Sikhism is one of the most revered religions in the world today. Their basic principles of unity, peace and simple living with high ideals appeals to many.
During his tours of spreading the message of one creator, Guru Nanak had travelled far and wide. Over the years the sect broke into smaller communities and sects who chose different influences of the ten Gurus. These sects have certain beliefs exactly similar to main stream Sikhism and others that cause a difference in ideology every now and then.
Most of these sects preach the beliefs of Sikhism, but have chosen to stay away from the Amrit initiation ceremony. There are others who do not claim to be offshoots of Sikhism, but readily respect Gurbani and other Sikh scriptures. Let’s read more about the seven major sects, believed to have originated from main stream Sikhism.
7. 3HO / Happy Healthy Holy Organization
Yogi Bhajan was the creator of this esteemed organization. He originally belonged to the Sindh district but moved to the US in 1960. He began by teaching Kundalini yoga, but soon found his disciples ready to soak up the basic principle of keeping hair, wearing white, staying vegetarian, living morally and converted to Sikhism.
The Namdharis strongly believe that the tenth Guru Gobind Singh lived upto the age of 146 years and then nominated Balak Singh of Hazro as his successor in 1812. They negate the theory that the tenth guru had appointed the Guru Granth Sahib as his successor in 1708. They have their one long line of gurus, who succeeded Balak Singh till 1872, when their last guru was exiled by the British in 1872. They strongly believe that their leader will soon return. They are strict vegetarians, animal activists and have strong views against caste system and practice of dowry.
The Nirankaris base their beliefs on the teachings of Baba Dyal who was patronized by the Maharaja Ranjit Singh. They are against idol worship and believe in the one formless creator. They have had several successors and give reverence only to Guru Nanak and not his legacy of Gurus. They strictly preach abstinence from tobacco and alcohol and consign remains of the dead to a flowing river.
This sect is supposed to be as old as 1688 and was originated when Guru Gobind Singh sent his handpicked followers to Benares and Paunta to learn Sanskrit. In 1705, more Sikh teachers were sent to Allahabad and Varanasi to set up centers of learning for Sikhism. It has been seen over the centuries that the teachings have drawn inspiration from Vedic philosophies and do not resemble the main stream Sikhism, identically. They do not insist on Amrit initiation, but do keep their hair uncut and live a monastic and studious life.
3. Radha Soamis
This spiritual movement has more than 2 million followers and was founded by Shiv Dayal Singh Seth in 1869. They hold the Guru Granth Sahib in highest respect, but do not call themselves as Sikhs. They have never claimed any lineage to any Guru, nor have they argued with any of the tenets. They do not have any Amrit ceremony, are strict vegetarians, abstain from all kinds of intoxication and live a peaceful life. Radha or soul they believe aspires to one day attain divine reality or its lord the Soami.
2. Sindhi Sikhs
They originate from the region of Sindh, in Pakistan. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and are great respecters of the Guru Granth Sahib and its Gurus. Guru Nanak is believed to have travelled in their region and hence the great influence. They take part in all the festivities, but don’t necessarily go through the Amrit ceremony. For many centuries Sindhi families, initiate their oldest son to be a Sikh
The eldest son of Guru Nanak, Baba Siri Chand is supposed to be the originator of this sect. He was a celibate and preached celibacy to all his followers, but maintained close ties with the Gurus over the centuries. When the Khalsa were being persecuted by the Mughals, the udasis were acting as caretakers of all the gurudwaras.