A relatively new religion of India, Sikhism dates to the 15th century.
It began essentially as a protest against the corrupt practices in the Hindu society, and as a bridge between Hinduism and Islam. Its founder Guru Nanak preached against the prevailing Hindu ritual practices and the caste system.
During the occasional turbulent history of the succeeding centuries several of the Sikh leaders were persecuted and executed by the Muslim rulers. As a reaction, Sikhs were galvanized into a strong, fighting force (Khalsa) by their last guru (leader) in the 18th century.
Sikhism seemingly appears closer to Islam in its basic tenet, that is, belief in “One God” in the abstract form, but incorporated in its fold several Hindu rites and practices, including the caste system and belief in the transmigration of the soul. Hindus and Sikhs occasionally intermarry and there exists a mutual tolerance between them.
Sikhism is a congregational religion; its shrines contain spaces reserved for community prayers. A large number of their shrines are located in different parts of India (and Pakistan). The central and holiest among these stands at Amritsar, known as the Golden Temple, a structure known for its simplicity and beauty.
Sikhs are mostly concentrated in a small section of India, in the state of Punjab; their original homeland borders Pakistan. Nearly 90 percent of all the Sikh population of about 23 million lives in this troubled border area of India, the remaining are concentrated in the metropolitan Delhi, or scattered in large cities. India’s partition in 1947 cut directly through the Sikh territory.
Nearly 1.5 million Sikhs, who found themselves in Pakistani territory, moved to adjoining India. Since then, they have been among the most active religious groups which successfully agitated in favor of a Sikh-dominated state (Punjab) within India, which was created in 1966 in which they now maintain a majority status. A more radical group among them continued a violent struggle to form an independent Sikh nation causing large-scale civil strife and bloodshed in the border state of Punjab which now appears to be subsided.