SIKH, a religious sect in the Panjab, followers of Nanak. They are principally of the Jat race, and under Ranjit Singh obtained sovereignty over the Panjab. Their numbers are estimated at 1,853,426. The first converts were amongst the Jat peasants of Lahore and the southern banks of the Sutlej river, and the Jat of the Manjha and Malwa districts are mostly of this persuasion. The Sikhs in the time of the guru Govind assumed the title of Singh as their distinctive appellation, meaning, metaphorically, a champion warrior. The Sikhs should abstain from the use of tobacco and all intoxicating drugs, but they all drink heavily, the nailitary life which the most of them adopted not being conducive to moral purity. The Aka were the zealots of the Sikh religion, soldiers of God. They wore blue dresses and bracelets of steel, and claimed for themselves a direct institution by Govind Singh. They combined warlike activity with the relin quishment of the world, became the armed guardians of Amritsar, but in a frenzy of zeal would win their daily bread at the point of the sword. It cost Ranjit Singh both time and trouble to suppress them. So strong is the feel ing that a Sikh should work, or have an occupation, that one who abandons the world, and is not of a warlike turn, will still employ himself in some way for the benefit of the community. Thus, Major Cunningham once found an Akali repair ing, or rather making, a road among precipitous ravines, from the plain of the Sutlej to the petty town of Keeritpur. He avoided intercourse with the world generally. He was highly esteemed by the people, who left food and clothing at particular places for him. The Sikh take their name from the Hindi word Sikhna, to learn, Sikh meaning a disciple. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Nanak and Govind, of the Khatri race, with their succeeding gurus, obtained a few converts to their religious views among the Jat peasants of Lahore and the southern banks of the Sutlej.
Towards the close of the 18th century, they grew to be a great dorninant nation, with an influence which extended from the Kara-korurn mountains to the plains of Sind, and from Peshawur to Dehli. Their dominions were included between lat. 28° and 36° N., and long. 71° and 77° E. This tract consists of broad plains, slightly above the sea level, or mountain ranges 2 or 3 miles high. In the former Sikh territory, all were not of the Sikh religion. The people and dependent rulers of Ladakh profess Lamaic Buddhism, but the Tibetans of Iskardo, the Dardu of Gilgit and Kukka and Bimba of the rugged mountains, are Mubam madams of the Shiah sect. The people of Kash
mir, Kishtwar, Bhimbur, Pukli, and of the hills south and west to the Salt Rauge and the Indus, are mostly Sunni Muhammadans, as are likewise the tribes of Peshawur, and of the valley of the Indus southwards, also the inhabitants of Multan, and of the plains northward as far as Pind-dadun khan, Chuneeot, and Depalpur. The people of the Himalaya eastward of Kishtwar and Bhimbur are Hindus of the Brahmanical faith, with some Buddhist colonies to the north, and some Muham madan fa,milies to the south-west. The Jat of the Manjha and of the Malwa districts, in the Panjab territory, are mostly Sikh; but perhaps not one-third of the whole population between the Jhelum and Jumna has, as yet, embraced the tenets of Nanak and Govind, the other two-thirds being still equally divided between Muhammad anism and Brahmanism. Most of the modern Sikh in no way separate from their tribes, and are known as Jat or Khatri or Brahman Sikh, one member of a family being frequently a Singh, while others are not. The written character in use with them is called Gurumuklii. It is the Devanagari in form, but with different powers to the letters. The Sikh religion forbids them to smoke tobacco. They have, however, no objection to other narcotics ; opium and bhang and snuff taking are not so common. Smoking was first prohibited by the tenth guru, Govind Singh, ,whose chief objection to it appears to have been that the habit was promotive of idleness, as people would sit smokin,g and do nothing. The Sikh owes his excellence as a soldier to his own hardi hood of character, to that spirit of ada.ptation which distinguishes every new people, and to that feeling of a common interest and destiny im planted in him by his great teachers. The early force of the Sikhs was composed of horsemen, but they seem intuitively to have. adopted the new and formidable matchlock of recent times, instead of their ancestral bow and the spear common to every nation. Mr. Foster noticed this peculiarity in 1783, and the advantage it gave in desultory warfare. In 1805, Sir John Malcolm did not think the Sikh was better mounted than the Mahratta ; but in 1810, Sir David Ochterlony considered that, in the confidence of untried strength, his great native courage would show him more formidable than a follower of Sindia, or Holkar, and readily lead him to face a battery of well-served guns. The peculiar arms of the contending nations of the 18th century passed into a saying, and the phrase, the Mahratta spear, the Afghan sword, tbe Sikh matchlock, and the English cannon, became a proverb.