SIṄGH, from Sanskrit siṅha for lion, is an essential component of the name for a Sikh male. Every Sikh male name must end with 'Siṅgh'. Historically, this was so ordained by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh on the Baisākhī day, 30 March 1699, when he inaugurated the Khālsā, introducing a new form of initiatory rites, khaṇḍe dī pāhul The five Sikhs who from among the assembly had on that day offered their heads one after the other responding to the Gurū's successive calls were the first Sikhs who were administered by him the vows of the Khālsā. They were to adopt the five prescribed emblems, including kesa or unshorn hair and share a common end-name 'Siṅgh' in token of having joined the self-abnegating, martial and casteless fellowship of the Khālsā. After initiation, Dayā Rām had become Dayā Siṅgh, Dharam Dās Dharam Siṅgh, Muhkam Chand Muhkam Siṅgh, Himmat Rāi Himmat Siṅgh and Sāhib Chand Sāhib Siṅgh. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, who had himself initiated at the hands of these five, received the name of Gobind Siṅgh.

        Every male Sikh has since carried 'Siṅgh' as part of his name. This was a way of inculcating among the Sikhs a spirit of brotherhood as well as of valour. Wearing the distinctive symbols and clad and armed like a soldier with a flowing beard and a neatly tied turban on his head, a Siṅgh had been set high ideals to live up to. As subsequent events proved, Siṅghs became a strong cohesive force admired even by their enemies for their qualities of courage and chivalry. For example, Qāzī Nūr Muhammad, who came in Ahmad Shāh Durrānī's train during his seventh invasion of India (1764-65), in his poetic account of the campaign in Persian, refers to the Siṅghs in rude and imprecatory language, but cannot at the same time help proclaim their many virtues. In section XLI of his poem, he says : "Siṅgh is a title (a form of address for them). It is not just to call them 'dogs' (his contumelious term for Siṅghs). If you do not know the Hindustānī language, (I shall tell you that) the word Siṅgh means a lion. Truly, they are like lions in battle and, in times of peace, they surpass Hātim (in generosity)... Leaving aside their mode of fighting, hear ye another point in which they excel all other fighting people. In no case would they slay a coward, nor would they put an obstacle in the way of a fugitive. They do not plunder the ornaments of a woman…. They do not make friends with adulterers and housebreakers."

        As a rule, all Sikhs other than Sahajdhārīs are named Siṅghs even before the formal initiation through khaṇḍe dī pāhul takes place. While 'Sikh' is a spiritual appellation, Siṅgh' has socio-political overtones in addition. In practice all Siṅghs are Sikhs with the discipline enjoined upon them by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh added. In sentiment, however, they are closer to the community as a whole and more active socially and politically. Their special status is recognized legally as well. Under the Sikh Gurdwārās Act, 1925, and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwārās Act, 1971, while all adult Sikhs are eligible to be registered as voters for election to the respective Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committees, only amritdharī Sikhs, i.e. Siṅghs, are qualified for the membership of these statutory bodies. Similarly, Sikh rahit maryādā or code of conduct published by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee makes a distinction between shakhsī rahiṇī or individual conduct and panthic rahiṇi or corporate conduct. While the former applies to all Sikhs, the Siṅghs must conduct themselves, in addition, according to the panthic rahiṇī.


  1. Kāhn Siṅgh, Bhāī, Gurmat Mārtaṇḍ. Amritsar. 1962
  2. Kapur Siṅgh, Parāśarapraśna [Reprint]. Amritsar, 1989

Gaṇḍā Siṅgh