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Khalistan (India)

Last modified: 2009-05-18 by ian macdonald
Keywords: khalistan | sikh | khanda | india | quoit |
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[Flag of Khalistan] image by Jan-Patrick Fischer, 15 August 2008

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Flag of Khalistan

Khalistan is not an independent country. It is the aspirant Sikh nation in India (possibly in parts of Pakistan, too).
T. F. Mills, 8 July 1998

 Is Punjab the same as Khalistan? Is there more than one within India, or across the border with Pakistan?
Nathan Lamm, 21 February 2002

Apparently, various offers were made to the Sikh community by elements in the subcontinent and by the British government itself regarding the setting up of an autonomous Sikh state, 'comprising areas lying in the west of Panipat and east of the left bank of the Ravi river'.

If the notion of Khalistan were birthed in adherence to the conditions stated above, then Khalistan would occupy the area in between the Ravi and Yamuna rivers, possibly extending to the seashore; Jarig Bakker is right in stating that Khalistan would consist of the 'present state of Punjab and the adjoining Punjabi speaking areas'. That would place the state below Jammu and Kashmir and just to the northwest of New Delhi. Incidentally (this is pure conjecture) I think the physical boundaries of Khalistan, as demarcated in the offers, were quite heavily based on the historical borders of the Sikh States, under Maharaja Ranjit Singh
in 18th Century.
Yow Hong Chieh, 22 February 2002

[Flag of Khalistan] image by Jan-Patrick Fischer, 15 August 2008

The Khalistan republic (in exile) has a yellow and blue vertical flag with the black Sikh symbol in the center (the symbol is a little different from the one drawn above by Pascal Gross). This image is based on a verbal description, and it is highly possible that it is no more than a misunderstanding.
Jorge Candeias, 21 April 2003

According to the Khalistan web site[1], Khalistan was admitted to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization in 1993. The UNPO site, however, does not list Khalistan among the members[2]; the map on the same page, which differs somewhat from the list given below, does not show it either. Regardless of the validity of this claim, the Khalistan site shows a photo of the flag of Khalistan, with black khanda on saffron field, hoisted along with the flags of the UNPO and USA[3]. The aspect ratio of the flag is about 2:3, and the height of khanda is about one half of the flag width.

The described flag is shown in the attached image in-khal2.gif. The image is partly based on the image of khanda symbol from Wikipedia, which is in the public domain[4].

[1] Khalistan site - the UNPO membership:
[2] UNPO members:
[3] Khalistan site - the flag of Khalistan:
[4] Wikipedia - image of khanda: 

Tomislav Todorovic, 22 May 2008

The Khanda

The symbol which appears in the flags is called a 'khanda'. Quoting from Hew McLeod's 'Sikhism', with my comments in square brackets:
This is the modern insignia of the Khalsa, [officially the title of the religious order founded by Guru Gobind Singh at the end of C17 but generally used to refer to all Sikhs who bear the five K's] comprising a vertical two-edged sword over a quoit (chakkar) with two crossed kirpans below the quoit. During the late nineteenth century the emblem appears to have comprised a cooking-vessel, a sabre and a katar dagger, corresponding to the eighteenth-century Khalsa slogan 'deg tegh fateh' [McLeod: 'cauldron, sword, victory'].  It seems this evolved into the modern insignia early in the twentieth century, the round cooking-vessel becoming a quoit. Today the emblem is displayed on the Khalsa flag, building decorations, buttonholes, turban badges, publications, car windows and many other places.
Incidentally, a quoit is an ancient Indian weapon that takes the form of a metal ring. Usually six to nine inches in diameter with a sharpened outer edge, the quoit is twirled on the user's upright index finger and thrown towards an enemy by the collapsing action of the finger - it is said to be accurate up to a range of 100 meters. The Sikh warriors of yore were supposed to have worn a quoit on top of their turban, for easy access in times of battle. As such, some quoits have inscriptions and engravings that indicate their partly decorative nature.
Yow Hong Chieh, 21 February 2002

Horizontally striped flags

[Flag of Khalistan] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 13 August 2008

A saffron over black over indigo horizontal tricolor with stripes of equal height of unknown ratio.

Unfortunately there is only a little bit more than a personal footnote from 1985, based on a report in German 1st TV. This flag was said to be the proposal of an independent Sikh-State, named Khalistan . Though there exists a Sanskrit word “khal-”, meaning gathering, I found no equivalent in Hindi-Dictionary. Probably it is a word of Punjabi origin. Khushwant SINGH uses this term many times in his book “History of the Sikhs”. But I didn’t find its meaning in that book. Though looking for more facts since 2003, my results remained fairly poor. At least I saw an image of this flag crossed with another saffron flag with a black Khanda in August 2004 in New Delhi. So I believe this flag had once existed. The image was painted upon a wall outside of the Gurudwara (=Sikh-temple) Bangla Sahib at Ashoka Rd. Having not yet a digicam I took no photo. There also were some slogans in Punjabi, so I believe, because it was Gumurkhi-Script. Of course I had no idea, what it meant.

As often proposals are the same as party flags, this flag might have been the flag of Akali Dal party or that one of Dal Khalsa party. In the early 80ies of the 20th century the Akali Dal was lead by Sant HARCHAND SINGH LONGOWAL. The Akali Dal claimed modest positions, demanded more rights for the Sikhs and according to the official Indian policy a (greater) Sikh-state Punjabi(-Suba) within the Indian Union, to which should belong all regions, in which there was a majority of Punjabi-speakers. This state would have consisted of Punjab, parts of Haryana, Chandigarh and wide parts of Himachal Pradesh. The central government, being frightened by separatist movements, refused, unless having created other states based on a unique language like e.g. Maharashtra for the Marathi-speakers and and Andhra Pradesh for the Telugu- speakers. So began the rise of the Dal Khalsa party, then lead by JARNAIL SINGH BHINDRANWALE. His party claimed an independent Sikh nation, named Khalistan, having the right to confederate either with India or with Pakistan. His supporters were demanding a secession from India and they were killing and injuring many Hindus and Sikh-collaborators. BHINDRANWALE and 300 armed supporters lost their lives during the operation “Blue Star” on 5th of June 1984, when Indian storm-troopers regained control of the most important, golden Gurudwara of the Sikhs in Amritsar, which was occupied before by BHINDRANWALE  and his followers. This action caused later on the killing of PM Indira GANDHI by their own Sikh bodyguards who considered the operation as a desecration of their holiest place.

A young Sikh in the local Gurudwara of Hamburg-Eimsbüttel explained to me the meaning of the colours, used in Sikh-temples. At first he stressed, the first colour wouldn’t be saffron (colour of Hinduism) but orange, being a mixture of red being the colour of A Kal(lit: the timeless = God) and yellow, symbolizing human fear in this world. Black was the colour of sorrow, for being separated from heaven, which colour is blue. Unfortunately he too didn’t know the above flag.

Checking various Sikh-pages there also was no trace of this flag. Maybe nowadays Sikhs feel the blame of a separatist-flag, because most of them had been loyal citizens of Indian Union. But this is a mere speculation.

Klaus-Michael Schneider, 13 August 2008