" The Akalis, or Immortals, are properly speaking Sikh faqirs. Their rule compels them to be dressed in blue and always to carry arms. The sacred pool at Amritsar is their headquarters, but they often spread themselves over the Punjab in large and formidable parties. Ranjit (Maharaja Ranjit Singh), wisely turns their ferocity to his own advantage. He enlists them in his armies, and employs them, preferably against his Mussalman enemies. He has at the moment about 4,000-5,000 of them in the army which he maintains at Attock, ready to march against another fanatic, the Syed. I have only seen two of them in the streets of Amritsar, it was evening and their arms glittered in the light of the torches and the matches of their muskets hung ready lighted. I had never seen more sinister-looking figures. After Amritsar their favorite headquarters is Lahore. One sees them chiefly on the outskirts of the city among the ruins of the Mughal palaces and mosques. This is their lair. Nearly all of them are mounted on ponies and armed with a spear or matchlock, others have only a bow or a sword. They are dressed in tattered blue clothes and most of them wear a long pointed head-dress of the same colour, surrounded at its base with a polished steel ring like a brim of a hat. They are hideous to behold. They live on what they can take if it is not given to them. Sometimes they collect in parties of hundred and mingle among the Rajah's attendants, and when they think themselves strong enough, they threaten him and demand money. They have more than once held him up to ransom, but Ranjit has never ventured to take vigorous measures and give a general order to put them in positions from which they have little chance of returning, and they usually come back in smaller numbers for they fight with desperate courage. " - Victor Jacquemont, French traveling historian and naturalist to the Royal Museum of Natural History of Paris, who spent three years in Punjab between 1829-1832. Taken from " Letters from India ", published in London 1834.