their duty to defend their religion and fight for justice.

4 What problems might some Sikhs in the UK encounter when wearing the Five Ks?

Possible responses may include:

  • Wearing a turban might make it difficult to perform certain jobs that require the wearing of another head covering / hat.

  • The public carrying of a knife might cause some people to feel threatened.

  • Sikhs would not want to remove the kara, but might be required to if working in a job with a no-jewellery rule.

5 ‘All Sikhs should join the Khalsa.’ Discuss this statement.

In agreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa and would want all Sikhs to join.

  • The original members of the Khalsa are revered by Sikhs and therefore people would want to be like them.

In disagreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • Sikhs respect religious diversity and are aware that not every member of the religion would want to join.

  • some of the rules that members of the Khalsa have to follow are too strict and difficult.

1.7 What is the Guru Granth Sahib?

1 What is the Guru Granth Sahib?

The sacred text of Sikhism. It is a collection of hymns and teachings.

2 Why is the Guru Granth Sahib written in Gurmukhi?

Some think the Guru Granth Sahib is written in Gurmukhi to distinguish it from the Hindu and Muslim scriptures known in India at the time.

3 How and why do Sikhs treat the Guru Granth Sahib as a person?

Sikhs treat the Guru Granth Sahib as a person because they see it as the living word of the Gurus. They show it respect by carrying it high above their heads and by granting it a special room in the gurdwara.

4 Who is able to print authorised copies? Why do you think this is?

The only official copies are printed by the authorities who run the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This is so all copies can be certain to be the same and contain no errors, mistakes or changes.

5 Why might some Sikhs say reading the Guru Granth Sahib online is not the same as reading a printed version?

Some might argue that you cannot show the same respect to the text of the Guru Granth Sahib on a webpage or phone screen. The only true way to present the scriptures is on an official printed version which can be treated with respect within a gurdwara.

1.8 What do Sikhs believe about God?

1 What is the Mool Mantra and what does it teach Sikhs about God?

The Mool Mantra is the first hymn written by Guru Nanak. It contains the main Sikh beliefs and teachings about the nature of God. These include that God is one, creator, eternal and without form.

2 Where might you find the Ik Onkar?

The Ik Onkar is an important symbol for Sikhs. It can be found in gurdwaras, in people’s homes and even on mobile-phone covers.

3 How do Sikhs believe they can know God?

Sikhs come to know God through the lives and teachings of the Gurus. They can also come to know God through their relationships with other human beings and through prayer.

4 What is meant by Waheguru and when might Sikhs use this name?

Waheguru is the name Sikhs use to refer to God. It is used by Sikhs in prayer and many will repeatedly chant his name as a form of worship.

5 What might be the advantages and difficulties of seeing God as a mystery?

Possible advantages

Possible disadvantages

God is beyond understanding so must be greater than anything else.

It makes defining belief difficult.

You can refer to God in many different ways meaning different people can relate to God.

It means that it can be easy to criticise from those outside the religion.

2.1 What do Sikhs believe happens after death?

1 What do Sikhs believe happens when people die? Include and explain a quotation from the Guru Granth Sahib in your answer.

Sikhs believe that when you die you will be reborn depending upon your actions in this life. The ultimate aim is to escape being reborn and to attain union with God. In the Guru Granth Sahib it says: ‘Those who are protected by the Guru are saved.’

2 What do Sikhs mean when they say that the world in which we live is maya?

Sikhs mean that only God is eternal and unchanging. Everything else that we see or experience will die and fade away.

3 What are the five vices?

  • ahankar (pride)

  • kam (lust or desire)

  • krodh (anger)

  • lobh (greed)

  • moh (attachment).

4 Explain what happens at a Sikh funeral.

A Sikh funeral is expected to take place as soon as possible after death. The body is washed and prepared and may be taken to the gurdwara or to a crematorium. Sikhs tend to favour cremation over burial. At every Sikh funeral, mourners recite the Kirtan Sohila.

5 Why might death be seen as a time of hope for Sikhs? Include a quotation from the

Kirtan Sohila in your answer.

Sikhs believe that, because death is not the end, people should not grieve too much when a loved one dies. The Guru Granth Sahib says that everything that lives must die, and Sikhs remember the noble way that Guru Nanak and other Gurus (particularly the martyrs) faced death. They would take comfort from the words of the Kirtan Sohila which says ‘give me your blessings that I may merge with my Lord and Master.’

2.2 What is a gurdwara?

1 What does the word gurdwara mean?

The door or gateway of the Guru.

2 What can be seen outside every gurdwara?

A Nishan Sahib – a flag (usually an orange triangle with a khanda on it).

3 What would you do when entering a gurdwara?

Sikhs would remove their shoes and bow to the Guru Granth Sahib.

4 Explain how the Guru Granth Sahib is shown respect in the gurdwara.

The holy book is treated with the same devotion and respect as a human Guru. When it is not in use, it is kept in its own room. Each day it is carried above people’s heads from this room to the Diwan Hall in a sacred procession. During a service it is placed on a throne called a takht. A granthi waves a special fan called a chauri over the Guru Granth Sahib. This practice dates back to the time of the Indian royal court, where kings and other rulers would be kept cool by someone fanning them.

5 How is equality demonstrated in the gurdwara?

Everyone one (apart from the elderly or the ill) sits on the floor. Karah parshad is shared at the end of services.

2.3 What is the langar?

1 What are the two meanings of langar?

The communal eating area in the gurdwara and the food served are both called langar.

2 How did the langar begin? Refer to the Gurus in your answer.

The concept of langar is said to go back to the first Sikh community established by Guru Nanak. It was developed particularly by the third Guru (Amar Das). (See page 12 of the Student Book.)

3 What happens in the langar?

Food is prepared and shared among anyone who visits, whether they are Sikh or not. Traditionally, people sat on the floor to eat so that everyone was at the same level, with no one in a higher position. Today, this is still the case in some gurdwaras, but in others people sit on benches. In the langar, people sit in rows rather than around a table.

4 What three teachings of Guru Nanak are followed by the charity SWAT?

  • naam japna (remembering God, reciting God’s name)

  • kirat karna (earning an honest living)

  • vand chakna (selflessly serving others, sharing income and resources).

5 Explain how some Sikhs in the UK have taken langar to the wider community.

Sikhs have taken langar to the community with various charity initiatives. Each year there is international Langar week. Sikh charities such as SWAT make three trips a week to feed the homeless in central London. It is estimated that they help at least 250 homeless people each week by serving langar and handing out water, chocolate bars and other supplies such as toiletries and sleeping bags

2.4 How do Sikhs serve others?

1 What is sewa?

Sewa is performing selfless service to others.

2 What are the three different forms of sewa?

  • tan (physical service)

  • man (mental service)

  • dhan (material service).

3 What does the Guru Granth Sahib say about the importance of sewa?

‘He does not give anything in charity or generosity, and he does not serve the

Saints; his wealth does not do him any good at all.’ (GGS 172:14)

4 Describe the work of Khalsa Aid.

Khalsa Aid is a charity that puts Sikh beliefs about sewa into practice. It was founded in 1999 by the British Sikh Ravinder Singh, and its motto is taken from a saying of Guru Gobind Singh: ‘Recognise the whole human race as one.’ The charity works to provide both short-term and long-term aid to people in need.

5 ‘Sewa is the most important part of being a Sikh.’ Discuss this statement.

In agreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • Religion should be about helping people above anything else.

  • The Guru Granth Sahib clearly expects Sikhs to perform service to others.

  • The lives of the Gurus are full of examples of them helping people.

In disagreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • Religion is about faith and a personal relationship with God more than helping people.

  • There is no single thing that is most important. Prayer and worship are as important as sewa.

2.5 The Golden Temple of Amritsar

1 What is the Harmandir Sahib?

The Harmandir Sahib (God’s Temple) is commonly known as the Golden Temple. It is the holiest site in the world for Sikhs, and is a popular pilgrimage destination.

2 What is the symbolic meaning of the Golden Temple’s design?

The temple has four entrances, which symbolise the Sikh belief that God sees everything and is everywhere in the world. They are also to show that the temple welcomes everyone, regardless of their caste, religion or where they come from.

3 Why is the Harmandir called the Golden Temple?

The Harmandir Sahib was originally made of stone until the early 1800s, when a Sikh ruler named Maharaja Ranjit Singh used his wealth and power to add gold to the inside and outside of the building.

4 Describe the events of the Amritsar Massacre in 1919.

In 1919, India was part of the British Empire, but an increasing number of Indian people were calling for independence and self-rule. On 13 April 1919, on the outskirts of the temple complex, British troops fired on a crowd of unarmed Indian protesters, killing 379 of them and wounding over 1000 more. The incident is known as the Amritsar Massacre.

5 What was Operation Blue Star and what happened in India as a result of it?

Operation Blue Star was the name of an Indian government operation whose aim was to remove Sikhs protestors from the Amritsar temple complex in 1984. As a result of the military operation many Sikhs died and the Indian Prime Minister was assassinated. The event still sours relations between some Sikhs and Hindus in India and across the world.

2.6 Sikh festivals

1 What do Sikhs celebrate at Vaisakhi?

Vaisakhi marks the beginning of the Sikh new year, as well as the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699.

2 Why do Sikhs remember Guru Hargobind at Diwali?

Some Sikhs refer to Diwali as Bandi Chhor Diwas. It is said that Guru Hargobind had been imprisoned by the Mughal emperor for failing to pay a fine given to his father, Guru Arjan. At Diwali, the emperor decided to release the Guru as a gesture of goodwill and to gain favour with the people he had conquered. Guru Hargobind refused to leave unless the 52 Hindu kings who were being held as prisoners in his cell were also released. As a way of mocking this request, the emperor said that he would free as many kings as could hold on to the Guru’s clothes. Guru Hargobind asked his guards to bring him a long cloak with many tassels. All 52 princes managed to hold on to the cloak and leave. This is where the name Bandi Chhor Diwas comes from – it means ‘prisoner release day’.

3 Why did Guru Gobind Singh initiate the festival of Hola Mohalla?

The tenth Guru used this festival as a way of training Sikh soldiers and honing their skills.

4 How do Sikhs celebrate Gurpurbs?

Gurpurbs are celebrated with worship at the gurdwara. This includes a full, continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, which takes about 48 hours to complete. Hymns are sung in the Diwan Hall and langar is shared.

5 Why do you think having festivals is important for Sikhs?

Responses might include:

  • Festivals are a way of publically showing the shared beliefs of a community.

  • Festivals help Sikhs remember the lives and stories of the Gurus.

  • Festivals are enjoyable and so people will want to take part in them.

2.7 What do Sikhs believe about war?

1 What was Guru Gobind Singh’s attitude to war? Refer to the Zafarnama.

Guru Gobind Singh believed that sometimes it is right to go to war: ‘When all efforts to restore peace prove useless and no words avail. Lawful is the flash of steel. It is right to draw the sword.’

2 When do Sikhs believe it is acceptable to fight?

Sikhs believe fighting is acceptable if it is a last resort and it is in defence of religion against unjust persecution.

3 Describe the experience of Sikh soldiers during the First World War.

Sikh soldiers served in the British army during the First World War. Approximately 125,000 Sikh soldiers fought for Britain during the First World War. Most of them had never left the Punjab before, so they found the cold weather and muddy conditions particularly difficult.

4 How do Sikhs serve in the army today?

There are around 150 Sikhs serving in the British army today. They include Simranjit Singh and Sarvit Singh, who in 2009 became the first Sikhs to serve in the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace. This made the news because they wore turbans rather than these soldiers’ traditional bearskin hats.

5 ‘Sikhism is a peaceful religion.’ Discuss this statement.

In agreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • Sikhism is a faith that teaches universal love, acceptance of difference and service to others: ‘No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone.’ (GGS)

  • Sikhs are not violent. The use of violence is only ever in self-defence or to protect the innocent who are being persecuted.

  • The lives of the Gurus are full of examples of them helping people in peaceful ways.

In disagreement with the statement, students might argue that all religions contain some elements of violence as people will fight over whose religion is right. This includes Sikhism.

2.8 Sikhism in the UK

1 Who was the first Sikh to come to the UK?

Duleep Singh was the first Sikh to come to the UK, in the nineteenth century.

2 Where is the largest Sikh temple outside India?

The largest temple outside India is in Southall, West London.

3 Why has interfaith marriage caused controversy among some Sikhs?

In 2015, the Sikh Council had issued guidance to gurdwaras, saying that only two Sikhs should marry at a gurdwara. There have been protests at some gurdwaras where a Sikh and a non-Sikh have tried to be married.

4 How did UK Sikhs define themselves in the 2016 annual Sikh report?

A majority of Sikhs in the UK identified themselves as both Sikh and as British.

5 ‘A married couple should share the same faith.’ Discuss this statement, and refer to Sikhism in your answer.

In agreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • It would make the marriage more likely to be happy and long-lasting if both partners shared the same faith.

  • It would be easier to raise children in one faith.

In disagreement with the statement, students might argue that:

  • If people love each other then that is more important than differences in religion.

  • It could cause arguments over which religion to bring their children up in.

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