These "Five Beloved" were the core of the Akala, the Immortals, an elite Sikh unit that wore these ridiculous Harry Potter turbans with metal rings on them. The rings, called "quoits," were supposedly sharp and you can throw them as weapons. But I'm sorry, I'd be willing to stand all day in front of some dude in a wizard's hat throwing sharpened frisbees at me.
The Sikhs' real weapon was the flintlock. A grumbly Muslim Afghan wrote that "these dogs [the Sikhs] invented the musket, and nobody knows these weapons better. These bad-tempered people discharge hundreds of bullets on the enemy, on the left and right and back." Aww, poor little Afghan! Those pesky bad-tempered Sikhs, shooting at you when all you want to do is massacre them for their unbelief and steal their stuff along the way! No-friggin'-fair!
The Sikhs were more than happy to fight hand-to-hand whenever it made sense, and even got praise from the Brits for hacking Brit soldiers to death with their swords even after being spitted on the redcoats' bayonets. But the Sikhs were also sensible people: Why risk getting cut when you can lure the enemy into an ambush and knock him out of the saddle at long range?
The Sikhs evolved a theory of warfare called "the two-and-a-half strikes." You got a full point for ambushes and hit-and-run attacks, but only a half point for pitched battles where you lost a lot of your own men. Nathan Bedford Forrest, Francis Marion and Patton himself would have agreed.
By 1810 the Sikhs had driven the Mughals out of the Punjab. They owned the place, literally: They had an independent Sikh kingdom running there, and by all accounts it was the one place in India where something sorta resembling law and order actually prevailed.
The only reason the Sikhs didn't go on to run all of India and maybe the world is simple: They ran into the Brits. Same reason the Zulu didn't get to own all of southern Africa. A lot of big, strong tribes were on the movie in Queen Victoria's time, and the same thing happened to most of them: They met the Brits, and that was all she wrote.
Ranjit Singh, the ruler of the Punjab, was smart enough to sign a treaty with the Brits, keep a strong army to back it up, and avoid the sort of little faked "border incidents" the Raj loved to use to start a war. When he died in 1839, the Punjab fell into the usual bickering, and the Brits pounced.
I keep telling you, the Brits circa 1840 weren't the cute little Monty Python guys you imagine. They were stone killers, the best since the Romans, totally ruthless, no more conscience than a drain contractor. They saw the Sikhs fighting among themselves and went for it.
Even then, even with Sikh traitors fighting for the Brits, the Sikhs had the best of the first Anglo-Sikh war. The Brits lost more than 2,000 men in the first battle, Ferozeshah, in 1845, and were on the verge of offering unconditional surrender when reinforcements arrived and overwhelmed the Khalsa, the Sikh army. The second war, in 1849, was easier, because the Brits, who knew more about occupation than our lame Bremer clones ever will, used the three years in between to bribe, assassinate and divide the Sikh elite. Even so, the Sikh cavalry, fighting basically without any leaders, slaughtered the British cavalry at the battle of Chillianwalla, smacking down the redcoats' little ceremonial swords with their big scimitars. I've read Brit officers' accounts of that battle, and they say something you get in all accounts of the Sikh: how big and strong the bastards are. The Brits said they felt like children beside the Sikh horsemen, and there's really funny picture of a white officer surrounded by Sikh soldiers, looking like a pasty little midget with his bodyguards.
And you know the best thing about the Sikhs? They don't waste time holding grudges. The Brits won; they accepted it, worked with it, and in a few years they were the core of the Raj's army. That came in handy during the Great Mutiny; the Sikhs stayed loyal and that was what saved the Raj. In fact, the Sikhs stayed so loyal that the battle of Saraghari, one of their greatest-ever last stands, was fought in the service of the British.