Followers of Sikhism do not have a preference for meat or vegetarian consumption.[1][2][3][4] There are two views on initiated or "Amritdhari Sikhs" and meat consumption. "Amritdhari" Sikhs (i.e. those that follow the Sikh Rehat Maryada - the Official Sikh Code of Conduct[5]) can eat meat (provided it is not Kutha meat).[6][7][8][9] "Amritdharis" that belong to some Sikh sects (e.g. Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Damdami Taksal, Namdhari[10][11]) are vehemently against the consumption of meat and eggs.[12]

The Sikh Gurus have indicated their preference for a simple diet,[13] which could include meat or be vegetarian. Guru Nanak said that overconsumption of food i.e. Lobh (Greed) involves a drain on the Earth's resources and thus on life.[14] In the case of meat, passages from the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of Sikhs, also known as the Adi Granth) say that fools argue over this issue. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, prohibited the Sikhs from the consumption of Kutha (any ritually slaughtered) meat because of the Sikh belief that sacrificing an animal in the name of God is mere ritualism (something to be avoided).[1]

In Sikhism, only lacto-vegetarian food is served in the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) but Sikhs are not bound to be meat-free.[15][6] The general consensus is that Sikhs are free to choose whether to adopt a meat diet or not.[6][16]

Akal Takht ruling

The Akal Takht (Central Body for Sikh Temporal Affairs) represents the final authority on controversial issues concerning the Sikh Panth (community or collective). The Hukamnama (edict or clarification), issued by the Jathedar of the Akal Takht (head priest or head caretaker) Sadhu Singh Bhaura dated February 15, 1980, states that eating meat does not go against the code of conduct (Kurehit) of the Sikhs; Amritdhari Sikhs can eat meat as long as it is Jhatka meat.[17]

Disagreement with the ruling

Some religious sects of Sikhism—Damdami Taksal, Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Namdharis, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha[11] and the 3HO[18]—believe that the Sikh diet should be meat-free.[11] The reason for the disagreement with this ruling is that these sects had many Vaishnav converts to Sikhism who were staunchly vegetarian.[19]

The Akhand Kirtani Jatha dispute the meaning of the word "kutha", claiming it means all meat.[20] However, in mainstream Sikhism this word has been accepted to mean that which has been prepared according to Muslim rituals.[21]

Guru Granth Sahib

According to Surjit Singh Gandhi, the Guru Granth Sahib on page 472 and Guru Nanak in early 16th century said that "avoidance of flesh as food was impractical and impossible so long as they used water, since water was the source of all life and the first life principle".[22] Guru Nanak states that all living beings are connected. Even meat comes from the consumption of vegetables, and all forms of life are based on water.[23]

O Pandit, you do not know where did flesh originate! It is water where life originated and it is water that sustains all life. It is water that produces grains, sugarcane, cotton and all forms of life.


Main article: Langar (Sikhism)

Within the gurdwara, the Guru ka Langar (Guru's community kitchen) serves purely lacto-vegetarian food because the Langar is open to all. Since people of many faiths with varying dietary taboos, and since Sikhs accept these restrictions and accommodate people regardless of their faith or culture, the Sikh Gurus adopt vegetarian food for Langar. Meat was included in langar at the time of Guru Angad, but was discontinued to accommodate Vaishnavites.[24]


Sikhism argues that the soul can possibly undergo millions of transformations as various forms of life before ultimately becoming human. These life forms could be a mineral, vegetation, or an animal. Sikhism does not see a difference between these types of existence,[25] however the human has a privileged position compared to other life forms.[26] In terms of the Sikh view of karma, human life is seen as being most precious, and animal, vegetable, and mineral all viewed as being equally below human life. Therefore, Sikhs view eating an animal is the same as eating a plant or mineral.[27]

The Sikh code of conduct on the Sikh diet (Rehat Maryada)

According to the Sikh code of conduct or Rehat Maryada, Sikhs are free to choose whether or not to include meat in their diet.[28]

In the Rehat Maryada, Article XXIV - Ceremony of Baptism or Initiation (page 38),[29] it states:

The undermentioned four transgressions (tabooed practices) must be avoided:

  1. Dishonouring the hair
  2. Eating the meat of an animal slaughtered the Halal way
  3. Cohabiting with a person other than one's spouse
  4. Using tobacco.
    — Sikh Rehat Maryada

The Sikh Rehat Maryada states that Sikhs cannot consume meat that is [21] Halal (Muslim), or Kosher (Jewish).[30][31][32]

Sikh intellectual views

I. J. Singh states that throughout Sikh history, there have been many subsects of Sikhism that have espoused vegetarianism. However, this was rejected by the Sikh Gurus.[33] Sikhs consider that vegetarianism and meat-eating are unimportant in the realm of Sikh spirituality. Surinder Singh Kohli links vegetarianism to Vashnavite behaviour.[34] Gopal Singh, commenting on meat being served in the langar during the time of Guru Angad[35] Gyani Sher Singh—who was the head priest at the Darbar Sahib—notes that ahimsa does not fit in with Sikh doctrine.[36] W. Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi[37] comment that if the Sikh Gurus had made an issue on vegetarianism, it would have distracted from the main emphasis of Sikh spirituality. H. S. Singha and Satwant Kaur comment on how ritually-slaughtered meat is considered a sin for initiated Sikhs.[38] G. S. Sidhu also notes that ritually-slaughtered meat is taboo for a Sikh.[39] Gurbakhsh Singh comments on how non-Kutha meat is acceptable for the Sikhs.[40] Surinder Singh Kohli comments on the "fools wrangle over flesh"[41] quotation from the Guru Granth Sahib by noting how Guru Nanak mocked hypocritical vegetarian priests. Gobind Singh Mansukhani states how vegetarianism and meat-eating has been left to the individual Sikh.[42] Devinder Singh Chahal comments on the difficulties of distinguishing between plant and animal in Sikh philosophy.[43] H. S. Singha comments in his book how the Sikh Gurus ate meat.[44] Khushwant Singh also notes that most Sikhs are meat-eaters and decry vegetarians as daal khorey (lentil-eaters).[45]

Sikh Kharku view

In early 1987 Kharkus issued a moral code banning the sale and consumption of meat. The ban led to much of Punjab being without meat. Those who continued to sell or eat meat risked death and commonly would have their businesses destroyed and be killed. One survey found that there were no meat or tobacco shops between Amritsar and Phagwara. In the peak of the militancy most of Punjab was meatless. Famous restaurants that served meat had removed it from their menu and denied ever serving it. The ban was popular among rural Sikhs. Kharkus justified the ban by saying, "No avatars, Hindu or Sikh, ever did these things. To eat meat is the job of rakshasas (demons) and we don't want people to become rakshasas."[46][47][48][49]

Historical dietary behaviour of Sikhs

Painting depicting Sikh horsemen hunting boar and deer, circa 1790

According to Dabistan e Mazhib (a contemporary Persian chronology of the Sikh Gurus), Guru Nanak did not eat meat, and Guru Arjan thought that meat eating was not in accordance with Nanak's wishes. This differs from I. J. Singh's research that states that Guru Nanak ate meat on the way to Kurukshetra.[50] According to Persian records, Guru Hargobind (the 6th Guru) ate meat and hunted, and his practice was adopted by most Sikhs.[51]

Dietary avoidance out of politeness

Sikhs also generally avoid eating beef because the cow, the buffalo and the ox are an integral part of rural Sikh livelihoods.[52][53] Similarly, Sikhs may avoid eating beef in the company of Hindus and avoid eating pork in the company of Muslims out of respect for their shared values. However, there is no religious prohibition about eating beef and pork.[52]

Sarbloh Bibek

Some Sikh groups like Akhand Kirtani Jatha keep Sarbloh Bibek. Sikhs who follow this practice eat from iron bowls and iron plates only.[54]

Another key aspect to maintaining Sarbloh Bibek is that Sikhs must only eat food prepared by other Amritdhari (baptized) Sikhs. Amritdhari Sikhs are also not to eat Jootha food (previously eaten food) from non-Amritdharis.[55]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Misconceptions About Eating Meat - Comments of Sikh Scholars," Archived 28 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine at The Sikhism Home Page Archived 17 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Sikhs and Sikhism, by I.J. Singh, Manohar, Delhi ISBN 978-81-7304-058-0: Throughout Sikh history, there have been movements or subsects of Sikhism which have espoused vegetarianism. I think there is no basis for such dogma or practice in Sikhism. Certainly Sikhs do not think that a vegetarian's achievements in spirituality are easier or higher. It is surprising to see that vegetarianism is such an important facet of Hindu practice in light of the fact that animal sacrifice was a significant and much valued Hindu Vedic ritual for ages. Guru Nanak in his writings clearly rejected both sides of the arguments—on the virtues of vegetarianism or meat eating—as banal and so much nonsense, nor did he accept the idea that a cow was somehow more sacred than a horse or a chicken. He also refused to be drawn into a contention on the differences between flesh and greens, for instance. History tells us that to impart this message, Nanak cooked meat at an important Hindu festival in Kurukshetra. Having cooked it he certainly did not waste it, but probably served it to his followers and ate himself. History is quite clear that Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh were accomplished and avid hunters. The game was cooked and put to good use, to throw it away would have been an awful waste.
  3. ^ Guru Granth Sahib, An Analytical Study by Surindar Singh Kohli, Singh Bros. Amritsar ISBN 81-7205-060-7: The ideas of devotion and service in Vaishnavism have been accepted by Adi Granth, but the insistence of Vaishnavas on vegetarian diet has been rejected.
  4. ^ A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh, World Sikh University Press, Delhi ISBN 978-81-7023-139-4: However, it is strange that now-a-days in the Community-Kitchen attached to the Sikh temples, and called the Guru's Kitchen (or, Guru-ka-langar) meat-dishes are not served at all. May be, it is on account of its being, perhaps, expensive, or not easy to keep for long. Or, perhaps the Vaishnava tradition is too strong to be shaken off.
  5. ^ "Sikh Reht Maryada, The Definition of Sikh, Sikh Conduct & Conventions, Sikh Religion Living, India". Archived from the original on 20 August 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  6. ^ a b c Mosher, Lucinda (1 June 2005). "4 Distance". Belonging (Faith in the Neighbourhood). Church Publishing Inc. p. 108. ISBN 1-59627-010-1. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
  7. ^ Sekhon, Devinder Singh; Singh; Devinder (2005-01-01). "10 Gurmat and Meat". Philosophy of Guru Granth Sahib. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD. pp. 143 to 172. ISBN 978-81-261-2357-5. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  8. ^ Punjabi-English Dictionary, Punjabi University, Dept. of Punjabi Lexicography, ISBN 81-7380-095-2; Hardcover; 2002-10-01
  9. ^ Kaur, Upinder Jit (1990). Sikh Religion And Economic Development. National Book Organisation. p. 212. ISBN 9788185135489.
  10. ^ Vegetarianism and Meat-Eating in 8 Religions Archived 26 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine April/May/June, 2007 Hinduism Today
  11. ^ a b c Takhar, Opinderjit Kaur (2005). "2 Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha". Sikh identity: an exploration of groups among Sikhs. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-7546-5202-1. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  12. ^ "Langar," Archived 2 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine at Archived 27 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Singh, Prithi Pal (2006). "3 Guru Amar Das". The History of Sikh Gurus. New Delhi: Lotus Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-81-8382-075-2.
  14. ^ "The Sikhism Home Page". Archived from the original on 27 June 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  15. ^ "Only Meat Killed by Ritual (Kutha) Is Banned for a Sikh". Sgpc. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  16. ^ "Eating the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way (Kutha)". Sgpc. Archived from the original on 2002-02-02. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  17. ^ Singh, Dharam (2001). Perspectives on Sikhism: Papers Presented at the International Seminar on Sikhism: a Religion for the Third Millennium Held at Punjabi University, Patiala on 27-29 March 2000. Publication Bureau, Punjabi University. p. 89. ISBN 9788173807367.
  18. ^ Gabriel Cousens (2000). Conscious Eating. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 9781556432859. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  19. ^ Singh Dhillon, Dalbir (1988). Sikhism, Origin and Development. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 247. ISBN 9788171561520.
  20. ^ McLeod, W. H. (2003). "6 The Singh Sabha and the Years After". Sikhs of the Khalsa: a history of the Khalsa rahit (Hardcover ed.). Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-19-565916-0. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  21. ^ a b H. S. Singha & Satwant Kaur Hemkunt (1994). Sikhism, A Complete Introduction (Limited preview digitized online by Google books). New Delhi: Hemkunt Press. ISBN 81-7010-245-6. Retrieved 2010-02-07.
  22. ^ Surjit Singh Gandhi (2007). History of Sikh Gurus Retold: 1469–1606 C.E. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 95. ISBN 9788126908578. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  23. ^ a b Clarke, Steve (2020). Religious Studies Route A: Religious, Philosophical and Ethical studies and Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. Hachette UK. p. 117. ISBN 9781510479531.
  24. ^ Singh, Prithi Pal (2006). "3 Guru Amar Das". The History of Sikh Gurus. New Delhi: Lotus Press. p. 38. ISBN 81-8382-075-1. Retrieved 2019-02-07.
  25. ^ Garces-Foley, Kathleen (2006). "8. Sikhism and Death". Death and Religion in a Changing World (1st ed.). M.E. Sharpe. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-7656-1222-9. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
  26. ^ Jhutti-Johal, Jagbir (2011). Sikhism Today [Religion Today series]. England: Bloomsbury Academic. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-84706-272-7.
  27. ^ Morgan, Peggy; Lawton, Clive, eds. (2007). "6. Questions of Right and Wrong". Ethical Issues in Six Religious Traditions (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-7486-2330-3. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  28. ^ "Only Meat Killed by Ritual Is Banned for a Sikh".
  29. ^ Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (ed.). "Sikh Rehat Maryada in English, Section Six, Chapter XIII, Article XXIV-(p)". p. 38. Retrieved 2018-06-26.
  30. ^ Sandeep Singh Brar. "Misconceptions About Eating Meat — Comments of Sikh Scholars". Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  31. ^ Dr Indarjit Singh, OBE. "Faithandfood Fact Files — Sikhism". Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  32. ^ Aditya Menon (14 May 2020). "Why Hindutva Outfits Are Calling for a Boycott of Halal Products". The Quint. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  33. ^ I. J. Singh (1994). Sikhs and Sikhism. Delhi: Manohar. ISBN 978-81-7304-058-0.
  34. ^ Surindar Singh Kohli (1992), Guru Granth Sahib, An Analytical Study, Amritsar: Singh Bros., ISBN 81-7205-060-7
  35. ^ Gopal Singh (1988). A History of the Sikh People. Delhi: World Sikh University Press. ISBN 978-81-7023-139-4.
  36. ^ Gyani Sher Singh, Philosophy of Sikhism, Amritsar: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
  37. ^ W. Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi (1997), A Popular Dictionary of Sikhism, England, ISBN 978-0-8442-0424-6((citation)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  38. ^ H. S. Singha and Satwant Kaur (2005), Sikhism, A Complete Introduction, Delhi: Hemkunt Press, ISBN 81-7010-245-6
  39. ^ G. S. Sidhu (1973), Introduction to Sikhism, Toronto: Shromini Sikh Sangat, ISBN 0-900692-07-3
  40. ^ Gurbakhsh Singh (2002), The Sikh Faith, Vancouver: Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society, ISBN 978-81-7205-188-4
  41. ^ Surinder Singh Kohli (1994), Real Sikhism, New Delhi: Harman Publishing, ISBN 81-85151-64-4
  42. ^ Gobind Singh Mansukhani (1993), Introduction to Sikhism, Delhi: Hemkunt Press, ISBN 81-7010-181-6
  43. ^ Devinder Singh Chahal, Scientific Interpretation of Gurbani
  44. ^ H. S. Singha, Mini Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Delhi: Hemkunt Press, ISBN 81-7010-200-6
  45. ^ Khushwant Singh (2009-11-07). "An Ancient Brotherhood". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  46. ^ "AISSF forces shopkeepers to shut liquor and meat shops in Punjab". India Today. Retrieved 2023-09-14.
  47. ^ "Sikh militants in Punjab, putting a moral edge on... - UPI Archives". UPI. Retrieved 2023-05-21.
  48. ^ Chima, Jugdep S. (2010-03-11). The Sikh Separatist Insurgency in India: Political Leadership and Ethnonationalist Movements. SAGE Publishing India. ISBN 978-93-5150-953-0.
  49. ^ Fazal, Tanweer (2014-08-01). Nation-state and Minority Rights in India: Comparative Perspectives on Muslim and Sikh Identities. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-75178-6.
  50. ^ I. J. Singh (1994). Sikhs and Sikhism. Delhi: Manohar. ISBN 978-81-7304-058-0.
  51. ^ J.S. Grewal (2001), Sikh History from Persian Sources: Translations of Major Texts, ISBN 978-81-85229-17-1
  52. ^ a b Rait, S.K. (2005). Sikh Women in England: Their Religious and Cultural Beliefs and Social Practices. Trentham Books. p. 62. ISBN 9781858563534.
  53. ^ Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 171–172. ISBN 978-1-4411-0231-7.
  54. ^ Myrvold, Kristina (2016). Sikhs in Europe: Migration, Identities and Representations. Routledge. p. 341. ISBN 9781317055051.
  55. ^ Jacobsen, Knut (2011). Sikhs in Europe: Migration, Identities and Representations. Ashgate Publishing. p. 262. ISBN 9781409424345.