Q116. Is there any organized priesthood in Sikhism?
Guru Amardas organized the propagation of the Sikh faith. He divided the country into 22 dioceses – Manjis – each in the charge of a devout Sikh. Daily Kirtan was held by all congregations (Sangats). The Guru himself trained many traveling missionaries, including women, they were moved into different parts of India to spread Sikhism.
These missionaries, then called ‘masands’ collected offerings from the Sikhs for the Guru, and sometimes misappropriated them for their personal use. In due course, they became powerful as a separate group and started harassing the poor and innocent Sikhs. They moved about like Jagirdars, and Zamindars, with pomp and pageantry, and accompanied by their servants and retainers.
Guru Gobind Singh received several complaints regarding the misdeeds of these ‘masands’ from Sikhs living in different parts of India. He looked into the complaints made against each one. The guilty were duly punished and the order of masands was abolished.
Since that time there has been no professional priesthood, in any form, among the Sikhs. The idea of clericalism as opposed to secularism, of a different morality for the churchman and for the layman has no place in Sikhism. There are neither hereditary priest nor monks. Sikhism does not prescribe a particular dress or uniform for a saint. It does not enforce the vow of celibacy. In its temples, any one can perform the services for Kirtan and Katha. The person known as a ‘Granthi’ is merely a reader of Guru Granth Sahib. He is a Pathi. Kirtan-groups generally consist of amateurs. Even those who are professionally-trained as singers cannot be priests, because there is no such office or designation.
Woman are allowed to take part in Kirtan and Katha on equal terms with the men. They may lead and participate in all ceremonials like baptism, marriage and funeral, where readings from the Guru Granth Sahib are common to all such functions.
It is not generally understood that all Sikhs are under a sacred duty to try to impart a knowledge of their religion (SIKHISM) to the rest of the world.