AskDefine | Define sirdar

Dictionary Definition

sirdar n : an important person in India

User Contributed Dictionary



Hindi, from Persian (sar), head + (dar), holder


  1. an high-ranking person in India
  2. the leader of a group of Sherpa mountain guides

Extensive Definition

Sardar (Persian: سردار ) () is a title of Persian origin, used for military or political leaders.
The word's cognate in Persian, Sirdar, means commander. Literally sar means "head" while dar means "holder" in Persian. Thus, the term Sardar may also mean a military or political leader, comparable to the English chieftain.
In India/Pakistan, in Punjabi, Hindi and other Indian languages, the word often refers to a male follower of the Sikh faith. Often, the -ji is added to the word to denote respect, resulting in the word "Sardarji". The word may convey several meanings, often associated with military authority.

Military uses

  • in the colonial era, the title Sirdar or Sardar applied to native nobles in British India, e.g. the sirdars of the Deccan. Sirdar Bahadur was an Indian military distinction; and Sirdar was the official title of the commander-in-chief of the Anglo-Egyptian army.
  • In many Indian languages, Sardar means an army chieftain (who may have been granted a Jagir).

Ruler title

A few princely states on the South Asia, notably in Punjab, have been ruled by a prince styled Sardar or Gujjar Sardar:

Tribal leaders

  • In Afghanistan and Pakistan, many Pashtun, Baloch, Sindhi and Brahui tribal leaders are called Sardars.
  • In Kasur, and Sahiwal districts of Punjab Pakistan many Arain leaders were also given this title, for example Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali, ex Foreign Minister of Pakistan.


In Sikhism, sardar refers to a man who has a beard, hair and covers their hair with a turban.

Other uses

  • Sardar was the name of the famous horse gifted to former American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy by Pakistani president Ayub Khan in Lahore in 1962.
  • Males of the Sikh faith in India are called Sardar-ji, (similar to effendi in Turkish). Sikhs often use Sardar as prefix to their name instead of Mister, e.g. Sardar Surjit Singh.
  • Historically, Sardar was long used for important political, tribal, military and religious officiers including the families of the Sikh principalities.
  • Sardar is often used to refer to intellectual imbeciles from northern frontiers of India.
  • Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister of Independent India was referred to as Sardar Patel, or "Sardar" for short; he is also known as 'Iron Man of India'.
  • In the local language of Kashmir (mainly in the small province of Sudhnati), Sardar is used to refer to the descendants of King Ahmad Shah Durrani of the Sadozai tribe.
  • In mountaineering, specifically in the Himalayas of Nepal and Pakistan, the Sirdar or Sardar is the local, native leader of the porters and Sherpas.He takes note of the height reached by sherpas individually for example, and this will count for the money the sherpa deserves.
  • HMS Sirdar, a World War II Royal Navy submarine.

Derived and compound ranks and titles

  • In Persian the style Sardar or Sardar i Bozorg the title of Hosein Qoli Khan Qajar ( Sardari Iravani ) and his brother Hasan Khan Qajar ( Sardari Iravani ) the Chief in Command of Fath Ali Shah Qajar in Russo-Persian wars 1807-1828.
  • In Persian, the style Sardar i-Azam ("Supreme Sardar''") was occasionally used as an alternative title for the Shahanshah's Head of government, normally styled Vazir i-Azam, notably in 1904-06 for a Qajar prince, Major-General H.R.H. Shahzada Sultan 'Abdu'l Majid Mirza .
  • in the Afghan kingdom, recipients of the original Nishan-i-Sardari 'Order of the Leader', founded by King Amanullah in 1923, as a reward for exceptional services to state and crown, conferred by the King on his own initiative, enjoyed the titles of Sardar-i-Ala 'the most high leader' or Sardar-i-Ali (first viz. second class) before their names and received grants of land until it was made obsolete in 1929 (no longer when later revived by King Muhammad Zahir Shah).
  • still in Afghanistan, Sardar-i-Salar meant Field Marshal.
  • Sardar-i-Riyasat was the title of one Constitutional Head of State of the princely state of Kashmir, Yuvaraj Shri Karan Singhji Bahadur, who was appointed as Heir Apparent on 11 May 1931 and (after his father had acceded to India, ending the sovereign Monarchy) Regent 20 June 1949 to 31 October 1956, Sardar-i-Riyasat 1 November 1956 to 9 April 1965 (succeeded on the death of his father as Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, 26 April 1961, no longer carrying any hereditary power), next Governor of the Indian constitutive State of Jammu and Kashmir 10 April 1965 to 15 March 1967.
sirdar in Bosnian: Serdar
sirdar in German: Sirdar
sirdar in Russian: Сердар
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