The word ‘Sikh’ means disciple. Sikhs are disciples of the ten Sikh gurus. The majority of them live in Punjab, India. However, being enterprising, they can be found throughout the world. Sikhs number nearly 25 million worldwide, with over one million in the United States and Canada. In California, Sikh population is about 250,000, including 40,000 in the Sacramento Valley. They are only two percent of the Indian population, however, they have earned an excellent reputation in a number of occupations, such as the armed forces, farming, transportation, and business. They have their places of worship in more than 60 countries. At present, Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, is the Prime Minister of India.
History of the Sikh Religion:
Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion, was born in village Talwandi (now called Nankana Sahib), located near Lahore in Pakistan. The Sikh religion was developed over a period of two centuries, from the birth of Guru Nanak in 1469 to the death of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh guru, in 1708. Each guru took an active part in meeting worldly duties while leading an exemplary spiritual life.
Guru Gobind Singh gave a distinctive identity to the Sikhs as the Khalsa (the Pure Ones) by starting the Sikh baptism ceremony on Baisakhi day - April 13, 1699. This distinct identity is represented by the following five symbols, popularly known as five K’s:
• Kes (uncut hair)
• Kangha (a small wooden comb)
• Kara (a steel bracelet)
• Kachhehra (pair of shorts) and
• Kirpan (a small ceremonial sword).
Guru Gobind Singh led many battles against injustice and to preserve Sikhism. Before his death in 1708, Guru Gobind Singh declared that there would be no more living gurus. He also ordered that henceforth “Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptures, shall be the Guru of the Sikhs, and advised them to seek guidance (spiritual and temporal) from these scriptures.”
Within 100 years of the creation of the Khalsa, the Sikhs, under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, established a dominant kingdom in North Western India. The Sikh empire lasted for half a century and was annexed by the British in 1849.
Additional Links for Sikh History:- http://www.sikh-history.com/