Sikhism in the World

1469 CE Birth of Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak, first teacher of what became the Sikh tradition was born in the village of Talwandi, forty miles from Lahore, in what today is Pakistan. After a Divine revelation he left his home accompanied by Mardana, a Muslim musician, to spread his message. He died in 1539.

1539 CE Succession of Guru Angad

Guru Nanak selected as his successor not one of his own two sons, but a devout disciple whom he named Angad, “My Limb.” 

1539 CE Sri Chand and the Udasis

One of Guru Nanak’s sons, Sri Chand, passed over for succession to Guru because of his ascetic bent, began a Sikh lineage called the Udasis, an order of ascetics.

1552 CE Guru Amar Das

The third Sikh Guru was a strong social organizer and social reformer. It is said that the Emperor Akbar came to visit him and was asked to sit and eat langar with others, high and low, before he met with the Guru. Amar Das established twenty-two manjis, “dioceses,” each under the supervision of designated spiritual leaders, some of whom were women.

1574 CE Guru Ram Das Founds Amritsar

The fourth Guru, Guru Ram Das, established the town of Ramdaspur, later known as Amritsar, in the Punjab. He had the “Lake of Nectar” or Amritsar dug at its center. This holy lake became a meeting place for the Sikhs. 

1581 CE Guru Arjan Builds the Darbar Sahib 

The fifth Guru completed the Darbar Sahib, the great gurdwara at Amritsar. It became popularly known as the “Golden Temple” because of its gilded dome. In 1604, the Adi Granth, compiled by Guru Arjan, was installed in the new gurdwara in 1604. Guru Arjan was martyred in 1606. 

1606 CE Guru Hargobind

Hargobind was only eleven when he succeeded his father as Guru. It was in his reign that the “two-sword” theory of Sikh leadership developed: one sword for the religious and one for temporal authority.

1606 CE Akal Takhat: The Throne of the Almighty

The temporal role of the Guru was symbolized by the seat called “The Throne of the Almighty” where decisions were made. The Sikhs established their own royal court, similar to the Mughal court of the time, with the Guru as the royal and spiritual head.

1644 CE Guru Har Rai 

Har Rai was the fourteen year old grandson of Hargobind when he became the seventh Guru. He is known for his support of the liberal Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh against his brother Aurangzeb.

1661 CE Guru Har Krishan 

Guru Har Rai passed over his elder son, Ram Rai, who had been sent to Aurangzeb’s court and, according to tradition, had waffled on the meaning of one of Guru Nanak’s hymns. Ram Rai became a pawn of the Mughal Aurangzeb in his challenges to the Sikhs. Har Rai’s five year old son succeeded to the Guruship, but died within a few years of small pox.

1664 CE Guru Tegh Bahadur

Tegh Bahadur had been Hargobind’s youngest son and now became the ninth Guru. In 1675 he was beheaded by Aurangzeb’s orders.

1675 CE Guru Gobind Singh

Gobind Singh became the tenth Guru at the age of nine and reigned for thirty-three years, during which time he had a profound unifying influence on the Sikh community. 

1699 CE Creation of the Khalsa 

Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, created the Khalsa, a new and militant Sikh order. All Sikhs were expected to join the Khalsa by a special initiation and to wear five symbols that identify them as Sikhs: a sword, a specific kind of undergarment, a hair-comb, a steel bracelet, and uncut hair. 

1708 CE Guruship Passes to the Guru Granth Sahib and the Khalsa Panth 

Guru Gobind Singh was attacked by assailants in 1708. He died within a few days, but first conferred succession to the Guruship of the Sikhs onto the scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, the final recension of which he had supervised. In addition, the Guruship was conferred upon the political body of the Khalsa.

1799 CE Ranjit Singh Rules in Punjab 

Ranjit Singh, a young and brilliant leader, gained power in Lahore and consolidated the twelve Sikh confederacies into one Sikh kingdom in the Punjab. He remained in control of a strong government and well-organized army until his death in 1839. 

1849 CE The Annexation of the Punjab 

After several wars (collectively known as the Anglo-Sikh Wars) and inter-Sikh rivalries, the Sikhs lost control of the Sikh kingdom and the Punjab was annexed to British India. 

1854 CE Baba Dayal and the Nirankaris 

Baba Dayal (1783 – 1854) founded a movement to restore the orthodoxy of the early Sikh community, not only relishing the words but heeding the true meaning of the Guru’s hymns. Their red flag signaled a new line of teachers beginning with Dayal. 

1884 CE Baba Ram Singh and the Namdharis

Ram Singh (1816 – 1884) was a social reformer bent on eliminating non-Sikh practices such as purdah, child marriage, and dowry from the Sikh community. He also fought vigorously against British control of India. His followers, the Namdharis, also held the belief that Guru Gobind Singh did not die in 1708, but continued to live, to assist his people, and eventually passed on the lineage of Guruship through Balak Singh to Ram Singh.

1892 CE Khalsa College in Amritsar

This college was the first effort to combine traditional Sikh education and Western education. A women’s college was established in 1968, and other academic institutions have been added to the Khalsa College Governing Council since.

1919 CE Amritsar Massacre

A protest gathering, including a large number of Sikhs, took place in the walled court of Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. The crowd was sprayed with rifle fire by order of British General Dyer and as many as 1,500 individuals died.

1920 CE Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee

The Supreme Gurdwara Management Committee (SGPC) was created by the Sikh authorities in Amritsar to manage all gurdwaras. This period also saw the beginnings of the Akali Dal, which became a Sikh political party and guardian of Sikh interests.

1921 CE Nankana Massacre

The local mahant, or leader, of the Nankana gurdwara, feared losing control of the gurdwara to the SGPC and Akali leaders. The mahant, accused of being corrupt and licentious, was in danger of being removed from his position, and when a group of Akali Sikh visitors came to the temple on February 20th, 1921, the mahant ordered his guards to open fire on them. After news of the massacre spread, the local government conceded that the Akali leaders would have control of the gurdwara, but tensions between the government and the Sikh community continued. 

1925 CE Sikh Gurdwaras Act

This act of the British colonial government, through the Punjab legislative council, approved the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. It placed gurdwaras under the auspices of the SPGC and other local specified authorities.

1947 CE India Is Divided

Millions of Sikhs were displaced with the partition of India into India and Pakistan. The line of division sliced through the Punjab. Among the most painful losses for the Sikhs were the gurdwaras left behind, which included Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak. Thousands of Punjabis were killed, fleeing in both directions.

1950 CE Sikhs and the Indian Constitution

The Akali Dal, the main Sikh political party, did not sign the new Indian constitution. They argued that the distinctiveness of the Sikh tradition was not recognized and the demand for a Punjabi-speaking state was not included. 

1966 CE Punjab a Sikh Majority State

The Indian Parliament and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi accepted the demand for a Sikh majority state in the Punjab. The old Punjab was divided into Punjab and Haryana. Tension continued over the newly built capital of the former Punjab, the city of Chandigarh designed by Le Corbusier, which continues to function as a union territory and the capital of both Punjab and Haryana.

1973 CE Anandpur Sahib Resolution 

This resolution, adopted by the Akali Dal, seeks greater autonomy for the Punjab, but firmly renounces a separatist stance.

1984 CE Indian Army Attacks the “Golden Temple”

Political unrest in the Punjab in the 1970s and 1980s led to militarization of many Sikhs. In 1984, on the pretext of flushing out separatists, the Indian Army attacked the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs. This assault, code-named Operation Bluestar, was carried out on the martyrdom anniversary of the fifth Guru Arjan, who constructed the Golden Temple. In addition, the Indian Army attacked thirty-eight shrines across northern India, with thousands of Sikh pilgrims losing their lives. According to a Human Rights Watch report from September 1994, “Indian government forces were guilty of outrageous violations of fundamental human rights – deliberately attacking the temple at a time they knew thousands of religious pilgrims were inside, not offering an opportunity for surrender, and summarily executing those captured.”

1984 CE Indira Gandhi Assassinated

A few months after the attack at the Darbar Sahib, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed by two of her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for ordering the attack. Her assassination was followed by the massacre of several thousand Sikhs in Delhi and other cities of India.

1993 CE Sikhs Meet at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago

Over twenty-five Sikhs from around the world were invited by the Sikh Host Committee to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. During the Parliament, many of these individuals met and resolved to establish a Sikh Organization for Peace, Understanding, and Religious Education.

2004 First Annual Sikh Film Festival Held at Hofstra University

SONY, conjunction with the International Punjabi Society and Hofstra University, hosted the first annual Sikh Film Festival, featuring films “focused on Sikh issues and culture” and providing “a forum for independent directors and artists to screen and discuss their work.” The success of the festival led to the creation of the Sikh Art & Film Foundation in 2006.

2010 U.S. President Bypasses Golden Temple, Generates Criticism 

Just before his trip to India in November 2010, news broke that U.S. President Barack Obama’s itinerary would not include a stop at the Golden Temple in Amritsar as previously planned. The President, then mired in accusations at home that he might be Muslim, declined to cover his head as is required within the Sikh tradition when entering a holy place, irking many who felt such a move further promoted ignorance about and intolerance of both Sikhs and Muslims.

2013 Sikhs Petition American President

Over 30,000 Sikhs petitioned American President Barack Obama to recognize human rights abuses against Sikhs in India.