Nishan is a word with Arabic roots and in Sikhism means flag, insignia, or banner. Sahib means Master, or Lord. In Sikhism the flag is addressed as Nishan Sahib to show respect for the exalted insignia.The Nishan Sahib is raised and flown at every Sikh gurdwara at a prominent spot at the high point of the property when possible. The Nishan Sahib is flown from a flag pole and may also be affixed to the top of a high building on the gurdwara grounds. The Nishan Sahib is carried at the head of parades usually by five Sikh men, or women, representing the Panj Pyare, or five beloved administers of Amrit nectar given during the Sikh initiation ceremony.
The Nishan Sahib flag may be of any size, is triangular in shape and has two basic colors which range from yellow to deep orange, and royal to grayish blue. The Nishan Sahib is embellished with a khanda the insignia representing the Sikh coat of arms and originally had a blue background with an orange khanda. The color scheme is often reversed in modern times and the most popular color combination is the khanda or Sikh coat of arms, in deep blue appliqued onto a bright orange background. The flag pole is often times covered by cloth of the same color as the flag background. Atop the flag pole is either the representation of a double edged sword or a spear head.
The Nishan Sahib dates back to 1606 when Sixth Guru Har Govind raised the first Sikh flag over the Akal Takhat seat of authority in Amritsar, India. At that time, Sikhs called the flag Akal Dhuja (undying banner), or Satguru Nishan (true guru's insignia). In 1771, Jhanda Singh raised a second flag at the top of gurdwara Harmandir Sahib of the golden temple complex in Amritsar. Over the centuries trees trunks, wooden posts, steel, copper and iron poles have been been used as flag poles where two illustrious Nishan Sahibs still fly proudly today.
"Amul baksee amul neesaann||
Priceless art Thine blessings, Priceless art thy Banner and Insignia." Guru Nanak SGGS||5
"Sachai sabad neesaann ttha a paa-ee-ai||
No one obstructs the way of one blessed with the flag of the true word." Guru Angad Dev SGGS||146
"Gur kai sabad naam neesaan ||1|| rehaao ||
By the Word of the Guru's is one blessed with the insignia and the banner of the divine Name." ||1||Pause|| Guru Amar Das SGGS||1175
"Joolann neje bairakaa neesaan lasan lisaavale||
The swinging javelins with their guidon banners streaming and lustrous flags are shining." Guru Gobind Singh Dasam Granth|| 281