Khalsa – The way of The Guru
Prof. Santokh Singh Pooni
The spectacle that Guru Gobind singh Ji performed at Sri Keshgarh Sahib on the Vaisakhi of 1699, was the final act in the process of strong nation building, a proud Qom (Nation), launched by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, and continued and nurtured to perfection by the successive Gurus. Writing about the creation of The Khalsa, Sir Gokal Chand Narang writes, “The sword that led to the glory of the Khalsa, it is true that Guru Gobind Singh devised it , but its steel was prepared by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The tree that bore fruit during the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Its seeds were planted by Guru Nanak and the plant was watered and nurtured by the successive Guru Sahibans.”
Writing about the condition of religion at that time, Guru Nanak Dev ji wrote, “Dharam pankh kar urh riha..”. The religion has taken wings and disappeared Instead of one God, people were worshipping all kinds of gods and goddesses (devi-devtas) in the form of their idols, and the priestly class was mainly interested in exploiting them financially and spiritually. Guru Ji preached “Ek- Onkar”, there is one God and you need no rituals to realise it. Remembering His Name is the only way. The Sikh Gurus made religion simple and understandable by every one, and thus, freed them from their dependence on the priestly class for their spiritual needs. Guru Gobind Singh, at the time of the Amrit ceremony made it a part of daily routine for the Amrit Dhari Sikhs to meditate on name through “Five-Banis”, every day and seek all strength from one God, “Akal Purukh”, not any devi-devtas.
In order to make a strong nation, it was essential to remove the divisions that the Indian Society was divided into, on the basis of a draconian, inhuman and cruel caste system. The different ‘Bhagats’ of the time had condemned caste-system in the strongest terms, but Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the Sikh Gurus took practical steps to break this stranglehold. The “Sadh-Sangat”, where all sit together and sing God’s praises together without the need of a priest, and eating together
sitting with each other from the same “Langar”, with no distinction between members of high caste and low caste were two very strong practices to remove caste distinctions. Guru Arjan Dev Ji included Bani of Bhagats of low and high castes in “Guru Granth Sahib”, and anybody who came to see the guru, bowed his head before “The Granth”,which meant he bowed to the likes of Bhagat Ravidas, Bhagat Kabir and Bhagat Nam Dev Ji, to name a few, from low castes. As a result any body coming to see the Guru had to leave his pride of caste at home or outside the door. When Guru Gobind Singh Ji installed “Guru Granth Sahib” as a “Guru” of the Sikhs, he picked Panj Pyare from high and low classes, gave them all the name “Singh”, and called them “Bhais”, i.e. brothers That was the last nail in the coffin of caste-system
Economically, there were so many parasites in the society, who under the garb of religion and Bhakti had taken refuge in the mountains or established their big followings like ‘Yogis’ and ‘Sidhs’ who had left the society’s responsibility of making their own living, but were dependent on the hard earned food and other needs from poor masses. The Sikh Gurus preached to live the life of a householder earning its own living, looking after the family and leading a life in the society, but above the impurities of the world, like a ‘Lotus’ flower in the muddy water. Make an earnest living through hard labour and share with those in need has always been a way of life of every Sikh. Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh Ji became leaders and productive members, working to build a better and prosperous society.
Guru Gobind singh Said “Chukar az hama heelte darguzahshat, halal ast burden ba shamsheer dast.” When all peaceful means fail, it is righteous to take sword in hand to combat injustice. All Gurus conveyed the message of Sikhism through peaceful means, but did not hesitate to condemn the political powers of the day in the strongest terms, like Guru Nanak said “raje chhinh muqaddam kutte.” The rulers are vicious lions and justices the dogs. Called Babar a Papi, cruel killer of humanity. Later Guru Hargobind raised army, took swords of Miri Piri (temporal and spiritual) and fought the Mughal kings, not to create kingdom, but to fight the oppressor and protect the personal honour and religion. . Guru Gobind Singh aptly gave sword the name Kirpan (Kirpa + Aan), the weapon for the protection of the victims of tyranny and to maintain your dignity. Guru Gobind Singh fought for justice, not personal gains. Guru Ji raised a nation of sant sipahis, saints and soldiers. He suggested to his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, to sacrifice his life not because the Guru believed in the janju, but Guru Ji said you cannot force anybody to wear it or remove it. Personal dignity and freedom is sacred. He challenged the powers of the time and as a great general, a soldier and a strategist he organized his army and built forts around Anand Pur Sahib and played Ranjit Nigara every morning and evening. The rise of this seemingly parallel state was a serious challenge to the supremacy and royal status of the neighbouring hill rajas and the Mughal emperor.
The Sikh religion is not a religion of personalities, but it takes all of its spiritual direction and social ethics from the Word, that is “Shabad Guru”. As a matter of fact for the Sikhs, the “Shabad” is the Guru. From the Bani of the first gurus and his own contributions and those of other Bhagats, Guru Arjan Dev Ji copmpiled “Guru Granth Sahib” and installed it in Harmander Sahib as the “Shabad Guru” of the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh Ji, after adding the Bani of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, before leaving this world, exhorted to his Sikhs that, thereafter, there will be no Guru in the human form, but “Guru Granthh Sahib” will be the guru of the Sikhs for eternity.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji saw that the different Bhagats tried to spread their message on the same lines as the Sikh Gurus, but failed to convince and convert the masses to their way of life. A unique thing that Guru Nanak did was that If the patient does not know that he is sick and does not come to the doctor, it is incumbent upon the doctor to go to the patient.That is why Guru Ji went to all corners of India, to holy places, jungles, mountains, and even beyond the borders of India, like Mecca, Ceylon, Afganistan etc, to name a few. And he went everywhere on foot. He faced all kinds of obstacles and difficulties, even danger to his life, but with the message of love and compassion he won them over to his way of life, and encouraged them to leave their evil ways or false thinking, and preached to them the belief in one God and equality of all humankind.
Also Guru Ji felt that it will take time to make his message a part of the life of the masses, and, therefore, it was accomplished in succession by ten Gurus. You can appreciate their farsightedness. While the following of the bhagats is limited to small pockets of followers, Sikhism became a world religion, and spread to all corners of the world.
Thus we can see by the time of Vaisakhi of 1699 the attributes of a strong nation were established. The belief in one God, brotherhood of all mankind, no caste system, no need to leave world to attain salvation, rather lead a life of householder, raise family, work hard and share the fruit of hard earned labour with others, the strong institutions of Sangat and Langar, and their own sacred book,” Sahib Guru Granth Sahib Ji”. The message of fear not and frighten not had become a part of their way of life. The Sikhs were not afraid to stand up for their right. In fact they were also always ready to protect the honour and dignity of others as well. In all “Gurbani”, the word Amrit is used for “Name”. Therefore, even Amrit was ready for Guru Ji to administer to the Khalsa.
Now it was left for Guru Gobind Singh Ji to take the final and very bold step to give the final form to the New Nation. To further prepare his Sikhs for the ultimate, Guru Ji trained them in the use of arms, and strategies of warfare during his battles against the neighbouring hill rajas and the Mughal forces. The Sikhs had been leading a very disciplined religious life and building their faith in the Guru and confidence in themselves. The playing of Ranjit Nagara every day (a symbol of Royalty), gave them the feeling that they are Royalty to themselves. The presence of Muslim followers of the Guru, like Pir Budhu Shah, gave them the comforting feeling that their Guru belongs to all mankind, irrespective of their caste, creed or religion. The iron was hot and the time was right for Guru Gobind Singh to strike and take the bold action.
The Mughal rulers were waging a jihad to convert all non muslims to their faith with bribe, word or sword. The Guru wanted to raise an army of those who were ready to sacrifice their life, in their fight against injustice and were ready to offer their head to the Guru. Offering your head means that not only your life, but head being the centre of all thinking and action, the volunteer is ready to do everything at the bidding of the Guru. Guru Ji, in a very dramatic way appeared in the Sangat with blazing sword in hand and asked for someone who is ready to sacrifice his life for the protection of Dharam. One by one five true ones offered themselves, to whom Guru Ji took into the tent nearby and brought them out all dressed in the same fashion. Before a huge congregation, Guru Ji prepared the Amrit, reciting Shabad Gurbani, the true Amrit, while stirring water with patasay with Khanda in an iron bowl. This Amrit was administered to the five chosen ones, which from now on were called the “Panj Pyare”. They were given the same last name “Singh”, indicating they are all equal, no high or low caste. Five articles, Kes, Kangha, Kachh, Kara and Kirpan were prescribed to be worn by them all the time. The Guru instructed them to read, understand and lead their life according to Bani of Guru Granth Sahib. This will be the Maryada (way of their life), a final and an eternal “Rehat Maryada” for a Sikh. As long as you follow Guru’s Path (the way of life), you will be unique (niara) in the world, Guru’s blessings will be with you and success will always touch your feet. Guru Ji knew to have a strong society, every member has to be strong and ready and capable of taking any and every role in the society, a fighter, a preacher, a bread winner and even ready to do all the menial jobs. Perfect all-round individuals make strong society. That is what Guru Ji accomplished. So that his Sikhs do not become arrogant, Guru Ji instructed his Sikhs (Now Khalsa) to greet each other with Wahguru Ji ka Khalsa Waheguru ji Ki Fateh, meaning Khalsa belongs to Waheguru and all victories are in His name
At this point Guru Ji performed the most unique act in the history of world religions, never seen before or since. Guru Ji begged the five beloved ones to administer Amrit to the Guru, which they did. Great was Guru Gobind Singh who was Guru and disciple, both at the same time. This way Guru Gobind Singh established the most democratic tradition that the collective decisions of the Sikhs in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib and according to the tenets of Gurbani is a will of the whole congregation and has the blessing of the Guru.
Thus Guru Gobind Singh created Khalsa in his own image, filled with such a spirit of confidence that the Sikhs kept advancing from one success to the other. Even when the enemy chased them in the jungles and put price on their heads, they never lost faith in the Guru. They were reduced to a handful by the enemy forces but bounced back and within a quarter of a century created their own independent state in the Panjab. The thoughtful, fearless and persistent, peaceful, and sometimes confrontational according to the circumstances, this was the miracle, which was Khalsa, the Panth – the Gur’s Way of Life.