Sikhism: Sikhism is based on the teachings of ten Gurus (teachers or learned ones), the first of whom was Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and the last, in a human form, was Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). Today, the Guru Granth Sahib is the current Guru. It is a book in verse compiled by Guru Arjun Dev (1563 - 1606) the fifth Guru, containing the writings of the preceding Sikh Gurus, and Farid, Kabir, Ram Das, Jaidev and Bhikham, all Hindu Saints and Muslim Fakirs, and given its final rendering by the tenth Guru.
From Hinduism came an acceptance of ideas of samsara - the cycle of rebirths and karma. However Sikhism is unequivocal in its belief in the oneness of God, rejecting idolatry and any worship of object of images. A collection of thoughts and teachings which formed the building blocks of a religion were established by Guru Nanak (1469 - 1539) in 1497. He believed that God. was one and could be reached by anyone. He empha¬sised three actions to understand God: meditating on God's name, giving charity, and bathing. He rejected the worship of the deity form of God.
Guru Nanak started his discourses, which ended up as a formidable and singular religion, which included the good beliefs of the two dominant religions in the region at that time, Hinduism and Islam. From Islam it adopted the belief in the existence of one invisible God, and from Hinduism it adopted the belief of reincarnation. He was of the view that man must have a vocation, and thus must work hard, and share his earnings with those less fortunate. To reach attainment, he did not have to go to the mountains to pray or do pennance, but could reach God by service to his fellow beings, living a life of love, devotion, prayers and good deeds.
The last Guru, guru Gobind Singh, defined Sikhism as a race and a religion with the ensuing moral code: That they should add "Singh" (lion) to their name and be baptized by taking "Amrit" (holy, or "communion" water). Further, he gave them a uniform consisting of five "Ks": (1) Kesh (uncut hair) to represent a complete natural person as made by God, thus showing non-attachment to vanity, (2) Kanga, a comb to keep the hair tidy, (3) Kachha (underpants) rather than the loose "dhoti" (a type of a sarong for males) worn by all at that time to signify an active person who had self-control and continence, (4) Kirpan (a short sword) to symbolize freedom from oppression, but useful for self defense or to defend the weak, and, (5) Kara (a steel bangle) to signify a strong and unbreakable link to the religion, together with continuity of life, without beginning, without end, and an awareness of immortality and of timelessness.
About 2% of India's population are Sikhs, and yet play an important role in the defense forces (with thirty percent of it made up by the Sikhs), agriculture and commerce.
Sardars (men following the Sikh religion) are often the butt of jokes within India that Sikhs are of low intelligence. (It is the writers opinion that no single group of people anywhere in the world are intellectually inferior or superior than the norm. Perception about such inferiority or superiority is often a reflection of education and exposure to norms of judgment, and not the innate level of intelligence).
Sardars are often ridiculed (though in a non-offensive way) that they become a bit more silly at 12 o’clock with a familiar statement: 'Sardarji Barah Baj gaye' (Respected Sardar it is 12 o'clock). Everyone, including the self-effacing Sardar, joins in the laugh.
Unbeknown to many, such a statement is neither a tease nor jest, but a call to help.
During 17th Century, when Hindustan was ruled by Mughals, all Hindus were humiliated and treated like animals. Mughals treated the Hindu women as there own property and were forcing all Hindus to accept Islam or face death. During this period, the Sikhs (Sikhism as a religion was not formed as yet) ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadar came forward in response to a request of some Hindus to fight against these cruel activities. Guru Teg Bahadar went to the Mughal emperor and told him that if he succeeded in converting him to Islam, he would ensure that all the Hindus would accept the same. But, if he failed, he should stop all these atrocities. The Mughal emperor agreed, but even after torturing Guru Teg Bahadar and his fellow members, the Emperor failed to convert the Guru to Islam and the Guru, along with his other four fellows, were tortured and killed (in Chandni Chowk, Delhi). It is perhaps unique in the annals of history that anyone laying down his life for the protection of another religion. His body was left where he had been killed for fear that the Muslims would retribute. Guru Teg Bahadar is still remembered as "Hind Ki Chaddar", shield of India. Based on this, the 10th (and last) Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (Son of Guru Teg Bahadar) founded the Khalsa (the Pure) and made a resolution that he would convert his followers to such human beings who would not be able to hide themselves and could be easily identified (see above).
As with any new religion, Sikhs were very few in numbers as they were fighting against the Mughal emperors. Emperor Nadir Shah raided Delhi in 1739 and looted Hindustan and was carrying lot of Hindustan treasures and nearly 2200 Hindu women along with him.
The news spread like a fire and was heard by Sardar Jassa Singh who was the Commander of the Sikh army at that time. He attacked Nadir Shah's Kafila (army) at midnight and rescued all the Hindu women and they were safely sent to their homes.
It didn't happen only once but thereafter whenever any Abdaalis or Iranis (Muslims) attacked and looted Hindustan and were trying to carry the treasures and Hindu women for selling them in Abdal markets, the Sikh army (although fewer in numbers) attacked them at 12 midnight, rescuing the women.
After that time when there was a need, people started to contact the Sikh army for their help and the Sikhs would attack the raiders at 12 midnight.
Today, Sikhs are joked upon that they go out of their senses at 12 o'clock. However, few realize that this is a cry for help, saying: 'Sardarji Barah Baj Gaye', meaning, Sardarji, my mother, sister, wife or daughter is in trouble and it is 12 o’clock! Its easy to joke on a Sardar, but it's difficult to be a Sardar .....