Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Sikhism: Building a Basic Collection on Sikh Religion and Culture

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Sikhism: Building a Basic Collection on Sikh Religion and Culture

Article excerpt

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Sikhs have been the targets of racial profiling and discrimination. Because hate crimes against Sikhs have escalated since 2001, the United States Justice Department has created a poster explaining the head coverings typically worn by Sikh men. (1) The Chicago Police Department has produced a video on Sikhism that is used to train police officers about different religious and ethnic minorities. (2) Both of these examples illustrate the critical need to broadly educate Americans about this religious group. Many Americans have little familiarity with this religion even though many U.S. cities have sizable Sikh communities. The Pluralism Project at Harvard University (www.fas.harvard.edu/-pluralism) documents religious diversity in the United States and is a rich source of data and information on numerous religious traditions. The project lists 236 Sikh temples and centers on its Web site, an indication of the widespread distribution of the Sikh population in America.

The intent of this guest-authored column is to introduce readers to this world religion and to suggest strategies and specific resources for building a basic collection. Mainstream publishers have become increasingly interested in publishing on this topic. Evidence of this is two recent publications: Facts On File's overview, Hindu and Sikh Faiths in America, and Sikhism, Prentice Hall's textbook on Sikh history, religion, and culture. While both public and academic libraries should consider purchasing resources on Sikhism so patrons can learn more about this religion, many academic librarians will also want to build collections in this area to support courses and programs in Sikh studies.

The guest columnist is uniquely qualified to write on this topic. Since 2003 he has served as South Asian Studies Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Previous to this appointment, he worked as a librarian at the University of British Columbia. He also has substantial experience in public librarianship, having been a librarian at three British Columbia public libraries (Fraser Valley Regional Library, Vancouver Public Library, and Surrey Public Library). Before emigrating from India, he held several professional appointments at the University of Delhi and the Guru Nanak Institute for Comparative Study of Religion. Chilana holds a PhD in Library and Information Science and has published widely in the area of Sikh studies. In 2004 he was awarded the Society for Information Science (India) Fellowship for outstanding contributions to library and information science. He is also an active member of the Asian, African, and Middle Eastern Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.--Editor

Sikhism, the world's fifth-largest and youngest organized religion, was founded more than 535 years ago in Punjab, India. Followers of the Sikh religion are called Sikhs, a term meaning disciple or learner. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion; Sikhs believe that there is one single, all-powerful, and loving God who has no gender or form. Historically, Sikhs were renowned for being fierce and proud warriors. Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539) was the founder of the Sikh religion. Guru Nanak and the nine gurus who succeeded him set a unique example of spiritual living. Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), the tenth guru, initiated the Sikh baptism ceremony in 1699. This ceremony initiated followers into the Khalsa (pure) order of Sikhism and gave Sikhs a distinct identity through physical symbols. All baptized Sikhs should carry five symbolic articles of faith, popularly known as the five Ks. They are: Keshas (unshorn hair), Kangha (a comb), Kara (a steel bracelet), Kachahra (a pair of shorts), and Kirpan (a sword). A Kirpan, generally a small religious sword, represents a commitment to justice and is kept for self-defense. Only select Sikh men and women carry a Kirpan. In addition to baptism, the other major ceremonies in a Sikh's life are the naming ceremony shortly after birth, marriage, and the rituals surrounding death and cremation. …

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