Equality is one of the major pillars of Sikhism
When Guru Nanak was a boy growing up in a Hindu family, he was already beginning to take note of and question the many forms of inequality surrounding him. He remarked upon the persecution of lower castes brought on by the oppressive caste system, the mutual distrust and sometimes enmity between the Hindu and Muslim communities, and the low status of women, who were denied basic rights and freedoms.
These inequalities led to Guru Nanak’s spiritual awakening, after which he declared that there is but one God, and that all people embody God and are therefore equal. Through his teachings, he expressed these convictions in a variety of ways. He introduced the practice of langar, which means distributing food to all, rich or poor, male or female, alike, for free. This is an important tenet of Sikhism which is still maintained through free community kitchens today. As part of langar, all people sit in a row to eat as equals, a practice known as pangat.
EQUALITY FOR EVERY RACE AND GENDER
Guru Nanak also practiced sangat, meaning all people should be able to pray and spiritually share together. He even advocated for the rights of women at a time when doing so was unheard of. In Sikhism, women are encouraged to take leadership roles in the faith and lead religious congregations.
He also advocated for peace and friendship between people of different religions. When Guru Nanak travelled across South Asia spreading his teachings during his Five Udasis, he was even accompanied by a Muslim companion, Bhai Mardana. Guru Nanak demonstrated to all his followers that he respected everyone equally, be they Hindu, Muslim or Sikh.