, Volume 1, Issue 5, pp 81-90

Diffusion of Sikhism and recent migration patterns of Sikhs in India

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This paper studies the diffusion of Sikhism from its beginnings at the end of the fifteenth century to the present. By focusing on the historical importance of the Punjab plains area, a spatial crossroad, the problems of survival of the Sikh religion are analyzed. Though the Sikhs remain primarily confined to the Punjab plains, limited expansion took place in the first half of the 19th century with Ranjit Singh's conquest of lands beyond Punjab. Starting from the 2nd half of the 19th century when British occupied Punjab, the Sikhs could practice their religion without any persecution. The British preferred the Sikhs in administrative service particularly in the army, which led to migration of Sikhs to different parts of the country. The partition of India in 1947 further accentrated this migration process because a large number of Sikh refugees from Pakistan settled outside Punjab. Moreover, as a result of “push” factor, some agriculturally based Sikhs of Punjab went to cities all over India in search of employment in which they specialized; these were often single male migrants which caused comparatively greater female ratio in some districts of Punjab, whereas, in the urban areas outside of Punjab, there is larger male ratio. At the same time, in Punjab the greater bulk of the Sikh population is rural, which is also true of Indian population as a whole; outside of Punjab, the Sikh population is overwhelmingly urban. Though Sikh diffusion has remained restricted to the Punjab plains, their migration has witnessed a spread in the last 125 years covering different parts of India.