Back to School


Back to School. A 100-year-old photograph of Sikh children learning Punjabi at a school on the pavement around the Golden Temple of Amritsar.

Image: Detail of a stereoview photograph, Amritsar, c. 1908 (Courtesy of Sukhbir Singh Kainth). One of nearly 500 rare images from ‘The Golden Temple of Amritsar: Reflections of the Past (1808-1959)’ – for more, see:

Back to School

As children in the UK and elsewhere prepare to return to school this week, we present a new series of images from Punjab’s past on children and the world of education. To get us started, here’s a Sikh family walking in a procession – can you spot the 19th-century Sikh doll?

Image: Detail of a scene by Bishan Singh, Lahore, Punjab, c. 1860-70 (Collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan, The Aga Khan Trust for Culture).

Style on Sunday

A young Sikh soldier in a full ceremonial dress uniform is pictured in the French fashion magazine ‘Paris Match’ of July 1939.

Remember, remember the first of September

Join us in remembering some important Sikh anniversaries connected with September 1st.

On this day in 1574, Guru Amar Das passed away aged 95 and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Bhai Jetha, who became known as Guru Ram Das.

Guru Ram Das began the work of establishing a city by first excavating a tank at its centre. The settlement was initially called Chakk Guru (Guru’s village) but later renamed Ramdaspur (city of Ram’s servant) by his son, Guru Arjan. It is today known as Amritsar (pool of the nectar of immortality) in honour of the tank, at the centre of which stands the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple). Read more…

What happened to the hated Clock Tower

One clock tower replaced by another. Is it really any better? Shouldn’t they have replaced the British clock tower with what was there before?


When Sikh Warriors Spoke ‘Words that Thundered’


With the Paralympic torch being zip-wired into the Olympic Stadium by Royal Marine commando Joe Townsend, who lost both legs when he stepped on a homemade bomb in Afghanistan, we reflect on how Sikh warriors of the past coped with the devastation of war.

For much of the 18th century, Sikhs faced persecution under successive Mughal, Persian and Afghan empires. They fought back from the brink of extinction on more than one occasion to eventually establish their own kingdoms.

To keep their spirits high during that dark period, they developed a coded language called ‘Gargaj Boleh’ (Words that Thunder).

Full of euphemisms loaded with blunt, earthy humour, this warrior-patois intentionally inverted tragedies into victories, and transformed the depressing conditions of the battlefield – where the loss of limbs, vision and hearing were commonplace – into moments of ecstasy. So much so that disability was openly celebrated in Sikh warrior culture.

For example, a warrior who had lost a leg in battle was referred to as ‘suchala’, or the one with a beautiful walk.

If he had lost an arm, he was said to possess 100,000 arms (‘lakh baha’).

The warrior who had lost an eye during conflict was said to possess 100,000 eyes (‘lakh netra’); if blinded, he was hailed a ‘soorma’ or brave warrior.

Finally, the warrior who had lost his hearing was said to have ‘climbed a high tower’ (‘chubareh chareya’).

Join us in celebrating that very same spirit of bravery and courage that continues to this day by saluting the 2012 Paralympic athletes.

Image: Detail of a Sikh warrior or ‘Nihang’ (crocodile), Hyderabad, Central India, c. 1865. Photographed by W. Hooper and G. Western (Toor Collection). To see the full version of this print, visit

Cultural Vandalism or Imperial Right?

It was 150 years ago that the British authorities in Amritsar demolished several of the bungas (residences) surrounding the Golden Temple (most famously including the imposing bunga of Maharaja Nau Nihal Singh) to make way for a gothic-style clock tower that dominated the Amritsar city scape for the next 70 years.
Were they right to do this?

Image: Detail from one of nearly 500 rare images from the book ‘The Golden Temple of Amritsar: Reflections of the Past (1808-1959)’ – for more, see

Top Ten Sikh-Olympic 2012 themed pictures

During the London2012 Olympic games, the team at GT1588 featured a daily post on our Facebook page that chronicled the London games and the many achievements of the athletes. Uniquely we featured Sikh athletes and Sikh themes, which has been a huge hit with our Facebook friends. We bring you ten of the best pictures here:

Security Chaos at London 2012 ? Should have bought in the Sikhs!

Remember when all the talk was of the security chaos that would surround the games when G4S imploded on the eve of the games itself. This was our take on the fiasco. Security Chaos at London 2012? They should have bought in the Sikhs! In 1878 the British government called in Sikh soldiers from India to help strengthen their hand in the strategically important island of Malta. This was the first time that Indian troops were used in Europe. This image depicts that historic event in a newspaper of the day. Sikhs were widely recognised for their service and bravery during this period. Read more…

The Maharaja, the Spy & the Temple of Gold


Amandeep Madra investigates the earliest known outsider’s account of the Sikhs’ most holy shrine, written by a one-legged British officer on a spying mission across Punjab

Read more…