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Idolatry in Sikhism

Idolatry or Idol worship, also referred to as But-prasati or Pahan Pooja or Murti Pooja, is worship of any physical object such as statue, idols, images, sculptures of any deity or human or attributes of almighty and it is prohibited in Sikhism.[1] According to Guru Gobind Singh 10th Sikh guru, idol worship is a false practice and followers are considered as animals having low intellect.[2][3]

Sikh texts

Guru Granth Sahib

During times of Sikh Gurus and Bhagats, in Hinduism, a murti (Devanagari: मूर्ति), or murthi, or vigraha or pratima[4] was being worshiped and rituals were performed and spiritual wisdom was lacking in Indian society. This was believed to have been a manipulation by the priestly caste to keep the power in their hands. Sikh Gurus and Bhagats outspoken against this practice and guided people about disadvantages of idol worship on there spiritual life:

Bhagat Kabir

  • Bhagat Kabir, whose hymns are present in Guru Granth Sahib, was strictly against any form of Idol worship. He said Kabeer, someone sets up a stone idol and all the world worships it as the Lord.Those who hold to this belief will be drowned in the river of darkness. ||136|| [5]

Guru Nanak

  • Guru Nanak who strictly condemned idol worship flourishing in Indian society among Hindus also suggest the same in Shalok:The Hindus have forgotten the Primal Lord; they are going the wrong way.As Naarad instructed them, they are worshipping idols. They are blind and mute, the blindest of the blind. The ignorant fools pick up stones and worship them. But when those stones themselves sink, who will carry you across? ||2|[6]

Guru Ram Das

  • Guru Ram Das, the fourth Gurus of Sikhs, also penned down that an idol worshipping is an Ignorant (Agyani) and a useless effort. In his hymn in Malhar Raga, he narrated, The ignorant and the blind wander deluded by doubt; deluded and confused, they pick flowers to offer to their idols. They worship lifeless stones and serve the tombs of the dead; all their efforts are useless. ||3||[7]

Dasam Granth

In letter to Aurangzeb, called Zafarnamah, Guru Gobind Singh mentioned called himself a But-Shikan(ਬੁਤਸ਼ਿਕਨ) i.e. Idol breaker.[8]

Historical incidences

Smiting of nose of Durga's idol

Once a Sikh man named Bhairo smote the nose of an Idol of Hindu goddess Durga. Hindu kings made a complaint to Guru Gobind Singh, who asked Bhairo to clarify his position. Bhairo refused that he had removed the nose from the idol and in turn asked the idol to become witness. When the complainant kings argued that the goddess cannot speak, Bhairo laughingly replied that if the goddess (idol) cannot speak and protect her own body then what good you expect from her?[9]

Shaligram desecration by Bhagat Sadhna

Bhagat Sadhana got Shaligram Shilas and used them as weights in his profession i.e. Butcher. Sadhna annoyed Vaishnav Sadhus and Pundits with this act.[10] On one side, he was of lower profession and caste, and on the other, he was belittling their idol worship by using idol in the flesh of animals, which is consider as sin by the Pundits. Those religious scholars always argued and debated with him, in which Sadhna always outwitted them. It is recorded that one of Vaishnav Saint took Shaligram Stones with him. Sadhna had no issues with this and did not object. Vaishnav saint continued worshipping Shaligram but got no internal pleasure and wisdom, as he had seen in state, behavior and thoughts of Sadhna. With dashing hopes he returned Shaligram Stones, the weights of Sadhna back.[11] Sadhna preached that "Shaligrams Stones" are not god as these are lifeless stones, and can not give any wisdom to a living being.


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. The Encyclopædia Britannica Company. pp. 84–. Retrieved 9 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Line 10, Tav Parsad Svaiyey, Dasam Granth
  3. ^ Bachitar Natak, Line 99, Dasam Granth
  4. ^ "pratima (Hinduism)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  5. ^ ਪੰਨਾ 1371, ਸਤਰ 14, Devotee Kabeer, Translation of Guru Granth Sahib, Sant Singh Khalsa
  6. ^ Page 556, Salok Mahalla 1, Translation of Guru Granth Sahib, Sant Singh Khalsa
  7. ^ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੂਲੇ ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਅੰਧੁਲੇ ਭ੍ਰਮਿ ਭ੍ਰਮਿ ਫੂਲ ਤੋਰਾਵੈ ॥ ਨਿਰਜੀਉ ਪੂਜਹਿ ਮੜਾ ਸਰੇਵਹਿ ਸਭ ਬਿਰਥੀ ਘਾਲ ਗਵਾਵੈ ॥੩॥: Page 1264, Malhaar Mahalla 4, Adi Granth,
  8. ^ Though you are the king of kings, O Aurangzeb ! you are far from righteousness and justice.94. I vanquished the vicious hill chiefs, they were idol-worshippers and I am idol-breaker.95: Retrieved from Zafarnama, Dasam Granth Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh
  9. ^ Dabistan e Mazahib, Mohsan Fani. Text:ਗੁਰੂ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਕੀਰਤਪੁਰ ਪਹੁੰਚੇ, ਜੋ ਤਾਰਾ ਚੰਦ ਦੀ ਰਾਜਧਾਨੀ ਵਿਚ ਸੀ । ਉਥੋਂ ਦੇ ਲੋਕ ਮੂਰਤੀ ਪੂਜਕ ਸਨ । ਪਹਾੜ ਦੇ ਸਿਰ ਪਰ ਇਕ ਨੈਣਾਂ ਦੇਵੀ ਦਾ ਮੰਦਰ ਸੀ, ਜਿਸ ਨੂੰ ਪੂਜਣ ਲਈ ਆਸ ਪਾਸ ਦੇ ਲੋਕ ਆਇਆ ਕਰਦੇ ਸਨ । ਇਕ ਭੈਰੋਂ ਨਾਮੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਦੇ ਸਿਖ ਨੇ ਮੰਦਰ ਵਿਚ ਪਹੁੰਚ ਕੇ ਨੈਣਾਂ ਦੇਵੀ ਦਾ ਨੱਕ ਤੋੜ ਸੁੱਟਿਆ । ਇਸ ਗੱਲ ਦੀ ਚਰਚਾ ਸਾਰੇ ਫੈਲ ਗਈ । ਪਹਾੜੀ ਰਾਜਿਆਂ ਨੇ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਪਾਸ ਪਹੁੰਚ ਕੇ ਸਿੱਖ ਦੀ ਸ਼ਿਕਾਇਤ ਕੀਤੀ । ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਨੇ ਭੈਰੋਂ ਸਿੱਖ ਨੂੰ ਰਾਜਿਆਂ ਦੇ ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਬੁਲਾ ਕੇ ਪੁੱਛਿਆ, ਤਾਂ ਉਸ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ ਕੇ ਦੇਵੀ ਤੋਂ ਪੁੱਛਣਾ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਓਸ ਦਾ ਨੱਕ ਕਿਸ ਨੇ ਤੋੜਿਆ ਹੈ । ਇਸ ਪਰ ਰਾਜਿਆਂ ਨੇ ਭੈਰੋਂ ਨੂੰ ਆਖਿਆ ਕਿ ਹੇ ਮੂਰਖ! ਕਦੇ ਦੇਵੀ ਭੀ ਗੱਲਾਂ ਕਰ ਸਕਦੀ ਹੈ? ਭੈਰੋਂ ਨੇ ਹੱਸ ਕੇ ਜਵਾਬ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਕਿ ਜੋ ਦੇਵੀ ਬੋਲ ਨਹੀਂ ਸਕਦੀ ਔਰ ਆਪਣੇ ਅੰਗਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਨਹੀਂ ਬਚਾ ਸਕਦੀ, ਤੁਸੀਂ ਓਸ ਤੋਂ ਨੇਕੀ ਦੀ ਕੀ ਉਮੈਦ ਰਖਦੇ ਹੋ? ਇਸ ਗੱਲ ਨੂੰ ਸੁਣ ਕੇ ਰਾਜੇ ਚੁੱਪ ਹੋ ਗਏ ।
  10. ^ Page 235, Selections from the Sacred Writings of the Sikhs- By K. Singh, Trilochan Singh
  11. ^ Bhagat Sadhna Ji, Dr Dharampal Singhal