|c. 25-30 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United Arab Emirates||52,000|
|Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Bani|
|Primary - Gurmukhi (Punjabi alphabet) is the official language; Guru Gobind Singh wrote letters to Aurangzeb—Zafarnama and the Hikaaitaan—written in the Persian alphabet; Sikh coins were minted in Gurmukhi & Persian during misls & Sikh Empire
Secondary - Largely Influenced by NationalityEnglish · Hindi · French · Malaysian · Thai · Arabic · Filipino · Urdu · German · Italian · Malay · Indonesian · Chinese · Swahili · Norwegian · Fijian · Nepali · Pashto · Dari
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Sikhs (// or //; Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖ, sikkh, [sɪkkʰ]) are people who adhere to Sikhism, a monotheistic religion that originated in the late 15th century in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent, based on the revelation of Guru Nanak. The term Sikh has its origin in the word śiṣya (शिष्य), meaning 'disciple' or 'student'.
Male Sikhs generally have Singh ('lion') as their middle or last name, though not all Singhs are necessarily Sikhs; likewise, female Sikhs have Kaur ('princess') as their middle or last name. Sikhs who have undergone the Khanḍe-kī-Pahul ('baptism by Khanda'), which is an initiation ceremony known as Amrit, are from the day of their initiation known as Khalsa Amritdhari Sikhs, and they must at all times have on their bodies five Ks:
The Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent has been the historic homeland of the Sikhs, having even been ruled by the Sikhs for significant parts of the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the Punjab state in northwest India has a majority Sikh population, and sizeable communities of Sikhs exist around the world. Many countries, such as the United Kingdom, recognize Sikhs as a designated religion on their censuses, and, as of 2020, Sikhs are considered as a separate ethnic group in the United States.
Main article: History of Sikhism
Guru Nanak (1469–1539), the founder of Sikhism, was born, in a Hindu family to Mehta Kalu and Mata Tripta in the village of Talwandi, present-day Nankana Sahib, near Lahore. Throughout his life, Guru Nanak was a religious leader and social reformer. However, Sikh political history may be said to begin in 1606, with the death of the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev. Religious practices were formalised by Guru Gobind Singh on 30 March 1699, when the Guru initiated five people from a variety of social backgrounds, known as the Panj Piare ("beloved five"), to form a collective body of initiated Sikhs, known as the Khalsa ("pure").
The early followers of Guru Nanak were Khatris, but later a large number of Jats joined the faith. Khatris and Brahmins opposed "the demand that the Sikhs set aside the distinctive customs of their castes and families, including the older rituals."
During the rule of the Mughal Empire in India, 2 Sikh gurus were martyred. (Guru Arjan was martyred on suspicion of helping in betrayal of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and Guru Tegh Bahadur was martyred by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb for opposing their persecution of Kashmiri pandits.) As the Sikh faith grew, the Sikhs subsequently militarized to oppose Mughal rule.. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was assassinated in 1708 by 2 pathans.
After defeating the Afghans and Mughals, sovereign states called Misls were formed under Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. The Confederacy of these states was unified and transformed into the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. This era was characterised by religious tolerance and pluralism, including Christians, Muslims, and Hindus in positions of power. Its secular administration implemented military, economic, and governmental reforms. The empire is considered the zenith of political Sikhism, encompassing Kashmir, Ladakh, and Peshawar. Hari Singh Nalwa, the commander-in-chief of the Sikh Khalsa Army in the North-West Frontier, expanded the confederacy to the Khyber Pass.
After the annexation of the Sikh kingdom by the British, the British Army began recruiting significant numbers of Sikhs and Punjabis. During the 1857 Indian mutiny, the Sikhs stayed loyal to the British, resulting in heavy recruitment from Punjab to the British Indian Army for the next 90 years of the British Raj in colonial India. The distinct turban that differentiates a Sikh from other turban wearers is a relic of the rules of the British Indian Army. The British colonial rule saw the emergence of many reform movements in India, including Punjab, such as the formation of the First and Second Singh Sabha in 1873 and 1879 respectively. The Sikh leaders of the Singh Sabha worked to offer a clear definition of Sikh identity and tried to purify Sikh belief and practice.
The later years of British colonial rule saw the emergence of the Akali movement to bring reform in the gurdwaras during the early 1920s. The movement led to the introduction of Sikh Gurdwara Bill in 1925, which placed all the historical Sikh shrines in India under the control of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
At the time of the Indian independence movement, the Sikh ruler of the Kapurthala State fought to oppose the partition of India and advocated for a united, secular country. Sikh organizations, including the Chief Khalsa Dewan and Shiromani Akali Dal led by Master Tara Singh, condemned the Lahore Resolution and the movement to create Pakistan, viewing it as inviting possible persecution. The Sikhs therefore strongly fought against the partition of India. The months leading up to the 1947 partition of India were marked by conflict in the Punjab between Sikhs and Muslims. This caused the religious migration of Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus from West Punjab to the east (modern India), mirroring a simultaneous religious migration of Punjabi Muslims from East Punjab to the west (modern Pakistan).
Following partition, the Government of India had begun to redraw states corresponding to demographic and linguistic boundaries. However, this was not effective in the northern part of the country, as the government reconsidered redrawing states in the north.  While states across the country were extensively redrawn on linguistic lines at the behest of linguistic groups, the only languages not considered for statehood were Punjabi, Sindhi and Urdu.  Leading to the launch of the Punjabi Suba movement and the presentation for a Punjabi Suba as a policy in April 1948 by Master Tara Singh. Also, on 26 January 1950 Sikh representatives refused to sign the Indian constitution. As Sikhs were recognized as Hindus and Sikhs were not provided with scheduled castes concessions given to Hindu scheduled castes.
The Punjab Suba experienced heavy government crackdown with the Congress Government arresting as many as 21,000 people. Attempted negotiations with Congress-led the agitation to be adjourned twice, though Jawaharlal Nehru continued to reject the demand. On 4 July 1955, government police forces, led by DIG Ashwini Kumar, would forced entry into the Golden Temple premises and heavy-handedly arrested protestors and took them into custody, along with the head granthis of the Akal Takht and Golden Temple, volunteer protestors, and even cooks of the temple’s langar. The Guru Ram Das Serai and Shiromani Akali Dal offices were also raided, and batons used and tear gas and shells were fired to disperse the protestors gathered on the periphery of the temple, damaging the periphery and Sarovar, or pool, of the temple. The government stopped volunteers on the way to the Golden Temple, and troops were ordered to flag-march through the bazaars and streets surrounding the site. Over 200 protestors were killed, thousands arrested, and thousands, including women and children, were injured.
The Congress government agreed to the Punjab Suba in 1966 after protests and recommendation of the States Reorganisation Commission. The state of East Punjab was later split into the states of Himachal Pradesh, the new state Haryana and current day Punjab. However, there was a growing alienation between Punjabi Sikh and Hindu populations. The latter of which reported Hindi rather than Punjabi as their primary language. The result was that Punjabi-speaking areas were left out of the new state and given to Haryana and Himachal Pradesh resulting in the state of Punjab to be roughly 35,000 square miles smaller than the Punjabi-speaking areas based on pre-1947 census figures. Moreover, the 1966 reorganization left Sikhs highly dissatisfied, with the capital Chandigarh being made into a shared a union territory and the capital of Punjab and Haryana.
In the late 1960s, the Green Revolution in India was first introduced in Punjab as part of a development program issued by international donor agencies and the Government of India. While, Green Revolution in Punjab had several positive impacts, the introduction of the mechanised agricultural techniques led to uneven distribution of wealth. The industrial development was not done at the same pace as agricultural development, the Indian government had been reluctant to set up heavy industries in Punjab due to its status as a high-risk border state with Pakistan. The rapid increase in the higher education opportunities without an adequate rise in the jobs resulted in the increase in the unemployment of educated youth.
In 1973 as a result, of unaddressed grievances and increasing inequality the Akali Dal put forward the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. The resolution included both religious and political issues. It asked for recognising Sikhism as a religion, it also demanded the devolution of power from the Central to state governments. The Anandpur Resolution was rejected by the government as a secessionist document. Thousands of people joined the movement, feeling that it represented a real solution to demands such as a larger share of water for irrigation and the return of Chandigarh to Punjab.
After unsuccessful negotiations the Dharam Yuddh Morcha ("righteous campaign") was launched on 4 August 1982, by the Akali Dal in partnership with Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, with its stated aim being the fulfillment of a set of devolutionary objectives based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Indian police responded to protestors with high-handed police methods creating state repression affecting a very large segment of Punjab's population. Police brutality resulted in retaliatory violence from a section of the Sikh population, widening the scope of the conflict by the use of violence of the state on its own people.  A "state of chaos and repressive police methods" combined to create "a mood of overwhelming anger and resentment in the Sikh masses against the authorities". Leading to Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale gaining prominence and demands of independence gain currency, even amongst moderates and Sikh intellectuals. In, 1982 and early 1983 extrajudicial killings by the police of orthodox Sikh youth in rural areas in Punjab provoked reprisals. Over 190 Sikhs had been killed in the first 19 months of the protest movement.
In May 1984, a Grain Roko morcha was planned and to be initiated on 3 June with protestors practising civil disobedience by refusing to pay land revenue, water or electricity bills, and blocking the flow of grain out of Punjab. Indian Prime minister Indira Gandhi launched Operation Blue Star on 1 June prior to the Grain Roko morcha in order to remove Bhindranwale from the Golden Temple. This subsequently lead to Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. Her assassination was followed by riots against Sikh communities and the killing of thousands of Sikhs throughout India. These events triggered an Insurgency in Punjab which would consume Punjab until the early 1990s.
During the day of Vaisakhi in 1999, Sikhs worldwide celebrated the 300th anniversary of the creation of the Khalsa. Canada Post honoured Sikh Canadians with a commemorative stamp in conjunction with the anniversary. Likewise, on 9 April 1999, Indian president K. R. Narayanan issued a stamp commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa as well.
According to Article I of Chapter 1 of the Sikh Rehat Maryada ('code of conduct'), the definition of Sikh is:
Any human being who faithfully believes in i. One Immortal Being, ii. Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Sahib to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, iii. The Guru Granth Sahib, iv. The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and
v. the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh.
From the Guru Granth Sahib:
One who calls themself a Sikh of the Guru, the True Guru, shall rise in the early morning hours and meditate on the Lord's Name. Upon arising early in the morning, he is to bathe and cleanse himself in the pool of nectar. Following the Instructions of the Guru, he is to chant the Name of the Lord, "Har, Har." All sins, misdeeds, and negativity shall be then erased. Then, at the rising of the sun, he is to sing Gurbani; whether sitting down or standing up, he is to meditate on the Lord's Name. One who meditates on my Lord, Har, Har, with every breath and every morsel of food and – that GurSikh becomes pleasing to the Guru's Mind. That person, unto whom my Lord and Master is kind and compassionate – upon that GurSikh, the Guru's Teachings are bestowed. Servant Nanak begs for the dust of the feet of that GurSikh, who himself chants the Naam, and inspires others to chant it.— Fourth Mehl (Guru Ram Das), Guru Granth Sahib, p. 305
The Sikh Rahit Maryada (Code of Conduct) clearly states that baptized Amritdhari Khalsa Sikhs must recite or listen to the recitation of Japji Sahib, Jaap Sahib, the 10 Sawayyas, Sodar Rehraas, and Sohila. Every Sikh is also supposed take the Hukam (divine order) from the Guru Granth Sahib after awakening in the ambrosial hours of the morning before eating.
The five Ks (panj kakaar) are five articles of faith which all baptized (Amritdhari) Sikhs are obliged to wear. The symbols represent the ideals of Sikhism: honesty, equality, fidelity, meditating on Waheguru, and never bowing to tyranny. The five symbols are:
Main article: Sikh music
The Sikhs have a number of musical instruments, including the rebab, dilruba, taus, jori, and sarinda. Playing the sarangi was encouraged by Guru Hargobind. The rebab was played by Bhai Mardana as he accompanied Guru Nanak on his journeys. The jori and sarinda were introduced to Sikh devotional music by Guru Arjan. The taus (Persian for "peacock") was designed by Guru Hargobind, who supposedly heard a peacock singing and wanted to create an instrument mimicking its sounds. The dilruba was designed by Guru Gobind Singh at the request of his followers, who wanted a smaller instrument than the taus. After Japji Sahib, all of the shabad in the Guru Granth Sahib were composed as raags. This type of singing is known as Gurmat Sangeet.
When they marched into battle, the Sikhs would play a Ranjit nagara ("victory drum") to boost morale. Nagaras (usually two to three feet in diameter, although some were up to five feet in diameter) are played with two sticks. The beat of the large drums, and the raising of the Nishan Sahib, meant that the Singhs were on their way.
Main article: Sikh diaspora
Sikhs number about 25-30 million worldwide, of whom 22–28 million live in India, which thus represents around 90% of the total Sikh population. About 76% of all Sikhs live in the northern Indian State of Punjab, forming the majority (about two-thirds) of the population. Karnail Singh Panjoli, member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, says that there are several communities within the term ‘Nanakpanthis’ too. Apart from Sindhi Hindus, “There are groups like Sikhligarh, Vanjaarey, Nirmaley, Lubaney, Johri, Satnamiye, Udaasiyas, Punjabi Hindus, etc. who call themselves Nanakpanthis despite being Hindus.
Substantial communities of Sikhs live in the Indian states or union territories of Haryana, where they number around 1.2 million and form 4.91% of the population, Rajasthan (872k, or 1.27% of the population), Uttar Pradesh (643k, 0.32%), Delhi (570k, 3.4%), Uttarakhand (236k, 2.34%), Jammu and Kashmir (234k, 1.87%), Chandigarh (138k, 13.11%) and Himachal Pradesh (86k, 1.16%). Additionally, another substantial community of Sikhs live in the western Canadian province of British Columbia (201k or 4.7% of the population) which also holds the distinction of being the only administrative division in the world outside India with Sikhism as the second most followed religion among the population.
Sikh migration from British India began in earnest during the second half of the 19th century, when the British completed their annexation of the Punjab, which led to Sikh migration throughout India and the British Empire. During the Raj, semiskilled Sikh artisans were transported from the Punjab to British East Africa to help build railroads. Sikhs emigrated from India after World War II, most going to the United Kingdom but many also to North America. Some Sikhs who had settled in eastern Africa were expelled by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 1972. Economics is a major factor in Sikh migration, and significant communities exist in the United Kingdom, the United States, Malaysia, East Africa, Australia, Singapore and Thailand.
After the Partition of India in 1947, many Sikhs from what would become the Punjab of Pakistan migrated to India as well as to Afghanistan due to fear of persecution. Afghanistan was home to hundreds of thousands of Sikhs and Hindus as of the 1970s, but due to the wars in Afghanistan in the 2010s, the vast majority of Afghan Sikhs had migrated to India, Pakistan or the west.
Although the rate of Sikh migration from the Punjab has remained high, traditional patterns of Sikh migration favouring English-speaking countries (particularly the United Kingdom) have changed during the past decade due to stricter immigration laws. Moliner (2006) wrote that as a consequence of Sikh migration to the UK becoming "virtually impossible since the late 1970s," migration patterns evolved to continental Europe. Italy is a rapidly growing destination for Sikh migration, with Reggio Emilia and Vicenza having significant Sikh population clusters. Italian Sikhs are generally involved in agriculture, agricultural processing, the manufacture of machine tools, and horticulture.
Johnson and Barrett (2004) estimate that the global Sikh population increases annually by 392,633 (1.7% per year, based on 2004 figures); this percentage includes births, deaths, and conversions. Primarily for socio-economic reasons, Indian Sikhs have the lowest adjusted growth rate of any major religious group in India, at 16.9 percent per decade (estimated from 1991 to 2001) and it have further declined to just 8.4 per cent in 2011 census report. Sikhs in the world have the lowest fertility rate of 1.6 children per women as per (2019–20) estimation research. The Sikh population has the lowest gender balance in India, with only 903 women per 1,000 men according to the 2011 Indian census. The estimated world's Sikh population was over 30 million in 2020, and it will reach 42 million by 2050. It is expected to increase up to 62 million by 2100, given that the anticipated growth rate of 1.7% per year and adding at least 400,000 followers annually.
Since Sikhism has never actively sought converts, Sikhs have remained a relatively homogeneous ethnic group. Caste may still be practiced by some Sikhs, despite Guru Nanak's calls for treating everyone equally in Sri Granth Sahib.[note 1].
Along with Guru Nanak, other Sikh gurus had also denounced the hierarchy of the caste system, however, they all belonged to the same caste, the Khatris. Most Sikhs belong to the Jat (Jatt), traditionally agrarian in occupation. Despite being very small in numbers, the Khatri and Arora (kshatriyas) castes also wield considerable influence within the Sikh community. Other common Sikh castes include Ahluwalias (brewers), Kambojs or Kambos (rural caste), Ramgarhias (artisans), Brahman (Priestly class), Rajputs (kshatriyas), Sainis (kshatriyas/agrarian), Rai Sikh (rural caste), Labanas (merchants), and Kumhars, as well as the two Dalit castes known in Sikh terminology as the Mazhabi and the Ravidasias.
Some Sikhs, especially those belonging to the landowning dominant castes, have not shed all their prejudices against the Dalits. While Dalits were allowed entry into the village gurdwaras, in some gurdwaras, they were not be permitted to cook or serve langar (communal meal). Therefore, wherever they could mobilize resources, the Sikh Dalits of Punjab have tried to construct their own gurdwara and other local level institutions in order to attain a certain degree of cultural autonomy. In 1953, Sikh leader and activist Master Tara Singh succeeded in persuading the Indian government to include Sikh castes of the converted untouchables in the list of scheduled castes. In the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, 20 of the 140 seats are reserved for low-caste Sikhs.
Other castes (over 1,000 members) include the Arain, Bhatra, Bairagi, Bania, Basith, Bawaria, Bazigar, Bhabra, Chamar, Chhimba (cotton farmers), Darzi, Dhobi, Gujar, Jhinwar, Kahar, Kalal, Kumhar, Lohar, Mahtam, Megh, Mirasi, Mochi, Nai, Ramgharia, Sansi, Sudh, Tarkhan and Kashyap
The 3HO organisation claims to have inspired a moderate growth in non-Indian adherents of Sikhism. In 1998, an estimated 7,800 3HO Sikhs, known colloquially as gora (ਗੋਰਾ, 'white') Sikhs, were mainly centred around Española, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California.
As Sikhs wear turbans and keep beards (among other physical similarities to Middle Eastern men), Sikh men in Western countries have been mistaken for Muslim, Arabic, and/or Afghan since the September 11 attacks and the Iraq War. Several days after the 9/11 attacks, Sikh-American gas station owner Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered in Arizona by a man who took Sodhi to be a member of al-Qaeda, marking the first recorded hate-crime in America motivated by 9/11. CNN would go on to suggest an increase in hate crimes against Sikh men in the US and the UK after the 9/11 attacks.
In an attempt to foster Sikh leaders in the Western world, youth initiatives by a number of organisations exist. The Sikh Youth Alliance of North America sponsors an annual Sikh Youth Symposium.
The Sikh diaspora has been most successful in the UK, and UK Sikhs have the highest percentage of home ownership (82%) of any religious community. UK Sikhs are the second-wealthiest religious group in the UK (after the Jewish community), with a median total household wealth of GB£229,000.
In May 2019, the UK government exempted "Kirpan" from the list of banned knives. The U.K. government passed an amendment by which Sikhs in the country would be allowed to carry kirpans and use them during religious and cultural functions. The bill was amended to ensure that it would not impact the right of the British Sikh community to possess and supply kirpans, or religious swords. Similarly, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund overturned a 1925 Oregon law banning the wearing of turbans by teachers and government officials in 2010.
Historically, most Indians have been farmers and 66 per cent of the Indian population are engaged in agriculture. Indian Sikhs are employed in agriculture to a lesser extent; India's 2001 census found 39 per cent of the working population of the Punjab employed in this sector. According to the Swedish political scientist Ishtiaq Ahmad, a factor in the success of the Indian green revolution was the "Sikh cultivator, often the Jat and Kamboj or Kamboh, whose courage, perseverance, spirit of enterprise and muscle prowess proved crucial." However, Indian physicist Vandana Shiva wrote that the green revolution made the "negative and destructive impacts of science (i.e. the green revolution) on nature and society" invisible, and was a catalyst for Punjabi Sikh and Hindu tensions despite a growth in material wealth.
Main article: List of Sikhs
Manmohan Singh is an Indian economist, academic, and politician who served as the 13th Prime Minister of India from 2004 to 2014. The first and only Sikh and non-Hindu in office, Singh was also the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to be re-elected after completing a full five-year term.
In the United States, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, was born and raised as a Sikh, but converted to Christianity after her marriage. She still actively attends both Sikh and Christian services.
Notable Sikhs in science include nuclear scientist Piara Singh Gill, who worked on the Manhattan Project; fibre-optics pioneer Narinder Singh Kapany; and physicist, science writer and broadcaster Simon Singh.
In business, the UK-based clothing retailers New Look and the Thai-based JASPAL were founded by Sikhs. India's largest pharmaceutical company, Ranbaxy Laboratories, is headed by Sikhs. Apollo Tyres is headed by Onkar Singh Kanwar. In Singapore, Kartar Singh Thakral expanded his family's trading business, Thakral Holdings, into assets totalling almost US$1.4 billion and is Singapore's 25th-richest person. Sikh Bob Singh Dhillon is the first Indo-Canadian billionaire. Mastercard CEO was a Sikh named Ajaypal Singh Banga.
In sports, Sikhs include England cricketer Monty Panesar; former 400-metre runner Milkha Singh; his son, professional golfer Jeev Milkha Singh; Indian wrestler and actor Dara Singh; former Indian hockey team captains Sandeep Singh, Ajitpal Singh and Balbir Singh Sr.; former Indian cricket captain Bishen Singh Bedi; Harbhajan Singh, India's most successful off spin cricket bowler; Yuvraj Singh, World Cup winning allrounder; Maninder Singh, World Cup winning off spinner; and Navjot Singh Sidhu, former Indian cricketer-turned-politician.
Sikhs in Bollywood, in the arts in general, include poet and lyricist Rajkavi Inderjeet Singh Tulsi; Gulzar; Jagjit Singh; Dharmendra; Sunny Deol; writer Khushwant Singh; actresses Neetu Singh, Simran Judge, Poonam Dhillon, Mahi Gill, Esha Deol, Parminder Nagra, Gul Panag, Mona Singh, Namrata Singh Gujral; and directors Gurinder Chadha and Parminder Gill.
Sikhs in Punjabi Music industry include Gurdas Maan, Diljit Dosanjh, Kuldeep Manak and Babu Singh Maan.
Main article: Sikhs in the British Indian Army
According to a 1994 estimate, Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus comprised 10 to 15% of all ranks in the Indian Army. The Indian government does not release religious or ethnic origins of a military personnel, but a 1991 report by Tim McGirk estimated that 20% of Indian Army officers were Sikhs. Together with the Gurkhas recruited from Nepal, the Maratha Light Infantry from Maharashtra and the Jat Regiment, the Sikhs are one of the few communities to have exclusive regiments in the Indian Army. The Sikh Regiment is one of the most-decorated regiments in the army, with 73 Battle Honours, 14 Victoria Crosses, 21 first-class Indian Orders of Merit (equivalent to the Victoria Cross), 15 Theatre Honours, 5 COAS Unit Citations, two Param Vir Chakras, 14 Maha Vir Chakras, 5 Kirti Chakras, 67 Vir Chakras, and 1,596 other awards. The highest-ranking general in the history of the Indian Air Force is a Punjabi Sikh, Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh. Plans by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence for a Sikh infantry regiment were scrapped in June 2007.
Sikhs supported the British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. By the beginning of World War I, Sikhs in the British Indian Army totaled over 100,000 (20 per cent of the force). Until 1945, fourteen Victoria Crosses (VC) were awarded to Sikhs, a per-capita regimental record. In 2002, the names of all Sikh VC and George Cross recipients were inscribed on the monument of the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill, next to Buckingham Palace. Chanan Singh Dhillon was instrumental in campaigning for the memorial.
During World War I, Sikh battalions fought in Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Gallipoli and France. Six battalions of the Sikh Regiment were raised during World War II, serving in the Second Battle of El Alamein, the Burma and Italian campaigns and in Iraq, receiving 27 battle honours. Around the world, Sikhs are commemorated in Commonwealth cemeteries.
The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement, which seeks to create a separate country called Khalistān ("The Land of the Khalsa") in the Punjab region of South Asia to serve as a homeland for Sikhs. The territorial definition of the proposed country Khalistan consists of both the Punjab, India, along with Punjab, Pakistan, and includes parts of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajasthan.
Khalistan movement began as an expatriate venture. In 1971, the first explicit call for Khalistan was made in an advertisement published in the New York Times by an expat (Jagjit Singh Chohan). By proclaiming the formation of Khalistan, he was able to collect millions of dollars from the Sikh diaspora. On 12 April 1980, he declared the formation of the "National Council of Khalistan", at Anandpur Sahib. He declared himself as the President of the council, and named Balbir Singh Sandhu as its Secretary General. In May 1980, Chohan traveled to London and announced the formation of Khalistan. A similar announcement was made by Balbir Singh Sandhu in Amritsar, where he began releasing stamps and currency of Khalistan. The inaction of the authorities in Amritsar and elsewhere was decried as a political stunt by the Congress(I) party of Indira Gandhi by the Akali Dal, headed by the Sikh leader Harchand Singh Longowal, .
The movement flourished in the Indian state of Punjab following Operation Blue Star. As proponents were able to generate funding from a grieving diaspora. In June 1985, Air India Flight 182 was bombed by Babbar Khalsa, a pro-Khalistani terrorist organization. In January 1986, the Golden Temple was occupied by militants belonging to All India Sikh Students Federation and Damdami Taksal. On 26 January 1986, a gathering known as the Sarbat Khalsa (a de facto parliament) passed a resolution (gurmattā) favouring the creation of Khalistan. Subsequently, a number of rebel militant groups in favour of Khalistan waged a major insurgency against the government of India. Indian security forces suppressed the insurgency in the early 1990s, but Sikh political groups such as the Khalsa Raj Party and SAD (A) continued to pursue an independent Khalistan through non-violent means. Pro-Khalistan organisations such as Dal Khalsa (International) are also active outside India, supported by a section of the Sikh diaspora.
In the 1990s, the insurgency abated, and the movement failed to reach its objective due to multiple reasons including a heavy police crackdown on separatists, divisions among the Sikhs and loss of support from the Sikh population. However, various pro-Khalistan groups, both political and militant, remain committed to the separatist movement. There are claims of funding from Sikhs outside India to attract young people into militant groups.
Sikh art and culture are nearly synonymous with that of Punjab, and Sikhs are easily recognised by their distinctive turban (Dastar). Punjab has been called India's melting pot, due to the confluence of invading cultures from the rivers from which the region gets its name. Sikh culture is therefore a synthesis of cultures. Sikhism has forged a unique architecture, which S. S. Bhatti described as "inspired by Guru Nanak's creative mysticism" and "is a mute harbinger of holistic humanism based on pragmatic spirituality". The American non-profit organization United Sikhs has fought to have Sikh included on the U.S. census as well, arguing that Sikhs "self-identify as an ethnic minority" and believe "that they are more than just a religion".
During the Mughal and Afghan persecution of the Sikhs during the 17th and 18th centuries, the latter were concerned with preserving their religion and gave little thought to art and culture. With the rise of Ranjit Singh and the Sikh Raj in Lahore and Delhi, there was a change in the landscape of art and culture in Punjab; Hindus and Sikhs could build decorated shrines without the fear of destruction or looting.
The Sikh Confederacy was the catalyst for a uniquely Sikh form of expression, with Ranjit Singh commissioning forts, palaces, bungas (residential places), and colleges in a Sikh style. Sikh architecture is characterised by gilded fluted domes, cupolas, kiosks, stone lanterns, ornate balusters, and square roofs. A pinnacle of Sikh style is Harmandir Sahib (also known as the Golden Temple) in Amritsar.
Sikh culture is influenced by militaristic motifs (with the Khanda the most obvious), and most Sikh artifacts—except for the relics of the Gurus—have a military theme. This theme is evident in the Sikh festivals of Hola Mohalla and Vaisakhi, which feature marching and displays of valor.
Although the art and culture of the Sikh diaspora have merged with that of other Indo-immigrant groups into categories like "British Asian", "Indo-Canadian" and "Desi-Culture", a minor cultural phenomenon that can be described as "political Sikh" has arisen. The art of diaspora Sikhs like Amarjeet Kaur Nandhra, and Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh (The Singh Twins) is influenced by their Sikhism and current affairs in Punjab.
Bhangra and Giddha are two forms of Punjabi folk dancing which have been adapted and pioneered by Sikhs. Punjabi Sikhs have championed these forms of expression worldwide, resulting in Sikh culture becoming linked to Bhangra (although "Bhangra is not a Sikh institution but a Punjabi one").
Sikh painting is a direct offshoot of the Kangra school of painting. In 1810, Ranjeet Singh (1780–1839) occupied Kangra Fort and appointed Sardar Desa Singh Majithia his governor of the Punjab hills. In 1813, the Sikh army occupied Guler State, and Raja Bhup Singh became a vassal of the Sikhs. With the Sikh kingdom of Lahore becoming the paramount power, some of the Pahari painters from Guler migrated to Lahore for the patronage of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and his Sardars.
The Sikh school adapted Kangra painting to Sikh needs and ideals. Its main subjects are the ten Sikh gurus and stories from Guru Nanak's Janamsakhis. The tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, left a deep impression on the followers of the new faith because of his courage and sacrifices. Hunting scenes and portraits are also common in Sikh painting.
From 2007 to present renowned Sikh painter Kanwar Singh (artofpunjab.com) has been creating exceptional paintings exclusively devoted to the Sikh religion and history for over ten years. His work is continually exhibited world-wide in prominent heritage sites such as the Virasat-e-Khalsa museum at Anandpur Sahib. A travelling art exhibition has been launched called, Journey of the Mind commencing its UK tour in the city of Birmingham before moving onto Bristol, Nottingham, Glasgow and London throughout 2022 and 2023.
There is an old Sikh shrine called 'Prachin Guru Nanak Math', which lies at a small hill, just next to Bishnumati bridge at Balaju. Guru Nanak is said to have visited Nepal during his third Udasi while returning from Mount Kailash in Tibet. Nanak is said to have stayed at Balaju and Thapathali in Kathmandu. The Nanal Math shrine at Balaju is managed by the Guru-Ji and the Udasin Akardha, a sect developed by Guru Nanak's son, Sri Chandra.
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The Sikh community grew rapidly in the sixteenth century. Nanak's earliest followers had been fellow Khatris engaged in petty trade, shopkeeping, or lower level civil service in the Lodi or Mughal bureaucracies. But as the movement grew, it experienced a significant influx of Jat cultivators.
No sooner was it made public than the Sikhs launched a virulent campaign against the Lahore Resolution. Pakistan was portrayed as a possible return to an unhappy past when Sikhs were persecuted and Muslims the persecutor. Public speeches by various Sikh political leaders on the subject of Pakistan invariably raised images of atrocities committed by Muslims on Sikhs and of the martyrdom of their gurus and heroes. Reactions to the Lahore Resolution were uniformly negative and Sikh leaders of all political persuasions made it clear that Pakistan would be 'wholeheartedly resisted'. The Shiromani Akali Dal, the party with a substantial following amongst the rural Sikhs, organized several well-attended conferences in Lahore to condemn the Muslim League. Master Tara Singh, leader of the Akali Dal, declared that his party would fight Pakistan 'tooth and nail'. Not be outdone, other Sikh political organizations, rival to the Akali Dal, namely the Central Khalsa Young Men Union and the moderate and loyalist Chief Khalsa Dewan, declared in equally strong language their unequivocal opposition to the Pakistan scheme.
On the same dates, Muslim League-led mobs fell with determination and full preparations on the helpless Hindus and Sikhs scattered in the villages of Multan, Rawalpindi, Campbellpur, Jhelum and Sargodha. The murderous mobs were well supplied with arms, such as daggers, swords, spears, and firearms. (A former civil servant mentioned in his autobiography that weapon supplies had been sent from NWFP and money was supplied by Delhi-based politicians.) They had bands of stabbers and their auxiliaries, who covered the assailant, ambushed the victim and if necessary disposed of his body. These bands were subsidized monetarily by the Muslim League, and cash payments were made to individual assassins based on the numbers of Hindus and Sikhs killed. There were also regular patrolling parties in jeeps that went about sniping and picking off any stray Hindu or Sikh. ... Thousands of non-combatants including women and children were killed or injured by mobs, supported by the All India Muslim League.
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The 18-month long Air India inquiry, led by former Supreme Court justice John Major, pointed to Parmar as the chief terrorist behind the bombing. A separate inquiry, carried out by former Ontario NDP premier and Liberal MP Bob Rae, also fingered Parmar as the architect of the 1985 bombing that left 329 people dead 268 of them Canadians.