SIKLIGAR SIKHS constitute that section of lohars or ironsmiths who once specialized in the craft of making and polishing weapons. Sikligar is derived from Persian saqi, lit. polishing, furnishing, making bright (a sword), the term saqlgar meaning a polisher of swords. In medieval India, Sikligars were in great demand for manufacturing spears, swords, shields and arrows. Some of them later learnt even to make matchlocks, muskets, cannon and guns. Traditionally treated as of a low caste, Sikligars first came in contact with Sikhism during the time of Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) who had initiated the practice of arms among Sikhs.
The advent of modern weapons and industrial technology has hit the Sikligars hard economically. Engaged in the pursuit of an obsolete occupation, they are now a poor and backward people forming one of the scheduled castes as defined under the Indian Constitution. Also known as gaddilohars they roam about in small groups carrying their ` meagre possessions on specially designed carts (gaddi, in north Indian dialects) and making and selling small articles like knives, sickles, betelnut cutters, sieves, locks, buckets and toys which they manufacture from wastemetal. The influence of Sikhism is still clearly discernible in the dress and social customs of some of the Sikligars.
The males, especially those of the older generation, wear their hair long. Their womenfolk wear salvar (loose trousers) and kamiz (shirt) like Punjabi women or lahinga (skirt) and choll (bodice) like Rajasthani women, but the use of dhoti and san is rare. The newly born child is on the fourth day administered amrit by five Sikhs; relatives and friends assemble in sangat where karah prasad is distributed.
A special share of karah prasad is sent to any member who keeps the Guru Granth Sahib or any breviary of gurbam at home. Sikligar Sikhs of Central and South India have great faith in Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib at Nanded, which they visit regularly. On the annual Takht ishnan (lit. bath ceremony) at the Takht Sahib, it is the special privilege of Sikligar Sikhs to clean and oil the old weapons preserved there as sacred relics.
1. Rose, H.A., ed., A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Lahore, 1911-19