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  • My new Twitter handle is now live - check me out at @jackiewgibson!

  • CNN has posted a history of bias against Sikhs - more reason for people to learn about religions before they attack anyone:...

  • Sikh temple shooting unfolding, learn about Sikhism here: http://t.co/A0ltLLIm

  • Sikh temple shooting unfolding, learn about Sikhism here: http://t.co/l3KrAJZf

  • Hackers group Anonymous takes down Vatican website: http://t.co/B6lbGAVp

  • WGN-TV calls doomsday prophecies "an illusion": http://t.co/mv8Gzyw7

  • RT @graceishuman: Really,? Asking people JUST LEAVING the service how they felt about it? Tacky, tacky, inappropriate

  • Whitney Houston's funeral service really took the world to church. Love Pastor Winans' honesty, very moving.

  • #teacher ? Here are appropriate responses to situations with your Jehovah's Witness student: http://t.co/A6UfqcgH

  • #Teachers: Want to know why your Jehovah's Witness student won't say the pledge and how to respond? http://t.co/EIdlgDwW

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Sikhism

In 2008, four Sikh students in Chandigarh, India, applied to medical school as Sikhs. They were denied admission because they had cut their hair; the college claimed that by cutting their hair, the students were no longer Sikhs.

 

In response, the students sent a petition to the high courts in India.

 

Many young Sikhs are cutting their hair, according to the Washington Post. In fact, the number may be as many as 75%. But for traditional Sikhs, long hair wrapped up in a turban means you are Sikh. It is a visible sign of religious affiliation and belief.

 

In most religions, removing headgear does not remove one’s status as a follower of that religion — unless of course one removes the headgear because they no longer follow that religion. But this could all change for Sikhs depending on how the courts respond. Their decision could mean that if a Sikh cuts his hair, he is no longer Sikh.

 

Read the full article for the history of decisions and violence surrounding the turban and long hair.

 

Other types of religious headgear

Sikhism isn’t the only religion to include mandates on headgear. Here are a few examples of others:

 

-Buddhist monks typically shave their heads as the Buddha did, as a sign of ascetic life. 

 

-Some Muslim women choose (or are subjected, depending on whom you ask and what country you’re in) to wear the hijab, a head covering intended as a display of modesty

 

-Some Jewish men wear yarmulkes, also known as kippahs or skull caps, as a sign of humility and a reminder of their relationships with God. Jews are not required to wear the skull cap at all times, and most do not. Many choose to wear the skull cap in public as a sign of religiosity, during holidays, or while visiting Israel.

 

-The habit is the traditional uniform of Catholic nuns, which includes a veil. Most nuns are no longer required to wear the habit, but many still choose to wear the veil and uniform. Learn more about the reasons for the habit on A Nun’s Life. Learn about other Catholic headgear in this Wiki article. 

 

What do you think? Is hair and headgear just that? Or is it a sign of something more? Do you wear religious headgear or wear your hair a certain way to reflect your beliefs?

Following are some upcoming (and current) religious holidays.

 

JUDAISM:

 

Passover (or Pesach): April 8-April 16

Commemoration surrounding Passover relates to Exodus 1-15. In the Exodus portion of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), Moses tells the story of his and the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. God inflicted 10 plagues on the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The 10th was the plague on the firstborns. In this plague, God said he would pass over the houses in Egypt and all firstborn sons within those homes would die. But he told the Israelites to  put blood of lambs on their doorways and he would pass over their homes. After this came to pass, the Israelites were led out of Egypt. Today, Passover is a remembrance of both God’s sparing the Jews and the Jews escape to freedom. Learn about specific Passover rituals and traditions online.

 

CHRISTIANITY:

 

Holy Week: April 5-April 11; Easter April 12

Holy Week marks the last week of Lent, just before Easter. Events during Holy Week commemorate events leading up the crucifixion of Jesus:

  • -Palm Sunday (April 5): Last Sunday marked the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
  • -Spy Wednesday (April 8): This isn’t really celebrated, but this marks the day when Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot betrayed him to the chief priests; read about this in the Bible’s New Testament.
  • -Maundy Thursday (April 9): Thursday commemorates the Last Supper which led to the Christian ritual of communion or the Eucharist. Jesus was initially commemorating the Passover feast (the Jewish seder).
  • -Good Friday (April 10): Friday commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • -Holy Saturday (April 11): This is the night before Easter; Christians, particularly Catholics, often attend worship services on this night.

Holy Week leads up to Easter Sunday, April 12, when Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Learn more about Easter online.

 

SIKHISM:

 

Baisakhi: April 14

Learn about this Sikh holiday on ReligionTranscends.com.

 

Copyright 2009, Religion Transcends 

Today marks the beginning of the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. 

Diwali is the most popular of all Hindu festivals, and is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs. During this four-day festival, celebrants decorate houses and public places lamps.

Who/what is being celebrated?
Initially, Diwali marked a Hindu harvest. But over time it became associated with a number of gods, goddesses, and associated tales.

Lakshmi: For most Hindi Indians, Diwali honors Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. For that reason, Hindus see this as a good time to start a new business or to pray for success in the coming year. The lamps placed in homes and public places at this time are used to guide Lakshmi to homes and businesses. 

Kali: In Bengal, celebrants honor Kali, goddess of strength. 

Parvati: Some believe Diwali is celebrated as the day when the goddess Parvati gambled with her husband. 

Krishna and Vishnu: Hindus may celebrate the vanquishing of demons by these gods. 

Rama and Sita: Others celebrate Diwali as the time when the god Rama and his wife Sita returned home after exile. 

Lord Mahavira: Jains celebrate the day Lord Mahavira attained nirvana, eternal bliss.

Regardless of which god a given celebrant is honoring, each story tells of victory over evil, light over darkness, thankfulness and hope over despair, prosperity over poverty, and so on. Again, this is a festival of light, which has conquered darkness and empowers goodness and hope.

How is it celebrated?
Diwali is usually celebrated with lights and fireworks. Many countries have also taken to buying clothes, treats, and larger gifts at this time. 

Thanks to Senate Resolution 299 and House Resolution 747, both passed by in 2007, the United States now recognizes the “religious and historical significance of the festival of Diwali.

Newsweek recently featured a great article by Sikh comedian Narinder Singh. Check it out if you haven’t already. Not surprisingly, it is quite a humorous look at stereotypes and cultural identity.

The article came out around the same time that the International Confederation of Sikhs called for a united effort by all Sikhs to strengthen the religion.

Learn more about Sikhism on ReligionTranscends.com.