Sikh Dictionary


This infobite provides a summary of some of the key words and phrases used by the Sikh community. Some of these are also applicable to the other Indian religions such as Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

Greetings and Salutations

Jo Bole So Nihal -> used as a precursor to Sat Siri Akal meaning ‘Blessed is the One’

Sat Siri Akal -> used as a greeting and a war cry meaning ‘Truth is Supreme and Eternal’

Satnaam -> used as a greeting and a mantra for meditation meaning ‘Truth is your Identity’

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Ji Kee Fateh -> is the formal Sikh salutation meaning, ‘The beloved of God belong to God and their victories in life are God’s victories’

General Institutional Vocabulary

Parshad -> a sweet brown pudding given at the end of a Sikh programme symbolising the sweetness of God

Langar -> refers to the free community kitchen which offers food to one and all

Diwan Hall -> refers to the hall where the Guru Granth Sahib resides

Gurdwara -> refers to a Sikh place of worship

Chaur Sahib -> this is an instrument which is waved over the holy scripture to highlight the authority of the Word of God as the spiritual emperor

Saropa -> robe of honour given to someone who has done something exceptional within the community

Saadh Sangat -> congregation of saints

Khanda -> Insignia of the Sikh way of life consisting of a circle, 2 curved swords and 1 double edged sword

Prayer / Meditation Vocabulary

Ardas -> performed at the conclusion of a Sikh programme and is a request for blessings from God and the Sikh Gurus

Hukamnama -> this is a command for the day which is taken at random from the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at the end and beginning of a Sikh programme after the Ardas

Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji -> refers to the Sikh holy scripture

Naam Japna -> refers to continuous recitation of a Mantra like ‘Vaheguru’

Simran -> another word for Naam Japna

Vaheguru -> a popular mantra used by Sikhs meaning ‘The Wonderful Lord’

Rehansabhai – an all night meditation, singing, prayer and chanting session

Sadhana – an early morning routine consisting of Jap Ji sahib, a Kundalini Yoga set and Keertan

Ishnaan – shower (part of the Sikh lifestyle)

Dharma – refers to a way of life or spiritual path

Akhand Paath -> continuous reading of the holy scripture

Mool Mantra -> the beginning mantra of the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji which means ‘tuning the mind to the root source’.

Sikh Lifestyle

Kara -> a wristlet worn on the right or left arm

Kirpan -> a single-bladed sword

Kachera -> long underwear with a draw string

Kangha -> wooden comb

Kesh -> uncut hair of the head

Bana -> refers to the 5K’s and the full uniform of the Guru including a turban

Pugree / Dastaar -> turban

Kirat Karnee – earning an honest living

Vand Chakna -> sharing with the needy

Dasvandh -> giving a 10% of income and time to charity

Gatka / Shastaar Vidya -> the Sikh martial art known as the ‘meditation of the sword’

Seva -> selfless service without reward

Spiritual Music Vocabulary

Vaajah -> refers to the Harmonium used in Keertan

Tabla -> an Indian drum which usually accompanies the Vaajah in Keertan

Raags -> refers to classic Indian melodies which add feelings and emotions to hymns

Naad -> refers to the underlying vibrations of the universe

Keertan -> singing the praises of God by using music instruments as an aid

Gurbani -> refers to the hymns of Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

People Vocabulary

Giani -> a spiritually knowledgeable individual

Granthi -> a person who reads the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Sevadar -> a steward who performs selfless service without reward

Sikh -> literally ‘learner’ or ‘disciple’; refers to someone who is a student of spirituality and follows the eternal teachings of Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Panj Pyare -> literally the ‘five beloved ones’ which refers to 5 chosen Sikhs within a community who perform the Sikh baptism ceremony

Amrit -> translates to the ‘Nectar of Immortality’ and is a sweet water blessed through the recitation of 5 Sikh meditations and administered by the Panj Pyare ones during the Sikh baptism ceremony.

Khalsa -> literally meaning ‘purity’; refers to either a baptised Sikh, a God awakened human being, or the Sikh community as a collective body, also known as the Khalsa Nation

Indian Spiritual Centres

Harmandir Sahib -> translates to the ‘Temple of God’ and is commonly known as the ‘Golden Temple of India’. Many people from all walks of life go to the Harmandir Sahib for spiritual healing and peace of mind

Panj Thakat -> these are the 5 main Sikh shrines in India which have significant historical significance

Hemkunt Sahib -> This place is where Guru Gobind Singh Ji meditated in his previous life according to his autobiography, and is now a place of healing and peace for many people

Akal Thakat -> Historically the political centre for the Sikh community which sits opposite the Harmandir Sahib, symbolising that politics should be supported by an awakened spiritual consciousness

Groups of Sikhs

Akali / Nihang -> Sikhs who are experts in the martial traditions of Shastaar Vidya and Gatka

Nirmala Sant -> These are multi-faith scholars within the Sikh community

Udasi -> These Sikhs follow an ascetic yogic lifestyle and teach Gurbani and Ayurveda

Seva Panthi -> These Sikhs commit themselves to performing selfless service without reward for all people

Naam Dhari -> These Sikhs have kept the traditional art of Keertan alive and have a living master

3HO -> The Healthy, Happy and Holy organisation started by Yogi Bhajan; Sikhs part of 3HO follow a strict Sikh lifestyle, many do Kundalini Yoga, and they have helped to spread the teachings of Sikhism and its spiritual tools to all corners of the world

AKJ -> The Akhand Kirtani Jatha was started by Bhai Randhir Singh and is the group which popularised the Rehansabhai, the all night prayer and chanting sessions

Ideas within Sikhism

Chau Paad -> refers to the fourth state of consciousness which is the recommended meditative state in which we can experience God consciousness. The other 3 states are waking state, sleep without dreams and sleep with dreams

Panj Chorh -> literally the ‘five thieves’ which refers to lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride that need to be put under the mind’s control in order to become peaceful

Maya -> the illusion of the material world which distracts us from realising oneness

Dasam Dawar -> means the ‘tenth gate’ and refers to the seventh chakra located at the top of the head , also known as the crown chakra

Nine Holes -> refers to 2 eyes, 2 nostrils, 2 ear holes, mouth, sex organ and rectum

Third Eye -> described as the ‘jewel of the Lord’s love’ and refers to the sixth chakra located at the pituitary gland between the two eyebrows, at the roof of the nose

Dharam Khand -> means the ‘Realm of Moral Duty’ and is the first spiritual stop on the journey towards Godhead

Gyan Khand -> means the ‘Realm of knowledge’ and is the second spiritual stop on the journey towards Godhead

Saram Khand -> means the ‘Realm of Spiritual Efforts’ and is the third spiritual stop on the journey towards Godhead

Karam Khand -> means the ‘Realm of Grace’ and is the fourth spiritual stop on the journey towards Godhead

Sach Khand -> means the Realm of Truth’ and is the fifth and final spiritual realm experienced when a person is in the fourth state of consciousness

Sat Yug -> the first age for our universe, also known as the ‘Golden Age’ or ‘Age of Aquarius’

Treta Yug -> the second age for our universe, also known as the ‘Silver Age’

Dwapar Yug -> the third age for our universe, also known as the ‘Bronze Age’

Kali Yug -> the fourth and final age of our universe which we are currently in, also known as the ‘Iron Age’ or ‘Age of Darkness’

Jeevan Muktee -> means ‘liberated whilst yet alive’

Sahaj Avasthaa -> means ‘liberation’

Anand -> means ‘eternal bliss’

Naam -> refers to the underlying vibrations of the universe, this is the force of God in Action and has created Maya, 5 Khands and everything else in existence and it is connecting with Naam whilst in the fourth state that enables a person to traverse through the 5 Khands with intuitive ease

Raja, Tama and Sata -> refers to the 3 qualities of nature which are Raja – action, desires; Tama – inaction, darkness; Sata – light, kindness

Guru -> The Master who takes someone from darkness of ignorance, to light of reality

Ten Directions -> this refers to the 8 directions on a compass plus upwards and downwards to make 10

Eight Watches of the Day -> time is split into 3 hour units with a total of 8 in one day (8 units x 3 hours = 24 hours)

5 Tatwaas -> refers to the 5 elements of the universe including fire, water, earth, air and ether

Charan Kamal -> means ‘lotus feet’ and refers to humility

Karma -> refers to the consequences of good and bad actions

Samsara -> the cycle of 8.4 million births and deaths of transmigration of the soul

Nine Treasures of Naam -> there are a number of different sets of 9 including 9 precious stones and 9 qualities of service and devotion

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