The name Sikligar is derived from Arabic, ‘Siquol’, meaning ‘Polish on metal’ and ‘Sikligar’ is: used for one who polishes metal. Sikligar is thus an occupational name. The word Sikligar finds mention in 22nd Pauri of his 8th Vaar, Bhai Gurdas (1551-1636) writes as under: –
ਕੇਤੜਿਆਂ ਹੀ ਜਉਹਰੀ ਲਖ ਸਰਾਫ਼ ਬਜਾਜ਼ ਵਪਾਰੀ।। (8-22-1)
ਸਉਦਾਗਰੀ ਸਉਦਾਗਰੀ ਗਾਂਧੀ ਕਾਸੇਰੇ ਪਾਸਾਰੀ।। (8-22-2)
ਕੇਤੜਿਆਂ ਪਰਚੂਨੀਐ ਕੇਤੜਿਆਂ ਦਲਾਲ ਬਜਾ਼ਰੀ।। (8-22-3)
ਕੇਤੜਿਆਂ ਸਿਕਲੀਗਰਾਂ ਕਿਤੜੇ ਲਖ ਕਮਗਰ ਕਾਰੀ।। (8-22-4)
ਕੇਤੜਿਆਂ ਕੁਮਿਆਰ ਲਖ ਕਾਗਦ ਕੁਟ ਘਣੇ ਲੂਣਾਰੀ।। (8-22-5)
ਕਿਤੜੇ ਦਰਜ਼ੀ ਧੋਬੀਆਂ ਕਿਤੜੇ ਜ਼ਰ ਲੋਹੇ ਸਰਹਾਰੀ।। (8-22-6)
ਕਿਤੜੇ ਭੜਭੂਜੇ ਭਠਿਆਰੀ।।
It is said that during the time of sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib (1595-1644), the Sikhs were purchasing arms from Maula Baksh, who used to supply very good quality arms. However, when Muslim Rulers came to know about this they threatened Maula Baksh and ensured that he did not supply good quality arms to Sikhs. The Sikhs brought this to Guru Sahib’s notice and Maula Baksh told the truth to Guru Sahib. His life was spared by Guru Sahib for telling the truth but the Sikhs stopped purchasing arms from him. At the behest of Guru Sahib, Lohars were called from Marwar, who came under the leadership of Kehar Singh,
and they stared preparing very good arms for Sikhs. After that many more groups came to the service of the Guru. The Sikligars who came to the Guru became his Sikhs and earned a great respect among the Sikhs for their distinguished, loyal and honest services.
During the Guruship of the Sixth Guru, the Sikhs fought three battles, under his command, with the Mughals and in all the three battles, the Mughals were utterly routed. But after his departure there again came a peaceful lull in the Sikh history which continued until the sacrifice of the Ninth Guru, the youngest son of the Sixth Guru. During this period the trade of the Sikligars received some set-back and some of them went back to their native place Rajputana, some settled at different places in the Punjab, some again took to wandering life and some remained with the Guru and the Sikhs. It is said that some of them accompanied Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, to Assam when he went there in order to help Raja Bishan Singh. By this time thousands of the Sikligars had settled in Punjab.
The role of Sikligars again got importance during the Guruship of the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). It is said that Ram Singh and Veer Singh descendants of Kehar Singh, who had come to Punjab on the call of the sixth Guru, again went to Punjab from Marwar. One day while they were polishing the swords by pressing the same on the ground by one foot, some Sikhs noticed it and became furious. A sword for them was like a deity and touching it with foot was an act of sacrilege. The matter was referred to Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru came to the spot and asked the offenders to polish the sword on their complainants’ heads. They started the work accordingly with obvious discomfiture. The Guru then stopped them and addressed his followers and said that The Sikligars are the ‘hands’ of the country, as they made the weapons which were necessary for the defence of the country against oppressors. Nothing should be done which would affect the efficiency of the ‘hands’. They should therefore be allowed to manufacture the swords according to their traditional ways and also they should be respected and honoured.
In 1871, the British introduced the “Criminal Tribes Act”. Though the Banjaras were notified as a Criminal Tribe in a number of States but to the good-luck of the Sikligars, they were not included in the Criminal Tribes Act though they were one of the most wandering and well-known Gypsy tribes of Northern India. Thus, they were saved from the stigma of being declared as criminals.