Sometimes Punjabi culture is confused with the Sikh culture when really the two things are completely distinct and separate from one another.
While it’s certainly true that alcohol is a big part of the culture amongst Punjabi people (particularly men), the Sikh faith actually requires believers to abstain from alcohol entirely.
In fact, abstaining from intoxicating substances is one of the four cornerstones of the Sikh faith.
Obviously, there are likely some of the Sikh faith that have a more relaxed view on consuming alcohol – including those that are comfortable consuming some alcohol so long as they do not become intoxicated.
At the end of the day, though, the faith is very clear (and quite strict) about this belief. Sikhs should not drink alcohol at all.
Can Sikhs Drink Alcohol?
As we highlighted just a moment ago, there are four major prohibitions in the Sikh faith and all of them are to be taken very seriously – even if Sikh gurus do not enforce religious restrictions the way that others may.
The first major prohibition has to do with hair removal. Cutting your hair, trimming your hair, removing your hair, or dying your hair (on any part of your body) is strictly forbidden.
Second, meat can be eaten by members of the Sikh faith so long as animals have not been slaughtered inhumanely, made to suffer, or were slaughtered under other religious rights, traditions, or ceremonies.
Adultery is the third major prohibition in the Sikh faith. A number of Sikh gurus have reinforced this belief throughout history, highlighting that intercourse with a person other than your spouse is to be admonished.
Finally, you have the fourth major prohibition and that’s a prohibition on intoxication.
Interestingly, though, Sikhs do not just mean intoxication by alcohol (though that obviously falls under this umbrella).
Other things like cannabis, opium, tobacco, caffeine, and a whole host of other modern products can be considered intoxicants as well.
All of these are expressly prohibited by the Sikh faith, just as alcohol consumption is.
Some Sikhs Have Started to Allow Alcohol to Their Followers
What’s really interesting of late, though, is that there are some in the Sikh faith that are starting to relax their rules and restrictions on this prohibition of alcohol.
The BBC released a report about 10 years ago about a number of Sikh groups in the United Kingdom that were having an almost “cold rebellion” against alcohol prohibition in their faith.
The UK Sangat, an official association of Sikh believers, stated that they wanted to relax the prohibition on alcohol considerably.
A number of Sikhs in the United Kingdom push back against this obvious affront to one of the core components of Sikhism, but many of these groups continue to operate with a relaxed attitude towards alcohol even still today.
Sikh leadership has stated that all of these groups are in violation of the faith and that any of these groups consuming or offering alcohol on property owned by the Sikh temple are in breach of the Sikh code.
Are There Any Other Dietary Restrictions in the Sikh Faith?
As we highlighted a moment ago, there are a number of dietary restrictions in the Sikh faith beyond just alcohol.
Though meat can be consumed by serious Sikhs, the meat has to be taken from animals that are killed quickly, as painlessly as possible, and as humanely as possible.
No religious ceremonies (like those necessary to create kosher and halal meat) can have been conducted during the sacrifice or processing of the meat itself.
Caffeine (including coffee), stimulants of any kind, and a number of other dietary restrictions are in place for Sikhs as well.
Alcohol, however – alongside other intoxicating substances – is really the main restriction in this faith.
So there you have it, detailed answer about why Sikhs almost always abstain from alcohol.
This is a faith serious about the purity of mind and purity of body equaling the purity of soul.
Anything that could taint these three things is to be avoided.
Alcohol (especially consumed to the point of intoxication) is certainly something that serious Sikhs are going to do everything in their power to avoid whenever possible.