This year marks a historic day for Sikligar Sikhs residing in Miryalguda (near Hydrabad), where 60 individuals will have the chance to visit Harmandir Sahib for the first time in their lives, that too on Vaisakhi!
Every year, Vaisakhi is celebrated by Sikhs all over the world, celebrating the birth of the Khalsa. In 1699, the Khalsa was created by Guru Gobind Singh Jee, asking the sangat for 5 individuals to sacrifice themselves for the Panth. 5 individuals stepped forward to prove their devotion, as they formed to become the Panj Pyaarey. The Khalsa gave Sikhs an identity where it brought Sikhs together to become defenders of freedom in the quest to fight oppression.
This year marks a historic day for Sikligar Sikhs residing in Miryalguda (near Hydrabad), where 60 individuals will have the chance to visit Harmandir Sahib for the first time in their lives, that too on Vaisakhi! Dharam Parchar Committee leader, Gurdeep Kaur from Vijayawada, Andhra Pardesh has arranged for these individuals to visit Harmandir Sahib on Vaisakhi where they will also visit surrounding Gurudwaras in Punjab for the next seven days. Gurdeep Kaur, in coordination with Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), will be providing for the tickets, langar and accommodation for the Sikligar Sikhs upon arrival to Punjab. Volunteers and staff of SAF International, a Canadian based non-profit organization will be providing aid through the duration of their trip and ensure these individuals are taken care of.
Sikligar Sikhs are a community of iron and blacksmiths that have been abandoned for generations, despite the rich history their work holds, dating back to Guru Gobind Singh Jee’s time. Though, the exact origin of Sikligars is unknown, the most common known fact about Sikligars stems from Guru Hargobind Sahib Jee’s time, where they recruited ironsmiths and blacksmiths to make arms and armor for the Khalsa army during Mughal Repression. Guru Gobind Singh Jee later gave these weapon makers the title of Sikligars, which means “polisher of weapons” in Persian. Sikligars served as weapon makers for Sikh armies until the reign of Mahraja Ranjit Singh, where the work of Sikligars changed drastically after the British annexed Punjab. Even though Sikligars played a significant role in Sikh history, it is forgotten now due to the fact that these individuals are currently living in poverty- marginalized and out casted by British colonization. Today, the intricate work in making weapons for the Khalsa Panth has been forgotten, where Sikligars today are now subjected to small scale metalwork; making keys, welding and tool repair- menial work that brings in little to no income. Sikligar communities are living in unbearable conditions, in remote villages on the outskirts of cities and towns. The communities have poor housing with no access to electricity, clean water, or washroom facilities. Due to low income, it is hard for Sikligar parents to provide for their children, leaving them malnourished, uneducated, and often married at a very young age.
SAF International is the only Canadian non-profit organization involved in supporting Sikligar communities, providing comprehensive support for these individuals since 2017. As a part of SAF International’s Community Development Projects, members of these communities are provided with basic needs, education, skills training, healthcare, and employment or income generation opportunities. This long term support for the entire community in various regions in India allows for these individuals to live in a more uplifted environment, allowing these individuals a second chance in life, despite their conditions.