Chapter

From Peasant Soldier to Elite Warrior: Raiding, Honor Feuds, and the Transformation of Khalsa Identity

Purnima Dhavan

in When Sparrows Became Hawks

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199756551
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918881 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756551.003.0006
From Peasant Soldier to Elite Warrior: Raiding, Honor Feuds, and the Transformation of Khalsa Identity

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Warrior groups outside Panjab regarded the Sikh chiefs as upstart peasants addicted to predatory warfare, as distinct from the norms of honorable warfare. “Predatory” practices such as raiding and honor feuds were crucial to retaining the loyalty of the rural soldier by enhancing pay and honor (izzat) as warriors, but were inimical to the goal of creating an elite Sikh warrior community. Elite rivals of the Sikhs in the military labor market expressed a grudging acknowledgement of Sikhs’ prowess as soldiers, despite their criticism of such practices. Sikh chiefs strove to create ceremonies that would allow them to publically demonstrate solidarity with each other, since few individual chiefs had the resources necessary to defend themselves. Over time, such rituals created the illusion of Sikh unity, but also widened the gap between powerful commanders and peasant soldiers. The illusion of a cohesive Sikh power prompted many groups to seek alliances with them.

Keywords: Sikh raids; honor; feuds; warrior; military labor market; izzat

Chapter.  10271 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sikhism

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