Kids Corner


False Claims re Sikh Dietary Laws -
The Roundtable Open Forum # 129






London, United Kingdom

The Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), Lord Indarjit Singh of Wimbledon, has written to Chaplaincy HQ, after they requested advice following an e-mail sent to them by the Sikh Council.

The following is the full response.

I would like to make the following observations:

1   The Sikh Council is well aware of the fact that the Sikh Chaplaincy Service (“SCS”) under the NSO has been the nationally recognised body to look to the spiritual and pastoral care of Sikhs in prisons, for more than 10 years. It is a pity that the Sikh Council did not have the courtesy to discuss this matter with myself. They are well aware that I am the Director of the SCS and NOMS (National Offender Management Service) Faith Advisor.

2   I am both saddened and concerned that a senior officer of the Sikh Council is either totally ignorant of basic Sikh teachings, or perhaps is trying to bend Sikh teachings to support a faction that rejects the Gurus' message of equality.

The Sikh Council officer writes:

'Context of concern:  xxxxx is an initiated Sikh who strictly observes orthodox Sikh teachings. Part of his religious discipline is to follow the strict dietary laws of the Gurus teachings and in fact has taking an oath to God to practice such things. His observance of Sikhism is of the highest calibre and purity.

As you may already be aware, strict Sikh orthodox teachings of this nature require him to observe the following dietary law:

Being lacto-vegetarian (i.e. not consuming any meat, fish or eggs but allowed to consume milk products).

Only eating ‘cooked’ or ‘prepared food’ by spiritually disciplined initiated Sikhs.

Using only pure iron utensils to cook and prepare the food and eating and drinking from a pure iron bowl or dish.

Subsequently, Mr  xxxxx has not eaten a proper meal since he was sent to prison, which was 6th June 2014.  He has been eating one or two fruits which he washes before he eats, and drinking water using his cupped hands to drink as he refuses to use any of the plastic cups or bowls to drink or eat from.

3   There is nothing whatever in Sikh scriptures to support eating out of a bowl made out of a particular material. Such superstitious beliefs are totally contrary to the whole thrust of Guru Nanak's teachings.

4  The Sikh Council suggests that the prisoner says he will be violating his religious vows if he eats food served by anyone not of his particular sect. Sikhism does not do superstition. The Sikh Gurus stressed that the idea of pollution by eating food prepared by or served by others was totally contrary to the whole thrust of Sikh teachings which underline the importance of all people of all backgrounds and religions eating together to break down divisive taboos. This is the meaning of 'langar'.

It is sad that an officer of the Sikh Council refers to someone who flouts such teachings as 'an initiated Sikh who strictly observes orthodox Sikh teachings'.

5   It is said that he is an Amrithari Sikh. The Amrit Ceremony specifically forbids Sikhs indulging in anti-Sikh practices. While the dietary practice of the individual concerned has nothing to do with Sikh teachings, the SCS is doing all it can to help the individual by supplying an iron bowl and helping with his dietary needs as far as practicable.


Sikhi has no room, and will have no truck with the bizarre practices being claimed by the individual (whose name, for privacy reasons, has been deleted in this post.)

To begin with, there are  NO “strict dietary laws” -- such as those to be found in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, etc. -- in Sikhism, other than a strict abhorrence of “strict dietary laws”!
There is,  for example, NO requirement whatsoever for any Sikh to adhere to a ‘lacto-vegetarian’ diet, even though if any individual resorts to it for health reasons, all power to him/her.

There is no prohibition against eating “meat, fish or eggs” -- not even beef or pork -- but if one chooses to be vegetarian for health reasons, it is fine.

Even more clearly, the following two suggestions are unequivocally outrageous:

"Only eating ‘cooked’ or ‘prepared food’ by spiritually disciplined initiated Sikhs.

"Using only pure iron utensils to cook and prepare the food and eating and drinking from a pure iron bowl or dish."

In fact, to adhere to any semblance of such practices would not only be directly contradictory to the letter and spirit of Sikhi, one can safely venture to say that you can‘t get further away from Sikhi than this silliness.

Certain fringe groups with a very small membership do observe such superstitions, but such practices cannot by any stretch of the imagination be connected with Sikhism, or allowed protection under the aegis of Sikhi.  

We invite your thoughts on all of the above.

[The author is the Sikh Faith Advisor to The Network of Sikh Organizations (“NSO“).] 

July  7, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Manjit Kaur (U.S. ), July 07, 2014, 9:53 AM.

All correctional facilities in civilized countries will make reasonable allowances for the offender's beliefs. Asking the institution to honour one's religious observances (for example, Sikh beliefs) is fair and every human being's fundamental right. But it is absolutely not acceptable for a person to concoct certain practices and then try and pass them by as "Sikh religious beliefs". Before someone misquotes me or twists what I've said, let me add: it's a personal choice for an offender to claim his personal practice is to stand on his head at all times and to try and have it accepted as his practice, but for him to claim privilege for it by declaring that it is a Christian or a Jewish or a Sikh requirement, is pure humbug. For good reason, the law protects valid religious practices, but will simply not allow someone who has already broken the laws of society to then claim the right to observe exotic and idiosyncratic practices, and be treated like royalty ... while having been designated as deserving to be removed from society. For heaven's sake, you've been removed from society and incarcerated, not placed in a five-star hotel to cater to your silly whims and fancies!

2: Harinder Singh (Punjab), July 07, 2014, 10:37 AM.

What is given in the Guru Granth Sahib is the truth. All brahminisms are manmukh. Lacto-vegs, iron utensils for daily food consumption, food prepared/served by the so-called 'spiritually initiated', etc. are all pakhand.

3: Hiran Kaur (London, United Kingdom), July 07, 2014, 12:24 PM.

The chap making these wild claim is obviously behind bars for breaking the norms of society through criminal behaviour. Well, his behaviour now, behind bars, in trying to pass his weirdness as Sikh is no less criminal. And the same goes for the low lifes who are supporting him in this. Bravo to Lord Indarjit Singh ji for acting on it so promptly and effectively.

4: Bikram Singh (San Jose, California, USA), July 07, 2014, 1:21 PM.

"Sikh orthodox teachings"? If you lower yourself into orthodoxy or any kid of fundamentalism in Sikhi, you've fallen off the bus -- it's that simple. Now, if someone wants to suggest that we are dictating our own 'brand' of Sikhi to this poor soul sitting in prison, my answer is: no, we are not. If meat-eating Sikhs claimed that eating meat is mandatory in Sikhi or a Sikh precept, they would be equally wrong. There is immense diversity in Sikhi -- you can be a good Sikh by being a meat eater or a strict vegetarian, even a vegan. But for any one to suggest that any one of these is mandatory is, well, in the words of the Guru: "Moorakh". Even worse is the suggestion that certain dishes or metals are required, or that only so-and-so can cook or serve. Practice it in your home if you want to do whatever -- but don't you dare to suggest that it has anything to do with Sikhi, especially when it is clearly against Sikhi! Someone above said it right: the only dietary law in Sikhi is that "We do not have any dietary laws". That's precisely what the anti-jhatka provision in the maryada is meant to convey to us by opposing the traditional ritualizing of killing an animal for food by Muslims. If we are prohibited from ritualizing meat, how can we then ritualize any other food? Here's a Sikh rule or law for you, if you have to have one: "If it's a ritual or superstition, it ain't Sikh." What's a ritual? Anything you repeat meaninglessly in the belief that the mere act makes you pious or pure. What's a superstition? Anything you feel compelled to do even when it offends common sense.

5: Bhai Harbans Lal (Dallas, Texas, USA), July 07, 2014, 4:21 PM.

There are some restrictions and guidelines in Sikhi or Gurmat on consuming certain foods or indulging into eating or drinking certain stuff. On page 15 of Guru Granth Sahib, it states that all those foods are forbidden that engender only false pleasure. They are those foods which harm the human body and cause pain. And they are those foods or drinks that pollute the human mind.

6: Rup Singh (Canada), July 07, 2014, 4:38 PM.

I think these are symptoms of a much bigger problem. There are too many groups who falsely call themselves Sikhs, some are even cult-like, one could say. They openly practice Hindu ideology and karmic rituals in and out of India. The SGPC and political parties, even those that consider themselves panthic, have friendly relations with them. The SGPC has gone as far as to bestow them titles from the Akal Takht. It is a matter of great concern when some charlatans even claim to be gurus, claiming that the status was given to their sect leader and not to the Guru Granth Sahib by Guru Gobind Singh ... and our leaders shy away from condemning them. One group will call itself Sikh and their practices as part of Sikhi; another will claim it based on misinterpreted gurbani or a distorted reading of history. A Happy Prakash Gurpurab of Guru Hargobind Sahib to all!

7: G P De-Monic (Oldham, United Kingdom), July 08, 2014, 7:30 AM.

There are only two restrictions on food that I know of for a fact. 1) No meat that has been ritually slaughtered. i.e., no halal, etc. 2) All langar food served must be vegetarian so that ANYONE entering a gurdwara can eat, regardless of faith or personal beliefs, and the fare served by the rich is no different than the one offered by a poor congregation. Oh, and on the subject of being lacto-vegi, here's a line straight from the Guru: "Those who renounce meat, and hold their noses when sitting near it, are the same ones who devour men at night." [GGS:1289:17] There are other lines showing that eating meat is okay but this was the first to come to mind.

8: Simran Singh (United Kingdom), July 09, 2014, 2:45 AM.

Whilst this may only be obvious to those of us in the UK, it seems that the role of the Sikh Council is less about helping this Sikh prisoner, and more about undermining the position of Lord Singh. The Sikh Council is effectively controlled by the nutcase known as the Sikh federation and it is their mission to undermine Lord Singh and other progressive Sikh leaders and replace them with their own ilk. Well done to Lord Singh who is increasingly standing up to their lies and bullying.

9: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), July 09, 2014, 4:23 AM.

This so-called Sikh and 'Amritdhari' ... what is he doing in prison in the first place? How dare he bring the Sikh faith and identity into disrepute? And add to it with these convoluted brahminisms?

10: N Singh (Canada), July 09, 2014, 8:36 AM.

When these sort of demands get 'leaked' to the press it creates great resentment amongst the majority who feel that they have to cater to or change their ways/culture to accommodate such practices. It raises the question again and again as to why immigrants should be allowed into the country if they are not prepared to assimilate. In certain circumstances such as the turban and Five K's accommodation is justified and necessary. Here, I fear that these groups are deliberately trying to undermine the public perception of the Sikhs. Again, another subtle attempt at anti-Sikh propaganda. As Cynthia Mahmood once said at a lecture I attended, the seeds for genocide are planted many, many years before the events actually happen. The first steps are to create the concept of the 'socially dead' through negative propaganda. These are the beginnings of the first steps in the 'cleansing' which seems inevitable in India. When it happens, there will be no widespread public outrage in Britain because the Sikhs will have 'deserved' what happens to them ... That's how these things work, I'm afraid, and we need to be forever on guard.

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False Claims re Sikh Dietary Laws -
The Roundtable Open Forum # 129"

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