Literally, jathedar means, ‘a captain’. In Sikh parlance it means a Chief of a band of Sikh volunteers who have enrolled themselves into a unit for whole time service in the cause of the Panth, or Sikh objectives. This term gained fresh prominence during the Akali movement for gaining control of the Sikh gurudwaras during the twenties of this century when a large number of Sikh bands organized themselves to wrest the control of the Sikh holy shrines from the hereditary priestly classes.

Now, a jathedar remains a local political boss in Sikh politics owing his allegiance to the Shiromani Akali Dal which might be one or more than one organisation, each claiming itself as the true and genuine spokesman for the Sikh causes.