Foundation of Sikh faith was laid down by Guru Nanak in the 15th & 16th century Punjab as a reformist religious movement. The followers of this Guru Nanak were called Sikhs.
The religious order of Sikhism over time turned into a political community during the 17th century leading to the foundation of a Sikh empire in North-West India.
- Sikh Gurus: Leadership of the Sikh faith was in the hands of Sikh Gurus. Guru Gobind Singh was the last Sikh Guru after which the Guru Granth Sahib was made the perpetual Guru of the Sikh faith.
- Guru Gobind Singh and Khalsa: Guru Gobind Singh engaged in various wars with the Mughals and Rajputs. He laid the foundation of Dal Khalsa and transformed the religious group into political community.
- Banda Bahadur: After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, the leadership of Sikhs was passed into the hands of his trusted disciple Banda Bairagi, popularly known as Banda Bahadur. Banda carried on a vigorous struggle against Mughal forces and died in 1715.
- Jathas & Jathedars: After the death of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Sikhs organised themselves into several small and highly mobile bands called Jathas, each commanded by a Jathedar. For solidarity among the Jathas, the combined forces of all Jathas called Dal Khalsa used to meet on Baisakhi and Diwali to take collective decisions known as ‘resolutions of Guru (Gurmatas)’. A system of Rakhi was introduced, offering protection to cultivators on payment of 20% of produce as tax.
- Misls: Defeat of Mughals and Marathas by Afghans helped Sikhs to consolidate their base in Punjab and establish an autonomous Sikh political power in Punjab region. By the second half of the 18th century, the different jathas came together to form 12 regional confederacies or Misls under various local chieftains. Misls were based originally on the principle of equality, wherein each member had an equal say in the affairs of Misl and electing chiefs and other officers of the organisation. However, the unity and democratic character of Misls gradually withered away with the decline of the Afghan threat.
- Ranjit Singh: He was the son of chief of sukerchakia misl, Mahan Singh ruling over Singh lost his father when he was only 12 years of age. He consolidated all the misls by force of arms, brough unity among Sikhs and laid the foundation of Sikh Empire with an undisputed monarch. He consolidated his control over the surrounding regions of Jammu & Kashmir, Sialkot, Kangra and Multan. Later, he established control over the trans-Indus region and his empire reach Peshawar in 1834.
- Ranjit Singh’s successors were able to maintain the vast territory established by Ranjit Singh till 1845. However, in 1849, EIC completely annexed the Sikh empire.
- Treaty of Amritsar (1809): It was signed between Ranjit Singh and English wherein the latter accepted Sutlej as boundary line for his dominion. The English compelled him to sign the Tripartite treaty.
- First Anglo-Sikh war (1845-46): It ended with the Treaty of Lahore (1846) in which J&K was sold to Gulab Singh.
- Second Anglo-Sikh war (1848-49): Under this Lord Dalhousie proceeded to Punjab. A total of three battles were fought between them and in the end, Punjab was annexed in 1849.