Lest We Forget Our Sikh Heroes | SIKH PHILOSOPHY NETWORK
  • Welcome to all New Sikh Philosophy Network Forums!
    Explore Sikh Sikhi Sikhism...
    Sign up Log in

Lest We Forget Our Sikh Heroes


Jun 1, 2004
With Memorial Day approaching for us here in the United States, one naturally thinks of the soldiers who gave their lives for the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted.
I, too, am reminded of them when I recall the military tradition of the Sikh people.
The Sikhs, identified by their turbans and long beards, are known as "Saint-Soldiers" and have a rich military tradition intertwined with spirituality, dating back more than 300 years.

Despite the fact that Sikhs have lived in the United States for more than a century, this American community remains one of the most misunderstood and relatively unknown minorities in the U.S.

The religion of Sikhism was founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak, who preached the oneness of God and brotherhood of all mankind. He was followed by nine other Gurus - "Teachers" - whose writings, together with writings of saints belonging to different religious traditions, were compiled by the Sikh Gurus into a grand volume called the Guru Granth Sahib. This is the sole spiritual guide of the Sikhs today.
Despite the peaceful beginnings, their history is a saga of persecutions, wars and holocausts. In order to survive as a race, they were forced to take up arms.

For instance, in the 18th century, the fanatical Mogul rule of northern India rained terror upon the Sikhs and tried to eliminate them in genocidal attacks. But through the bravery and high spirits that the Sikhs carried with them, they were able to survive the genocide attempts and establish their own secular state, Punjab, in northwest part of the subcontinent.

In the 19th century, when the British had taken over Punjab, the Sikhs eventually joined the British-Indian army in large numbers.

The valour of Sikh soldiers during the two world wars is also very well-documented and exemplified by Sir Winston Churchill when he wrote: "British people are highly indebted and obliged to Sikhs for a long time. I know that within this century, we needed their help twice and they did help us very well. As a result of their timely help, we are today able to live with honour, dignity, and independence. In the war, they fought and died for us, wearing the turbans."

Sikhs fought alongside the British in the battles of Ypres, Flanders, the Somme, Gallipoli, Africa, Palestine, Egypt and Mesopotamia - and throughout South-East Asia. Although steel helmets were offered to them for protection, Sikhs instead chose to keep up their religious practice and went to battle in their turbans.

Ultimately, just as the rest of the soldiers paid the ultimate price, so did the Sikhs: in the two World Wars, more than 83,000 Sikh soldiers were killed and more than 109,000 were wounded for the freedom of Europe and the rest of the world.

But unfortunately, the glorious past of the Sikhs has many times been overshadowed by cases of mistaken identity.

For instance, in World War II, the Germans mistook the Sikh POWs for Muslims and took them to Turkey to fight alongside their "fellow Mohammedans." (Eventually, the Sikhs were able to escape and rejoin the allies against the Germans.)

In the 1970s and 1980s, Sikhs in the U.S. were mistaken for Iranians and were assaulted.

Most recently, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Sikhs became targets of violence.
Several Sikhs in the U.S. were victims of unlawful airport strip searches, their places of prayer were attacked and many have even been beaten and/or killed, simply for practicing their religion.

In other cases, Sikhs have been denied the opportunity to serve in the armed forces, work for the police force or serve in other public arenas.

As the turban is an integral part of a Sikh and is fundamental to the practice of their religion, Sikhs wish only to serve in these forums without having to compromise this religious practice.

But sadly, the very turban that represented valour and freedom at times has become an object of suspicion. Nearly all of the people who wear turbans in the U.S. are Sikhs.
Despite the difficulties faced by Sikhs for more than 500 years, they remain forever optimistic. Their "never say die" attitude keeps the Sikhs' faith alive and well.

As a result, upon arriving in America, Sikhs have explored a wide array of occupations, from physician to lawyer to professor, in an effort to help better the communities in which they reside. This desire to advance and grow their community stems from the faith they have placed in the First Amendment, which allows them to fully practice their religion in the U.S. - the country they have chosen to call home.

So, this Memorial Day, when we gather with families and friends, let us remember all those war veterans who gave their lives for us all.

All Americans, from all backgrounds, need to come together and face the challenges of today and tomorrow and salute those who choose to put their lives on the line.

This privilege should be extended to the Sikh people, who throughout the history of the world have spilled their blood unflinchingly to protect civil liberties.

[Courtesy: The Journal Sentinel. Mohan Singh Dhariwal is a physician at the Medical College of Wisconsin.]



Jun 13, 2006
Aman, loving the images! Let's hope America (and the rest of the western world for that matter!) recognises Sikh sacrifices made for them.

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
Aman, loving the images! Let's hope America (and the rest of the western world for that matter!) recognises Sikh sacrifices made for them.
FORGET the REST jios..it applies equally to SIKHS...we should REMEMBER and RECOGNISE these sacrifices...but we are forgetting....
WHERE ARE the MEMORIALS..Guur nanak ji sahib in Prison of Babar, Sultanpur Lodhi.... Guru Arjun Ji Sahib...to the Sahibzadahs...waddeh and chhotteh..Baba Banda Singhs forts..Anandpur Sahib Forts, Chamkaur..Sirhind...Jassa Singhs Forts, battles, Chhotta Ghallughara, Wadda Ghallughara, 1984 Ghallughara..Saragarhi..battle of SABHRAON..Battle of MUDKEE..etc etc etc etc....
ALL of the ABOVE are on PUNJAB SOIL...BUT UNDERFROUND..and out of SIGHT..out of MIND !!!! Any still standing..are being ERODED...and CRUMBLING....slowly being Grabbed and taken over ny LAND MAFIAH...
Bhagat Singh Memeorial butts stand..Jallian wallah bagh stands...Where are the Butts of Kartar Singh SARABHA.the 17 years old shaheed.....UDHAM SINGH...Lachmann Singh of Nankanna sahib...those who died defendign the Gurdwaras..the Chali Muktas..the Singhnnian who had their children cut and palced around their necks...
There could be MORE BUTTS/MEMORIALS in PUNJAB than LIVING PERSONS..if we really put every shaheed on RECORD..thats HOW MANY shheeds we have...and have FORGOTTEN....and trodden into the DUST of history....SIGH...We PUNJABIS are the MOST ungrateful perople..the akirtghanns in History..we have such SHORT MEMORIES...no wonder we suffer so much indignity !!! we deserve it. no apologies.


Jun 13, 2006
Gyani ji, living in the UK and remembering a time when open racism was rife, I have made it a point to find information regarding the Sikh contribution to the essentially European wars that these people managed to drag the whole world into!! The world wars.

That actually was one of the key drivers behind me collating those images I have in the gallery on this site. Just to show the younger generation, that unlike the vast majority of movies you see on the subject (both past and present), men of colour were actively involved in the war effort. I know in the UK, if this is mentioned at all, it is usually in the form of some short footnote in school text books.

One pleasure I had was a nephew telling me - thanks uncle, no other teacher ever mentioned the ethnic contribution in the world wars to me in history classes. We must remember our past and present it in a form that the new generation can relate to! (This is more complicated than it sounds sometimes!)

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.

Shabad Vichaar by SPN'ers

ਗਉੜੀ ਮਹੱਲਾ ॥੫॥ Raag Gauri | Guru Granth Sahib 199

ਗਰੀਬਾ ਊਪਰਿ ਜਿ ਖਿੰਜੈ ਦਾੜੀ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਸ ਅਗਨਿ ਮਹਿ ਸਾੜੀ ॥੧॥ ਪੂਰਾ ਨਿਆਉ ਕਰੇ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ ਅਪੁਨੇ ਦਾਸ ਕਉ ਰਾਖਨਹਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

ਆਦਿ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਪਰਗਟੀ...

SPN on Facebook