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” (sovereign prince), 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.
The Samadhi of Emperor Ranjit Singh in Lahore, Pakistan
Metal helmet in a museum
A Sikh Khalsa Army sowar’s battle helmet
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.
Sikh armour and weapons
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