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Khalsa which means 'pure' is the name given by Guru Gobind Singh to all Sikhs who have been baptised or initiated by taking Amrit in a ceremony called Amrit Sanchar. The first time that this ceremony took place was on Baisakhi, which fell on 30 March 1699 at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, India. The Sikhs celebrated the 300th anniversary of the day in 1999 with thousands of religious gatherings all over the world.
The word "Khalsa" is derived from Arabic khalis (literally meaning "pure" or "unsullied") and Perso-Arabic khalisah (literally pure; office of revenue department; lands directly under government management), is used collectively for the community of baptised Sikhs. The term khalisah was used during the Muslim rule in India for crown-lands administered directly by the king without the mediation of jagirdars or mansabdars.
|ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਨ ਭਏ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਜਿਹ ਜਾਨੀ ॥੪॥੩॥|
|Kaho Kabīr jan bẖaė kẖālsė parėm bẖagaṯ jih jānī. ॥4॥3॥|
|Says Kabeer, those humble people become pure - they become Khalsa|
- who know the Lord's loving devotional worship.॥4॥3॥
In the Sikh tradition, the term appears again in one of the hukamnamas (literally written order or epistle) of Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) where a sangat of the eastern region has been described as "Guru ka Khalsa" (Guru's own or Guru's special charge). It has also been employed in the same sense in one of the letters of Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-75) addressed to the sangat of Patna. The word occurs in Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, once, but there it carries the sense of the term khalis, i.e. pure.(see below)
The term "Khalsa", however, acquired a specific connotation after Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) introduced, on 30 March 1699, the new form of initiatory rites— khande di pahul (rites by khanda or double-edged sword). Sikhs so initiated on that Baisakhi day were collectively designated as the Khalsa — Khalsa who belonged to Vahiguru, the Supreme Lord. The phrase Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa became part of the Sikh salutation: Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Vahiguru ji ki Fateh (Hail the Khalsa who belongs to the Lord God! Hail the Lord God to whom belongs the victory!!)
It is significant that shortly before the inauguration of the Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh had abolished the institution of masands, the Guru's agents or intermediaries assigned to the sangat, of different regions, and his hukamnamas of the period confirm the de-recognition of masands, establishing a direct relation between the sangats and the Guru. Sainapati, a poet enjoying the patronage of Guru Gobind Singh, in his "Sri Gur Sobha" relates how some Sikhs, when questioned how they had become Khalsa because khalsa was a term related to the king of Delhi, replied that their Guru by removing his former naibs or deputies called masands had made all Sikhs his Khalsa.
Guru Gobind Singh, at the time of his departure from this mortal world, conferred guruship itself upon the Khalsa along with the holy Guru Granth Sahib. During the eighteenth century the volunteer force organized by the Sikhs was known as Dal Khalsa (literally the Khalsa army). Even the government of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) was called Sarkar-i-Khalsa. In Guru Gobind Singh's Dasam Granth, and in many later religious and historical Sikh texts, such as Sarbloh Granth, Prem Sumarg Granth, Gur Bilases, Gur Pratap Suraj Granth and Prachin Panth Prakash, the Khalsa is repeatedly extolled as composed of men of excellent moral qualities, spiritual fervour and heroism.
The words "Khalsa ji" are also used loosely for addressing an individual Singh or a group of them. However, it is more appropriate to use the term for the entire community or a representative gathering of it such as "Khalsa Panth" or "Sarbatt Khalsa." The Khalsa in this context implies the collective, spiritually-directed will of the community guided by the Guru Granth Sahib.
After 1699, the Khalsa was established as a Saint-soldier and was ordained to carry the five symbols, Panj Kakka, or the Five Ks:
- Kesh – uncut hair to represent the natural appearance of sainthood. It is argued by some that the requirement is Keski instead, a small turban to be worn underneath a bigger turban. However the latter idea is not contradictory to the former, since the purpose of the Keski is to preserve the kesh.
- Kanga – a small comb.
- Kaccha – warrior short trousers, also denotes chastity.
- Kara – steel bangle as a sign of restraint and bondage, and a symbol of dedication to the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh proclaimed that by wearing Kara all fears will be removed.
- Kirpan – a sword for defence. The Kirpan is a symbol of dignity, power and courage. Kirpan is from Kirpa (act of kindness, Sanskrit) + Aan (self respect, Persian language).
He is to lead his life according to the Guru's teaching and is to respect but not practise or participate in non-Sikh religious rites or ceremonies. This includes abandoning the caste system. All Sikhs were taught to treat all in the community as equals; no distinction was to be made between the different professions or station in life.
ਜਾਗਤਿ ਜੋਤ ਜਪੈ ਨਿਸ ਬਾਸੁਰ ਏਕ ਬਿਨਾ ਮਨ ਨੈਕ ਨ ਆਨੈ ॥ ਪੂਰਨ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਪ੍ਰਤੀਤ ਸਜੈ ਬ੍ਰਤ ਗੋਰ ਮੜੀ ਮਟ ਭੂਲ ਨ ਮਾਨੈ ॥
"He who keeps alight the unquenchable torch of truth, and never swerves from the thought of One God; he who has full love and confidence in God and does not put his faith, even by mistake, in fasting or the graves of Muslim saints, Hindu crematoriums, or Jogis places of sepulchre;
ਤੀਰਥ ਦਾਨ ਦਇਆ ਤਪ ਸੰਜਮ ਏਕ ਬਿਨਾ ਨਹ ਏਕ ਪਛਾਨੈ ॥ ਪੂਰਨ ਜੋਤ ਜਗੈ ਘਟ ਮੈ ਤਬ ਖਾਲਸ ਤਾਹਿ ਨਖਾਲਸ ਜਾਨੈ ॥੧॥
He does not recognize anyone else except One Lord, not even the bestowal of charities, performance of merciful acts, austerities and restraint on pilgrim-stations; the perfect light of the Lord illuminates his heart, then consider him as the immaculate Khalsa.1.
Also another composition called Khalsa Mahima which begins with the line "Khalsa mero roop hai khas, Khalsa mehi ha karo nivaas"
The Beginning of the Khalsa
Although the word "Khalsa" existed before 1699, it is accepted that the Khalsa panth or Khalsa movement was started by the tenth Sikh Master. In the Sikh Holy book, called the Guru Granth Sahib, Bhagat Kabir uses the word "Khalsa" for the first time in Sikh sacred literature. The tuk (line) that contains this word is:
|ਪਰਿਓ ਕਾਲੁ ਸਭੈ ਜਗ ਊਪਰ ਮਾਹਿ ਲਿਖੇ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਨ ਭਏ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਜਿਹ ਜਾਨੀ ॥੪॥੩॥|
|Pario kāl sabẖai jag ūpar māhi likẖė bẖaram giānī. Kaho Kabīr jan bẖaė kẖālsė parėm bẖagaṯ jih jānī. ॥4॥5॥|
|Death has fallen on the whole world; the doubting religious scholars are also listed on the Register of Death. Says Kabeer, those humble people become pure - they become Khalsa - who know the Lord's loving devotional worship.॥4॥5॥|
However, the most radical change in the Sikh faith was instigated when Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, holding a kirpan (sword), asked a crowd of Sikhs whom among them would give his head for his sword which he said was thirsty for blood and die for their faith. He asked for a volunteer to step forward and follow him into his tent. After a few moments of astonished hesitation one lone brave man followed his Guru into the tent. A few seconds later only the Guru emerged holding his sword, dripping with fresh blood. Asking for another volunteer another man stepped forth, one by one the brave men strode into the tent, each of a different caste, each ready to be slaughtered for his faith in his Guru. It was then that the crowd found out that none of the five men were actually killed, and these five men became the Panj Piyare.
As they were baptised so then they were asked in turn to baptise the baptiser himself — Guru Gobind Singh. And so since that historic day have the Panj Piyare the (Five Pure Ones) baptised all the others who have taken up the "Five Ks" and the other requirements and joined the brother/sisterhood of the Khalsa.
The Khalsa as a military force
One of the duties of a member of the Khalsa was to become expert at the use of arms and horsemanship to be ever-ready to defend the weak and oppressed. This had become necessary only after all the avenues of peaceful redress had been exhausted during the ever present religious persecution of the Mughal rulers.
Years before, the fifth Guru —Guru Arjan Dev, a great man of peace who had earned the trust and admiration of the tolerant Mughal Emperor Akbar-e-Azam, had been arrested and tortured on the orders of his less tolerant, pleasure loving son Jahangir who seized control of the Mughal Empire against his father's wishes. In a hurry to escape the heat of Lahore in summer Jahangir hurried off to the coolness and pleasures of Srinagar and left the Guru's fate to Lahore's Govenor. But it would be the machinations of a revenge filled Hindu Banker that ended in the Guru being tortured mercelessly for five days.
Nothing the Muslim torturers could do weakened the will of Guru Arjan. First made to sit on a plate of red hot iron over burning coals, then having scalding hot sand poured over his body before being made to sit in a cauldron of boiling water. The jailers, in their frustration, finally aggreed to the badly blistered Guru's request to take a bath in the waters of the local river, barely able to keep his balance on his blistered feet he waded into the river and fell into the water's cooling embrace never to be seen again. In that same year, 1606, the banker would again attempt to end the life of the next Guru of the Sikhs—Guru Arjan's son Guru Hargobind.
Again it appeared to his faithful Sikhs (devotees) that their new master was lost as well. This time time, even though the banker had attempted to have the Guru poisoned, the tables were turned and the banker ended up at the hands of the devotees of the Guru he had ordered tortured to death. In a sublime twist of fate his death came at the hands of the very man whom he had hired to pour the scalding hot sand over Guru Arjan. It was Guru Hargobind who was treated to a royal welcome in the Jahangir's Darbar.
The persecution, however, often continued throughout the century until finally with the ascension to the throne of the zealous Aurangzeb, under the influence of the radical ulema who, untrue to their own Rasul's teachings, had decided that no other religion than their own would be professed in India and the Punjab.
Jahangir's grandson Aurangzeb, whose own father never intended for him to rule India, surprised everyone and seized the throne. He had all his brothers killed and his father imprisoned for the remainder of his life. With such a murderous man, with no respect for even his own father, ruling India the orders were soon issued that all the worshipers of murtis (idols) be converted to Islam whether by rape, circumcism or other religious defilement, i.e. forcing Hindus to eat meat, even the meat of the venerated cow. All Hindu temples were to be destroyed the Sikh Gurwaras without murtis were spared for awhile. Finally the threat of death, though used here and there, was used against all of the Venerated Pandits of Kashmir.
The Pandits of Kashmir sought the help of Guru Tejh Bahadur a man who as a thirteen year old Sikh risadari earned his warrior's name by his brave display of swordsmanship in the heat of battle. Later he had turned away from the sword becoming a man of peace and reflection throughout his life, a man who had come to see the futility of war, the man who dared the last great Mugal, the most powerful man in India, to attempt to convert him with the promise that if he could the Pandits of Kashmir would gladly become Musalmen. So in Chandini Chowk, shortly before a terrible sandstorm struck Delhi the executioner's sharp blade ended the earthly sojourn of the ninth Sikh Guru. Rather than convert to Islam the Guru had forstalled the conversion of the Kashmiri Pandits giving his own live to secure the rights of those of another religion.
In this context and under the leadership of the young Gobind Rai who had now become the last human Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh ji, the Khalsa went forth as a group of saint-warriors charged by their dying Guru and his appointed jathedar with resisting and ending Mughal rule in India. After the fall of the Mughal empire and the later establishment of a Sikh state in Punjab, the Khalsa became an instrument of the Punjab Maharajas, although often an unruly one, the Khalsa was a democratic body, and could oppose the Maharaja and some of the Nihangs in particular where known to freely voice their opinions.
Khalsa so-i jo nindaa ti-aagay Khalsa so-i laray jo agay
Khalsa so-i jo panchaa ka maaray Khalsa so-i karna ko saraay
Khalsa is the one who does not slander others Khalsa is the one who fights in the front line
Khalsa is the one who conquors the 5 evils (lust, greed, anger, excessive attachment, excessive pride) Khalsa is the one who fulfills all duties
Khalsa so-i maan jo ti-aagay Khalsa so-i jo par istaree-aa ti-aagay Khalsa so-i par drisht ko ti-aagay
Khalsa so-i naam rat laagay
Khalsa is the one who renounces self-pride Khalsa is the one who remains faithful within marriage
Khalsa is the one who abandons sexual desire for others than the spouse Khalsa is the one who is blessed with God's Name
Khalsa so-i guru hit laavay Khalsa so-i saar mukh khaavay
Khalsa so-i nirdhaan ko paalay Khalsa so-i dusht kao gaalai
Khalsa is the one who loves Waheguru Khalsa is the one who fights bravely in battle
Khalsa is the one who helps the needy Khalsa is the one who overpowers the enemy
Khalsa so-i naam jap kaaray Khalsa so-i malaych paar charay
Khalsa so-i naam si-o joray Khalsa so-i bandan ko toray
Khalsa is the one who chants God's Name Khalsa is the one who rises above the evil ones
Khalsa is the one who is in tune with God's Name Khalsa is the one who breaks false rituals
Khalsa so-i jo charai tarang Khalsa so-i jo karay nit jang
Khalsa so-i shaastar ko dhaaray Khalsa so-i dushat kao maaray.
Khalsa is the one who becomes a crusader Khalsa is the one who fights the war daily against internal and external enemies
Khalsa is the one who is always ready with weapons Khalsa is the one who destroys all evil.
The word Khalsa comes from an Arabic root signifying purity and emancipation.Purity because it overcomes all narrowness and because all words and actions of its votaries come out from the depth of truth. Emancipation- because it indicates freedom from superstitions and conventions and because their minds are without fear & their heads are held high. He is saint-soldier and a statesman. The Guru said, “The Khalsa is the living image of my spirit. I will eternally abide in the spirit of the Khalsa.”
The Khalsa is a sage in regal splendour. The Khalsa is a spiritual holy order which does not renounce the family.”(Ranbir Singh, The Sikh Way of Life, “The Khalsa ideal of Sikhism”, p. 126)
The birth of the Khalsa was a natural consequence and culmination of all that had happened before in the development of Sikhism. Guru Nanak taught:
- 1. Brotherly love for all the human beings
- 2. Man and universe were indivisibly one
- 3. One can be free from the cycle of birth and death, he can realize himself and have experience of absolute truth without renunciation or practising asceticism
- 4. An individual could continue to act a part in the great divine play even while remaining in the stream of life, this was the ideal state to be in. Guru Gobind Singh initiated the ceremony of amrit and, laid down certain rules for the guidance of Sikhs.
- This section by Dr Gurwinder Kaur
- 1. Kuir Singh, Gurbilas Patshahi 10. Ed. Shamsher Singh Ashok. Patiala, 1968
- 2. Sukha Singh, Gurbilas Dasvin Patshahi. Lahore, 1912
- 3. Chhibbar, Kesar Singh, Bansavalinama Dasan Patshahian Ka. Ed. Rattan Singh Jaggi. Chandigarh, 1972
- 4. Kapur Singh, Prasarprasna. Jalandhar, 1959
- 5. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1994
- 6. Major Pearse, Hugh; Ranjit Singh and his white officers.
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