The earliest Sikhs gathered to hear the teachings of the Gurus and sing their hymns. The last of the ten Sikh Gurus died in 1708, passing on authority jointly to the community (Panth) and scripture (Granth).
Schisms and Sects
Early schisms, revolving around issues of family succession and the authority of the Gurus, were resolved around 1700 when the Sikh community was unified as the Khalsa (sovereign body). In the centuries that followed, minor traditions formed within the larger community, but the Panth (community) remains a largely unified body.
Missions and Expansion
Sikh congregations spread throughout the northern part of the Indian subcontinent through proselytizing and trade, from contemporary Afghanistan to eastern India. Sikhs today do not expend much energy in proselytizing, but a diaspora of two million Sikhs has spread communities to East Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America.
Exploration and Conquest
Sikh warriors contributed to the splintering of the great Mughal empire in the 1700s. By the early 1800s, a kingdom ruled by Sikhs extended in the four directions around Punjab. By 1850, much of that kingdom was annexed by the British in their conquest of the subcontinent.
Today, 20 million Sikhs make their home in India. Not living in a sovereign Sikh nation has been a point of contention over the decades, as the Sikh ethos demands independent rule. Nevertheless, there is a large diaspora of Sikh communities around the world.