20th Century - The Modern Design
The advent of the modern khanda emblem as seen on Nishan Sahibs today is a direct result of a continuing evolution that has spanned 500 years from the times of the Sikh Gurus. In many ways the evolution of the Sikh banner has reflected the evolution and changes in the community itself in terms of religious thought, understanding and interpretation.
Although the designer of the first modern khanda emblem remains unknown we can with certainly narrow down its emergence to roughly the first decade of the 20th century. Interestingly the advent of the modern khanda emblem did not mark a sudden end to the usage of other emblems among the Sikhs, but seems to have been a gradual process of adoption of the new design, in parallel with continued use of other designs or older Nishan Sahibs. This gradual adaptation is consistent with the same pattern seen during the 19th century and earlier where we can see multiple design elements coexisting on Nishan Sahibs during the same time period.
The seemingly complete uniformity of adoption of the modern Nishan Sahib and khanda emblem designs by the Sikh community today with few exceptions may appear as the culmination of a long process, but in fact the modern Nishan Sahib and its design may continue to change and evolve with new designs and interpretations by future generations of Sikhs as it has in the past.