Sikhism in India

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Indian Sikhs
ਭਾਰਤੀ ਸਿੱਖ
Amritsar Golden Temple 3.JPG
Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) or (Darbār Sahib), located in Amritsar, Punjab is one of the holiest shrines in Sikhism.
Total population
20.8 million[1]
(1.72% of India's population) (2011 Census)
Regions with significant populations
Majority in Punjab. Significant populations in Chandigarh · Haryana  · Himachal Pradesh · Delhi · Jammu & Kashmir · Rajasthan  · Uttarakhand
Primarily - Punjabi (Gurmukhi)
 • Secondary - Sindhi • Kashmiri • Bengali • English • Gujarati • Hindi • Haryanvi • Assamese • Marathi • Rajasthani

Sikhism is the fourth largest religion in India contributing 1.7% of the population and has existed since the late 15th century. The Sikhs are predominantly located in Punjab State, but are also present in many other parts of India. It is the fifth largest organised religion in the world after Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism, and the fourth largest in India with 25-30 million adherents worldwide.[2][3] These adherents were also known as Khalsa Sikhs.[4][5]


Sikh organizations, including the Chief Khalsa Dewan and Shiromani Akali Dal led by Master Tara Singh, strongly opposed the partition of India, viewing the possibility of the creation of Pakistan as inviting persecution.[6]

Prominent Sikhs in India[edit]

Though Sikhs are a minority in India, the community occupies a significant place in the country. The former Chief Justice of India, Jagdish Singh Khehar, and the former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh[7] are Sikh, as is former President of India Gyani Zail Singh. Almost every council of ministers in India has included Sikh representatives. Sikhs are also conspicuous in the Indian army, primarily because of their history as defenders of righteousness, they formed the sword arm of the British empire. The Late Indian officer with a 5 star rank, Arjan Singh, is a Sikh. Sikhs have also led the Indian army through JJ Singh and the Indian Air Force was led by Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh. Sikhs have been prominent in Indian sports, with the Indian individual gold medalist in Olympics, Abhinav Bindra, being a Sikh. Similarly they occupy important official positions, like Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia;[8] governor Surjit Singh Barnala. Sikhs are also known for entrepreneurial business in India. Milkha Singh, also known as The Flying Sikh, is a former Indian track and field sprinter who was introduced to the sport while serving in the Indian Army. One reason for visibility of Sikhs in the Indian spectrum is the disproportionate role played by the Sikh community during the Indian freedom struggle, with Bhagat Singh remaining a youth icon to Indian youth.[9]

Gurdwara Bangla Sahib

A Sikh place of worship is called Gurdwara.[10] The Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar in Punjab is a prominent Sikh Gurdwara. The Golden Temple represents the highest spiritual seat of Sikh Authority.

Guru Granth Sahib[edit]

Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and the first Sikh Guru. The last living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh passed the Guruship of the Sikhs to the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib, the last Guru of Sikhism (the sacred text of Sikhism). It also includes the writings of the some Sikh Gurus and the writings of Hindu and Muslims saints because all of these Bhagats and Bhatts shared the view of one universal creator God, they have experienced unison with almighty. Every human being is equal in front of Waheguru.

A Sikh man wearing a turban

Sikhism among various ethnic communities of India[edit]

Although the Indo-Aryan Sikhs form the majority of the Sikh population, the Sikh community is varied and includes people who speak the Pashto language, the Brahui language, the Telugu language, Marathi language, Assamese language, Hindi language, Sindhi language, Bengali language and many more. The many communities following Sikhism is detailed below. All of these communities belong to one single world of khalsa which count all as one.

Afghan Sikhs[edit]

The Sikhs of Afghanistan are primarily Punjabi merchants and immigrants.[11][12] They speak the Punjabi language within themselves but are usually fluent in Dari and occasionally Pashto as well.[13]

Bengali Sikhs[edit]

Sikhism in Bengal region dates back to 1504 but has declined after the partition.[14] Sikhism first emerged in Bengal when Guru Nanak visited Bengal in 1504 and established a number of Gurdwaras.[15] Gurdwara Nanak Shahi is the principal Sikh Gurdwara (prayer hall) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is located at the campus of the University of Dhaka and considered to be the biggest of the 7 Gurdwaras in the country. After the Partition of India, the Sikh community left for India.[15] After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation War, Indian Sikh soldiers helped renovate the Gurdwaras left in Bangladesh.[citation needed] Tegh Bahadur visited Dhaka. There is another Sikh temple known as the Gurudwara Sangat Tola. Many Sikhs also used to visit a well at the ruins of Jafarabad which they believed has waters with curative powers.[16]

There was a presence of Sikhism in Sylhet Division after Guru Nanak's visit in 1508. Kahn Singh Nabha has stated that in memory of Nanak's visit, Gurdwara Sahib Sylhet was established.[citation needed] This Gurdwara was visited twice by Tegh Bahadur and many hukamnamas were issued to this temple by Guru Gobind Singh. In 1897, the gurdwara fell down after the earthquake. Nearly all the Sikhs of Sylhet in the early 18th century were found in North Cachar where they used to work for the Assam Bengal Railway.[17] There are around 1 lakh Bengali people who follow Sikhism as their religion in both West Bengal and Bangladesh.[18]

Assamese Sikhs[edit]

The presence of Sikhism has been existing in Assam[19] for over 200 years. The community traces its origins to the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who took his army to Assam and put some influence of the religion towards the locals. According to the 2001 census, there were 22,519 Sikhs in Assam,[20] out of which 4,000 are Assamese Sikhs.[18]

Assamese Sikhs follow the Sikh religion and celebrate Sikh festivals as they also celebrate cultural festivals such as Magh Bihu and wear traditional Assamese dress. Their language is the Assamese language.[18][21]

Agrahari Sikhs[edit]

Agrahari Sikh is a Sikh community found in eastern India including state West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand. Agrahari Sikhs, also known as Bihari Sikhs, have existed for centuries in Bihar and Jharkhand.[22]

Bihari Sikhs share their culture with the local Bihari community. The men generally wear the local dhoti and women wear the Sari. They also celebrate Hindu festivals such as the Chath festival.[23]

Dakhni Sikhs[edit]

Dakhni Sikhs are from the Deccan Plateau in India located within the states of Telengana and Andhra Pradesh.[24] The traditional dress of women is the sari. The native language of Dakhni Sikhs is the Telugu language.[25]

Kashmiri Sikhs[edit]

Ethnic Kashmiri Sikhs speak the Kashmiri language and observe Kashmiri culture. They trace their religious heritage to the influence of Sikh soldiers who settled in Kashmir under the Maharaja Ranjit Singh rule in 1819. However, the soldiers permanently settled in Kashmir.[26]

Punjabi Sikhs[edit]

Punjabi Sikhs are the native Sikhs of undivided Punjab region who speaks the Punjabi language. Almost 96% of global's Sikh population are ethnic Punjabis.[27] Their traditional dress includes the Punjabi Salwar Suit, Punjabi Tamba and Kurta, Punjabi juti and Patiala salwar.

In addition to the Sikh festivals using the Nanakshahi calendar, Punjabi Sikhs observe traditional Punjabi festivals using the Punjabi calendar.

Sindhi Sikhs[edit]

In addition to celebrating Sikh festivals, Sindhi Sikhs celebrate cultural festivals such as Cheti Chand, the Sindhi new year. Sindhi Sikhs speak the Sindhi language. Most of the Sindhi Hindus are Nanak Panthis who believe in 10 Sikh Gurus and regularly go to guru dwara and most of the Marriage also takes place in Gurudwara.[28]

South Indian Sikhs[edit]

There are Sikh communities in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra who converted to Sikhism centuries ago.

The Sikhs comprise Banjara and Satnami. The process of blending the religion into southern India for the Sikligars began at the time of 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, who came to the Deccan and died in 1708 at Nanded (Maharashtra).

It all came by the Sikligars as they came to southern India as expert arms-making camp followers of the tenth Guru. Sikligar is a compound of the Persian words `saiqal` and `gar` meaning a polisher of metal.[24] The traditional occupation of the Sikligars is crafting kitchen implements.

Banjaras are a nomadic tribe who traditionally travelled with merchandise and are found across a large swathe of northern India, as well as in the south. Sikh Banjaras too travelled with armies of the past supplying them with provisions.[24]

Sikh population in India[edit]

Historical Sikh Population
1881 1,853,426+146.4%
1891 1,907,883+2.9%
1901 2,195,339+15.1%
1911 3,014,466+37.3%
1921 3,238,803+7.4%
1931 4,306,442+33.0%
1941 5,691,447+32.2%
1951 6,862,283+20.6%
1961 7,862,303+14.6%
1971 10,360,218+31.8%
1981 13,119,919+26.6%
1991 16,420,685+25.2%
2001 19,237,391+17.2%
2011 20,815,730+8.2%
Source: census of India[29][30][31]
Sikhs as percentage of total population in different districts of India (data from the 2011 Census).

India's Sikh population stands at 20.8 million, which is only 1.72% of the country's total population. Out of approximately 25-30 million Sikhs in the world, the majority of them, 20.8-22 million, live in India that is about (83.2%-84.1%) of the world's Sikh population.[32][33] Half a million Sikhs have made Canada their home, and even though they constitute just 1.4% of the total population, they have succeeded in punching above their weight in Canadian society and national politics.[34] Out of the total Sikhs in India, 77% are concentrated in state of Punjab. Sikhism is the dominant religion in Punjab, India, where it is followed by 16 million constituting 57.7% of the population, the only Indian state where Sikhism is the majority faith. By 2050, according to Pew research center based on growth rate of current Sikh population between (2001-2011), India will have 27,129,086 Sikhs by half-century which will more than that of any country including the west.[35]

Sikh population by states[edit]

Sikh Population across Indian states 2011
States Percentage (%) Population
Punjab 57.7% 16,004,754
New Delhi 3.4% 570,581
Chandigarh 13.11% 138,329
Haryana 4.91% 1,243,752
Uttrakhand 2.34% 236,340
Rajasthan 1.27% 872,930
Jammu and Kashmir 1.87% 234,848
Himachal Pradesh 1.16% 79,896
Uttar Pradesh 0.32% 643,500

Other states then Punjab, where Sikh population has some impact are U.T. of Chandigarh (13.11%), New Delhi (3.4%), Haryana (4.91%), Uttarakhand (2.34%), Rajasthan (1.27%), Jammu & Kashmir (1.87%) and Himachal Pradesh (1.16%).[36]

Nanakpanthi Sikhs[edit]

Guru Nanak dev ji along with his devotees

Nanakpanthis are considered to be anyone who follows Guru Nanak's teachings and regularly visit gurudwaras to pay homage to the Sikh gurus including the Guru Granth Sahib.[37]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Fauja, S., & Talib, Gurbachan Singh (1996). Guru Tegh Bahadur: Martyr and teacher. Patiala: Punjabi University.


  1. Reporter, B. S. (2015-08-26). "India's population at 1.21 billion; Hindus 79.8%, Muslims 14.2%". Business Standard India. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  2. "Viewpoint: Why Sikhs celebrate kindness". BBC News. 15 July 2021.
  3. "What is Sikhism? Breaking down an often-stereotyped religion". 18 May 2021.
  4. McLeod, William Hewat. 2019 [1998]. "Sikhism". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  5. "Sikhs in Wolverhampton celebrate 550 years of Guru Nanak". BBC News. November 12, 2019.
  6. Kudaisya, Gyanesh; Yong, Tan Tai (2004). The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia. Routledge. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-134-44048-1. 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.
  7. "India Swears In 13th Prime Minister and First Sikh in Job". The New York Times. 23 May 2004.
  8. "India's Most Influential". 15 August 2007. Archived from the original on May 2, 2008 – via
  9. (23 March 2015). "Bhagat Singh, a Sandhu Jat, was born in September 1907 to a Sikh family in Banga village, Jaranwala Tehsil in the Lyallpur district of the Punjab Province of British India (now in Pakistan)". Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  10. Star, Brian Leaf Rockford Register (15 August 2015). "Sikhs condemn fasting, visiting places of pilgrimage, superstitions, worship of the dead, idol worship and other blind rituals". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  11. Kahlon, Swarn Singh (2020-11-25). Sikhs in Continental Europe: From Norway to Greece and Russia to Portugal. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-000-29473-6. The Afghan Sikh population grew in 1947 as Sikhs [...] of the newly created Pakistan arrived
  12. Dupree, Louis (2014-07-14). Afghanistan. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-5891-0. Sikhs: Same as Hindu, mainly Punjabi or Lahnda
  13. Dupree, Louis (2014-07-14). Afghanistan. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-5891-0.
  14. "Prayers from Punjab". The Daily Star. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Nasrin Akhter (2012). "Sikhs, The". In Islam, Sirajul; Miah, Sajahan; Khanam, Mahfuza; Ahmed, Sabbir (eds.). Banglapedia: the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Online ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Banglapedia Trust, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 984-32-0576-6. OCLC 52727562. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  16. Allen, Basil Copleston (1912). Eastern Bengal District Gazetteers: Dacca. Allahabad: The Pioneer Press.
  17. B C Allen (1905). Assam District Gazetteers. 1: Cachar. Calcutta: Government of Assam.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 "The Sunday Tribune - Spectrum - Literature".
  19. "Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh".
  20. Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner (2001). "Census of India 2001: Population by religious communities". Government of India. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  21. "Though nearly 200 years in Assam, Sikhs say they are neglected". Deccan Herald. April 23, 2012.
  22. "Sikhs and Sikhism in Eastern and North-Eastern India". Institute of Sikh Studies.
  23. Calcutta Mosaic: Essays and Interviews on the Minority Communities of Calcutta : edited by Nilanjana Gupta, Himadri Banerjee, Sipra Mukherjee [1]
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 "Away from Punjab - the south Indian Sikhs". Zee News. October 18, 2011.
  25. The Tribune 28 10 2014 Birinder Pal Singh
  26. Raina, Mohini Qasba (October 28, 2013). Kashur The Kashmiri Speaking People. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 9781490701653 – via Google Books.
  27. "Punjabi language | Britannica".
  30. "Sikh-population-as-per-census".
  31. Puri, Harish K. (June–July 2003). "Scheduled Castes in Sikh Community: A Historical Perspective". Economic and Political Weekly. Economic and Political Weekly. 38 (26): 2693–2701. JSTOR 4413731.
  32. "Why Sikhism as registered religion in Austria matters - Times of India". The Times of India.
  33. "Sikhs and Hindus at the crossroads". The Times of India. 23 November 2019.
  34. https://www.s/ [dead link]
  35. Singh, Rupinder Mohan (January 28, 2016). "There could be more Sikhs in the future — maybe".
  36. "Sikh Population in India, Percentage of Sikhs in India".
  37. "Explained: Who are Nanak Naam Lewa, and why Kartarpur Corridor can't be limited to Sikhs". 10 November 2019.

External links[edit]

Template:Religion in India topics

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