Highlights

  • Sikh prayer books issued in UK Army
  • Religious text allowed in over 100 years
  • Christian books already being provided by the Army

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Sikh prayer books return to British Army after more than 100 years

The prayer books were issued by the UK Defence Sikh Network at a ceremony in London, according to the BBC.

Nitnem Gutkas, the prayer books of the Sikhs have been issued to military personnel in the British Army for the first time in a century, a media report said on Thursday, a move the Ministry of Defence said will "directly support Sikh practice, a key component of their faith".

The prayer books were issued by the UK Defence Sikh Network at a ceremony in London, according to the BBC.

"The Army has been providing Christian religious texts for many years and I saw the opportunity there to open the door for the Sikh faith to provide Sikh texts," Major Daljinder Singh Virdee, who is in the British Army and has spent two years campaigning for the return of the religious books, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

The Nitnem Gutkas were printed in Wiltshire and placed on a throne in a purpose-built vehicle for Sikh scriptures, the report said.

The Ministry of Defence said it hopes to "directly support Sikhs practice as a key component of their faith".

The prayer books have been printed in three languages in durable and waterproof material to withstand the rigours of military life, the report said.

They were transported to the library of the Central Gurdwara temple in London, where they were officially issued to military personnel on October 28, it said.

"For Sikh's our scriptures are not just words, they are the living embodiment of our guru. We draw moral strength and physical strength from reading the scriptures every day, it gives us discipline and it grows us spiritually," Virdee was quoted as saying in the report.

Nitnem Gutkas were first issued to military personnel more than a century ago, along with other articles of the Sikh faith, including steel daggers, bracelets and wooden combs, but have never been issued again since.

There is an original military-issued Nitnem Gutka in the National Army Museum's archives, in London, the report added.

Sikh soldiers were recruited to the British military from the 1840s onwards, and have fought at the Battle of Saragarhi; in the First World War, as the "Black Lions", as well as during the Second World War in Malaya, Burma and Italy.

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