Why Sikh Men Are Lions
You may have noticed that many people of Indian heritage share a common surname.
For example, the Prime Minister of India from 2004 to 2014 was called Manmohan Singh.
He was the first Sikh ever to be elected PM of the world’s largest democracy, a great achievement.
And there are estimated to be over 35 million other people around the world with the same surname as him.
In fact, the vast majority of Sikh men share the surname Singh, which comes from an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “lion”.
Lions in many countries and cultures are respected for their ferocity and natural superiority over other animals.
This is also true in the Punjab, a region in the north-west of India, where lions have been seen as symbols of the traditional and noble warrior caste.
It was for that reason that the tenth Sikh guru — or spiritual master — declared in 1699 that all male followers of Sikhism should adopt the name Singh.
He lived in a time of war, as his people were seeking to protect their lands from the invading Mughal armies that attempted to take control.
He had only been given the prestigious position because his father — the previous Sikh guru — had been beheaded for refusing to submit to the invaders.
There were also battles fought against nearby chiefs and mercenaries.
So Guru Gobind Singh knew that encouraging military values and instilling dignity in his men would be necessary if they wanted to protect their freedom.
But he prized righteousness in all actions, even in warfare. For example, he never allowed his men to take enemy captives or to desecrate holy sites that were sacred to other religions.
That is what the lion represents: a form of force and aggression that is strictly controlled and used only for greater purposes.
And that is why, even today, so many Sikh men bear the surname Singh.