The Three Pillars of Sikhism: A Note on Origins by Nirvikar Singh

Sept 2019
This paper considers a trio of moral precepts for Sikhs that have come to be known as the “three
pillars of Sikhism,” (Naam japna, kirat karni, vand chhakna) and traces their origins to a specific
work of Bhai Vir Singh, originally published in 1907. The paper also discusses some subsequent
literary use of the triple, and relates the “three pillars” to the trio “Naam, daan, isnaan,” which
appear in the writings of Guru Nanak in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Keywords: Three pillars of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Vir Singh, Puran Singh

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Nirvikar Singh holds the Sarbjit Singh Aurora Chair of Sikh and Punjabi Studies at UCSC. He also directs the UCSC South Asian Studies Initiative within Social Sciences. He is a member of the Advisory Group to the Finance Minister of India on G-20 matters He has previously served as Director of the Santa Cruz Center for International Economics, Co-Director of the Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Special Advisor to the Chancellor (all at UCSC), and Consultant to the Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. He organized one of the first major US conferences on Indian economic reform. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and his BSc and MSc from the London School of Economics, where he was awarded the Allyn Young Prize, Gonner Prize and Ely Devons Prize.

Professor Singh’s current research topics include entrepreneurship, information technology and development, electronic commerce, business strategy, political economy, federalism, economic growth and the Indian economy. He has authored over 100 research papers and co-authored three books: Joint Ventures, International Investment and Technology Transfer; The Political Economy of Federalism in India; and Waiting to Connect: India IT Revolution Bypasses the Domestic Industry. He has also served as an advisor for several startups and knowledge services firms in Silicon Valley and in India.

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