Dr. Dalvinder Singh Grewal*
Most of the Sikhs will be suprised to know that they number above 12 crores as can be seen from the following table.
Local: Punjab, Kashmir, Haryana, Delhi and Areas around it 2 crores
Sikligar: Maharashtra, Andhra, Karnatka, Madhya Pardesh, Punjab, Haryana, Gujrat, Rajasthan etc. 4 crores
Vanjaras: Maharashtra, M. Pardesh, Punjab, UP etc. 5 crores
Satnamias: Chatisgarh, Jharkhand, Bengal, Madhya Pardesh etc. 1 crores
Johari: Maharashtra etc. 20,000
Assami: 20 villages of Assam 20,000
Bihari: Kishanganj and Patna, Bihar etc. 20,000
Tharu: Bijnaour, UP 20,000
Lamas: Karmapa and Naingmapa tribes of Tibet origin 1 lac
Foreigners: Canada, United Kingdom, America, Austrailia, Thialand, Malyasia and Africa 10 lacs
Other tribes: Other religions 10 lacs
Sindhi: Maharashtra, Gujrat, Rajasthan etc 2 lacs
Total 12.24 crores
Out of these four crore are Sikligars, five crore Vanjara Sikhs and one crore Satnami Sikhs in India who are living below poverty line. These Sikhs are scattered in the states of Karnataka, Delhi, Himachal Pardesh, Andhra Pardesh, Orrissa, Bihar, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pardesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pardesh, West Bengal, Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand.
People from England and Scodand visited Punjab and Central India along with the representatives of Sikh institutions of Punjab. Following points have come before our attention:
1. In spite of being separated from the mainstream of Sikhism for long, Sikligars are in full. Sikhism form whereas Vanjara and Satnami Sikhs have lagged somewhat in this regard.
2. The poor Sikligars and Satnamis are devoid of any Gurdwaras or Gurmat literature but they are very eager to partake Amrit.
3. Far from cities, their forest setdements do not have any medical facilities or any educational institutions. In many places these Sikhs lac even potable water.
4. The chief occupation of Sikligars is making iron implements, which is hereditary. Sikhs living near cities are getting attracted towards other occupations. In far off settlements' these poor Sikhs are prone to hunger and lack suitable shelter.
5. Taking advantage of their poverty, other religions are active in converting them.
6. The Indian government has been putting these Sikhs under the category of nomadic scheduled tribes. Some time ago Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtara, Gopi Nath Mundeeven met the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee along with representatives of Vanjara Kranti Dal in this regard, for improvement in their lot.
A few articles have appeared about these poor Sikhs in periodicals and newspapers of Punjab but no individual or institution has paid attention so far. There is no place for propagation of Sikhism among Sikligar, Satnamis and Vanjara Sikhs in the budgets of our religious bodies.
It is sad that our own Panthik leaders and important people are either embroiled in dirty politics or are following the so called living gurus leaving the Shabad Guru. We have seen with our own eyes little children in pain and crying for want of food and medicines.
By looking at the figures in the table we can conclude that among the Sikh groups or tribes outside Punjab, the dominating number is of Vanjara, Satnami, and Sikligar Sikhs who took on the rulers of the day following the message of equality and liberty of the Gurus the cost of which they are paying even now. Suffering bad times and being shifted around here and there, these Sikhs have maintained the Sikh values and norms setting an example for other Sikhs. Ti won't be out of place to have a glimpse at their background.
The roots of Sikligars and Vanjaras go to Dhaj-Kodhaj - Karan - Kaishab. It is further divided into Chada and Thida. Chadas include Mota' (Lubanas) and Maula (Vanjaras) of these tribes associated tl1emselves with Rahaurs, Parmars and Chauhans. The warriors of these tribes played an important role in Sikh struggle and paid with their lives.
Numerically the Vanjara tribe is the most important, spread all over South India. Vanjaras are among those Sikhs who irrigated with the blood of whole of their families, the plant of Sikhism. They were so brave that men like Bachitar Singh turned away elephant by hitting his steel covered head with spear; so knowledgeable that after Bhai Gurdas, whatever interpretation of Gurubani has been don, it was by a Vanjara Sikh, Bhai Mani Singh, who got his pores cut for Sikhism.
Vanjaras like Makhan Shah sacrificed his wealth to search out the Guru and Lakhi Shah burnt his own house to cremate the body of Ninth Guru.
Guru Nanak came in contact with numerous Vanjaras during ht udasis. He composed rhymes addressing vanjaras, Janmsakhis record Bhai Mansukh as the first Vanjara Sikh who go associated with the Gurughar and inspired the emperor Shivnabh of Sri Lanka to embrace Sikhism and thus helped spread Sikhism out the boundaries of India. There was another Sikh of the Sixth Guru, Haridas Vanjara, the daroga of Gwalior fort. During Guru Hargobind's imprisonment Sikhs like Baba Buddha, Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Ballu, Bhai Parana and Bhai Kirtia would often come to him from Punjab. He would not only inform the Sixth Guru of all the news of the royal court but also provided all facilities. When Guruji was asked of his release from Gwalior, he explained his important role as follows; "One day Hardas Daroga came to me and said," When Emperor Jahangir sleeps in his place he sees dreadly faces and threatening shrieks resound in his mind asking him to release the 'Peer of Hind' whom he has incarcerated in Gwalior fort". (Guru Kian Sakhian, p 34) "Wazir Khan gave the Daroga his message to release the prisoners. After watching the message all those prisoners undergoing smaller sentences were released. 101 prisoners with longer sentences were left. I asked the Daroga, "What is written in the letter about remaining prisoners". He replied with folded hands. "Those who could not be released now could escape by holding the robe of the Guru". The Daroga was a Sikh of the Guru. I asked him to get a large sized robe stitched. By mooring, all the kings got freed holding onto Guru's robe. ( Guru kian Sakhian, P. 35 - 36)
Makhan Shjah was associated with Sikhism since the Sixth Guru. Bhat Vahis testify this "The cavalcade of Bhai Makhan Shah who was the Sikh of Guru, was going to Kashmr. The Satguru joined him there. After pilgrimage of Muttdn Matand along with Bhai Dasa and Bhai Aru Ram, he reached the place of Bhai Makhan Shah at Mota Tanda. Bhai Dasa, father of Bhai Makhan Shah breathed his last there."
The Seventh Guru stayed with him in Kashmir, this is mentioned in 'Guru Kian Sakhian' and 'Bhatt Vahi’ Guru Har Rai Jee the Seventh Guru, son of Baba Gurditta Jee arrived in Srinagar, in the year seventeen hundred seventeen, K.rishan Pakh, Pancharni of Jeth month. Makhan Shah, son of Bhai Dasa, grandson of Binai, maternal grandson of Baheru, sub caste Vanjara came to him.' (Guru Kian Sakhian, P. 40). The Guru stayed at the Tanda of Makhan Shah in Kashmir for four months. (Bhatt Vahi Talanda Pargana Jeend).
The account of Makhan Shah Vanjara declaring Guru The Bahadur Jee, the Guru is mentioned thus in Sakhis.
"On the festival of Diwali of 1721, people from far and wide came to seek blessings of the Guru. There was a big spectacle in the village of Bakala. Makhan Shah Banjara came with his people to seek blessings of the Guru. His ship was stuck in the whirlwind in the river near Tremu harbour. He pledged 100 coins and came to Bakala town. At ftrst he was led to the
house of Dheer Mal by the attendants of this fake. Makhan Shah gifted ftve coins. Dheer Mal saw him off after bestowing siropa on him. Makhan Shah came to the court of Guru Teg Bahaadur there after and gifted five coins. Guru Jee smiled and asked him what he had pledged. The Guru said, "Makhan Shah! Your wife has brought coins in a red bag with a green string. The bag is with your elder son who is standing behind you." At this his Chandu Lal bowed his head before him and his son gifted the bag. Makhan Shah came out and shouted thrice, "O mistaken Sangat! I have found the Guru." Guru Jee blessed him to be a true Sikh (Guru Kian Sakhian, P. 61 - 62).
Makhan Shah Banjara remained Guru's devoted Sikh and his son Kushal Singh attained martyrdom ftghting along with the Guru's forces in Lohgarh fort. More touching is the story of Lakhi Shah Banjara who brought in the body of Guru Teg Bahadur from Nakhas Chowk
stealthily and made his own home the cremation pyre. Nayak Bhgwant Singh did not care of his title of Panj Hazari given by Auranjzeb and made his house a safe haven for Sikhs.
The number of sacrifices made by this tribe to preserve Sikhism in unprecedented. Over 100 Vanjara Sikhs have been listed here as an example, but they number much more. From the list we find three brothers, Bhai Dayala boiled alive in Pot (tegh), Bhai Mani Singh was cut limb by limb, Bhai Jagat Singh was skinned alive and Bhai Marni Sings son Chitar Singh was tied with spokes. Their SLX other brothers also achieved martyrdom similarly while preserving Sikhism. Just as their grandfather Ballu sent his own brother Nanu and three sons Nathia, Dassa and
Suhela for martyrdom in the battles of Guru Gargobmd, Bhai Mani Singh also sacrificed all of his sons Chitar Singh, Bachirtar Singh, Udai Sing~, anik Singh, Ajab Singh, Ajaib Singh, Bhagwan Singh and Gurbaksh Singh, grandsons Keso Singh, Saina Singh, Sangram Singh, Ram Singh, Mehboob Singh, Fateh Singh, Albel Singh, Mehar Singh, Bahg Singh, Maha Singh Seetal Singh, uncles Nathia's sons Sangat Singh Bangeshwari, Ran Singh, Bhagwants Singh, Kaur Singh, Baj Singh, Sham Singh, Sukha Singh, Lal Singh, Nand Singh etc. Almost whole of the family of Bhai Mani Singh has entered the list of martyrs:
Besides these, martyrdom of 40 other Banjaras at Alowal near Multan on October 11, are recorded in Akbarat-e-Darbar-e-Mul1a, October 11, 1711, 10 Ramzan Hizri 1123, year Pancam Bahadurshahi. Sabbrah Khan Kotwal received orders that 40 Sikhs have been brought in the Kotwali from Multan. Ask them to accept Islam, otherwise kill them. The Emperor was told that they did not yield. An order was given that they be killed".
Some samples of their valour are given s follQws:- "On the orders of Guru, Bhai Mani Singh son of Mai Dass, grandson of Ballu, b~hitar Singh son of Mani Singh, Udai Singh son of Mani Singh... in the year 1757, month of ,Assu, on the fIrst Thursday at fort Lohgarh the bank of Charanganga river fought an intense batde. Bachitar Singh forced the elephant to withdraw and run away. Kesri Chand Jaswari was killed at the hands of Udai Singh. Mani Singh was grievously injured. Alam Singh, son of Daria and grandson of Moola, Sucah Singh son of Rai Singh, Kushal Singh, son of Makhan Shah were martyred. (Bhatt Vahi Talaunda, Pargana Jeend Khata Jalhanon Ka).
*Baj Singh - in the year 1765 month of Kartik on the day of Teej the tenth Guru nominated Banda Singh as the Jathedar of Panth and sent t.o Mada Desh in the Tanda of Bangesari. Five selected Sikhs Bhai Bhagwant Singh, Koir Singh, Baj Singh, Binod Singh and Kahan Sing as sent along with him (Guru Kian Sakhian P. 187) Banda Singh deputed the Majha group under Binod .Singh, Baj Singh, Kam Singh and Sham Singh. .. The rule of whole of Sarhind was given to Baj Singh whose third brother Sham Singh lived with him while the fourth one Koir Singh was in the deployment of Banda. In the tenure of Banda, Baj Singh earned a name unequalled. He was a distinguished warrior and acknowledged brave. His brothers were no less. That was why two of the posts were given to them and their writ ran among whole of the Dal. On reading whole account of Banda one can easily conclude that he did not commit any mistake by having faith on Baj Singh because till his last this brave man remained with him and attained martyrdom along with Banda in Delhi ( Karam Singh Historian, Banda Singh, P. 34-41). Bhatt Wahis have this record "Bhagwant Singh, Koir Singh, Baj Singh sons of Nathia and grandsons of Ballu Rai attained martyrdom along with Banda on the banks of Jamuna near the tomb of Bakhtyar Kaki, in the year 1773, month of Ashad at the dawn of the fIrst day (Bhatt Vahi Bhadson, Pagrana Thanesar).
According to the research done by Dr. Harbhajan Singh of Punjabi University, Patiala, the
Vanjara have 20,000 /tandas (Setdement) in India. Their population is 5 crores spread in 22 states of India but mainly in Madhya Pardesh (47 Lacs), maharashrta (62 Lacs), Andhra Pardesh (71 lacs), Karnataka (67 lacs), Uttar Pardesh (58 lacs, Orissa (33 lacs, Bihar (35 lacs) and Rajasthan (32 lacs. They name their setdement suffixing Tanda to the city, town' or village where they settle. The leader of the Tanda is called Nayak. They trace their origin to the Rathors, chauhans, Pawars and Tadavs and also call themselves Rajputs. Due to their large numbers in Maharashtra v.P. Nayak and Sudhakar Rao Nayak became chief ministers of the state. Though they did not announce themselves Sikhs but they brought in certain improvements in Tandas, Vanjaras were the leading transporters during Mugha period. They moved from Qabul to Agra, Agra to Patan, Hyderbad and Ahmedabad supplying cart loads. of weapons and food to the troops. Siie of their convoy consisted of large numbers of carts. Bhagwan Dass Nayak's caravan had 52, 000 oxen. Peter Mundi (1632) had recorded in o;avelogue, ''Vanjaras were moving in a caravan of 14,000 Oxen."
Due to their trading activity (Vanj) while roaming they were called Vanjaras. The English were also a trading class. Their rule affected them adversely. Leaving their wandering trade, they settled near cities and towns and started trading. However new trading practices caused tl1em great harm. This resulted in their change to agriculture. There too very failed. These days they are living in great penury. Christians tried to take advantage of their poverty but did not abdicate Sikhism. Their slogan still remains, “Jis ghar Nana puja us ghar horn a duja” (Where ever Guru Nanak worshipped, no other religion can enter there.)
Vanjara Sikhs suffix Singh to their names. Every Tanda has an Ardasia. If there is any quarrel within two groups when the Ardasia prays in the name of Guru Nanak, both groups leave the quarrel in between and go back to their homes. A boy cannot be married without tying a rupee in his turban in the name of Guru Nanak. This rupee is considered most precious and important in the marriage. The bride to be, wears choora (bangle) in the name of Guru Nanak. At the time of marriage the groom is banded on the arm with a hot needle in the name of Guru Nanak.
75 percent of Vanjaras have land but lack resources to yield. From the times of Guru Gobind Singh, Vanjaras keep nagaras (drums) in their Tandas. They were among the fIrst on the day of Vaisakhi of 1699 to have Amrit and become Sikhs. The name of Guru Nanak is stamped indelibly in their minds. They tell with pride how Lakhi Shah Vanjara cremated the body of Guru Teg Bahadur. This way they lay claiin on half of the Sikhi. During our Maharashtra visit, we went to a village Pachaur, There, they were about to construct a Gurdwara. Surprising fact came to the fore. Bhai Maan Singh of Talegaon had been married to the daughter of Manu Singh of Pachaur. Maan Singh was a good Sikh preacher. He began preparing the whole village to bapitize. To stat with, a plan was made to construct a Gurdwara fro which the villagers promised to gift land initially but declined later. Manu Singh had pledged to construct the Gurdwara. He declared, "if the villagers do not give the land for the Gurdwara he would demolish his own house to pave the way for it. He said, "if our ancestor Lakhi Shah Vanjara can burn his own house to cremate Guru's body why can't I demolish my own house?" The villages thought it to be a gimmick but Manu Singh after waiting for some days really started dismantling his house. When almost half of it was dismantled the villagers saw reason and gave the land for the Gurdwara. The kind of fervour that I saw there among the people assembled from nearby villages I did not find anywhere else. The joy was like that of a marriage and the servitude limitless. But unfortunately we haven't been able to send the promised money to them as assistance.
The arrival of Vanjaras in Andhra Pardesh is associated with the arrival of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's army. Most of the 1200 Sikh soldiers were Vanjaras whose families spread far and wide thereafter.
90 Percent Vanjaras are living below poverty line. There is a need to preserve and associate them with Gurughar.
Sikligars are a Sikh tribe numbering around 50 million, now settled in scattered settlements all over India. Found in strength in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnatka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana, they have remained a neglected tribe. The word Sikligar is derived from the Persian - saqi/sakli, lit., polishing, furnishing, making bright (a sword), the term saqlgar means a polisher of swords. Once their more common name was Gaddi-lohars; the term Sikligar was bestowed on them by Guru Gobind Singh who turned Lohgarh (the Iron fort at Anandpur Sahib) into the Sikh Armoury. He called upon his followers to bring weapons. Sikligars also contributed their mite. First of all came Bhai Veeru and provided the details of his brethren. The Guru asked him to exhibit weapons. He ordered Bhai Nand Singh and Bhai Chaupa Singh to check exhibited weapons. Guru Sahib too paid a visit to the exhibition. The weapons were extremely beautiful and shining brilliantly. These were so sharp that they would have severed the heads of elephants. The makers of these weapons themselves were such warriors that they could each fight alone with a lakh and quarter. Observing the shine of their weapons, the Guru himself named them 'Sikligar' and after observing d1eir valour bestowed them with the tide of his favourites. The swords, arrows and other weapons made by them were adopted enthusiastically by the Guru. A lohar by the name of Ram Chand, initiated as a Sikh by Guru Gobind Singh, became Ram Singh, the first Sikligar Sikh. Though not one of the Panj Piares he was with the Panj Piaras and Guru Gobind Singh fighting in the battle of Chamkaur and accompanied the Guru out of the fort during the night.
In medieval India, Sikligars were in great demand for manufacturing spears, swords, shields and arrows. What the world knows as Damascus steel, used in making some of the finest swords known to man, was manufactured by Indian lohars and shipped to Damascus as layered iron pellets. This type of steel was made of this type of steel, which in India was called watered steel as its surface reminds one of flowing water. Sikligars once specialized in the craft of making and polishing weapons are ironsmiths by professions; alternatively they were called Kamgar, Karinagar, Kuchband, Lohars, Panchal Saiqalgar, Saqqa, Siqligar and Siqligar Sikh.
Earlier, when Guru Hargobind felt the need of arms, he remembered the Marwari brothers. These were the same Marwari brothers whose chief Rana Partap was inspired by Baba Sri Chand, the son of Guru Nanak, to sacrifice his everything for religion. He fought the Mughals valiantly, losing the battle of arms but not of mind. They accepted the vagaries of forests, but not the servitude of Mughals as did most of the Rajas and Maharajas who even established marital relationships with them. They adopted the profession of arms manufacture, and took upon themselves to supply these to fight the Mughals. They first came in contact with Sikhi during the time of Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) who had, after the martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjan initiated d1e practice of arms and, statehood among Sikhs with his donning of Miri and Piri (his two swords which symbolized spiritual and worldly power). They seem to have been Rajputs of Mewar who came to the aid of Guru Hargobind who perceived the need for his Sikhs to begin to learn and master the martial arts to insure their growing community's survival.
On invitation from the Guru, they permanency got attached to the Gurughar as they found the Gurus as the harbingers of freedom and standing against any servitude. They not only manufactured arms for Gurughar but also fought batdes, attaining martyrdom. When Guruji sent Bhai Jetha and Bhai Bidhi Chand to look for artisans, Bhai Kehar Singh Rajput was the first one to offer his services. Men brought by him made weapons that were used by the Sixth and Tenth Gurus in all the batdes against Mugha.ls. In between, during the period of nonviolence their occupation was affected adversely. Some.of them returned to Marwar. The residents of Chittaurgarh did not behave well with their forlorn brothers and they returned. Marital relationships were formed within the tribes and tradition of exchange also began due to the need of the times.
If we consider the dedication and commitment to Sikhism, Sikligar tribe is among the first. Lacking any help from any quarter, and living in penury, they still remain in high spirits and maintain the Sikh value system to the core of their hearts. Bhai Ram Singh would clean the weapons with much dedication. Once he was cleaning a Tegh by putting it under his feet. A group of Sikhs chided him, "Why are you touching the sacred weapon with your feet?" They went away, saying this, but all Sikligars kept sitting with the weapons on their heads. When Guruji noticed this, he asked Ram Singh the reason for the strange act. As Ram Singh told of the comments passed against them, Guruji laughed and said, "Just as a sculptor makes a sculpture pressing it under his feet and making people to worship it, likewise you also clean the weapons with much dedication and honour. So you are excused from the ill effects. (Giani Gian Singh Twarikh Khalsa, Part 3, P. 931). The account of bravery of Ram Singh in the battle of Chamkaur before he attained martyrdom is described in Sttrqi Parkash, (part 8).
Bhai Badan Singh and Bhai Madan Singh gave company to the Tenth Guru till Nanded. After the Tenth Guru, this tribe got divided into small groups and started roaming about in towns and villages, manufacturing and selling their ware. Some served the royal houses. Later some of them came in the service of Maharaja Ala Singh and contributed a lot in getting thousands of Hindu men and women released from Abdali. When Maharaja of Nahan asked for weapons and weapon makers from Maharaja Ala Singh, the Sikligars, Mohan Singh, Madan Singh, and Tehal Singh, were sent. During the period of the Rani Aas Kaur, Misar Naudh revolted. Sikligars Kesar Singh, Mehtab Singh, Khem Singh, Gulab Singh, Margind Singh, Jawahar Singh, showed their mettle and won the battle. This earned them honour in the court but they were put to death treacherously by the Misar.
Also known as gaddilohars, they roamed about in small groups carrying their 'meagre possessions on specially designed carts (gaddi, in north Indian dialects) making and selling small articles such as knives, sickles, betel nut cutters, sieves, locks, buckets and toys which they often manufacture from waste metal. The influence of Sikhism is still clearly discernible in the dress and social customs of some of the Sikligars. The males, especially those of the older generation, wear their hair long. Their womenfolk wear salvar ~oose trousers) and kamiz. (shirt) like Punjabi women or lahinga (skirt) and choli (bodice) like Rajastl1ani women, but the use of dboti and Jan is rare. The newly born child is, on its fourth day, administered Amrit by five Sikhs; relatives and friends assemble in Sangat where karah prasad is distributed. A special share of karah prasad is sent to any member who keeps the Gttrtl Granth Sahib or any 'breviary of gurbam' at home.
Sikligar Sikhs of Central and South India have great faith in Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib at Nanded, which they visit regularly. On the annual Takht ishnan (lit. bath ceremony) at the Takht Sahib, it is the special privilege of Sikligar Sikhs to clean and oil the old weapons preserved there as sacred relics.
Some served the royal houses. Later some of them came in the service of Maharaja Ala Singh and contributed a lot in getting thousands of Hindu men and women released from Abdali. When Maharaja of Nahan asked for weapons and weapons makers from Maharaja Ala Singh, the Sikligars Mohan Singh, Madan Singh, and Tehal Singh were sent. During the period of the queen Aas Kaur Misar Naudh revolted. Sikligars Kesar Singh, Mehtab Singh, Khum Singh, Ghulab Singh, Margind Singh, Jawahar Singh showed their mettle and won the battle. This earned them honour in tl1e court but they were put to death treacherously by the Misar.
During Maharaja Ranjit Singh's time they started making guns and rifles also. These rifles were famous with names like Toredar, Kotti, Pata, Churidar and Sada. These were manufactured on a large scale in the workshops of Lahore. The British period hit them very hard. Ban was ordered against their weapon manufacture and they were declared a criminal tribe. For sustenance, d1ey started roaming on carts and started making small household implements; these did not earn them even their livelihood.
They are scattered in different parts of India now. In Punjab, they are in Ludhiana, Chamkaur Sahib and Baba Bakala (Basnie), Patiala, Sirhind, Gobindgarh, Ferozepur, Moga, etc. (LTdllie), and some are still gypsies (Uthnie) around Ablowal, Kamal, Panipat, Bachitar Nagar, etc. Outside Punjab they are in large numbers "in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
This writer has gone and seen their condition in different areas and found that they are living in utter penury and their profession has lagged behind the machine age. Their pride does not let them do service. On top of that, they are illiterate. They don't own land or homes. They do not get proper food and clothes. They eat whatever they earn, sometimes once a day and at the most twice. Traditionally held to be of a low caste (working with iron can make one appear very dirty) the gaddi-lohars have been given the social status of Dalit. The advent of modern weapons and industrial technology has hit the Sikligars hard economically. Engaged in the pursuit of an obsolete occupation, they are now a poor and backward people forming one of the scheduled castes as defined under the Indian Constitution.
Their poverty, however, has kept them beyond the attention of so called Sikh Sardars. Neither any Gurdwara Committee has paid any attention to them nor has any worthwhile Sikh organization tried to help them. Lacking any help join any quarter and living in penury, they still remain in high spirits with a positive outlook on life.
They don't have finances to construct Gurdwaras to keep them associated with Gttntghar. These Sikligars who partook amrit from the Tenth Guru have remained associated with Sikhism, tying turbans and keeping hair. They also abstain from intoxicants. They follow, to an extent, the Sikh norms but deprivation is driving them away ftom Sikhism. Many have started shearing their hair. Some have joined other faiths. If these are not attended to in time Sikhism would lose a big chunk of its numbers.
The main sources about Sikligars are - 'Mahan Kosh' by Bhai Kahn Singh, 'Sikligar Qabila’ by Sher Singh Sher, 'Sikligar Parsang' published by Buddha Dal, Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer's 'Guru De Sher, Kirpal Singh Kazak's 'Sikligar Kabile Da Sabryachar, Giani Garja Singh's 'Shaheed Bilas’ and ‘Guru Kian Sakhian’ the Sikligar Vanjara issue of Gurmat Parkash (December 2002).
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