A Sikh (/siːk, sɪk/; Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖ sikkh [sɪkkʰ]) is a person associated with the Sikh nation, sharing a common history, culture, language (Punjabi) and monotheistic religion. The term "Sikh" has its origin in the Sanskrit words शिष्य (śiṣya; disciple, student) or शिक्ष (śikṣa; instruction). A Sikh, according to Article I of the Sikh Rehat Maryada (the Sikh code of conduct), is "any human being who faithfully believes in One Immortal Being; ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh; Guru Granth Sahib; the teachings of the ten Gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru".
Many countries, such as the United Kingdom, recognize Sikhs as a separate ethnic race on their census. The American non-profit organization United Sikhs has fought to have Sikh included on the U.S. census as well, asserting that Sikhs "self-identify as an 'ethnic group' " and believe "that they are more than just a religion."
Male Sikhs have "Singh" (Lion), and female Sikhs have "Kaur" (princess) as their middle or last name. Sikhs who have undergone the khanḍe-kī-pahul (the Sikh initiation ceremony) may also be recognised by the five Ks: Kesh, uncut hair which is kept covered, usually by a turban; kara, an iron or steel bracelet; a kirpan, a sword tucked into a gatra strap or a kamal kasar belt; kachera, a cotton undergarment; and kanga, a small wooden comb. Initiated male and female Sikhs must cover their hair with a turban. The greater Punjab region is the historic homeland of the Sikhs, although significant communities exist around the world.
Guru Nanak (1469–1539), founder of Sikhism, was born to Mehta Kalu and Mata Tripta, in the village of Talwandi, now called Nankana Sahib, near Lahore. Guru Nanak was a religious leader and social reformer. However, Sikh political history may be said to begin with the death of the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev, in 1606. Religious practices were formalised by Guru Gobind Singh on 30 March 1699. Gobind Singh initiated five people from a variety of social backgrounds, known as the Panj Piare (the five beloved ones) to form the Khalsa, or collective body of initiated Sikhs. During the period of Mughal rule in India (1556–1707) several Sikh gurus were killed by the Mughals for opposing their persecution of minority religious communities including Sikhs. Sikhs subsequently militarized to oppose Mughal rule.
After defeating the Afghan, Mughal and Maratha invaders, the Misls were formed, under Sultan-ul-Quam Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. The confederacy was unified and transformed into the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh Bahadur, which was characterised by religious tolerance and pluralism, with Christians, Muslims and Hindus in positions of power. 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. Its secular administration implemented military, economic and governmental reforms.
After the annexation of the Sikh kingdom by the British, the latter recognized the martial qualities of the Sikhs and Punjabis in general and started recruiting from that area. During the 1857 Indian mutiny, the Sikhs stayed loyal to the British. This resulted in heavy recruiting from Punjab to the colonial army for the next 90 years of the British Raj. The distinct turban that differentiates a Sikh from other turban wearers is a relic of the rules of the British Indian Army..According to Mahmud, the British did not discover the Martial race of the Sikh, it was rather created by the British
The British colonial rule saw the emergence of many reform movements in India including Punjab. This included formation in 1873 and 1879 of the First and Second Singh Sabha 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 part of British colonial rule saw the emergence of the Akali movement or the Gurdwara Reform 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 Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
The months leading up to the partition of India in 1947 were marked by conflict in the Punjab between Sikhs and Muslims. This caused the religious migration of Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus from West Punjab, mirroring a similar religious migration of Punjabi Muslims from East Punjab. The 1960s saw growing animosity between Sikhs and Hindus in India, with the Sikhs demanding the creation of a Punjab state on a linguistic basis similar to other states in India. This was promised to Sikh leader Master Tara Singh by Jawaharlal Nehru, in return for Sikh political support during negotiations for Indian independence. Although the Sikhs obtained the Punjab, they lost Hindi-speaking areas to Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. Chandigarh was made a union territory and the capital of Haryana and Punjab on 1 November 1966.
Tensions arose again during the late 1970s, fueled by Sikh claims of discrimination and marginalisation by the Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress party and tactics adopted by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. According to Katherine Frank, Indira Gandhi's assumption of emergency powers in 1975 resulted in the weakening of the "legitimate and impartial machinery of government," and her increasing "paranoia" about opposing political groups led her to institute a "despotic policy of playing castes, religions and political groups against each other for political advantage." Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale articulated Sikh demands for justice, and this triggered violence in the Punjab. The prime minister's 1984 defeat of Bhindranwale led to an attack on the Golden Temple in Operation Blue Star and to her assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. Gandhi's assassination resulted in an explosion of violence against Sikh communities and the killing of thousands of Sikhs throughout India. Since 1984, relations between Sikhs and Hindus have moved toward a rapprochement aided by economic prosperity. However, a 2002 claim by the Hindu right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that "Sikhs are Hindus" disturbed Sikh sensibilities. The Khalistan movement campaigns for justice for the victims of the violence, and for the political and economic needs of the Punjab.
During the 1999 Vaisakhi, 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 300th anniversary of Vaisakhi. On April 9, 1999, Indian president K.R. Narayanan issued a stamp commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa.
One who calls himself 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 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 - 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, Pg 305
The five Ks (panj kakaar) are five articles of faith which all baptized Sikhs (Amritdhari Sikhs) are obliged to wear. The symbols represent the ideals of Sikhism: honesty, equality, fidelity, meditating on God and never bowing to tyranny. The five symbols are:
The Sikhs have a number of musical instruments: 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 was designed by Guru Hargobind, who supposedly heard a peacock singing and wanted to create an instrument mimicking its sounds (taus is the Persian word for peacock). 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.
Numbering about 27 million worldwide, Sikhs make up 0.39 percent of the world population; approximately 83 percent live in India. About 76 percent of all Sikhs live in the north Indian State of Punjab, where they form a majority (about two-thirds) of the population. Substantial communities of Sikhs live in the Indian states or union territories of Chandigarh where they form 13.11% of the population, Haryana (more than 1.2 million), Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.
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. The British Raj recruited Sikhs for the Indian Civil Service (particularly the British Indian Army), 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 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. Due to this, Canada is the country that has the highest number of Sikhs in proportion to the population in the world at 1.4% of Canada's total population.
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 "becom[ing] 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 percent 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). The Sikh population has the lowest gender balance in India, with only 903 women per 1,000 men according to the 2011 Indian census.
Guru Nanak in Sri Granth Sahib calls for treating everyone equally[note 1]. Other Sikh Gurus also denounced the hierarchy of the caste system. However they all came from just one caste, the Khatris. Despite that social stratification exists in the Sikh community.The majority of Sikhs belong to the Jat community.Other small but influential communities include the mercantile Khatri and Arora castes.Other Sikh castes include the artisan castes Ramgarhias, the Ahluwalias (formerly Kalals (brewers)), and the two Dalit castes, known in Sikh terminology as the Mazhabis and the Ramdasias.
According to Sunrinder S, Jodhka, the Sikh religion does not advocate discrimination against any caste or creed, however, in practice, Sikhs belonging to the landowning dominant castes have not shed all their prejudices against the dalit castes. While dalits would be allowed entry into the village gurudwaras they would not be permitted to cook or serve langar (Communal meal). Therefore, wherever they could mobilise resources, the Sikh dalits of Punjab have tried to construct their own gurudwara and other local level institutions in order to attain a certain degree of cultural autonomy. In 1953, Sikh leader, 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.,
According to a 1994 estimate, Punjabis (Sikhs and non-Sikhs) comprised 10 to 15 percent of all ranks in the Indian Army, although the state contained less than 3% of the country's population. The Indian government does not release religious or ethnic origins of the military personnel, but a 1991 report by Tim McGirk estimated that 20 percent of Indian Army officers were Sikhs. Apart from the Gurkhas recruited from Nepal, the Maratha Light Infantry from Maharashtra and the Jat Regiment, the Sikhs remain the one community 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, five COAS Unit Citations, two Param Vir Chakras, 14 Maha Vir Chakras, five 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.
Historically, most Indians have been farmers and 66 percent of the Indian population are engaged in agriculture. Indian Sikhs are employed in agriculture to a lesser extent; India's 2001 census found 39 percent of the working population of the Punjab employed in this sector. The success of the 1960s Green Revolution, in which India went from "famine to plenty, from humiliation to dignity", was based in the Punjab (which became known as "the breadbasket of India"). The Punjab is the wealthiest Indian state per capita, with the average Punjabi income three times the national average. The Green Revolution centred on Indian farmers adopting more intensive and mechanised agricultural methods, aided by the electrification of the Punjab, cooperative credit, consolidation of small holdings and the existing, British Raj-developed canal system. According to Swedish political scientist Ishtiaq Ahmad, a factor in the success of the Indian green revolution was the "Sikh 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 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.
Punjabi Sikhs are engaged in a number of professions which include science, engineering and medicine. Notable examples are 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. UK Sikhs have the highest percentage of home ownership (82 percent) of any religious community. UK Sikhs are the second-wealthiest (after the Jewish community) religious group in the UK, with a median total household wealth of £229,000. In Singapore Kartar Singh Thakral expanded his family's trading business, Thakral Holdings, into total assets of almost $1.4 billion and is Singapore's 25th-richest person. Sikh Bob Singh Dhillon is the first Indo-Canadian billionaire. The Sikh diaspora has been most successful in North America. Sikh intellectuals, sportsmen and artists include writer Khushwant Singh, England cricketer Monty Panesar, former 400m runner Milkha Singh, Indian wrestler and actor Dara Singh, former Indian hockey team captains Ajitpal Singh and Balbir Singh Sr., former Indian cricket captain Bishen Singh Bedi, Harbhajan Singh (India's most successful off spin cricket bowler), Navjot Singh Sidhu (former Indian cricketer turned politician). Bollywood actresses include Neetu Singh, Poonam Dhillon, Mahi Gill, Esha Deol, Parminder Nagra, Gul Panag, Mona Singh, Namrata Singh Gujral and director Gurinder Chadha, Parminder Gill .
Sikhs have migrated worldwide, with a variety of occupations. The Sikh Gurus preached ethnic and social harmony, and Sikhs comprise a number of ethnic groups. Those with over 1,000 members include the Ahluwalia, Arain, Arora, Bhatra, Bairagi, Bania, Basith, Bawaria, Bazigar, Bhabra, Chamar, Chhimba, Darzi, Dhobi, Gujar, Jatt, Jhinwar, Kahar, Kalal, Kamboj, Khatri, Kumhar, Labana, Lohar, Mahtam, Mazhabi, Megh, Mirasi, Mochi, Mohyal, Nai, Rajput, Ramgarhia, Saini, Sansi, Sudh, Tarkhan, Kashyap Rajput .
An order of Punjabi Sikhs, the Nihang or the Akalis, was formed during Ranjit Singh's time. Under their leader, Akali Phula Singh, they won many battles for the Sikh Confederacy during the early 19th century.
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 percent of the force). Until 1945 fourteen Victoria Crosses 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 and receiving 27 battle honours. Around the world, Sikhs are commemorated in Commonwealth cemeteries.
In the last two world wars 83,005 turban wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded fighting for the British Empire. During shell fire, they had no other head protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith.
British people are highly indebted and obliged to Sikhs for a long time. I know that within this century we needed their help twice [in two world wars] and they did help us very well. As a result of their timely help, we are today able to live with honour, dignity, and independence. In the war, they fought and died for us, wearing the turbans.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sikhs began to emigrate to East Africa, the Far East, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. In 1907 the Khalsa Diwan Society was established in Vancouver, and four years later the first gurdwara was established in London. In 1912 the first gurdwara in the United States was founded in Stockton, California.
Since Sikhs (like many Middle Eastern men) wear turbans and keep beards, some people in Western countries have mistaken Sikh men for Muslim or Arabic and Afghan men since the September 11 attacks and the Iraq War. Several days after the 9/11 attacks Sikh Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered by Frank Roque, who thought Sodhi was connected with al-Qaeda. CNN suggested an increase in hate crimes against Sikh men in the United States and the UK after the 9/11 attacks.
Since Sikhism has never actively sought converts, the Sikhs have remained a relatively homogeneous ethnic group. The Kundalini Yoga-based activities of Harbhajan Singh Yogi in his 3HO (Happy, Healthy, Holy) organisation claim 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) or ‘white’ Sikhs, were mainly centred around Española, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California. Sikhs and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund overturned a 1925 Oregon law banning the wearing of turbans by teachers and government officials.
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, a public-speaking and debate competition held in gurdwaras throughout the U.S. and Canada. There are a number of Sikh office holders in Canada. In the United States, the current U.S. 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.
The Khalistan movement is a Sikh nationalist movement, which seeks to create a separate country called Khalistān (Punjabi: ਖਾਲਿਸਤਾਨ, "The Land of the Pure") in the Punjab region of South Asia. The territorial definition of the proposed country ranges from the Punjab state of India to the greater Punjab region, including the neighbouring Indian states.
The Punjab region has been the traditional homeland for the Sikhs. Before its conquest by the British it had been ruled by the Sikhs for 82 years; the Sikh Misls ruled over the entire Punjab from 1767 to 1799, until their confederacy was unified into the Sikh Empire by Maharajah Ranjit Singh. However, the region also has a substantial number of Hindus and Muslims, and before 1947, the Sikhs formed the largest religious group only in the Ludhiana district of the British province. When the Muslim League demanded a separate country for Muslims via the Lahore Resolution of 1940, a section of Sikh leaders grew concerned that their community would be left without any homeland following the partition of India between the Hindus and the Muslims. They put forward the idea of Khalistan, envisaging it as a theocratic state covering a small part of the greater Punjab region.
After the partition was announced, the majority of the Sikhs migrated from the Pakistani province of Punjab to the Indian province of Punjab, which then included the parts of the present-day Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Following India's independence in 1947, the Punjabi Suba Movement led by the Akali Dal aimed at creation of a Punjabi-majority state (Suba) in the Punjab region of India in the 1950s. Concerned that creating a Punjabi-majority state would effectively mean creating a Sikh-majority state, the Indian government initially rejected the demand. After a series of protests, violent clampdowns on the Sikhs, and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Government finally agreed to partition the state, creating a new Sikh-majority Punjab state and splitting the rest of the region to the states of Himachal Pradesh, the new state Haryana. Subsequently, the Sikh leaders started demanding more autonomy for the states, alleging that the Central government was discriminating against Punjab. Although the Akali Dal explicitly opposed the demand for an independent Sikh country, the issues raised by it were used as a premise for the creation of a separate country by the proponents of Khalistan.
In 1971, the Khalistan proponent Jagjit Singh Chauhan travelled to the United States. He placed an advertisement in The New York Times proclaiming the formation of Khalistan and was able to collect millions of dollars from the Sikh diaspora. On 12 April 1980, he held a meeting with the Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi before declaring the formation of "National Council of Khalistan", at Anandpur Sahib. He declared himself as the President of the Council and Balbir Singh Sandhu as its Secretary General. In May 1980, Jagjit Singh Chauhan travelled to London and announced the formation of Khalistan. A similar announcement was made by Balbir Singh Sandhu, in Amritsar, who released stamps and currency of Khalistan. The inaction of the authorities in Amritsar and elsewhere was decried by Akali Dal headed by the Sikh leader Harchand Singh Longowal as a political stunt by the Congress(I) party of Indira Gandhi.
The Khalistan movement reached its zenith in the 1970s and 1980s, flourishing in the Indian state of Punjab, which has a Sikh-majority population and has been the traditional homeland of the Sikh religion. Various pro-Khalistan outfits have been involved in a separatist movement against the government of India ever since. There are claims of funding from Sikhs outside India to attract young people into these pro-Khalistan militant groups.
In the 1980s, some of the Khalistan proponents turned to militancy, resulting in counter-militancy operations by the Indian security forces. In one such operation, Operation Blue Star (June 1984), the Indian Army led by the Sikh General Kuldip Singh Brar forcibly entered the Harimandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) to overpower the armed militants and the militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The handling of the operation, damage to the Akal Takht (which is one of the five seats of temporal physical religious authority of the Sikhs) and loss of life on both sides, led to widespread criticism of the Indian Government. Many Sikhs strongly maintain that the attack resulted in the desecration of the holiest Sikh shrine. The Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards in retaliation. Following her death, thousands of Sikhs were massacred in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, termed as a genocide by the congress activists and mobs.
In January 1986, the Golden Temple was occupied by militants belonging to All India Sikh Students Federation and Damdami Taksal. On 26 January 1986, the gathering 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 November 2015, a Sarbat Khalsa, or congregation of the Sikh community was called in response to recent unrest in the Punjab region. The Sarbat Khalsa adopted 13 resolutions to strengthen Sikh institutions and traditions. The 12th resolution reaffirmed the resolutions adopted by the Sarbat Khalsa in 1986, including the declaration of the sovereign state of Khalistan.
Sikh art and culture are nearly synonymous with that of the Punjab, and Sikhs are easily recognised by their distinctive turban (Dastar). The 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".
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 the 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 which 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 the 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.
"Architectural Heritage of a Sikh State: Faridkot" by Subhash Parihar, Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2009, ISBN 978-81-7305-386-3