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Mary Thornell
06-23-2014, 09:41 AM
Im working off a brainstorm tonite (or brainfart - we'll see how I can handle it...itll be a brainfart if I fail to grok what I need to understand)

I was trying to think of a support character for a WIP. It is a fantasy with historical/time-traveler elements and I thought tonight perhaps I could make one of the 'time-travelers' a Sikh woman, middle aged. Ive been reading up a bit on Wikipedia on Sikhism, but we all know Wikipedia is only a beginning place not the authority, so I thought I might open a thread here to see if anyone would be willing to help me gather information that would be useful in creating a middle aged Sikh woman. I would need her to be a motherly type character (I think), or at least a woman who is a strong and supportive personality.

Can anyone help me? Ive never had the opportunity to talk to a Real Live Sikh, but it all looks very interesting. Would love to know more....

Your erstwhile unrequited archaeologist/anthropologist, Mary...

Siri Kirpal
06-24-2014, 12:05 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I've sent you a PM in response to yours.

In case anyone else is interested:

If I were a Punjabi Sikh (which your motherly lady, probably will be), that greeting would be: Sat Sri Akal!

If I were an Amritdari Sikh (which I am) addressing another Amritdari Sikh (which I'm not), the greeting would be: Vaheguru ji ka Khalsa! Vaheguru ji ki Fateh! (The pure ones belong to God! Victory belongs to God.)

www.sikhnet (http://www.sikhnet) has lots of good stuff including a Sikh dictionary and turban-tying videos.

My book, the one in my avie, Sikh Spiritual Practice gives a good overview that's easy to read.

Note: Sikhs are not pacifists. If your motherly lady is going to be giving advice along those lines, you'd be better off going with Jains or Buddhists.

Caveat: I'm a Westerner, not Punjabi. I can give some insight into Punjabi character, but am not a real expert.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Tom Johnson
06-24-2014, 03:18 AM
I appreciate the information Siri. I've read a lot of novels where Sikhe warriors are used, and I've often wondered if the authors have described them correctly. Your website will help a lot of writers, me included. Thanks.

Siri Kirpal
06-24-2014, 05:54 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gets Sikhs all wrong.

Not sure who the others are.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Mary Thornell
06-24-2014, 06:08 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I've sent you a PM in response to yours.

In case anyone else is interested:

If I were a Punjabi Sikh (which your motherly lady, probably will be), that greeting would be: Sat Sri Akal!

If I were an Amritdari Sikh (which I am) addressing another Amritdari Sikh (which I'm not), the greeting would be: Vaheguru ji ka Khalsa! Vaheguru ji ki Fateh! (The pure ones belong to God! Victory belongs to God.)

www.sikhnet (http://www.sikhnet) has lots of good stuff including a Sikh dictionary and turban-tying videos.

My book, the one in my avie, Sikh Spiritual Practice gives a good overview that's easy to read.

Note: Sikhs are not pacifists. If your motherly lady is going to be giving advice along those lines, you'd be better off going with Jains or Buddhists.

Caveat: I'm a Westerner, not Punjabi. I can give some insight into Punjabi character, but am not a real expert.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Siri Kirpal - thank you so much! Have replied to your email :) that's good info to know ie Punjabi vs Amritdari! Not being familiar with either one, I cannot say which I will choose just yet. And its also good to know about Sikhs not being pacifists...I think that will actually serve my story quite well! I will need her to be willing to fight and support those who fight. It may happen later that I will decide to have a pacifist character, but for my initial book, knowing that I can have her react a certain way is very helpful.

I have heard of the Punjabs, but not the Amritdari...will the sources you suggested cover those particular groups and their differences as well? And was just thinking earlier today when I was out and about town that I will need to find out more about the history of these groups.

*eager to get started!*

Tom Johnson
06-24-2014, 05:05 PM
Hi Siri, and again thanks. I agree about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have most of his books, but haven't read them all yet. He had many things wrong, not only with Sikhs. There have been numerous authors who included Sikhs in their stories as early as Doyle into the 1960s. R.T.M. Scott included a Sikh as an aide to his Secret Service Smith stories in the 1920s & '30s, A warrior Sikh was a main character in The Spider series for 118 novels during the 1930s into the '40s, and Norman Daniels used Sikhs as guards in his Baron of Hong Kong stories in the 1960s. The Baron was a CIA agent in Hong Kong. Many of the men's action novels of the 1960s & '70s would often employ Sikh warriors in their yarns. But I've read so many stories that had a lot of things wrong with the Eastern culture that I doubt the authors knew anything about Sikhs or anything else about the countries they were writing about.

arabajyo
06-24-2014, 05:18 PM
See if there's a Sikh temple (Gurdwara) in your area. They have services that anyone can attend, and you can even enjoy a meal with them there. It would probably be helpful to go and talk to some Sikh people in person.

Siri Kirpal
06-24-2014, 09:42 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Seconding arabajyo's suggestion. Sikh services are open to everyone. They always include a meal (in the US, the meal is usually served after the service). Feel free to talk to anyone during the meal.

Tom, thanks for that. Haven't read any of those books. Not my kind of thing.

Mary, Sikhism originated in Punjab, which straddles the Pakistani/Indian border. Many, indeed most, Amritdari Sikhs are also ethnically Punjabi. And the greeting I gave for Punjabis is what a Punjabi Amritdari Sikh would say to another Sikh who wasn't Amritdari. Amritdari Sikhs are those who have undergone formal Sikh baptism/initiation. They may be Punjabi or not.

About Sikh character:

Courage is highly valued amongst Sikhs. You might want to investigate gatka, a martial stick art used by Sikhs.

Sikhs tend to be affectionate with their children, but Punjabi married couples usually do not show affection to each other in public. Western Sikhs, however, do.

Sikhs tend as a group to be serviceful and hospitable. One example, a guy at a vet thought he would need to put his dog to sleep because he couldn't afford the surgery his dog needed. A Sikh overheard his anguish and paid for the surgery.

Sikhs are tolerant, more than tolerant, of other religions. We have the world's first known martyr to give his life for members of ANOTHER religion.

Our Guru is the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It takes book form, but is treated as a revered being. We turn to its words for guidance daily.

That should give you a bit more to go on.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Siri Kirpal
06-25-2014, 06:07 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Additional tidbit:
The Casual Vacancy by Rowling does a better than average job of showing Sikhs, since Rowling considered becoming one herself.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Captcha
03-05-2017, 04:59 PM
Can I resurrect an old thread to ask a couple extra questions?

I'm thinking about modelling a character on an old boss of mine, who was a Sikh but a very Westernized one - no turban, short hair, no kirpan (that I was aware of, at least). He was very generous and a great host, which he said tied in with his Sikh upbringing, but otherwise I didn't see too much about him that seemed overtly religious. He was more a cultural Sikh, to my eyes - is that a distinction that would make sense?

Assuming it's not offensive to write a character who is Sikh by heritage but not totally committed to the religion...

One of the reasons I was thinking about making the character Sikh is that my story is a sort of contemporary fantasy with monsters that can only be harmed with weapons over which the fighters have meditated and spent a lot of time. I'm calling the weapons "imbued" and the idea is that the fighters' mental energies give the weapons their strength. Weapons that are family heirlooms are especially valuable because they'd have the energy of more than one fighter meshed into them.

So I thought about a Sikh kirpan, but I don't really know the traditions associated with them. Would a kirpan likely be a family heirloom, or are they buried with their wearers or something? And assuming this was an older weapon, would it be realistic for it to be a real weapon rather than the ceremonial knife I'm more familiar with as a Canadian? And is there any ritual or prayer that a warrior Sikh would maybe focus around his kirpan? (My possible-Sikh is a member of the US military at the start of the novel, totally unaware of monsters. When he finds out about them he wants to fight them, and I'm hoping he can just pull out the kirpan and it'll be more-or-less ready to go without spending the hundreds of hours of imbuing time a weapon would normally require. So if he's already been praying over the knife or meditating with it or anything like that, it'd be a great asset for the story!)

And, I guess as a final note - is it totally unrealistic for a not-very-observant Sikh to still carry a kirpan and still consider it a really important item?

And as always, if there's anything I'm missing, please let me know!

Thanks so much for any help with this!

ETA: And would it be disrespectful/inappropriate for my character to use his kirpan as an actual weapon rather than as a symbol of his faith?

Siri Kirpal
03-06-2017, 03:06 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Kirpans were and are intended for use, provided the cause is just. Defense of life, yes; but no revenge, no hatred.

A person who is culturally Sikh, but not practicing, is called non-keshdari. A keshdari Sikh never cuts any of their hair (barring medical emergency). A non-keshdari Sikh may or may not keep the other Sikh practices (no alcohol, no tobacco, chastity, reading banis), but does cut their hair. And yes, it would be just fine to use such a character.

A deceased Sikh is typically cremated (not buried) with their kirpan. But it's not uncommon for a Sikh to have several. Among other things, we use it to cut prashaad, the pudding-like sweet (tastes like warm cookie dough) that's a part of formal Sikh services. It would uncommon for a non-keshdari Sikh to carry a kirpan. But such a person might well have one at home if he or she ever served prasaad. And your character might keep his mother's kirpan.

Prasaad is blessed food. It's made by sautéing flour in an equal amount (by measure) of ghee (clarified butter), then once the flour has somewhat carmelized (sp?), adding a boiling mixture of sugar or honey (same amount as the ghee) and three times that amount of water. The person making the prasaad chants Sikh songs (Mool Mantra or Japji Sahib, usually) while stirring. So, the kirpan could be imbued with meditative power in that way. Either, because his parents used it a lot for prashaad (and they had another one that got cremated with them) or he could make prasaad himself using this heirloom.

You may wish to read about the problems Sikhs have had getting into the US military. We now have an exemption, but that didn't used to be the case. That could account for his being non-keshdari, but respectful of his heritage.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Captcha
03-06-2017, 03:40 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Kirpans were and are intended for use, provided the cause is just. Defense of life, yes; but no revenge, no hatred.

A person who is culturally Sikh, but not practicing, is called non-keshdari. A keshdari Sikh never cuts any of their hair (barring medical emergency). A non-keshdari Sikh may or may not keep the other Sikh practices (no alcohol, no tobacco, chastity, reading banis), but does cut their hair. And yes, it would be just fine to use such a character.

A deceased Sikh is typically cremated (not buried) with their kirpan. But it's not uncommon for a Sikh to have several. Among other things, we use it to cut prashaad, the pudding-like sweet (tastes like warm cookie dough) that's a part of formal Sikh services. It would uncommon for a non-keshdari Sikh to carry a kirpan. But such a person might well have one at home if he or she ever served prasaad. And your character might keep his mother's kirpan.

Prasaad is blessed food. It's made by sautéing flour in an equal amount (by measure) of ghee (clarified butter), then once the flour has somewhat carmelized (sp?), adding a boiling mixture of sugar or honey (same amount as the ghee) and three times that amount of water. The person making the prasaad chants Sikh songs (Mool Mantra or Japji Sahib, usually) while stirring. So, the kirpan could be imbued with meditative power in that way. Either, because his parents used it a lot for prashaad (and they had another one that got cremated with them) or he could make prasaad himself using this heirloom.

You may wish to read about the problems Sikhs have had getting into the US military. We now have an exemption, but that didn't used to be the case. That could account for his being non-keshdari, but respectful of his heritage.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal


Excellent information - and now that you've given me SOME, of course I'll push for MORE!

It would be more likely for the character to have his mother's Kirpan rather than his father's?

And can I run the backstory I have for this character past you and see if it makes sense? I want him to have been born into an observant Sikh family but orphaned fairly early--maybe five or six. Then either adopted by a non-Sikh family or maybe I'll give him some behavioural issues and have him go through a series of foster homes. It would make sense that he had a few belongings from his parents (Kirpan, etc.) but not a lot of access to the richer teachings. He got into some trouble as a teenager, joined the army, straightened out, started looking into some Sikh ideas, but found himself sort of stuck between cultures. Welcomed in both the Sikh community and the military world, but not totally comfortable in either. So the character arc for him (here's where it gets a bit less realistic, obviously!) is that he falls in with a band of monster-hunters and comes into his own as a saint-soldier. He's fighting for goodness and humanity, he adopts more of the Sikh ways, but keeps his military ties and training and skills.

Is there anything in there that jumps out as a bad idea for a non-keshdari Sikh?

Siri Kirpal
03-06-2017, 04:22 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

If his family's Punjabi, he'd be adopted by family. Fosterage or adoption by a non-Sikh family would be unlikely, unless there's no family left and/or the parents had a close friendship with this non-Sikh family.

In the above scenario, he wouldn't wear kacheras (the Sikh thigh-length underpants), which you're asking about in the Story Research thread. Wouldn't even know how to get ahold of them. (I wear western-style "snuggies" because they're easier to find...and they're warmer for our higher latitude climate.)

The mother's kirpan because she would be the most likely to cut the prashaad in her home...and relatives would be more likely to forget to cremate hers with her.

Oh, and I better clarify about "cutting prashaad." This is NOT the same as cutting cake. At the end of a Sikh service (which might include the mini-service in a little in-house Gurdwara), during the Ardas (standing prayer), the prashaad in formally blessed and a kirpan is run through it to remind us to be both sweet like the prashaad and strong like the steel.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Captcha
03-06-2017, 04:40 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

If his family's Punjabi, he'd be adopted by family. Fosterage or adoption by a non-Sikh family would be unlikely, unless there's no family left and/or the parents had a close friendship with this non-Sikh family.

In the above scenario, he wouldn't wear kacheras (the Sikh thigh-length underpants), which you're asking about in the Story Research thread. Wouldn't even know how to get ahold of them. (I wear western-style "snuggies" because they're easier to find...and they're warmer for our higher latitude climate.)

The mother's kirpan because she would be the most likely to cut the prashaad in her home...and relatives would be more likely to forget to cremate hers with her.

Oh, and I better clarify about "cutting prashaad." This is NOT the same as cutting cake. At the end of a Sikh service (which might include the mini-service in a little in-house Gurdwara), during the Ardas (standing prayer), the prashaad in formally blessed and a kirpan is run through it to remind us to be both sweet like the prashaad and strong like the steel.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

So are there no Sikhs living apart from other Sikhs? Like, they'd always migrate to somewhere they had family/community? I'd really like to isolate him, somehow...

I guess I could have him reject Sikhism and strive to live a secular life, and then his character arc could be the voluntary return to the traditions...

Siri Kirpal
03-06-2017, 06:58 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

It happens sometimes. I'm a convert married to a non-Sikh and the entire sangat (congregation) of my town disappeared on me. So it's possible.

If his parents were converts, like me, he could be raised by someone in their family who knew diddly-squat about Sikhs. Alternately, they could be recent Punjabi immigrants, and for whatever reasons, the rest of their probably large extended family (you do have to account for extended Punjabi families) weren't able to contact him. In which case, he might go into fosterage or be adopted by a neighbor family. The neighbor family could move elsewhere where there was no sangat. That's the best I can come up with for your preferred scenario. The second scenario is certainly possible.

I think I better tell you a bit about what happened to me. There was a small sangat of 3HO Sikh converts (most common variety of converts; marriage is the other option) in my town when I converted. Within a few years, everyone I knew had either ceased to be a Sikh or had left the area...or both. Right around this time, there were either no Punjabi Sikhs, or at most, one elderly couple. Then another family arrived. Then a few more. The whole thing snowballed, and my former town now has the largest Gurdwara in the state of Oregon. Almost all Punjabi.

Hope that gives some better idea of what you're dealing with. Make his parents recently arrived in an area with next to no Sikhs, make your kid an American born citizen and you're good. The neighbors can adopt him. (With fosterage it would be harder for him to really know something about his parents or to know that that kirpan you need for your plot was used in a way that imbued it with meditative power.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal