|Flag Caption:||The Nishan Sahib, flag of the Sikhs|
|Population:||25,000,000 (25 million)|
|Regions:|| India19,215,730 |
|Scrips:||Guru Granth Sahib|
|Langs:||Spoken & written script of holy Guru Granth Sahib:|
Written language of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib: Gurmukhi
|Footnotes:||† Estimated figure as of 2004.|
‡ Indonesian law does not recognize Sikhism, thus Sikhs are not allowed to identify themselves as such on their identity cards or birth or marriage certificates, Sikhs are therefore registered as Hindu.
According to Article I of "Sikh Rehat Maryada" (the Sikh code of conduct & conventions) a Sikh is defined as "any human being who faithfully believes in One Immortal Being; ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Sri Guru Gobind Singh; the Sri Guru Granth Sahib; the utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru; and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion".
It is important to understand that all the symbols that make a fully baptized Sikh's appearance so distinctive are optional to "slow-adopter" Sikhs. These individuals believe in the principles of Sikhism and identify as Sikh but have not yet decided they are ready to make the commitment to become baptized. Some Sikhs may never make this decision in their lifetimes.
So while some slow-adopter Sikhs will indeed display some of the most overt signs, such as uncut hair (and consequently turbans for both sexes and beards on men), this is not necessarily the case.
The most common symbol of all Sikhs, because of its simplicity, is an iron/steel bracelet (ਕੱੜਾ), a physical reminder of devotion.
The greater Punjab region is the historic homeland of Sikhism. Most Sikhs are Punjabis and come from the Punjab region, although significant communities exist around the world. Punjabis and the Punjab region's history has been tremendously important in the formation of Sikhism as a religion.
Guru Nanak, the founder of the faith, summed up the basis of Sikh lifestyle in three requirements: Naam Japo, Kirat Karni and Wand kay Shako, which means meditate on the holy name (Waheguru), work diligently and honestly and share one's fruits.
The Sikhs revere Guru Granth Sahib as their supreme teacher, as it is a literal transcript of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. The tenth Guru appointed Guru Granth Sahib as his successor. Compiled by the Sikh Gurus, and maintained in its original form, Sikhs revere Guru Granth Sahib as their supreme guide. Non-Sikhs can partake fully in Sikh prayer meetings and social functions. Their daily prayers include the well being of all of mankind.
Sikhs are required not to renounce the world, and aspire to live a modest life. Seva (service) is an integral part of Sikh worship, very easily observed in the Gurdwara. Visitors of any religious or socio-economic background are welcomed, where langar, (food for all) is always served.
The Sikhs also revere Bhaktas or Saints belonging to different social backgrounds. The work of these Bhagats is collected in Guru Granth Sahib, and is known as Bhagat-Bani (sacred word of bhagat) as against work of Sikh Gurus being known as Gur-Bani (sacred word of guru).
People revered by Sikhs also include:
See main article: Khalsa and Sahajdhari. The Five Ks, or panj kakaar/kakke, are five articles of faith that all baptized Sikhs (Khalsa) are required to wear at all times, as commanded by the tenth Sikh Guru, who so ordered on the day of Baisakhi Amrit Sanskar in 1699. The symbols are worn for identification and representation of the ideals of Sikhism, such as honesty, equality, fidelity, meditating on God, and never bowing to tyranny. The five symbols are:-
See main article: Guru Granth Sahib and Takht (Sikhism). Before breathing his last, Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru bestowed Guruship to Guru Granth Sahib. He also conferred a similar status to the Khalsa Panth (collective wisdom of baptized Sikhs). Hence the authority now lies both on Guru Granth Sahib as well as on the collective wisdom of Khalsa Panth. Akal Takht in Amritsar is the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs and its Jathedar holds the highest position. He along with the Jathedars of other four takhats holds an authoritative position among Sikhs.
See main article: History of Sikhism. Essentially Sikh history, with respect to Sikhism as a distinct political body, can be said to have begun with the martyrdom of the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev in 1606. Sikh distinction was further enhanced by the establishment of the Khalsa (ਖਾਲਸਾ), by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. The evolution of Sikhism began with the emergence of Guru Nanak as a religious leader and a social reformer during the fifteenth century in Punjab. The religious practise was formalized by Guru Gobind Singh on March 30, 1699. The latter baptised five persons from different social backgrounds to form Khalsa. The first five, Pure Ones, then baptized Gobind Singh into the Khalsa fold. This gives the Sikhism, as an organized grouping, a religious history of around 400 years. Generally Sikhism has had amicable relations with other religions. However, during the Islamic conquest of India (1556–1707), prominent Sikh Gurus were martyred by the ruling Mughals for opposing the Mughal's persecution of non-Islamic religious communities. Subsequently, Sikhism militarized to oppose Islamic hegemony. The emergence of the Sikh Empire under reign of the Maharajah Ranjit Singh was characterized by religious tolerance and pluralism with Christians, Muslims and Hindus in positions of power. The establishment of the Sikh Empire is commonly considered the zenith of Sikhism at political level, during this time the Sikh Empire came to include Kashmir, Ladakh, and Peshawar. Hari Singh Nalwa, the Commander-in-chief of the Sikh army along the North West Frontier, took the boundary of the Sikh Empire to the very mouth of the Khyber Pass. The Empire's secular administration integrated innovative military, economic and governmental reforms.
The months leading up to the partition of India in 1947, saw heavy conflict in the Punjab between Sikh and Muslim, which saw the effective religious migration of Punjabi Sikhs from West Punjab which mirrored a similar religious migration of Punjabi Muslims in East Punjab.
The 1960s saw growing animosity and rioting between Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus in India, as the Punjabi Sikhs agitated for the creation of a Punjabi Sikh majority state, an undertaking which was promised to the Sikh leader Master Tara Singh by Nehru in return for Sikh political support during the negotiations for Indian Independence. Sikhs obtained the Sikh majority state of Punjab on November 1, 1966.
Communal tensions between Sikhs and Hindus arose again in the late 1970s, fueled by Sikh claims of discrimination and marginalization by the Hindu dominated Indian National Congress ruling party and the "dictatorial" tactics adopted the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Frank argues that Gandhi's assumption of emergency powers in 1975 resulted in the weakening of the "legitimate and impartial machinery of government" and her increasing "paranoia" of opposing political groups led her to instigate a "despotic policy of playing castes, religions and political groups against each other for political advantage". As a reaction against these actions came the emergence of the Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who vocalized Sikh sentiment for justice and advocated the creation of a Sikh homeland, Khalistan. This accelerated Punjab into a state of communal violence. Gandhi's 1984 action to defeat Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale led to desecration of the Golden Temple in Operation Bluestar and ultimately led to Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards.This resulted in an explosion of violence against the Sikh community in the Anti Sikh Riots which resulted in the massacre of thousands of Sikhs throughout India; Khushwant Singh described the actions as being a Sikh pogrom in which he "felt like a refugee in my country. In fact, I felt like a Jew in Nazi Germany". Since 1984, relations between Sikhs and Hindus have reached a rapprochement helped by growing economic prosperity; however in 2002 the claims of the popular right-wing Hindu organization the RSS, that "Sikhs are Hindus" angered Sikh sensibilities. Many Sikhs still are campaigning for justice for victims of the violence and the political and economic needs of the Punjab espoused in the Khalistan movement.
In 1996 the Special Rapporteur for the Commission on Human Rights on freedom of religion or belief, Abdelfattah Amor (Tunisia, 1993–2004), visited India in order to compose a report on religious discrimination. In 1997, Amor concluded, "it appears that the situation of the Sikhs in the religious field is satisfactory, but that difficulties are arising in the political (foreign interference, terrorism, etc.), economic (in particular with regard to sharing of water supplies) and even occupational fields. Information received from nongovernment (sic) sources indicates that discrimination does exist in certain sectors of the public administration; examples include the decline in the number of Sikhs in the police force and the absence of Sikhs in personal bodyguard units since the murder of Indira Gandhi".
See main article: Sikh diaspora. Numbering approximately 23 million worldwide, Sikhs make up 0.39% of the world population of which approximately 83% live in India. Of the Indian Sikh community 14.6 million, i.e. 76% of all Indian Sikhs, live in the northern Indian State of Punjab (India), where they form a majority 59.9% of the population. Substantial communities of Sikhs, i.e. greater than 200,000, live in the Indian States/Union territories of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttaranchal and Jammu and Kashmir.
Sikh migration from the then British India began in earnest from the 2nd half of the 19th century when the British had completed their annexation of the Punjab. The British Raj preferentially recruited Sikhs in the Indian Civil Service and, in particular, the British Indian Army, which led to migration of Sikhs to different parts of British India and the British Empire. During the era of the British Raj, semiskilled Sikh artisans were also transported from the Punjab to British East Africa to help in the building of railways. After World War II, Sikhs emigrated from both India and Pakistan, most going to the United Kingdom but many also headed for North America. Some of the Sikhs who had settled in eastern Africa were expelled by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 1972. Subsequently the main 'push' factor for Sikh migration has been economic with significant Sikh communities now being found in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Malaysia, East Africa, Australasia and Thailand.Whilst the rate of Sikh migration from the Punjab has remained high, traditional patterns of Sikh migration, that favored English speaking countries, particularly the United Kingdom has changed in the past decade due to factors such as stricter immigration procedures. Moliner (2006) states that as a consequence of the 'fact' that Sikh migration to the UK had "become virtually impossible since the late 1970s", Sikh migration patterns altered to continental Europe. Italy has now emerged as a fast growing area for Sikh migration, with Reggio Emilia and the Vicenza province being areas of significant Sikh population clusters. The Italian Sikhs are generally involved in areas of agriculture, agro-processing, machine tools and horticulture.
Due primarily to socio-economic reasons, Indian Sikhs have the lowest adjusted decadal growth rate of any major religious group in India, at 16.9% per decade (est. 1991–2001). Johnson and Barrett(2004) estimate that the global Sikh population increases annually by 392,633 Sikhs, i.e. by 1.7% p.a. on 2004 figures, this growth rate takes into account factors such as births, deaths and conversions.
Sikhs are represented in Indian politics, with the current Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and the Deputy Chairman of the Indian Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, both hailing from the community. The current Chief-minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, is a Sikh. Past Sikh politicians in India have included Dr. Gurdial Singh Dhillon, Speaker of the Parliament of India. Pratap Singh Kairon, Union minister, famous Sikh Indian independence movement leader and former Chief-minister of Punjab (India).
Prominent politicians of the Sikh Diaspora include the first Asian American to be elected as a full voting Member of United States Congress Dalip Singh Saund, the former mayoress of Dunedin Sukhi Turner, the current UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Parmjit Dhanda MP and the Canadian Shadow Social Development Minister Ruby Dhalla MP. Vic Dhillon, is a famous Sikh Canadian politician and current member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Sikhs make up 10–15% of all ranks in the Indian Army and 20% of its officers, whilst Sikhs only forming 1.87% of the Indian population, which makes them over 10 times more likely to be a soldier and officer in the Indian Army than the average Indian. The Sikh Regiment is the highest decorated regiment of the Indian Army, with 73 Battle Honours, 14 Victoria Crosses, 21 first class Indian Order of Merit (equivalent to the Victoria Cross), 15 Theatre Honours and 5 COAS Unit Citations besides 2 Param Vir Chakras, 14 Maha Vir Chakras, 5 Kirti Chakras, 67 Vir Chakras and 1596 other gallantry awards.The highest-ranking General in the history of the Indian Air Force is a Punjabi Sikh Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh. Advanced plans by the MOD to raise an Infantry UK Sikh Regiment were scrapped in June 2007 to the disappointment of the UK Sikh community and Prince Charles of Britain.
Historically, most Indians have been farmers and even today (two-thirds) 66% of Indians are farmers. Indian Sikhs are no different and have been predominately employed in the agro-business, India's 2001 census found that 39% of the working population of Punjab were employed in this sector (less than the Indian average). The success, in the 1960s, of the Green Revolution, in which India went from "famine to plenty, from humiliation to dignity", was based in the Sikh majority state of Punjab which became known as "the breadbasket of India".  The Sikh majority state of Punjab is also statistically the wealthiest (per capita) with the average Punjabi enjoying the highest income in India, 3 times the national Indian average. The Green Revolution centered upon Indian Punjabi Sikh farmers adapting their farming methods to more intensive and mechanized techniques; note this was aided by the electrification of Punjab, cooperative credit, consolidation of small holdings and the existing British Raj developed canal system. Swedish political scientist, Ishtiaq Ahmad, states that a factor in the success of the Indian green revolution transformation was the "Sikh peasant cultivator, often the Jat, whose courage, perseverance, spirit of enterprise and muscle prowess proved crucial". However not all aspects of the green revolution were beneficial, Indian physicist Vandana Shiva argues that the green revolution essentially rendered the "negative and destructive impacts of science [i.e. the green revolution] on nature and society" invisible; thus having been separated from their material and political roots in the science system, when new forms of scarcity and social conflict arose they were linked not to traditional causes but to other social systems e.g. religion. Hence Shiva argues that the green revolution was a catalyst for communal Punjabi Sikh and Hindu tensions; despite the growth in material affluence.
Punjabi Sikhs feature in varied professions such as scientists, engineers and doctors; notable Punjabi Sikhs include nuclear scientist Professor Piara Singh Gill who worked on the Manhattan project; optics scientist ("the father of fibre optics") Dr. Narinder Singh Kapany; physicist and science writer/broadcaster Simon Singh and agricultural scientist Professor Baldev Singh Dhillon.
In the sphere of business, the clothing retailers/brands of UK based New Look and Thai based JASPAL were started by Sikhs. India's largest pharmaceutical company Ranbaxy Laboratories is headed by Sikhs. UK Sikhs have the highest percentage of home ownership, at 82%, out of all UK religious communities. In Singapore, Kartar Singh Thakral has built up his family's trading business, Thakral Holdings/Corp, into a commercial concern with total assets of close to $1.4 billion. Thakral is Singapore's 25th richest person. Bob Singh Dhillon is the first Indo-Canadian billionaire and a Sikh.Perhaps no Sikh diaspora group has had as much success as those who have migrated to North America; especially the Sikhs who have migrated to California’s fertile Central Valley. The farming skills of the Sikhs and their willingness to work hard, ensured that they rose from humble migrant labourers to become landowners who control much of agriculture in California. Today American Sikh agriculturists such as Harbhajan Singh Samra and Didar Singh Bains dominate Californian agriculture and are known colloquially as the "Okra" and "Peach" kings respectively.
Prominent Sikh intellectuals, sportsmen and artists include the veteran writer Khushwant Singh, England cricketer Monty Panesar, former 400 m world record holder Milkha Singh, and Harbhajan Singh, India's most successful off spin Cricket bowler, actors Parminder Nagra, Namrata Singh Gujral, Archie Panjabi and director Gurinder Chadha.
The Sikhs have migrated to most parts of the world and their vocations are as varied as their appearances. The Sikh community of the Indian subcontinent comprises many diverse sets of peoples as the Sikh Gurus preached for ethnic and social harmony. These include different ethnic peoples, tribal and socio-economic groups. Main groupings (i.e. over 1,000 members) include: Arain, Arora, Bairagi, Bania, Basith, Bawaria, Bazigar, Bhabra, Brahman, Chamar, Chhimba, Darzi, Dhobi, Gujar, Jatt, Jhinwar, Kahar, Kamboj, Khatri, Kumhar, Labana, Lohar, Mahtam, Mazhabi, Megh, Mirasi, Mochi, Nai, Rajput, Ramgharia, Saini, Sarera, Sikligar, Sonar, Sudh, Tarkhan and Zargar. In India, the Jatt ethnic grouping is by far the largest at a population of 11,855,000 followed by the Mazhabi at 2,701,000 with the Tarkhans totaling 1,091,000.
There has also emerged a specialized group of Punjabi Sikhs calling themselves Akalis, which have existed since Maharaja Ranjit Singh's time. Under their leader General Akali Phula Singh, in the early 1800s, they won many battles for the Sikh Empire.
By the advent of World War I, Sikhs in the British Indian Army totaled over 100,000; i.e. 20% of the British Indian Army. In the years to 1945, 14 Victoria Crosses were awarded to the Sikhs, a per capita record given the size of the Sikh Regiments. In 2002, the names of all Sikh VC and George Cross winners were commemorated by being inscribed on the pavilion monument of the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill next to Buckingham palace, London. Lieutenant Colonel Chanan Singh Dhillon (rtd.), Punjabi Indian World War II hero & Veteran, and president of the ex-services league (Punjab & Chandigarh) was instrumental in campaigning for the memorials building.
During the First World War, Sikh battalions fought in Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Gallipoli and France. Six battalions of the Sikh Regiment were raised in the World War II, and served at El Alamein and in Burma, Italy and Iraq, winning 27 battle honours.Across the world Sikhs are commemorated in Commonwealth cemeteries.
See main article: Battle of Saragarhi. The Battle of Saragarhi is considered one of the greatest stories of collective bravery in human history. The contingent of twenty-one soldiers from the 36th Sikhs was led by Havildar Ishar Singh, and held off an Afghan attack of 10,000 men for several hours. All 21 Sikh soldiers chose to fight to the death instead of surrendering. In recognition of their supreme sacrifice, the British Parliament rose to pay them respect, and each one of them was awarded the Indian Order of Merit (equivalent to the Victoria Cross). The battle has been compared to the Battle of Thermopylae, where a small Greek force faced a large Persian army of Xerxes (480 BC).
Saragarhi Day, is a Sikh military commemoration day celebrated on 12 September every year annually to commemorate The Battle of Saragarhi. Sikh military personnel and Sikh non-military people commemorate the battle around the World every year on September 12th.
During the Indian Independence Struggle; Out of 2,175 Martyrs 1,557, (75 percent), were Sikhs, out of 2,646 Indians sent to Andamans for life imprisonment 2,147,(80 percent), were Sikhs, out of 127 Indians who were hanged 92, (80 percent), were Sikhs, out of 20,000 who joined the INA under Bose 12000, (60 percent), were Sikhs.
Due to the turbans Sikhs wear and the relative scarcity of Sikhs, there have been incidents of mistaking Sikhs in Western countries for Middle Eastern men and/or Muslims. This has negatively affected Sikhs living in the west especially with respect to the 9/11 terrorist attack and recent Iraq War conflict.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, some people associated Sikhs with terrorists or members of the Taliban. A few days after the attack Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man, was gunned down by a person who thought that the victim had ties to Al-Qaeda. CNN suggests that there has been an increase in hate-crimes against Sikh men in the United States and the UK. 
Sikhism as a faith has never actively sought converts, thus the Sikhs have remained a relatively homogeneous racial group. However, mainly due to the activities of Harbhajan Singh Yogi via his Kundalini Yoga focused 3HO (Happy, Healthy, Holy) Organization, Sikhism has witnessed a moderate growth in non-Indian adherents. In 1998 it was estimated that these 3HO Sikhs, known colloquially as ‘gora’ (ਗੋਰਾ) or ‘white’ Sikhs, totaled 7,800 and were mainly centered around Española, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California.
See main article: Sikh art and culture. Sikh art and culture is synonymous with that of the Punjab region. The Punjab itself has been called India’s melting pot, due to the confluence of invading cultures, such as Greek, Mughal and Persian, that mirrors the confluence of rivers from which the region gets its name. Thus Sikh culture is to a large extent informed by this synthesis of cultures.
Sikhism has forged a unique form of architecture which Bhatti describes as being "inspired by Guru Nanak’s creative mysticism" such that Sikh architecture "is a mute harbinger of holistic humanism based on pragmatic spirituality". The ‘key-note’ of Sikh architecture is the Gurdwara which is the personification of the "melting pot" of Punjabi cultures, showing both Islamic, Sufi and Hindu influences. The reign of the Sikh Empire was the single biggest catalyst in creating a uniquely Sikh form of expression, with Maharajah Ranjit Singh patronising the building of forts, palaces, bungas (residential places), colleges, etc that can be said to be of the Sikh Style. Characteristics of Sikh architecture are gilded fluted domes, cupolas, kiosks and stone lanterns with an ornate balustrade on square roofs. The "jewel in the crown" of the Sikh Style is the Harmindar Sahib.
Sikh culture is heavily influenced by militaristic motifs, with Khanda being the most obvious; thus it is no surprise that the majority of Sikh artifacts, independent of the relics of the Gurus, have a military theme. This motif is again evident in the Sikh festivals of Hola Mohalla and Vaisakhi which feature marching and practicing displays of valor respectively.
The art and culture of the Sikh diaspora has been merged with that of other Indo-immigrant groups into categories such as 'British Asian', 'Indo-Canadian' and 'Desi-Culture'; however there has emerged a niche cultural phenomenon that can be described as 'Political Sikh'. The art of prominent diaspora Sikhs such as Amarjeet Kaur Nandhra & Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh, is informed by their Sikhism and the current affairs of the Punjab.
Bhangra and the Gidha are two forms of indigenous Punjabi folk dancing that have been appropriated, adapted and pioneered by Punjabi Sikhs. The Punjabi Sikhs have championed these forms of expression all over the world, such that Sikh Culture has become inextricably linked to Bhangra, even though "Bhangra is not a Sikh institution but a Punjabi one."
. Khushwant Singh. 2006. The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. Oxford University Press. India. 0-19-567747-1. 15.
. Katherine Frank. Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi. Houghton Mifflin. January 7, 2002. 312–327. 039573097X.