Gurbani on Religious Paraphernalia

The Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) rejects decorating the gross body-frame with religious paraphernalia, or symbols or robes (ਧਾਰਮਕ ਚਿਨ), etc.

Because, in the end, when the dead body is placed on pyre or tossed into a cremation furnace, all religious paraphernalia or symbols drop off the body! This is the edict of the Gurmat (Wisdom, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS…).

Hence, all religious paraphernalia or symbols are of no use to the soul or the mind, which has no form-shape-color. It departs without any religious paraphernalia, symbols, robes, etc.

Baabaa Nanak explains this in the SGGS with an example of the ‘thread’ (‘Janaeoo – ਜਨੇਊ’) , which the priest (Pujaaree groups) tried to put on Babaa Nanak during the ‘Janaeoo – ਜਨੇਊ’ ceremony. According to Baabaa Nanak, when this religious thread is put on a person by the priest, this is what happens — that person departs without it:

  • ਓਹੁ ਮੁਆ ਓਹੁ ਝੜਿ ਪਇਆ ਵੇਤਗਾ ਗਇਆ ॥੧॥: (Janaeoo or sacred thread) drops off (the body upon getting burnt in the pyre of that man, and he thus) departs without the thread (i.e., the religious symbol of thread does not continue with the soul)! (sggs 471).
  • ਬਾਹਰਿ ਜਨੇਊ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਜੋਤਿ ਹੈ ਨਾਲਿ ॥: (O Pandit!) The external ‘Janaeoo’ (thread-ਜਨੇਊ) is as long as the Jot is present in the body (then what is the use of this?). (sggs 355).

Not the body, but it’s the mind of a person responsible for depraved or corrupt thinking (Soch) and consequent actions. Accordingly, Baabaa Nanak asks the Brahmin what’s the use of wearing the ‘thread’ (or any religious symbols for that matter) if the mind is still engaged in Pakhand, corruption, fraud, theft, robberies (ਠੱਗੀ), falsehood, adultery, abuses, deceptions, doubt, bad deeds, Bikaar (i.e., lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride), and so on!

  • ਲਖ ਚੋਰੀਆ ਲਖ ਜਾਰੀਆ ਲਖ ਕੂੜੀਆ ਲਖ ਗਾਲਿ ॥ ਲਖ ਠਗੀਆ ਪਹਿਨਾਮੀਆ ਰਾਤਿ ਦਿਨਸੁ ਜੀਅ ਨਾਲਿ ॥ ਤਗੁ ਕਪਾਹਹੁ ਕਤੀਐ ਬਾਮ੍‍ਣੁ ਵਟੇ ਆਇ ॥ ਕੁਹਿ ਬਕਰਾ ਰਿੰਨ੍‍ ਿਖਾਇਆ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਆਖੈ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਹੋਇ ਪੁਰਾਣਾ ਸੁਟੀਐ ਭੀ ਫਿਰਿ ਪਾਈਐ ਹੋਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਤਗੁ ਨ ਤੁਟਈ ਜੇ ਤਗਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੋਰੁ ॥2॥: (The man) commits thousands of robberies, thousands of acts of adultery, thousands of falsehoods and thousands of abuses. He practices thousands of deceptions and secret deeds (bad deeds done in secrecy), night and day, against his fellow beings. (This is man’s inner condition, but look at his external display) The thread is spun from cotton, and the Brahmin comes (to the home of his host) and twists it. The goat is killed, cooked and eaten (by all attending the ceremony), and everyone then says, ‘Put on the sacred thread’. When it wears out, it is thrown away, and another one is put on. O Nanak! If the thread had any real strength (that can strengthen the soul or mind), it would not break. ||2|| (sggs 471).
  • ਪਤਿ ਵਿਣੁ ਪੂਜਾ ਸਤ ਵਿਣੁ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਜਤ ਵਿਣੁ ਕਾਹੇ ਜਨੇਊ ॥: Forgetting Rabb, what is the meaning of Poojaa? Without truthfulness, what is the benefit of this self-discipline? Without chastity, what good is ‘Janaeoo’ (thread-ਜਨੇਊ)? (sggs 903).

Hence, Baabaa Nanak asks the Pandit if he had a ‘thread’ specifically made for the mind (NOT for the gross body-frame) then go ahead and ‘put it on me’, provided it’s knotted of the Virtues — Truth (ਸਤ), honesty, contentment (ਸੰਤੋਖ), mercy (ਦਯਾ), patience (ਧੀਰਜ), Sahaj (ਸਹਜ-Natural State of Being), Wisdom (ਗਿਆਨ), humility, annihilation of bad thoughts or conduct, etc.).

  • ਦਇਆ ਕਪਾਹ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਸੂਤੁ ਜਤੁ ਗੰਢੀ ਸਤੁ ਵਟੁ ॥ ਏਹੁ ਜਨੇਊ ਜੀਅ ਕਾ ਹਈ ਤ ਪਾਡੇ ਘਤੁ ॥ ਨਾ ਏਹੁ ਤੁਟੈ ਨ ਮਲੁ ਲਗੈ ਨਾ ਏਹੁ ਜਲੈ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਧੰਨੁ ਸੁ ਮਾਣਸ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜੋ ਗਲਿ ਚਲੇ ਪਾਇ ॥: (O Pandit! That “thread” whose) cotton is compassion (love), whose yarn is contentment, whose knots are complete annihilation of bad thoughts (Bikaar), whose twist is Truth (noble conduct). This is the thread of the mind, if you have it, O Brahman, then, put it on me. O pandit! (such ‘thread’) does not break, it cannot be soiled by filth (of Bikaar), it cannot be burnt, or lost. O Nanak! Blessed are those mortals, who wear such a thread around their necks (or, whose mind departs wearing such thread). (sggs 471).

Symbol is a method of falsifying the Formless Reality

Baabaa Nanak reminds the priest (Pujaaree) that there is no sacred ‘thread’ for the sense-organs that can free one from sense-slavery. Further Baabaa Nanak tells the priest that you put the sacred ‘thread’ on others but you yourself (i.e., your own sense-organs and mind) wander about without it!

Clearly, it is as Baabaa Nanak is telling the priest (Pujaaree) not to bring ANY symbols in, because symbols is a method of falsifying the Formless Reality! It’s the mind that commits demerits or makes mistakes, not the body-frame.

In nutshell, to say it in simple Punjabi: ਪੁੱਠੇ ਕੰਮ ਬੰਦੇ ਦਾ ਮਨ ਕਰਦਾ ਹੈ, ਪਰ ਉਹ ਸਜਾ ਸਰੀਰ ਨੂੰ ਦੇ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ!

  • ਤਗੁ ਨ ਇੰਦ੍ਰੀ ਤਗੁ ਨ ਨਾਰੀ ॥ ਭਲਕੇ ਥੁਕ ਪਵੈ ਨਿਤ ਦਾੜੀ ॥ ਤਗੁ ਨ ਪੈਰੀ ਤਗੁ ਨ ਹਥੀ ॥ ਤਗੁ ਨ ਜਿਹਵਾ ਤਗੁ ਨ ਅਖੀ ॥ ਵੇਤਗਾ ਆਪੇ ਵਤੈ ॥ ਵਟਿ ਧਾਗੇ ਅਵਰਾ ਘਤੈ ॥: There is no (sacred) thread for the sense-organs (to control their ceaseless appetite), and no thread for the woman. Because of this, (man) gets constantly humiliated. There is no thread for the feet and no thread for the hands. There is no thread for the tongue and no thread for the eyes. (The Pujaaree) himself wanders about without such threads. However, twisting the threads, he puts them on others! (sggs 471).

In other words, poison is in the mind, but Jeev (individual being) burdens his body-frame and thus makes it suffer!

  • ਗੋਵਿੰਦ ਭਜਨ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ ਹੈ ਹੋਰਾ ॥ ਵਰਮੀ ਮਾਰੀ ਸਾਪੁ ਨ ਮਰਈ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਸੁਨਈ ਡੋਰਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ : The intellect to unite with ‘Gobind‘ (Mool, Truth…) is different. If one does not listen to the Naam (then his external religious Karamkaand is akin to beating the snake-hole instead of the snake, but, by just) beating the snake-hole, the snake is not killed. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 381).

The Gurbani reminds us that the Divine Principle (Universal Energy, Hukam, Kudrat, Source, Mool, ਰੱਬ…) has no form-shape-color. As such, the Divinie Life or the Gurmukh Lifestyle is not only beyond the religious paraphernalia but also beyond the grip of any scriptures (religious Granths), etc.! The mind is also without form-shape-color!

  • ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖ ਨ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਗੁਣ ਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਭਿੰਨ ॥: (‘Prabh’) has no form, no shape, no color; ‘Prabh’ is beyond these three worldly qualities (sggs 283).
  • ਇਸੁ ਮਨ ਕਉ ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖਿਆ ਕਾਈ ॥: This mind has no form or outline (sggs 330).

But still, showing off oneself as religious or spiritual, many (Mamukh, Saakat, Mayadhaaree…)load their gross mortal body-frame with all sorts of religious garbs, religious symbols, and so on. Obviously, in their guile, such people take the Divine to be merely a toy or a play-thing and imitate what they see other people do (‘Dekhaa Dekhee-‘ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ’).

  • ਮਾਥੇ ਤਿਲਕੁ ਹਥਿ ਮਾਲਾ ਬਾਨਾਂ ॥ ਲੋਗਨ ਰਾਮੁ ਖਿਲਉਨਾ ਜਾਨਾਂ ॥੧॥: (People think they become Dharmic or Bhagat if they simply) apply (1) ceremonial marks to their foreheads, (2) hold Maalaa or rosary in their hands, and (3) wear religious dress. People think that Rabb (Universal Energy, System or Law of Nature…) is a toy or a play-thing (i.e., they think Rabb can be pleased or fooled by religious paraphernalia or symbols). ||1|| (sggs 1158)!
  • ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਕਰਹਿ ਨਿਤ ਕਪਟੁ ਕਮਾਵਹਿ ਹਿਰਦਾ ਸੁਧੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥: One who utters ‘Hari’ Hari’, while constantly practicing deception, (his) Heart cannot become pure. (sggs 732).

The Gurbani teaches us that all these external body robes, symbols, and other paraphernalia are nothing but a pompous show (‘Adammbar‘ or ‘Pakhand‘) of false ego-sense (Haumai) or stubborn mind. Hence rejected by the Gurbani.

  • ਬਾਹਰਿ ਭੇਖ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਚਤੁਰਾਈ ਮਨੂਆ ਦਹ ਦਿਸਿ ਧਾਵੈ ॥: Outwardly for showing off, (the Manmukh) wears religious robes, (he thus tries to be) very clever, but his (instinctive) mind wanders in the ten directions (sggs 1099).

The Sikhi of the Pujaaree-Vaad calls his own religious symbols as ‘Kakaar‘, but calls religious symbols of others as ‘Bhekh‘ (show off, ਦਿਖਾਵਾ, etc.).

But this corrupt and illiterate Pujaaree forgets that the Gurmat of Baabaa Nanak or SGGS rejects ALL religious symbols!

  • ਬਹੁ ਭੇਖ ਕੀਆ ਦੇਹੀ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੀਆ ॥: The more one wears religious robes, the more pain he causes his body (sggs 467).

SGGS condemns consciousness of religious Paraphernalia

Although the consciousness of religious wearing is strongly repudiated in the Gurbani, but still body-frames are decorated and embellished with them. Why?

People do it for various reasons such as to look pious and Mahatma outside; to make believe that they know god; to establish their religious authority; to show they are spiritual scholars; to show they are better than those who do not wear such religious robes or symbols; to hide the fire of their worldly desires; to hide the filth of Maya within (hunger of Maya, ਮਾਇਆ ਦੀ ਭੁੱਖ); to show that they know the true meanings of the Gurbani; to impress upon simpletons and swindle them; to hide their untruthfulness; to cover up their wickedness; and so on. Simply put: They act without Being!

The Gurbani provides us with the authoritative answers as well as explanations as to why people get attached to the religious paraphernalia.

  • ਅਧਿਕ ਤਿਆਸ ਭੇਖ ਬਹੁ ਕਰੈ ॥: Excessive thirst (for Maya) makes people wear all sorts of religious garbs (sggs 352).
  • ਭੇਖ ਦਿਖਾਵੈ ਸਚੁ ਨ ਕਮਾਵੈ ॥: (To show off, the stubborn fool) ostensibly wears religious robes, but does not practice Truth (sggs 738).

Listen to Bhagat Kabeer Jee challenging a Brahmin on ‘Janaeoo’ (thread, ‘ਜਨੇਊ’). He essentially tells a Brahmin if you think you are superior than me just because you wear one thread around your neck, than I must be many times more superior than you because – being a weaver – I have heaps of thread in my house!

  • ਹਮ ਘਰਿ ਸੂਤੁ ਤਨਹਿ ਨਿਤ ਤਾਨਾ ਕੰਠਿ ਜਨੇਊ ਤੁਮਾਰੇ ॥: O Brahmin! (If think you are superior than me just because) you wear a ‘Janaeoo’ (a thread) around your neck, (which I don’t wear, but) in my house (you can see I have plenty of) thread (with that I) daily stretch the warp (sggs 468).

In order to fill Golak (box or bag for collecting and keeping money), such fraud is more prevalent in Gurdwaras, Deraas, and the so called Teerath Asthaan (places of pilgrimage), etc.

The Pujaare group (ਪੁਜਾਰੀ ਲਾਣਾਂ) in Sikhi seems to be no better (if not worse!) than the crafty Brahmins and Pandits. Just like Brahmins and Pandits, the Sikh Pujaaree-Vaad also exploit human vulnerabilities and fears regarding death, disease, business, employment, court litigation, children, barrenness, loss of loved ones, and so on. Because of fear or greed, people accepts this fake god and Dharma created by the crafty Pujaaree system.

To further make us aware of such non-sense rituals (Karamkaand) — again with the example of ‘thread’ (‘Janaeoo’), and with the example of  ‘Sunnat’ (circumcision) — Baabaa Nanak and Bhagat Kabeer Jee assert:

  • ਮਾਣਸ ਖਾਣੇ ਕਰਹਿ ਨਿਵਾਜ ॥ ਛੁਰੀ ਵਗਾਇਨਿ ਤਿਨ ਗਲਿ ਤਾਗ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਘਰਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮਣ ਪੂਰਹਿ ਨਾਦ ॥ ਉਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਭਿ ਆਵਹਿ ਓਈ ਸਾਦ ॥: The man-eaters (i.e., those take what rightfully belongs to another; who are tyrant, corrupt, bribe takers…) say prayers (i.e., pretend to be religious…)! Those who wield the knife (i.e., those who tell lies, oppress others, hurt others, bring calamity upon others…) wear the sacred thread around their neck. Brahmans go to their home and sound the couch. For these (Brahmins) too have the same taste (i.e., they are also ‘man-eaters’ and ‘who wield the knife’). (sggs 471).
  • ਸੁੰਨਤਿ ਕੀਏ ਤੁਰਕੁ ਜੇ ਹੋਇਗਾ ਅਉਰਤ ਕਾ ਕਿਆ ਕਰੀਐ ॥: If circumcision makes one a Muslim, then what about a woman (i.e., a woman cannot be circumcised!!)? (sggs 477).

Understandably, the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS neither encourages nor approves religious rituals (Karamkaand) and symbols.

Baabaa Nanak asks to take up the following instead

If one wants to decorate the gross body with a ‘thread’, or any other religious paraphernalia, Baabaa Nanak urges us to have our minds wear Virtues (ਗੁਣ).

  • ਗਿਆਨੁ ਜਨੇਊ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਕੁਸਪਾਤੀ ॥: let Wisdom be the ‘Janaeoo’ (thread, ‘ਜਨੇਊ’), and self-communication (concentration, reflection etc.) the ceremonial ring. (sggs 355).
  • ਨਾਇ ਮੰਨਿਐ ਪਤਿ ਊਪਜੈ ਸਾਲਾਹੀ ਸਚੁ ਸੂਤੁ ॥ ਦਰਗਹ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਪਾਈਐ ਤਗੁ ਨ ਤੂਟਸਿ ਪੂਤ ॥੩॥: Accepting the Naam (Shabad, Hukam, Wisdom, Virtues…), honor is obtained (in the Divine Court, because,) the Divine Praise (to follow Virtues, Wisdom…) is the true sacred thread. Such a sacred thread is worn in the Divine Court and it (never) breaks. ||3|| (sggs 471).

Furthermore, Baabaa Nanak asks us to have our mind take up the ‘Giaan Kharragu‘ (the sword of the Divine Knowledge, Giaan or the Wisdom …)!

  • ਗਿਆਨ ਖੜਗੁ ਲੈ ਮਨ ਸਿਉ ਲੂਝੈ ਮਨਸਾ ਮਨਹਿ ਸਮਾਈ ਹੇ ॥੩॥: Taking up the Sword of the Spiritual Wisdom, struggle with the mind, and (all Mayaic desires, thoughts, ਫੁਰਨੇ, ਖੋਟੀ ਮਨਸਾ, etc., ) born of the mind are nipped within the mind. ||3|| (sggs 1022).

Furthermore, Baabaa Nanak urges us to wear a waistband of the true contentment.

  • ਕਮਰਬੰਦੁ ਸੰਤੋਖ ਕਾ ਧਨੁ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਨਾਮੁ ॥੨॥: I have made Contentment my waist-band (Camarbandh), and Your Naam is my wealth and youth (sggs 16).

Furthermore, the SGGS disapproves counting beads. Instead, the SGGS teaches us to wear a rosary of the remembrance of the Naam (Shabad, Hukam, Wisdom, Virtues…).

  • ਰਾਮੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਜਪਮਾਲੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Let your rosary be the enshrining of Raam (-Naam) in your Heart. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 503).

Furthermore, the SGGS asserts that the turban on one’s head should be his Intact Consciousness (‘Saabat Soorati‘ => the state of Pure Awareness, Unconditioned Consciousness, Total Awareness, Undivided Consciousness, Unadulterated Consciousness, ‘Jot Saroop).

  • ਕਾਇਆ ਕਿਰਦਾਰ ਅਉਰਤ ਯਕੀਨਾ ॥ ਰੰਗ ਤਮਾਸੇ ਮਾਣਿ ਹਕੀਨਾ ॥ ਨਾਪਾਕ ਪਾਕੁ ਕਰਿ ਹਦੂਰਿ ਹਦੀਸਾ ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਿਰਾ ॥ ॥੧੨॥: Let the ‘Kirdaar’ (conduct, character, good deeds, practice, ਅਮਲ, ਆਚਰਨ, ਚਾਲ-ਚਲਣ… ) of your ‘Kaaiaa’ (subtle body – mind, soul, thinking, ਸੋਚ…) be high, free from Bikaar (lust, and so on, so that woman can trust you, etc.). Enjoy what’s rightfully is yours. (You are) impure, purify (yourself) — let this be your counsel of ‘Hadees’. Let your Intact Consciousness (‘Saabat Soorat’ — consciousness free of Bikaar…) be the turban on your head. ||12|| (sggs 1084).

The SGGS reasons or argues (ਤਰਕ-the science of logic…) with nonsense practices of other faiths or religions (ਦੂਸਰੀਆ ਮੱਤਾਂ), and questions their crafty conduct, Karamkaand, falsehood, greed, etc. If Gurmat is adulterated by the wicked Pujaaree system in Sikhi and thus follows the same stupidity of other man-made faiths or religions, then they will also debate, argue (ਤਰਕ), raise their finger and question Sikhs (ਸਿਖਿਆਰਥੀ-learners of the SGGS)!

In life, Baabaa Kabeer says there can be no Dharma without Giaan (Wisdom, Virtues…). However, for the sake of ‘bread-ਰੋਟੀਆ’, the corrupt Pujaaree system of every organized and institutionalized religion wants people to remain ignorant.

  • ਕਬੀਰਾ ਜਹਾ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਤਹ ਧਰਮੁ ਹੈ ਜਹਾ ਝੂਠੁ ਤਹ ਪਾਪੁ ॥: O Kabeer! (Within a person, if) there is Giaan (Spiritual Wisdom, Divine Knowledge, Aatm–Giaan…) there is Dharma; (if within him) there is falsehood, there is sin (corrupt thinking). (sggs 1372).

In short,  the SGGS argues with logic and reasoning that one cannot become a Hindu or Dhaarmic by merely wearing a ‘thread’ (‘Janaeoo – ਜਨੇਊ’).

Similarly, the SGGS also argues with logic and reasoning that one cannot become a Muslim or Dhaarmic by mere circumcision (ਸੁੰਨਤ). If you do, then the SGGS asks: What about a woman?

Since the logic and reasoning of the SGGS also applies to ALL Sikhs, the common sense dictates that a person cannot become a Sikh or Dhaarmic by simply wearing ‘5K’ (Kakaar)! The purpose or aim of the Sikhi of Baabaa Nanak is NOT to regurgitate Brahmanical Karamkaand (rituals, formalities)!

The Gurbani asserts falsehood does not mix in Truth.

Since the Gurbani speaks Truth (Sach), it’s Truth does NOT suit the fraud or wicked individuals for it upsets and irritates them!

Nonetheless, the Gurbani teaches us to boldly and fearlessly expose Social ills (ਸਮਾਜਿਕ ਕੁਰੀਤੀਆਂ). Because — according to the Gurbani’s teachings —  telling Truth is not slandering!

  • ਜਿਨਾ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਕੂੜੁ ਵਰਤੈ ਸਚੁ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ॥: Truth does not suit those who are permeated by falsehood (sggs 646).
  • ਜੇ ਕੋ ਬੋਲੈ ਸਚੁ ਕੂੜਾ ਜਲਿ ਜਾਵਈ ॥: If someone speaks the Truth, the false (one) is burnt (irritated). (sggs 646).


  1. Thank you T Singh ji
    Your writing is beautiful. My mind was a mess, however, the clarity in your explanation with quotes from Gurbani makes everything clear as day.

  2. By wearing Janeu,one cannot become a Hindu.

    By mere circumcision ,one cannot become a Muslim.

    By wearing 5k’s ,one cannot become a Sikh

  3. Thank you Bhai Sahib Ji for taking time to reply.

    probably none of our Sikh Bodies in India or Abroad would like this

    The fact remains: Falsehood cannot propagate Truth!
    The Truth of the SGGS care less!

    It’s well known fact that Truth tastes bitter. Nonetheless, the SGGS speaks nothing but Truth:

    • ਜਿਨਾ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਕੂੜੁ ਵਰਤੈ ਸਚੁ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ॥: Truth does not suit those who are permeated by falsehood (sggs 646).
    • ਜੇ ਕੋ ਬੋਲੈ ਸਚੁ ਕੂੜਾ ਜਲਿ ਜਾਵਈ ॥: If someone speaks the Truth, the false (one) is burnt (irritated). (sggs 646).

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