The Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469 in the village Talwandi, now called Nankana Sahib near Lahore (now in Pakistan).
Right from his childhood, his keen mind would not accept all of the groundless rituals, superstitions and dogmas which passed for religion in those days.
Guru Nanak and the nine Gurus who succeeded him, set a wonderful example of living spiritually, while yet taking an active and secular part in the world.
The Tenth and last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1699-1708) initiated the Sikh Baptism ceremony in 1699; and thus gave a distinctive identity to the Sikhs. The first Five Baptised Sikhs were named Panj Pyare (Five Beloved Ones), who in turn baptised the Guru on his request.
Shortly before passing away, the Guru ordained that Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Scripture would be the ultimate spiritual authority and eternal Guru; the temporal authority would be vested in the Khalsa Panth–The Sikh Commonwealth. Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Scripture was compiled and edited by the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan in 1604. This is the only scripture in the world which has been compiled by the founders of a faith during their own life times.
Guru Arjan also built the world famous Gurdwara, Darbar Sahib (also known as the Golden Temple), at Amritsar Sahib, the nucleus of Sikhism.
During the eighteenth century the Sikhs were subjected to various oppression and persecution by the authorities of the time motivated by communal fanaticism. Sikhs had to make supreme sacrifices to protect and preserve their faith and separate identity.
The Mughal Empire was on the verge of disintegration. The Afghans had started invading the country under Ahmed Shah Abdali. The Sikhs availed of this opportunity to establish their own kingdom which they ultimately achieved under Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839). The Sikh Empire lasted for half a century and was annexed by the English in 1849.
During the Indian freedom movement, a large number of Sikhs came close to death, faced all the brutalities, braved the bullets and suffered long term imprisonments in order to liberate the country.
Although Sikhs constitute only 1.7 percent of India’s population, they have made a name for themselves in almost all walks of life such as armed forces, agriculture, sports, industry, education, medicine and engineering through hard work and dedication. Their adventurist and enterprising nature has taken them to almost all countries in the world. Sikhism is now the world’s fifth largest religion.