I will not be slightly worried or reluctant to leave my wife and young daughter under protection of any Sikh soldier.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, founded in India under 500 years ago. Despite its relative youth it is the fifth largest religon in the world and has spread through diaspora to many countries across the world.
The religion has 10 Gurus which is actually the Hindi for teachers, who helped found and defend the faith. Guruship was something that could be passed down through succession but one tey also could be born and identified as gurus. It existed in a relatively peacful state thoughtout the lives of the first four gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Ram Das, until the Mughal Empire began to take notice and actively persecute it. From The fifth Guru onwards the religion put emphasis on defending oneself but also on spiritual ascertation and thus estabilished the duality between warrior and devotee. These were testing times when they were still such a small minority and they suffered many grevious losses and as such many of the Gurus are remembered as matyrs. After the passing of the tenth and final guru, also known as Guru Gobind Singh, the guru thereon became the Guru Granth Sahib also known as the Sikh holy book. This holy text not only contains the hyms and verses of the Gurus but of subsequent companions and other holy men.
Sikhs have a few tenets such as the 5 Ks: Kesh(uncut hair), Kachera(long underwear), Kanga(wooden comb), Karra(steel bangle) and Kirpan(dagger). All of these make up the indentity of a Sikh and are essential to their faith although these have created many troubles for the Sikhs such as a the right to carry a dagger. Still many Sikhs find ways to adapt as best they can such as by only carrying blunt kirpans, or kirpans that are permanently locked into a sheath.
The Sikh faith is one that rejects many of the Hindu practices such as sati, where the wife is burned along with a dead husband, as well as many unequal traditions such as the caste system. Sikhism is a belief that stresses that all are equal no matter what caste or religion and in fact they don't claim exclusivity on God, also known as Wahe Guru, nor do they claim their religion is the only true path. They teach their followers to live a pious life with a strong emphasis on respect towards others, particularly the family.
What they prohibit is again matters of inequality as well several self-indulgent and anti-social tendencies. As such they prohibit against superstition, adultry, avarice, slander and many such others. They cannot consume intoxicants or barbituates like alcohol and nor can they eat ritually killed meat.
Sikhism is unique in that it has its own fighting style which is known as Gatka. This martial art primarily relies on weapons but it practices with an array of blade weapons but it also includes other such tools like bows. The style is taught to be used in situations when one is facing a single or multiple opponents. It is noted as an asthetically pleasing art and so there are many show preformances with the art.
Sikhs give worship in a building known as a Guduwara which is always open to all including non-Sikhs provided they remove any foot wear and cover their heads. Within Guduwaras there is the langaar halls where free food is served out which is always vegetarian. Such duties are carried out by volanteers providing Seva, which is charitable acts. Seva is encouraged amongst Sikhs in order to help them become better individuals and give to the community.
Following this and the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Sikhs began to estabilish their own empire i.e. the Sikh empire. This followed with rapid expansion throughout India and it even pushed into Chinese borders. Of course the Sikh empire was tested by two wars with the British Empire also known as the Anglo-Sikh wars. Following their susequent defeat the British Empire realised that the Sikhs were a formidable fighting force which would greatly benefit their military and so they began recruiting Sikhs. This went in liue with their philosophy of the Martital Races theory, which proposed that certain tribes within India were more apt warriors and had noble attributes which placed them higher than other tribes. Along with the Sikhs, the Gurkhas of Nepal were included with this category.
With this the Sikhs began to make a disproportionate number within the Indian army which was successfuly used throught World Wars 1 and 2. Many Sikhs gained some of the highest military honours including the Victoria Cross and were held in high regard. What is known as one of the most famous battles in history was the Battle of Saragarhi where 21 Sikhs defended a fort from the onslought of thousands of Afghans. Despite the overwhelming odds the Sikhs held out for an extraordinary time and slew hundreds of Afghans while injuring many more thousands. Eventually the Afghans decided to burn the fort in order to kill the last of the defiant Sikhs.
Sikhs fought on all the major fronts on both the East and West in many roles such as the RAF and the infantry.
After the wars had ended and many acts of bravery the Sikhs returned to India under the same state of oppresion as before. And so the Sikhs began to make peaceful demonstations against the British Empire who they had so loyally served. In one such demonstration the British Empire under Brigadier General Reginald Dyer ordered the butchering of many unarmerd civilians in what is now known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, Punjab, the center of Sikhism.
One vengeful Sikh, Udham Singh, decided to assassinate Michael O'Dwyer, who was a key figure behind the massacre. Udham Singh traveled to England and concealed a gun within a book he was carrying and proceeded to shoot O'Dwyer and several other Lords around him. Singh was then surrounded by policemen but he willingly submitted and confessed to the crime as well as expressing offhand how he failed to kill some of the other Lords but cited that there were too many women around and that he might have been too slow. When asked for his name he proclaimed "Ram Mohammad Singh Azad" to show he was beyond religion, caste or creed. He also voiced his anger at the subjugation of the Indian peoples and stated that what he did was for justice. He was later hanged and his body withheld for a time. In India Udham singh became a matyr and a national symbol, known as Shahid Udham Singh. Eventually his ashes were taken back to his family back in the homeland Punjab.
During the partition of India many Sikhs felt that they deserved a homeland of their own which they would christen as Khalistan. However the British at the time were attempting to pull out of India as quickly as possible and did not take any full consideration of other minorities, even those that they once held in high regard, into account. This was a particular issue with Sikhs as Punjab, the region which contained their greatest numbers and was considered their home, was to be split into two. As such there began a massive wave of violence between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. There was rape and violence all about with Muslims moving to the new nation of Pakistan and Sikhs and Hindus going to a redrawn India.
But as is the history of the Sikhs they would face even more persection but this time by the Indian government. This occurred when Prime Minister Indira Ghandi ordered Operation Bluestar where the holiest site of the Sikhs in Amritsar, Punjab, known as the Golden Temple was attacked and hundreds died. The attack was to deal with civil unrest amongst the Sikhs who had requested that they be given a homeland to be named Khalistan. Indira Ghandi attacked the temple as she believed that Sikh militants resided there. After an attack by no less than their own government many Sikhs began to leave the Indian army. As a consequence of the masascre, Indira Ghandi was shot to death by her own two Sikh bodyguards. Both were in turn gunned down themselves moments after the assasination but they became held in high regards for carrying out retribution for the massacre at Amritar.
With the assasination of the Prime Minister there began what is known as the Anti-Sikh riots where anyone identified as Sikh was targeted by radical Hindus. During these troubling times the Sikhs found shelter by many non-Hindus. Such was the horrific scale of the riots that even in the modern day there is still outcry at the violence and humans rights abuses. The Sikhs have called for many inqueries into the massacre but have yet to have seen a truly satifactory and serious investigation into those past grievances.
As their history moved forward many Sikhs bagan to move to other counties such as the UK, Canada and the US. Here they worked to build lives from themselves like many other immigrant groups. There were hurdles such as the Bhagat Singh Thind who fought for the right to live as a US citizen despite the still racist nature of the country. Eventually he won the right on his third appeal to stay in American as Indians were characterised as Caucasian and thus "white". He later on to earn a PhD and became a spiritual writer.
Still many Sikhs face hurdles due to misidentifaction and ignorance towards them. Most of this has been due to the relgious right to cover their head which they have done so for hundred of years by wearing turbans. By wearing turbans they have found themeselves being falsely characterised as Muslim and discriminated against as well as having to obey proceedures which would mean them having to remove their turban. This has improved with the right to wear a turban instead of a motorcycle helmet and they have been allowed to wear their turbans in the US army as of March 2010.
The Sikhs still find themselves being overrepresented in the militaries as well as calls in the UK for a Sikh regiment. Many Sikhs have found themselves in occupations of all skill levels from engineers, doctors, lawyers. Also lower-skilled jobs such as cornershop owners or taxi drivers, particularly for those who newly immigrated without neccesary or recognised eductaion.