England is home to the majority of Sikhs living in the UK, although small communities of Sikhs exist in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. According to the last UK census in 2011, there were 420K Sikhs living in England alone and more than 350 gurudwaras (place of worship). The largest communities of Sikhs can be found in: London, Bedford, Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Bradford, Leeds, Warwick….I think you get the point. EVERYWHERE. But Leicester has the largest Sikh community in the East Midlands and the 8th largest Sikh community in England. Southall, in London, is home to the largest Sikh temple outside India, known as Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha and it opened in 2003 after almost three years construction and a cost of £17 million.
The first Sikh settler in Britain was Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838-1893), the LAST Sikh Emperor of the Imperial Sukerchakia Dynasty, from 1844-1849. He arrived in England in 1854, having been exiled from his Kingdom by the British. His mum, Empress Jind Kaur (1817-1863) arrived in 1860 in Victorian London and settled permanently-she was given permission by the British Parliament to settle on English soil. Am doubtful the Home Office even existed back then-but am guessing ‘no.’
The first Sikh settlers started migrating from the Punjab in 1911, when the first Sikh Gurdwara (place of worship) was opened in London. During WWI and WWII there was already an established Sikh presence in England. In London the Sikh community grew rapidly durin the 1950’s and 1960’s and faced much racism and discrimination.
There are actually 8 Sikh Schools in England that teach the national curriculum alongside Sikh values. These schools are often oversubscribed and outperform regular schools, for example the Nishkam High School in Birmingham was recently rated by Ofsted as outstanding in every area. Woot woot. Massive applause.
Sikhs are actually EXEMPT from a few laws in the UK. For example, they are permitted to ride motorcycyles without a helmet (as long as they wear a turban) and they are permitted/allowed to carry around their KIRPAN (ceremonial knife) in situations where it would otherwise be seen as an offensive weapon. Back in 2010, Mota Singh, Britain’s FIRST Asian judge, criticised the banning of the KIRPAN in public places as schools. Interesting.
Here is a list of some notable English Sikhs:
- Monty Panesar-England Cricketer
- Sir Mota Singh-British Supreme Court Justice
- Gurinda Chadha-Film Director
- Harpal Singh-Footballer
- Kash Gill- Former kickboxing champion
- Simon Singh- Mathematician and author
Oh yeah, there are loads more of course. But I just have listed a few. Sikhs in the UK. They rock. Just one last thing, I have made the assumption that you the reader, are pretty clued up on Sikhs and Sikhism in general (in the UK). Just in case you are not (and that’s ok-it is a good day to learn) check out this link:
Picture of Sikh mayor and Sikh deputy mayor in Berkshire