Sikhism originated in the Punjab region of present-day India and Pakistan during the 1500’s. This religion is a monotheistic religion that teaches treating others equally and being generous to the less fortunate. Doing good actions is more important to Sikh followers than practicing symbolic rituals. Each person places importance on five common symbols, and these can be used to identify Sikhs within the community. They are referred to as the 5 Ks and include uncut hair, wooden comb, steel bracelet, cotton underwear, and a steel sword.
Countries with the Largest Sikh Populations
At 22 million individuals, India has the largest Sikh population. 90% of all Sikhs in the world live in India. As India is the birthplace of this religion, it stands to reason that it is still home to the majority of its followers. Sikhism is the fourth largest religion in India and is concentrated in the state of Punjab with some spread to Haryana, Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand. Here, Sikhs have been represented in all areas of the government from President to Prime Minister to Council Ministers. Large numbers of Sikhs also join the military forces in the country.
Canada has the second largest Sikh population in the world, with 468,670 Sikh residents. British Columbia is the province with the largest Sikh population. Sikh immigration to Canada began in 1897 with a Major from the British Indian Army. Other Sikhs followed and found work in railroad construction which allowed them to send money home to their family who would join them later. This movement began a long immigration battle rife with prejudices and discrimination. With a ban on new South Asian residents to the country, undocumented immigration began from the Washington border on the US side to British Columbia. The Canadian government eventually pushed to legalize the status of these residents. In recent years, the government has issued an apology for some of its unfair treatment.
The United Kingdom has the third largest Sikh population in world, at 342,429 Sikhs. The majority of these individuals live in England. Immigration to the UK began in 1849 when the last ruler of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Deep Singh, was overthrown by the British government and exiled. Nearly 100 years later, immigration from the Punjab region to the UK increased as a result of the separation of India and Pakistan. This political turmoil left the area unsafe and violent, and many Sikhs fled in search of a new life. Sikhs in the UK have also faced some of the same discriminatory attitudes and policies as those in Canada.
Other countries with a significant Sikh population include: United States (250,000), Australia (125,904), Malaysia (100,000), and Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania (50,000 - 100,000 Sikhs in these countries combined).
The future of the Sikh religion and its population is expected to continue expanding. This religion is one of the fastest growing in the world through births and independent conversions. Although this group of individuals has not always been accepted with open arms, the very nature of the religion is to work against social inequalities. This core principle makes them a strong, united community that can overcome discriminations. Sikhs have continued and will continue to work toward equality in each of the countries they call home as they continue spreading across the globe.