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Emergence of the Khalsa

Why did the Guru set up the Khalsa? Did he do so to revenge the unjust persecution of his father? Was he constrained by the contemporary politico-social scenario? Was he coerced by the corruption and robbery of the Masands to take this step? Was the Sikh mission responsible for the emergence of the Khalsa?

Cunningham says, "The Guru acted under the mixed impulse of avenging his own and his country's wrongs.[1] He became an irrepressible foe of the Mahemetan name.[2] His aim was far-reaching: 'In heart of the powerful empire, he set himself to task of subverting it.' Sir J.N. Sarkar observed that the Guru was not the person to leave his father's death unavenged"[3] and so he began the policy of 'open hostility to Islam.' Gokal Chand Narang also endorsed the view of Cunningham and concluded that the Guru's purpose was to avenge his father's death and strike a blow at the power of Aurangzeb.[4]

It is ironical that neither J.N. Sarkar nor Gocal Chand Narang made an independent inquiry. They blindly followed Cunningham and took it for granted that it was but natural that the Guru should seek to avenge his father's cruel assassination and to punish the ruler who was responsible for it. These scholars attributed ordinary human motives to the Guru neglecting absolutely the sublimity of his mission and his personality.

The story elaborated by Cunningham appears to have been based on Ghulam Mohi-ud-din's version of the speech of Guru Gobind Singh at Kesgarh on the Baisakhi of 1699 as recorded in his work Tarikh-i-Punjab. According to him the Guru is reported to have said:

"You should remember that the Musalmans have maltreated us. They have killed our ancestors. Now in accordance with the mandatory wish of my father Guru Tegh Bahadur, I cherish the desire of avenging myself upon my father's murderer."

Did Guru Tegh Bahadur express any such mandatory wish before his martyrdom? There is no reference to any such wish in Bachittar Natak which was composed not long before the creation of the Khalsa. According to the Sikh tradition as recorded, while in prison at Delhi, Guru Tegh Bahadur wrote to his son as under:

All human power has failed,

Humanity groans in chains,

Moral efforts are of no avail,

Lord, save them, O save With thy Merciful aid,

As Thou did save

The drowning elephant, that prayed.[5]

On receipt of this slok from his father, Guru Gobind Singh replied:

All power is mine with thy Grace, Lord The fetters of bondage are broken,

Liberty and truth everything is possible,

Lord, everything is in Thy hands,

Nanak craves for Thy protection and aid.[6]

Guru Tegh Bahadur reiterated perhaps in response to his son's reply.

The Name remaineth, saints remain,

Gur Gobind remaineth

Saith Nanak, few are they who in this world who follow the Guru's instructions.[7]

Not a single line in the foregoing advice can be taken as the expression of any mandatory wish of Guru Tegh Bahadur made before his martyrdom to avenge his assassination. In fact, any such direction would have been entirely inconsistent with Guru Tegh Bahadur's tenor of life who never lost an opportunity to emphasise that one who is unmoved by joy and sorrow, to whom friend and foe are alike, is a truly liberated soul.

In view of this the statement attributed to Guru Gobind Singh by Ghulam Mohi-ud-din alias Bute Shah[8] and believed by Cunningham and Sir J.N. Sarkar is incorrect. There is another very cogent reason which renders the statement of Bute Shah redundant and superfluous. Bute Shah places the creation of the Khalsa soon after the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur and before Guru Gobind Singh's battle with the Hill Rajas and the Mughals. This is a cut and dried case of faulty chronology that suggests a connection between the execution of the ninth Guru and the creation of the Khalsa which is far from the truth. From this, two conclusions can be postulated.

One, Bute Shah did not verify the fact; and Second, he did not take cognizance of the series of events that took place between 1675 through 1699 and which could provide him more realistic historical perspective. Similarly, the contention that the Guru was openly hostile towards Islam is entirely baseless. The Guru was never against Islam or for that matter against any religion. He was an ardent votary of Love, raising it to the status of God. It was for this reason that both Hindus and Muslims were attracted towards him. Pir Budhu Shah of Sadhaura together with his sons and seven hundred followers fought hard and bravely in the Battle of Bhangani in 1688 in which he lost two of his sons and hundreds of his disciples. In the battle of 1702, Sayyid Maiman Khan commanded the

Guru's forces engaged in fighting against the Mughal troops. Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan in defiance of the wish of Wazir Khan, the Governor of Sirhind fearlessly and courageously helped the Guru out of his distress at Machhiwara. In Akal Ustat the Guru Says:

Shaving his head one is accepted as a Sanyasi, another a Jogi or a Brahmchari, a third as a Jati.

Some are Hindus while others are Muslims. Of the latter some are Shias and others are Sunnis.

Man's caste should be considered as one. (Manas Ki Jat Sabhai Ekai Pehchanbo).

Creator (Karta), Beneficent (Karim) are the same. Provider (Razak), Merciful (Raheem) are the same.

Let no one even by mistake, suppose there is a difference.[9]

Temple and Mosque are the same. Hindus worship and Muslim prayer are the same.

All men are alike, but they are under delusion.

Deities, demons, heavenly dancers, singers, Muslims, Hindus wear different dresses under the conditions of their countries.

But they possess eyes, ears, bodies, made of same elements composed of earth, air, fire, and water.

Allah and Unknowable (Alakh) are the same, the Puranas and the Quran are the same, they all are alike, it is the one God who created us all.

The Guru in his composition Jaap has given 735 names of God based on His traits seen in His actions/deeds out of which thirty pertain to Islam. In yet another composition of his known as Akal Ustat the Guru is emphatically forthright and remarked "Even by mistake deem not the God of Hindus to be different from the God of the Muslims. Worship one God recognise the enlightener. All men have the same form; and in all men the same divine light."[10]

Sujan Rai Bhandari wrote in 1698, "In their (Sikhs) eyes their own people and others as well as friends and foe are alike. They love their friends but they don't ill-treat their enemies."[11]

In the presence of such a plethora of evidence, it is only appropriate to reject the view that the Guru harboured hostility towards Islam or created the Khalsa to take revenge of his father's execution.

The creation of Khalsa in fact was the outcome of the interplay of different factors, some primary, others ancillary. Among the ancillary factors the first was the political scenario.

The Mughal reign had assumed the form of a purely Islamic state under Aurangzeb. Earlier, especially in the times of Babar, Humayun and Akbar, the reign could be categorised as largely Islamic, but not totally Islamic. Babur and his son were no religious bigots. Similarly Akbar's religious propensities were those of a liberal Muslim. He found no difficulty in reaching an understanding with the Hindu Rajputs and did not hesitate to determinedly and boldly face the religious orthodoxy. He strived to construct bridge of understanding between the two main religious communities of India, viz., Hindu and Muslim. His order, Din-i-ilahi was an association of liberal-minded persons. He did not levy discriminatory taxes such as Jazya on the non-Muslims nor did he pass laws unfavourable to them. He did not interfere in religious affairs of any community. He was sympathetic even to Christianity and extended his patronage to the Christian missionaries. Jahangir, except for a few early years when he under the influence of the Naqshbandis, martyred Guru Arjan Dev, followed, by and large, a liberal religious policy and did not allow state-power to serve the cause of Islam exclusively and blatantly. Shah Jahan was comparatively less liberal and took measures which buttressed the cause of orthodoxy. But even his reign could not be designated as an Islamic state. In Aurangzeb's time, the state became 'Islamic' by and large, as the Muslim orthodoxy was in the imperial saddle and ran the show.

J.N. Sarkar a celebrated historian of the Mughal period, while explicating the nature of Muslim state says in his book History of Aurangzeb, Vol. Ill, that in Islam 'true king is God and earthly rulers are merely His agents, bound to enforce His law on land. Civil law is completely subordinated to religious law and, indeed, merges its existence in the latter. The civil authority exists solely to spread and enforce the true faith. In such a state, infidelity is logically equivalent to treason because the infidel repudiates the authority of the true king and pays homage to his rivals the false gods and goddesses Therefore the toleration of any sect outside the fold of orthodox Islam is no better than compounding with sins. And the worst form of sin is polytheism, the belief that the one true God has partners in the form of other deities.[12] Such a belief is the rankest ingratitude (Kufr).[13] Islamic Theology, therefore, tells the true believers that his highest duty is to make exertion (Jehad) in the path of God by waging war against infidel lands (Dar-ul-Harb) till they become part of the Islam. (Dar-ul-Islam) and their populations are converted into true believers. After conquest the entire infidel population becomes theoretically reduced to the status of slaves of the conquering army. The conversion of the entire population into Islam and the extinction of every form of dissent is the ideal of a Muslim state. If any infidel is suffered to exist in the community, it is as a necessary evil and for transitional period only. Political and social disability must be imposed upon him and bribes offered to him from the public funds to hasten the day of his spiritual enlightenment and addition of his name to the role of the true believers A true Islamic king is bound to look on jubilantly when his infidel subjects cut each other's throats; for whichever side may be slain; Islam is the gainer. (Har tarf ke shazvwad, kushta sud-i-islam ast)[14]

Aurangzeb was believer in the Islamic theory of state, the view which continued to be butterressed and strengthened by the circumstances, Naqshbandis and the financial needs of the state. His reputation had suffered greatly in the Muslim world for executing his brothers and imprisoning his father. The Naqshbandis who were headed by Masum Shaikh Saifuddin and had a wide network in the whole of Mughal empire had considerable influence on Aurangzeb's thinking, who, following them believed, that it was his religious duty to help resurgence of Islam by eliminating infidelity and heterodoxy. He also needed finance to wage his wars for escalation of Islam as well as for crushing infidelity. This could easily be procured from the non-Muslims especially the Hindus including the Sikhs. For all these reasons he adopted the policy of an awed persecutor of non-Muslims as well as non-Sunni Muslims.

After ascending the throne, Aurangzeb hastened to convince the orthodox Muslims in the empire that they have backed the right horse. He began with puritanic measures. In the second year of his reign, he discontinued the celebration of Navroz (first day of the lunar year). A few years later music and dancing were prohibited. Jharokha Darshan was discontinued on the ground that it smacked of human worship. Several punishments were awarded for anything that was constructed by the theologians in violation of spirit of Islam. Permissible length of the beard was fixed at four fingers and offenders against this order were penalised.

But most of these restrictions were of a general nature and covered all communities. Non-Muslims were singled out for discriminatory treatment in four specific fields: public services, construction of new and repair of old temples, conversion and taxation. Regarding the discrimination of the government towards the Hindus in services, the remarks of Sri Ram Sharma are pertinent. He says that towards the end of Aurangzeb's reign, there was a small number of Hindus occupying the Mansabs of 1000 and above than the number of similar Mansabdars towards the end of Shah Jahan's reign. But the decrease in number becomes still more significant when we take into account the increase in the total number of Mansabdars which rose enormously in the reign of Aurangzeb. In 1657, under Shah Jahan, there were 8000 Mansabdars in all; whereas in 1690 the number had risen to 14556.... The percentage of Hindus in the higher rank of the state services could not have been more than half of what it was towards the end of Shah Jahan's reign. Besides, this carefully planned campaign was launched prohibiting the construction of new and repair of the old temples. In 1659, the year of coronation of Aurangzeb, he ordered that no new temple should be built. In 1666 the stone railing of the famous Keshwa Rai temple of Mathura was razed to the ground by Imperial order.[15] In April 1669 he issued a general order for the destruction of all schools and temples of Hindus. "Orders were now sent to the governors of all the provinces that they should destroy the schools and temples of the infidels and put an end to their educational activities as well as the places of the religion of Kafirs7 In 1669 the temple of Vishwanath at Benaras was demolished. The temple of Gopinath in Benaras too was destroyed about the same time. Similar destructions were ordered in various Rajput states such as Ajmer, Ujjain, Bengal and other provinces of the Empire. In 1674, Aurangzeb confiscated all lands held by Hindus as religious grants."

‘Lest the orders go amiss, strict administrative measures were taken. He appointed officers in all the sub-divisions and the cities of the empire to enforce the regulations of Islam with the directions that destruction of Hindu temples was one of their chief duties. The Qazis were actually associated with the new policy. The officers were told that the reports of destructions of the temple would be looked upon as authentic only if it bore their seal and attestation.'

Like other non-Muslims, particularly the Hindus, the Sikhs too according to Khafi Khan came under the state order for their share. Their temples were destroyed and their leaders externed of repraisal.[16] Mirza Inayat-Ullah-Ismi tells us in the Ahkam-i-Alamgiri that in compliance with the orders of the Emperor and with the consent of the local Qazi, the Sikh temple in the town of Burya in the pargana of Khizrabad of the Sarkar of Sirhind had been demolished and a mosque had been raised on this site.[17] Sayyed Zafar Darvesh was appointed incharge of that mosque to guide prayers and benedictions. Some Sikhs attacked the mosque and killed the Darvesh. The Emperor rebuked the Qazi and his father who was the head of the police. According to Dr. Hari Ram Gupta, incidents of this sort had become a common occurrence.[18]

In the field of taxation the policy of discrimination was launched with greater vigour, jazya and pilgrimage tax were relieved, custom duties on the Muslims were fixed at 2.5 percent and in the case of the Hindus at 5 percent. It was ordered that in the Lunar year, the Muslims should pay 2.5 percent and the Hindus 5 percent on the price of their cattle.

The ruling Muslim community being in a minority, great importance was attached to conversions. Bakhtawar Khan states that Aurangzeb himself administered Kalima to prominent persons and adored them with Khilat with his own hands.[19] In March 1695 Aurangzeb had issued an edict that, all the Hindus except Rajputs will not ride on elephant, fine horses, in palanquins or carry arms.[20]

Aurangzeb was equally bigotted towards Shia, Sufi saints and liberal-minded people. In 1661 Mansur-e-Sani Sufi Muhammad Sarmad was beheaded for believing in Sufi tenets.[21]

In 1678, Diwan Muhammad Tahir was put to death for liberal interpretation of Islam.[22] Qamir, a famous theologian and a scholar from Sirhind, was hanged on the same charge. In 1683, Mir Hussain was executed in Kashmir in its tribal territory for breaking Ramzan fast a little before sunset.[23] In 1669 celebration of Moharram was banned. Many Shia Imams were executed.[24]

This policy of Aurangzeb had manifold implications, one of which was that Mansabdars taking cue from Aurangzeb became highly zealous and vigorous in their dealings with the non-Muslims. This apparently provided them with a way of fulfilment of their financial needs and greed, apart from dislodging the non-Muslims from the ownership of land they had occupied to be made available to the state for reallocation and distribution among Muslims.

The second ancillary factor was the religio-social scenario. Islam and Hinduism were the two major religions in India, and were divided into sects and cults. Among the Muslims, the majority belonged to the Sunni sect. The Qazi, Muftis and the Ulemas were the exponents of their faith. The ultimate authority in their religious life was Quran. Besides this, Sunna, the sayings of the prophet also served as the principal source. The books embodying interpretation of Quran (Tafsir) were also regarded as the object of esteem by the Sunnis. Collection of Hadis, prepared by Al Bukhari and Zama Khshrri's commentary on the Quran named Kashshaf were very popular in the Punjab as also in India.

Al-Ashri's (873-93) book Maqalat was considered to be a good guide so far as Sunni ideas and institutions were concerned. As a rule, a Sunni ought to have faith only in the oneness of God who is all-powerful, just, majestic, inscrutable, righteous and merciful and show no regard to idol worship; observe daily prayers (Salat), keep the daily fast during the month of Ramzan, go on pilgrimage to Mecca (Haj) and give charity to his Muslim brotherhood (Zakat). A mere observance of these things was sufficient for one to be regarded as a pious Muslim.

Next to Sunnis, the most important sect of the Muslims in Punjab was that of Shias. The distinction between the Shias and Sufis had its roots in the dispute between the Alis and Umayyads in the year which followed the Khalafat Utman's association (35.A.H.). In its origin, it has nothing to do with the religion founded by prophet Muhammad. Rather it was occupied with the political question of the succession to the leadership of the Muslim community.[25] At first, the Alis on their side claimed that they were the legitimate Khalifas because they descended from the Prophet's daughter Fatima and his cousin and intimate companion, Ali. The Umayyads, on their part, claimed a nomination by the choice of the Muslims themselves and as a further title claimed worship with the Prophet as being the Hashmite family. Later, the Alis stood for the claims of the descent against all claims of right to office because of the popular choice. Besides this, among the Sunnis, the Khalifa is a political ruler essentially, while the Shia party regards the Prophet's successor as a religious guide and therefore preferred to designate him as the Imam of the Muslim community[26]. The Shias recognise twelve Imams in the line from Fatima and Ali. The last Imam Muhammad Ali Mahdi was believed to have disappeared from the world in A.D. 880 and was expected to reappear to restore justice and righteousness. Sunnis did not recognise them. The Shias recognised the authority of Quran and prophethood of Muhammad but had no faith in first three Khalifas.

Ismailis and Qamirathians were the other Muslim sects in the Punjab. The Ismailis reposed faith in seven prophets ending with Jafar-us-Sadiq and Ismail. They claimed to derive teachings from a hidden source which must receive absolute obedience.[27] The laws of Shariat according to Ismaili belief were not meant for those who possessed esoteric knowledge.[28] Quran itself had inner meanings. They denied all divine attributes, holding that the divine essence has given forth light by which various form of intelligence and matter have been created having no real individuality. The divine essence which was alone in the beginning will be alone in the end. The initiates were taught to use speculative philosophical reasoning as a result of which doubts were raised about the systems of religions including Islam. Besides Shias, Ismailis and Qamirathians were generally not liked by Sunnis. Aurangzeb also had no soft comer for them, and so far as Shias were concerned, he was very bitter. There were various other sects of Islam but they had so small a following that they were virtually incapable of playing any significant role in Islamic fraternity vis-a-vis Hinduism or its sects. Besides nursing inter­sects theological and doctrinal differences, they had also differences in social outlook and approach to different problems. They, however, had one thing common between them which was their formalism, particularism, obscurantism, esoteric practices, superstitions, demeaning rituals et al in which they had plunged deep.

In the 16th and 17th centuries particularly, there emerged certain revivalist movements which created new religious orders, but even they did not hold any praxis for the regeneration of Indian Muslims or of mankind as a whole. Mahdvis, believing that Mahdi, would reappear to restore original glory to Islam and it was the duty of the Muslim to believe and follow him. Sayyid Mohammad of Jaunpur (Birth September, 1443) was famous Mahdi in India. Naqshbandis was another religious group. Unlike Mahadis, it wielded considerable influence among the Muslims even in Guru Gobind Singh's time. They believed that their Qayyum who had direct access to God and prophet Muhammad, was destined to usher in the revival and promotion of Islam, and in this process Bidat (innovation) and Kufar had to be erased by which they meant crusade (Jehad) should be launched against Kafirs who did not accept Islam of their concept, to make them accept Islam or to finish them. In the case of Christianity and Judaism which were the religions of the Book, the crusade would not operate if their followers agreed to enter into agreement. The Sunnis which formed the majority of the Muslims were anxious that the Muslim Shara should be observed in totality and principle of Jehad should be pursued vigorously with the ultimate objective of converting Dar-ul-Harb into Dar-ul-Islam. In the process, they supported and sponsored all such movements which in their reckoning could bring the goal nearer. Strangely enough, all those movements did not strive to shed off unneccessary accretions to Islam, nor did they try to coalesce different sects of the Muslims, into one unified whole with vision of seeking welfare of all. Regretfully, religion was seen as an instrument to advance particularstic interests rather than be considered a great artifice to reform individuals and corporate living. Even among Naqshbandis, there were groups having intra-group conflicts, as for instance, Naqshbandis of Delhi had differences with their counterpart at Delhi.

Sufism, another form of religious life of the Muslims in India, had also developed contradictions. According to one estimate there were Sufis and Sufis, some having faith in Tahudi-i-Wajudi and some in Tahuhidi-Shuhadi. In Social outlook they were Sulekul (protagonist of peace for all) but in the Indian context they could not shed off particularism and compromised with orthodox Islam, although they were hesitant to act as a fanatic and oppressive to other religions. Quite a number of Sufi saints such as Mian Shaikh Badruddin, Bhikhan Shah and Saif Khan had enjoyed in deep friendship with the Sikh Gurus and some Hindu Saints as well. All the same, they did not draw up any programme for lifting the mankind out of the prevailing quagmire.

Hinduism too presented a sorry spectacle. Its main forms Vaishnavism, Jogism, Saivism were at the most half-baked attempts to regenerate society. These did not conceive Reality appropriately nor did they project any social philosophy. The people brought up in these traditions grew to be good ascetics instead of being responsible citizens alive to their civic and social duties. Tantrism was another cult of Hinduism that held some population of the Hindus in tight grip. Regretfully this form also had debased itself to a few formulae and incantations to be muttered for attaining mundane advantages. The religious elites of both Hinduism and Islam had gone corrupt.

Corruption, immorality and vices were rampant among the Qazis as well as Imams of the mosques. They visited the hemp saloons without hesitation.[29] The theologians were shrewd enough to exploit the royal patronage to their utmost advantage. They seemed to be following the maxim "Make hay while the sunshine".[30] According to Shah Nawaz Khan, Aurangzeb himself bemoaned that in the reign of Timurids, not a single truth-loving person or an honest Qazi was heard of (with the exception of Murtaza Khan).

The Qazis of the cities and towns in concert with the governors and magistrates would sell out of greed the decrees of Qisas (retaliation on account of murders) for gold.[31]

The demeanour of Brahmins and other religious functionaries of various forms of Hinduism was no less better. They had become extremely self-centered and had no moral qualms. They misguided the people on matters religious and social and filled their coffers. They were also in collusion with the ruling classes to safeguard their interests as well as to promote the interests of the rulers by projecting them as the blessed personalities. Certain reformatory movements like Sufism among the Muslims, Baulism in Bengal, and the Bhakti movement in almost all parts of the country had surfaced but their impact on the society was marginal. With the passage of time, they had compromised their uniqueness with the orthodoxy either of the Hindu or that of Muslim variety.

About the approach and vision of different religions and sects, the remarks of Bachittar Natak are illuminating and pertinent. In Chapter 6 of Bachittar Natak, the Guru made it clear that Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, Dattatreya, Rishis, Sidhs, Prophet Mohammad did not improve upon the lot of this world, rather they began to present themselves as God's equals and enmeshed the people in rituals, formalism, meaningless practices. For instance saint Dattatriya taught only' how to beautify ones nails and hair and Prophet Muhammed began his own cult instilling in people to call him as the sole spokesman of God.[32] "All of them were entangled in their own beliefs and could not see what the Supreme Reality was."[33]

The Guru was naturally upset at the sordidness of religious affairs. His anguish is amply visible in many of his poetic outpourings. For instance in Bachittar Natak, he says:

All those previously incarnated

Their own names having propagated

None showed the true path

Nor did they recognise the Almighty God.[34]

Government and religious elites being altogether uncreative, partisan, greedy, tyrannous, ego-centric held no hope to the Guru in his wish to improve the lot of the people.

No less worrisome for the Guru was disintegrative forces that had been brewing in the Sikh society and had the potential to disturb its internal organisation and cohesion. The Masands/Manjidars who with the strength of the Sangats under their respective charges constituted the pivot of Sikh organisation and had served Sikhism creditably since the time of its inception, had ceased to function appropriately. Up to the time of Guru Hargobind, Sikhism had crossed frontiers of Punjab and had won the hearts of the masses in far off regions such as Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and certain parts of South India, Jammu, Kashmir et al. As a result Sangats had been formed on a large scale often by the Sikhs themselves and sometimes by the Masands/Manjidars appointed by different Gurus. The members of the holy congregation were largely in touch with the Guru through Masands and their Deputies (Mewaras) although examples of Sangat being guided and supervised by the devoted Sikhs were not lacking. Masands, therefore, acquired an extraordinary influence over the Sangat as they were the medium through whom instructions of the Guru to the people were transmitted. The offerings of the people were also collected and then remitted to the Guru by the Masands, although at times, the Sangat sent them directly. The Masands kept a part of the offerings for performing their organisational, secular and episcopal duties. The system worked well for some time but as the time advanced, its functioning became shoddy and remissly. The office of a Masand which in the first instance was filled by men of piety and integrity became hereditary in the families of the first incumbents, and in course of time, fell into the hands of those persons who were neither serious about their episcopal duties, nor possessed the requisite integrity in respect of financial matters. Masands not only took to the jobbery, misappropriation of the offerings on a large scale, but also claimed status equal to the Guru and did not hesitate to clone Sangats. Still they could not do much harm either to the solidarity of the Sikhs or the escalation of Sikhism, because they feared Guru Hargobind for his promptitude to take quick and strong actions.

The uncordial relationship between the state and the Gurus, the animus and provocative stance of the rival claimants of Gurudom, such as Dhirmal, Ram Rai, Miharban and his successors, particularly after Guru Hargobind, the Gurus could not pay much attention to the organisational as well as episcopal matters with the natural consequences that Masands/Manjidars found opportunities to be more bold, more active in pursuing their petty designs instead of serving the cause of Sikhism. This tendency was clearly manifest during the pontificate of Guru Har Rai and Guru Harkrishan. It persisted even during the period of Guru Tegh Bahadur. The fact that quite a number of them sided with Dhirmal and one of them called by the name of 'Shihan' did not hesitate even to fire at Guru Tegh Bahadur was a brazen example of Masand's contumacy and their recalcitrance.

Guru Gobind Rai had chartered a massive programme of rejuvenating and reshaping the society. In the process he had realised that he would have to face animosity of the Hill Rajas, conservative Hindu elements, ignorant masses, Mughal Islamic Imperialism, privileged classes, dissenting sects and his rival claimants to the guruship. To steer clear through all this, he needed unflinching devotion of the Sikhs in general and whole-hearted co-operation of the Masands in particular. But the latter failed him badly. They adopted many tactics to dislodge him from his chosen path. They bred doubts in the minds of his family members, and the Sikhs in general regarding the soundness of his programme and policies. When the Guru imparted military training and adopted assertive postures vis-a-vis Hill Rajas, they would at once go to Reverend mother of the Guru and prevail upon her to actively intervene and dissuade the Guru from such activities. Similarly, when the Guru decided to encounter the enemy at Bhangani, they were cynically critical. Not satisfied with their out­pouring against his plan to fight at Bhangani, they inveigled dissentients and rival claimants to the guruship to step up their nefarious activities. Many of them openly sided with them against the interests of Guru. They also involved the Sangats under their influence in the issues, they championed and sponsored. Resultantly, Masands and the Sangats coalesced into different groups—each group under some Masand/Manjidar committed to the cause other than the cause of Sikhism/Guru. Many Masands were bold enough to keep the offerings and Daszvandh with themselves which they were enjoined upon to remit to the Guru. These were the people who had not only absconded with the offerings which the Sikhs had made to the Guru at Anandpur when there was a cataclysm caused by the attack of Mirza Gias Beg and four Mughal Ahadyas. Such people wielded a considerable influence in the whole of Majha territory and most of the Doaba. They seemed to have co­operated with schismatic groups among the Sikhs in many cases. An indeterminate number of Sikhs were following the descendants of Guru Ram Das who had set up a rival Guru lineage. Notable, amongst them were the descendants of Prithi Chand and of Dhirmal (The elder brother of Guru Har Rai). Ram Rai, the elder brother of Guru Harkrishan had also attracted considerable following contemptuously called Ram Rayyas but his strength lay in the hills where Aurangzeb had granted him the territory of Dehra Doon.

Sikh chronicles are galore with examples of Masand's total perversity. It is often narrated that one day, a company of mimes came to the Guru's court. The Guru asked them to imitate acts and deeds performed by Masands. One of them accordingly dressed himself as Masand, the second as Masand's servant and the third as Masand’s courtesan riding behind him on a horse back as he went to collect offerings for the Guru. The mimes portrayed to life the villainy and oppression practised by the Masands. Again we are told that a Masand billeted himself on a poor Sikh and demanded sweets instead of the crushed pulse and unleavened bread which formed the staple food of the host. The Masand took the bread, threw it into the host's face and spattered the crushed pulse on the ground. He then abused the Sikh and would not cease scolding him till the poor Sikh sold his wife's petty-coat to provide him sweets.[35] The stories may have some minor exaggerations but the substantial truth implicit in them is certified by the Guru himself. He writes:

"If anyone goes the Masands, they will tell him to bring all his property at once and give it to them.

If anyone serves the Masands, they will say 'Fetch and give us all thine offerings.'

Go at once and make a present to us of whatever assets are in their house.

'Think on us night and day, and mention not others even by mistake.'

If they hear of anyone giving, they run to him even at night, they are not at all pleased at not receiving.

They put oil into their eyes and make others believe that they are shedding tears.

If they see any of their worshipper wealthy, they serve sacred food and feed him with it.

If they see him without wealth, they give him nothing. Though he begs for it, they will not show him their faces.

Those beasts plunder men, and never sing the praise of the Supreme Being.[36]

The Masands had become hypocritical, avaricious, ego­centric, dishonest and were engaged in creating their own followings to cater to their own selfish ends instead of linking the Sikhs to the Guru. The latter fact was palpably taken notice of by the Sixth Nanak[37] and he designated the Sikhs who had direct link with the Guru as Khalsa, the pure ones, or Guru's own as the Khalsa lands were under the direct control of the Mughal sovereign. The Guru seemed to make use of this term deliberately so that the Sikhs might take note of the Guru's preference for the Sikhs with direct connection with the Guru. Guru Tegh Bahadur also used this term (Khalsa) for the Sikhs of Patna understandably to make known to them that they were preferred as they had direct linkage with him. What was implicit in all this was the fact that to be a Sikh directly of the Guru was dearer to the Guru than a Sikh linked with the Guru through the mediacy of a Masand.

In a way, Guru Hargobind and Guru Tegh Bahadur had indicated their aversion for Masands and had taken steps to enable the Sikhs to have direct links with them. In consonance with their designs, they defined the identity of a Sikh in terms of his relation with the Guru as well.

Guru Gobind Singh's perception about the Masands was no different from his father and grandfather, but he waited long, before he took any decisive step against them. The Guru's slow peddling in this regard seemed to have been actuated by practical considerations. Any drastic interference in their affairs was to put the whole Sikh organisation out of gear, but ultimately the Guru was roused to action. He exposed the misdeeds of Masands and issued Hukamnama to various Sangats that they should not only stop sending their offerings and the amount of Dasivandh through Masands but also avoid any social relations with them. They were asked to have direct link with the Guru. The story goes that the Guru was so much enraged at the misdemeanour of Masands that he had them rounded up numbering nearly 2200 and brought to Anandpur where he destroyed them in boiling oil and by other torments.[38] This does not seem to be credible as the Guru had hardly the means of laying his hands on all of them, particularly on those of out-lying districts and it seems more probable that some of them were punished, while the others were pardoned. The Guru, however, did not stop at that. He thought of abolishing Masand system altogether as he found it not only injurious to the community but also felt it was a great wedge between the Guru and the Sikhs. But he definitely wanted to get rid of them.

Equally disruptive and inappropriate were the activities of dissentient sects such as the followers of Prithi Chand, contemptuously called Minas by Bhai Gurdas, the followers of Dhirmal, commonly known as Dhirmalias and the followers of Ram Rai, popularly called Ram Rayyas. Hardas the son of Miharban and grandson of Prithi Chand, the elder brother of Guru Arjan Dev, was leading the Minas after his father and his grandfather. He was a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh. He called himself the seventh Guru in succession to Guru Nanak claiming inheritance of his light and projected his sect as the mainstream Sikhism. He kept control of the central Sikh shrine Sri Harmandir Sahib and Darbar Sahib complex including Sri Akal Takhat and spared no pains to present the compositions of his father as well as sacred texts.

His real purpose was to impress upon the Sikhs that guruship after Guru Ram Das was vested in his father and grandfather and currently in his person and his followers represented mainstream Sikhism. He made applicable a code of conduct which like the writings of his father were inclined towards Brahmanism.[39] Guru Har Rai's elder brother Dhirmal had already done his worst to gain guruship for himself and was still campaigning to attain his objective. The followers of Ram Rai had not ceased to present themselves as the representatives of Sikhism, although their progenitor, Ram Rai, had reconciled to the guruship of Guru Gobind Singh and had publicly proclaimed to his effect. They were particularly active at Lahore where their headquarter next in importance only to that of Dehra Doon was situated, and at Srinagar (Garhwal state) where some of the Ram Rai's Masands had decided to stay. At Dehra Doon they were wary of conducting vicious propaganda against the Guru because Punjab Kaur, wife of Ram Rai, had been converted to the Guru's mission. The example of these claimants of Sodhi family was not lost upon other members of Sodhi family and twenty-two of them were audacious enough to simultaneously claim pontific throne at the death of Guru Harkrishan. Many of the Sodhis began to consider themselves as entitled to the services of the Sikhs and appointed their own Masands. A great destructive force was thus let loose in Sikhism, of which Masands were not slow to take the fullest advantage. The greed of these aspirants for the guruship and the recalcitrance of the Masands fed each other resulting in development of a serious threat to the solidarity of the Sikhs, their loyalty to their Guru and the immutability and sovereignty of the Sikhs doctrine. The Guru, was obligated to take serious note of such development and therefore he denounced the Minas, Dhirmallias and Ram Rayyas as heretics, projecting beliefs and opinions opposed to Sikhism. He also made the Sikhs aware of their nefarious activities and issued Hukamnamas to Sangat of different regions that they should not remit their offerings and amount of Daswandh to him through a Masand or any of his agent. These should be sent directly to him or through his specially appointed emissaries.[40]

A Hukamnama directing Sikhs not to have any social relationship with the followers of Prithi Chand, Dhirmal and Ram Rai was also issued.[41]

Equally irritating were the deliberate distortions of the real concept of guruship. Guru Nanak was Guru because it was avowed that the guruship on Nanak was bestowed directly by the Almighty God. With Guru Angad and his immediate successors, it could not have been direct and immediate. Indeed to them the words and message of the Guru as transmitted to them were considered as Guru, Guruship being supposed to have been transmitted to them through words, and the mission that went with them. Guru Arjan also got guruship because he was transmitted the light that made his predecessors Guru, but he was at the same time the son of fourth Guru and it was from this cue that guruship began to be seen as something hereditary, a principle which actually speaking was against the concept and institution of Guru in Sikhism.

Since the hereditary principle and law of primogeniture were generally considered as adjuncts to each other by the people, Dhirmal, the eldest son of Guru Hargobind and Ram Rai the eldest son of Guru Har Rai began to dispute the succession to the pontific seat. They turned hostile to the central Sikh church and formed the rival sects and colluded with the Mughal authorities to disrupt /erode the Sikh authority. Beside this, the Guru realised that any hereditary institution particularly of socio-religious nature in an expanding society was liable to deteriorate in character and become authoritarian. There is ample evidence of Guru Gobind Singh himself showing that the Masands had actually turned authoritarian and used to indulge in corrupt practices that led to the exploitation of the poor and innocent Sikhs. All this convulsed his mind and he seemed to have given a serious thought to it. Accordingly, he made up his mind to abolish personal guruship and invest it with something permanent and inviolate. Much work had already been done in this direction. Now he resolved to take things to their logical end. There was the revered Granth well established by then as the book enshrining Divine Word of the Lord propagated through Gurus and considered as sacred as the Gurus themselves and even the Almighty.

On the matters other than spiritual, there was the institution of Sangat by now developed into a cohesive unit to take up responsibility of secular affairs of the Sikhs as well. The Granth and Sangat, could now take care of the spiritual and secular functions of the Guru, the revered Granth could take the mantle of the spiritual Guru, the Panth (Sangat) as the secular Guru and their combination as the mystic entity. But how to translate these ideas into practice was the most pertinent question.

The Guru had lived among the people of semi-­independent states of Shivalik Hills and had tried hard to enlighten and awaken them to their responsibilities towards God, themselves and society. But he soon discovered that they were insensitive to any fresh call. Similarly, the Guru found the Hill Rajas holding fast to feudalistic values and totally reluctant to make efforts to introduce reforms. As a result, the people had become bereft of vigour and vitality to play any worth-while role in remoulding individuals and society as envisaged by the Guru.

The Rajputs of the present-day Rajasthan also did not hold any hope to the Guru. They had enmeshed themselves in feudal order and caste-based social structure. Not only this, they had succumbed to the Mughal hegemony and had surrendered their political and social will. No doubt, in the time of Guru, the Rathors of Marwars and Sisodias of Mewar had challenged the tyrannous Aurangzeb's religious policy of converting Dar-ul-Harb into Dar-ul-Islam, yet their cases were the product of injured vested interests and were not actuated by any higher motive or design.

Such people obviously were not fit to be the vehicle of Guru's programme of rejuvenation and regeneration. The case of the Marathas was no better. No doubt they rose against the inequitable rule of Aurangzeb under their charismatic leaders, first—under Shivaji and then under his successors, Sambha Ji, Raja Ram (Sambhaji's brother) and Tara Bai (Raja Ram's wife) and ultimately established Maratha sovereignty. Yet they were incapable of reconstruction of society anew on the bases of justice, equality, freedom. They felt satisfied with Varan based society clinging to feudalistic values. Their vision was circumspect and their social action particularistic. The times demanded emergence of a person with all-inclusive vision of society but they were too inelastic to expand beyond the parameters laid down by their Dharm Shastras. At political level, they did not look beyond Hindu Padshahi or Swaraj for Marathas. No fresh concept either of polity or of governance, society or metaphysics was thrown up by them. Such people obviously could not be helpful to the Guru who was determined to reshape society and polity in the light of his revelation.

People other than those mentioned in the aforesaid paragraphs were also taken cognizance of by the Guru. His compositions reveal that he surveyed, although mentally, the Bundhelas Arabians, the French, the Gores (people from Gaur), Qureshies of Qandhar, people of Ghazni, Bengalee, Banghshias, (people of the areas of Kohat and Qurran), Nepalese, Michinese (people of the area adjoining China), Hinguelse (people from Sind).[42] He also seemed to have critically appraised different sects including Rafazi,[43] Imams, Siddhs, Naths et al.[44] He found all of them ego-ridden and unenthused in regard to participation in the Guru's contemplated crusade against the perpetrators of Kubadh-misdeeds.

While the Guru had carried out a in-depth analysis of the people of other religions, sects and regions, he had also critically scrutinised the social complexion of his disciple. The compositions of the Sikhs had undergone a distinct change. The Jats of Majha and Malwa had entered into the fold of Sikhism in large numbers. They had brought along with them their tribal culture. Because of their profession of agriculture and their habitatism amidst war-like people for quite a long time coupled with difficult social and geographical environments, they had developed spirit of adventure and discernible elasticity in their character and behaviour. They had developed a natural tendency to be less rigid particularly in matters which needed adaptability. Sikhism threw no damper on all these qualities but they needed orientation towards Sikh values, especially in relation to other components of Sikhs, primarily the stock from low caste. Next to the Jats in number were the people designated as low castes in the Hindu caste-hierarchy who embraced Sikhism. Their primary need was to acquire a dignified social status and an atmosphere which should enable them to keep their head high without shame and fear. Sikhism, undoubtedly guaranteed dignified social status and condemned squarely any distinction on bases of caste et al, yet they needed to be reassured.

Opposed to both these classes were Khatris and Brahmins who in spite of their entry into the fold of Sikhism had not been able to shed their caste affiliation and could ill-brook the Jats and the so-called low-caste people being raised high in the social scale. Many of them came forward to sarcastically comment on caste-based system but majority among them were not prepared to alienate themselves from the caste- system. Further, most of the Sikhs were still in the grip of various sectarian movements such as Nathism, Shaivism, Deviism et al in spite of professing faith in the Guru. They also needed a brainwash.

In a nutshell, the sociological canvas bore a highly confused picture of the Sikh Society. The Guru must rub off some unacceptable contours or draw new ones to ensure the success of his Mission.[45]

The politico-socio-religious scenario being what it was, he pondered upon it in the context of his own experience, legacy which he had inherited from his predecessors and the mission which was revealed to him directly from God. Guru Nanak, the first of his predecessors came to this world to enlighten and improve upon it and this being so, he established Tisara Panth, literally meaning the Third Highway to the ultimate reality after the two being Muslims and Hindus according to Bhai Gurdas Singh, the composer of forty-first var Guru Nanak is said to have experienced direct encounter with God at Sultanpur on the bank of the Behien rivulet and had a vision of Him. According to Guru Nanak, he was Transcendent, Formless, Infinite, Singular, a Unity as well as Unicity, Self-Existent, Beyond Time and Space, Beyond Enmity and Fear and the Sole Creator. He was also immanent and this being so, he pervaded everything, seen and unseen, who are related to Him as rays are related to the Sun or sparks to fire. World also partook of His immanence. Man also emanated from Him. Since He was the source of all creations, He was not detached from it. He permeated it and regulated it just as potter regulated his clay and in spirit form permeates his constructions. Therefore, He had intimate relation with nature, man, world, universe, unmanifest and manifest things. He therefore, was looked upon by the Guru as attributive in His immanent aspect; as for instance He was regarded, Merciful, Saviour, Sustainer, even Destroyer, although Guru Nanak's expressions of God convey relatively sparsely, the destructive attributes of God. He probably reckoned that presenting God as saviour of people implied destruction of the wicked.

Guru Nanak's vision of God as delineated in the foregoing paragraphs led him to remodel man and society in the light of his perception. Since God was singular, sole creator of all His creation including this world, it was not profane or irrelevant, rather it was a time bound reality and a dwelling place of God and therefore a place worth living. World being Sargun (immanent) aspect of God is to be held in veneration and not be condemned as veritable hell or an illusion. Also, it is not to be exploited and squandered nor is it irrelevant to the process of ascent towards God. A love bond and an active association between God and the world existed and are inbuilt. The world being reality and having infinite links with God as the immanent is a place to be lived upon to experience how God manifested himself as also to struggle to experience the ultimate ineffable vision of God. Human's destiny is to endeavour to discover and realise himself/herself and then experience and operate as per spirit of the attributes of God which he could do by controlling evil impulses, eliminating Haumain (ego) and orientating his actions as the Will of God. In simple words, the Guru expected people to regenerate themselves through appropriate actions and meditate upon God in both his Immanent and Transcendent aspects. In this context, Guru Nanak propounded and preached the following triple precepts as the basis of an ideal society.

  1. Kirat Karna
  2. Wand Chhakna
  3. Nam Japna

Kirat Karna means that one should earn one's livelihood by honest creative labour. Wand Chhakna implies that one should share the fruits of one's labour with the fellow beings. Nam Japna denotes meditating on Lords' Name, which means that one should not lose sight of the cosmic process and the divine, permeating everything of the world. By imbibing Nam culture, one would not fall victim to Haumain which causes many evil impulses to emerge in a person. Society built on such precepts was bound to be healthy, egalitarious, non- exploitive, just, non-discriminatory, condemnatory of distinctions on the bases of cast, birth, status, creed and wealth et al. because these were the product of faulty perception of Reality/God and flawed notions regarding ultimate destiny of man, world and the nature of their relationship with God.

In the process of rejuvenation and regenerations of man and society, the Guru did not recommend any ascetic practices, pilgrimages, renunciation of the world. He rightly believed that imbibing Nam culture is a right type of pilgrimage. Eliminating Haumain and other evil impulses should be considered as the right type of asceticism and renunciation instead of resorting to fasts, penances and shunning of world et al. The Guru set a fresh ideal before the people which was to seek union with God. What he meant was that they should conform to different attributes of God which implied that they should be compassionate, kind, helpful and intolerant of injustice and oppressor or tyrants. Guru called such people Gurmukh—the Guru-conscious, Nirmal—Pure, Khalsa— immaculately pure. In Japji, the Guru called such people as Panches and wished leadership to be comprised of them. In this context, he expressed that only those should rule who are really competent. By that he meant that they should be ethical, enlightened and Guru-God-conscious, never ever resorting to injustice and oppression and always remaining attuned to God.[46]

This mission of Guru Nanak was carried on by his successors who made it more lucid, clear and explicit through preaching, singing the compositions of the Guru, adding their own compositions to the already existing hymns of Guru Nanak. They contributed towards the development of Sikhism by adding concepts as well as praxises. The Sangats were established in far-flung regions. New cities like Kartarpur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, reflecting and committed to Sikh ethos were founded. A system of Daswandh among the Sikhs was made prevalent. Links with the Sangats were forged. Central Sikh scripture was prepared. Key Sikh shrine, Sri Harmandir Sahib and fresh symbol of supreme Sikh authority both in religious and temporal affairs was created in the form of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib at Amritsar. It was declared clearly and unequivocally that Sikhism does not hold religious and temporal affairs exclusive to each other; rather these two are complementary. In order to resolve problems occurring in any of these two spheres, Guru’s guidance would be sought. Tradition has it that Guru Hargobind made this principal conspicuous by wearing two swords on his body, one symbolising religious authority and the second symbolising temporal authority. This was continued to be dinned into the ears of the Sikhs. There was a widespread belief that it was not easy to wean them away from their age-old fixation that there existed dichotomy between spirituality and temporality, a belief that was continuously embedded in the psyche of the people by Indian religious traditions, generally speaking. All the Gurus were persistent in following the basic tenets as laid down by Guru Nanak. To quote Sri Guru Granth Sahib (p. 966), Jot Oha Jugat Sae Saih Kaia Pher Palatiai. The same was the light and the methodology of all the Gurus, simply their bodies had changed. This fact was also vouchsafed by Guru Gobind Singh in Bachittar Natak. He said 'Sri Nanak was accepted as Angad (Guru) and Guru Amar Das was identified as Angad, Guru Amar Das was called (Guru) Ram Das and this mystery was understood by the saints only. The stupid ones could not follow it, ordinary persons considered them in different forms but some rare ones understood them as one. Those who know them are bound to attain the high spiritual stages but without understanding (the mysteries) nothing could be procured.1 Saying this Guru Gobind Singh brings down the spiritual lineage of the Gurus to his own and thus proved in accordance with Sri Guru Granth Sahib that all the Gurus were one, and their thought frame was no different either. At the same time, Guru Gobind Singh observed that in spite of concerted efforts of his predecessors, people as individuals and as a social fraternity were intransigent, very slow to accept the proposed changes by the Gurus including himself. He in his compositions made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the concepts of state, sovereignty, God and his creations, the modalities of the reconstruction of society, demeanours of human beings both at individual and social level. Even prevalent religions had ceased to function properly. The elites of all religious and social fraternities had become self-centered, corrupt, greedy and protector of their vested interests. The Kings and their bureaucracies were palpably insensitive to the aspirations of the people. Misdeeds were galore. Even Masands/Manjidars who originally were appointed by the Guru and had done a good job, resorted to jobbery, avarice and malpractices, caring little for the laudable job of spreading the message of the Gurus.

Face to face with such scenario, blatantly unhelpful to him in the fulfilment of his mission, the Tenth Master seemed to be always in quest for some solution right from the day he assumed guruship. Whether he was at Anandpur or at Paonta or at any other place; he was persistent in his efforts to achieve his objective. He went through the whole gamut of ancient Indian literature, both religious and secular. He saw for himself the political apparatus of the Mughals and the Hill- Chiefs. He critically appraised the social and religious formations of the people along with their faiths and beliefs and himself wrote number of compositions such as Jap, Akal Ustat, Chandi Di Var, et al. Even a cursory study of these compositions would highlight some of his cardinal formulations. In his compositions, the Guru addressed God by various names. He calls him Formless, Timeless, Self-existent, Omniscient, etc. He also calls him by various attributive names such as Sustainer, Magnanimous, Merciful, Compassionate, Protector, Destroyer of oppressors, Extirpator of enemies and tyrants, Just et al. He also calls him by such names as Sarbloh (all steel), Mahan Loh (great steel), Sarbkal (All death), Mahan Kal (great death), Asidhuj and Kharg Ketu (having sword in his hand).

From all this, it is clear that Guru's faith in God was unfathomable, as also in his potential to smash the wicked as well as to bless and elevate the virtuous. From this faith flowed his confidence that He was the skipper of the ship of the destiny of the people—the task which He undertakes and accomplishes through his chosen people just as He did in Doapar, through Lord Krishna and in Treta through Lord Rama who smashed the wicked and evil forces to usher in new eras of felicity, harmony and peace. It was against this background that he considered himself as the one commissioned by the Almighty to spread His religion, to save the saints and to extirpate the tyrants. The veracity of the statement is vouchsafed by the Guru's statement in Bachittar Natak. The Guru says:

I shall now tell my story,

How God sent me into this world as I was performing penance.

On the mountains of Hemkunt[47]

I performed such penance that I became blended with God

When God gave me the order,

I assumed birth in this Dark age I did not desire to come,

As my attention was focused on God's feet

God remonstrated earnestly with me[48]

And sent me into this world with the following order

When I created this world

I first made the demons who became enemies and oppressors They became intoxicated with the strength of their arms.

And ceased to worship Me, The Supreme Being.[49] I became angry and atonce destroyed them.

In their place I established gods.

They also busied themselves with receiving sacrifices and worship

And called themselves supreme being.[50] I have cherished thee as my son,

And created thee to extend my religion.

Go and spread my religion there And restrain the world from senseless deeds.[51] Understand this, O holy men in thy hearts I assumed birth for the purpose of spreading the faith saving the saints And extirpating all tyrants.[52]

From the reading of the above excerpts from Bachittar Natak, an impression emerges that the Guru considered himself commissioned by God to spread religion, extirpate tyrants and restrain people from committing misdeeds. He also felt inspired that he was under the direct command and protection of God. By considering himself as such, the Guru did not claim status of an incarnation of God, who according to Hindu belief assumed birth to save the saints and to destroy the tyrants. He was God's servant and slave; he was not to be guided by enmity to anyone or influenced by fear of mortals. His view of the problem resembled that of a judge punishing a criminal simply for the sake of protecting society against the unrighteous, unjust, violator of justice who threatens its foundation and block its progress.

In complete dedication to the mission of God, the Guru addressed the problems. He reappraised the whole scenario as it existed or it was to exist in times to come. He computed his resources—historical, metaphysical, sociological and religious. He juxtaposed the results of his calculations with the ultimate configuration and destiny of people not only of India but of the world as a whole as envisaged by Sikhism, and in the process realised that a timely adjustment between the forces of evil and those of good through the use of force was an essential ingredient of the moral world. God could not tolerate the unhappiness of his saints (righteous people) who must be protected from the wicked. To this purpose, the use of force as a last resort in favour of the good was legitimate. Krishan and Ram who made use of force against tyranny and injustice had peculiar fascination for Guru Gobind Singh. The power which was manifest through human agency was God's, for, an important attribute of God in Guru Gobind Singh's view was precisely this power. It is in this context that Guru invested sword with divinity, raised it to the level of God, and Guru named God as Bhagauti or Kharag Ketu (wielder of sword). By doing so, the Guru was carrying the mission of Guru Nanak and his predecessors to its culmination. Guru Nanak called God Asur Sanghar (smasher of the evil-doers) along with other attributive names of God and had not hesitated to denounce Babar for his excesses and Lodhi rulers for abjuring righteous causes and the ruling and religious elites for their enormities. The strain of this action-thinking-model continued to be followed by subsequent Gurus, of course with gradually increasing emphasis depending upon circumstances and the intensity of challenges. Guru Hargobind explicitly and unequivocally, made it clear that Sikhism embraced spiritual and temporal aspects of life and the Guru's sacred duty was to guide, and direct his disciples as well as all those who make allegiance to him in both the worlds, spiritual and temporal and wore two swords one of Piri, symbolic of spiritual authority and the other of Miri, to represent temporal authority. The use of swords as symbols marked the Guru's determination to pursue his resolves at all costs and by all righteous means including the use of force, of course as a last resort. Bhai Gurdas in his thirty-fourth Var, (Pauri XIII) says ’Just as one has to tie pail's neck while taking out water; just as to get the jewel, the snake is to be killed; just as to get Musk from the deer's belly, deer has to be killed; just as to get oil, oil seeds have to be crushed; to get Kernel, coconut has to be broken; similarly to correct senseless people, sword has to be taken up.[53] The use of force was considered legitimate religious act if it is to be used against unrighteousness. Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Krishan did not prohibit the use of force and remained champion of righteousness through­out even against the heaviest of odds. Guru Gobind Singh, thus did not, plough a lonely furrow. He followed the path shown by his predecessors with the difference, that he followed it with more vigour. He had to do this because of the changed circumstances and the commission assigned to him by God Himself (to extirpate the tyrants, save the saints and spread the religion) which implied that the Guru was obligated to improve upon the present as also to set the people on the road of Dharma through new leadership comprising of saints- lovers and crusaders for righteousness. Guru's mission was indeed a primary impulsion, epitomic of what Sikhism stood in terms of doctrine, society, individuals and corporate living and ultimate destiny of mankind at global level. The praxis was the Khalsa.

The Guru decided to put his plan into operation on the first of Baisakh 1756 BK corresponding to March 29, 1699. He sent Hukamnama (edict) to his followers inviting them to visit Anandpur in full strength on the Baisakhi festival. He specially exhorted them to come with long hair and beard unshorn.[54]

The Sikhs responded by gathering in very large number at Anandpur[55] on the day of the festival (March 29). Guru Gobind Singh rose early and sat in meditation. He then appeared before the Sangat who hailed him with shouts of greetings. Bhai Mani Singh gave exposition of a hymn from the Holy Book. Guru Gobind Singh then stood before the assembly with his sword unsheathed and spoke: "Is there anyone here who would lay down his life for his 'Guru' and Dharma. It was an amazing call and no wonder his words struck consternation among the gathering. They did not know what the Guru meant and gazed in awed silence until he spoke again. Now confusion turned into fear. For the third time, Guru Gobind Singh repeated his call. Daya Ram, a Sobti Khatri of Lahore rose and said with humility, "My head is at Thy disposal, my true Lord. There would be no greater gain than dying under thy sword." He walked by the Guru to an especially improvised enclosure close by. The Guru returned with his sword dripping blood and waving it to the multitude asked for another head. This was more than anyone could endure. People started leaving the place hurriedly. Some of them rushed to complain to the Guru's mother. But when the Guru had made a third call, Dharm Dass, a Jat from Hastinapur came forward to sacrifice himself for the Guru. He too was taken to the enclosure. In the same way the Guru made three more calls. Mohkam Chand a calico printer of Dwarka, Himmat, a cook of Jagannath Puri and Sahib Chand a barber of Bidar cheerfully responded one after the other and stepped forward to offer their heads.

A while after, the Guru led the five Sikhs back from the enclosure into which he had taken them one by one. In the enclosure confidentially guarded, he had kept sets of apparels especially designed and made. Decked in saffron-coloured gorgeous top robes with neatly tied turbans of the same colour, the glorious five walked deferentially behind their master overwhelmed with thankfulness. The Guru, himself, was attired in the same manner as his chosen disciples. The gathering considerably thinned and still in shocked muteness was puzzled further to see those whom they had thought to have been sacrificed to the Guru’s sword, yet remain in flesh and blood.[56]

The Guru introduced these five to the audience as Panj Piare[57], "the five devoted spirits beloved of the Guru.” He expressed his deep sense of gratitude for the culmination of Guru Nanak's revelation. He said that the five beloved had blessed themselves and brought glory to their faith. The Guru added that they (A Khatri, and four so-called low castes) would form the nucleus of the Order of the Khalsa, God's own, that he was going to inaugurate.

Then the Guru proceeded to initiate them to his new Order by a new method. The method of initiation into the Sikh fold which Guru Nanak had introduced and which had hitherto been current in Sikhism was Charan Pahul according to which the neophytes were served a handful of water which had been touched by the Guru's toe. During Guru Arjan Dev, this initiation rite underwent a little change. The water was not touched by the toe, but simply placed under the cot of the Guru. Evidently the idea behind the rite was to develop the sense of surrender and humility. But in the context of the changed situation this idea alone was not sufficient. Accordingly the Guru introduced another method of initiation. The Guru took water in an iron bowl, stirred it with Khanda a two-edged sword to the recitation of five compositions[58]: Japji, Jaap Sahib, Sudha Sawayyas, Chaupai and Anand Sahib. Revered Jito ji, wife of the Guru did not relish that the five Sikhs who had offered their heads to the Guru should be given plain water. She immediately brought a plate full of sugar puffs (patasas in Punjabi language) and with the approval of the Guru put them into the water. This was considered propitiatory in the sense that the initiates would henceforth be blessed with the grace of feminine sweetness. Amrit, the divine nectar of Immortality, was now ready.

The nectar thus prepared was administered to all the five beloveds from the same bowl to signify their initiation into the casteless fraternity of the Khalsa. They sat Bir Asan, i.e. in the heroic posture with the left knee up and the right knee on the ground and the body weight resting on the right heel. The Guru then gave them each five palm ful of Amrit to drink. He sprinkled it five times each on their hair, their face, and their eyes each time repeating loudly Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh. Lastly, all five of them were given the steel bowl to quaff from it one by one the remaining Amrit in token of having become brothers. The most striking thing in the process of the preparation of Amrit was the substitution of the two-edged sword in place of the Guru's toe. This thing heralded a new theme that henceforth the Khalsa would follow the ideal of self-assertion and self-reliance along with the ideal of humility and self-surrender. The baptism symbolised a rebirth by which the initiated were considered as having renounced their previous occupation, Kirt Nash—for serving the cause of righteousness, their caste ties—Kul Nash—to become the family of Guru Gobind Singh and their earlier creed—Dharam Nash for the creed of the Khalsa, all rituals— Karam Nash—to feel unencumbered to tread the path shown by the Guru. The moment marked their complete break with their past. The baptised males and females were enjoined to affix 'Singh' (Lion) and 'Kaur' (Princess) respectively as suffix with their names.

The baptism by the double-edged sword introduced on the day of the creation of the Khalsa required the initiates to live a virtuous life of morally responsible actions under the discipline and code especially prescribed for them. For outward recognition, the Guru asked them to keep long hair (kesh) and never to cut or pluck them. In order to avoid them giving a disheveled look, the long hair on the head must be tied into a knot/bun on top of the head. Guru's love for hair was so profound that he had cautioned the initiates never ever to harm hair on any part of the body, a Kangra (comb) to be kept in the hair knot in order to keep them unentangled, an iron Kara (bracelet) on the wrist of one's master hand, a Kirpan (a sword) on his person and Kachha—a pair of short breeches. These five K's (Kesh, Kangha, Kara, Kirpan, Kachha) are not mere external symbols.[59] A single and pervasive leitmotif is discernable in these marks of investiture on the personality of a baptised Sikh (Singh), and this can be characterised as a sense of preparedness to uphold the ideals which the Guru had pinpointed. These symbols the decision for which was announced more through profound deliberations upon the fragile moral complexities besetting human beings than through any mystically intuited wisdom gave the Sikhs their form and identity; and are symbolic of their conduct. The long unshorn hair besides being a symbol of manliness are also symbolic of the higher state of consciousness of the wearer. The hair which the Sikhs maintain as a command of their Guru are also believed to imprint on the wearer, the investiture of spirituality, even of godliness. In Sikh scripture, an epithet used for God is Kesva i.e. who wears long tresses. Let it be stressed here that God of Sikh perception is formless and it is personified only when the attributes with which He is remembered are to be explained. It is against this background that Professor Puran Singh calls hair 'a dear remembrance, a hairloom, a trust, a pledge, a love, a vow, an inspiration. Guru Gobind Singh in one of his Hukamnamas calls hair as the seal of Guru.

Kara was necessarily made of iron and of no other metal. The Guru called Supreme Reality as Sarb-Loh—All Iron. Kara therefore, is a constant reminder to the baptised Sikhs never to lose sight of this attribute of God as well. It had another symbolic significance. Its circular form signifies perfection. A circle is also said to represent Dharma. Thus Kara to a member of the Khalsa brotherhood represents a just, perfect and righteous life marked by self-discipline and self-control.

According to Dr. Hari Ram Gupta, Kara was a permanent substitute of Rakhri, a thread tied by sisters on the wrists of brothers reminding them of their duty to keep and protect them. Similarly the Kara served as a reminder to the Sikhs that they had promised to be true to the Guru and the Panth and that promise must be kept at all costs." Another significance attached to it is a constant reminder to the Sikhs that they are not to lay their faith on any other god or goddess except the Almighty Formless One.

Kirpart is a synthesis of two words Kirpa (mercy or kindness) and Aan (honour) which signify and highlight the purpose for which it is to be used. In Sikh religious parlance the word conveys two dimensional meanings.’ One, sword (Bhagauti) is an attributive name of the Real One in the composition of Guru Gobind Singh. Thus the wearer feels that he is ever under the protection of Bhagauti. Second, and which is in fact a derivative of the first, it symbolises manifestation of Shakti or divine power, which is to be used for protection of the saints against the demonic powers as a last resort when all other means fail to make necessary impact.

The sword was never a weapon of aggression and it was never used for self-aggrandizement. It stands for righteousness and brave action for the protection of truth and virtue.[60] In Akal Ustat, the Guru addressed Timeless as All-Steel. At the opening of Bachittar Natak the sword is addressed as a synonym for the Timeless being.

Namaskar Sri Kharag Ko Karon Su Hita Chit Lai

[Honour to the Holy sword I bow to it with love and devotion]

It is also conceived as God's generative function:

Khanda Prathmi Manai Kai Jin Sabh Sansar Upaia[61]

[After the primal manifestation of the sword, the universe was created.]

This sword was considered as synonym of God Primal generative Principle, supreme power to sustain moral order and to annihilate negative forces. In this way, the Guru conveyed to the Khalsa, as an individual as well as a corporate body that they, as wielders of sword should cast themselves in the mould of God, Creator, Sustainer, Protector and Annihilator of negative forces.

The Sikhs stress on physical or bodily cleanliness along with inner purity warrants that their hair should be kept tidy and untangled unlike Sanyasis. Obivously comb is the easiest means to realise the objective. Comb also beckons cleanliness of mind and purging of body of evil thoughts. Unlike a dagger, which is associated with secret attack or hidden defence, the sword is associated with open combat, governed by certain ethical principles. Thus sword of the Khalsa, male or female, is the assertion of his right to freedom. To quote Kapur Singh[62] "(The Sword) is by ancient tradition and association, is a typical weapon of offence and defence and hence a fundamental right to wear, of the free man (and woman), a sovereign individual. All governments and rulers whether ancient or modern have and do insist on wearing arms. Indeed in final analysis, a government or the state is sustained and supported by the organised might and exclusive right of possession of arms. A citizen’s right to wear arms being conceded as only of a permissive and licensed character. It follows from this that the measure of freedom to possess and wear arms by an individual is the precise measure of his freedom and sovereignty. Since a member of the Khalsa brotherhood (and motherhood) is pledged not to accept any alien restrictions on his (or her) civic freedom he/she is enjoined upon to insist on struggle for his (or her) unrestricted right to wear and possess arms of offence and defence."

The last of the K's is the Kachhaira or Kachha a pair of breeches whose length must not come below the knee of the wearer. It is held to symbolise sexual restraint serving as a deterrent against extra marital relations and upholding the ideal of moral purity. It is also a garment which was well- suited to the eighteenth century Khalsa, allowing for their prowess as horsemen and as wielders of the sword.

The ceremonies that surrounded the event of the creation of the Khalsa are conspicuous of the absence of any mythic element. The Guru did not invoke any god or goddess of the Hindu pantheon, rather he tried to keep the entire ceremony human. He did so with the obvious aim of raising the human ingredients involved in the ceremony to the Divine level. According to Guru Gobind Singh, this can possibly be done not through the intervention of any deity but only through exalting and consecrating the human beings to be pure in thoughts and deeds. If at all any mythological element is involved, it is demythologizing the myth of churning of the ocean by gods and demons with a view to extract Amrit (Nectar) out of it. Guru prepared Amrit from pure clean water taken in a steel vessel and stirred it by a double-edged sword (Khanda). Patasas or sugar puffs were added to it. Initially Guru Gobind Singh prepared the Amrit by constantly stirring the water with Khanda to the accompaniment of recitation of five Banis (Jap ji, Jaap, Sawayyas, Chaupai and Anand) and thereafter any five baptised Singhs (Khalsa) were declared eligible to perform this ceremony of preparing and partaking Amrit.

The five outward symbols taken together signified that the Khalsa both as individual and as a corporate body should be strong in body, mind and soul and develop an integrated personality. These symbols not only gave a manly bearing to the Sikhs, but a distinct identity too. These also made it impossible for them to conceal their identity in future as some Sikhs had done at Delhi at the time of Guru Tegh Bahadur's execution in November 1675.

Further, they gave the Sikhs a distinguished appearance, different both from the Hindus and the Muslims, the fact which imparted a semblance of unity, close brotherhood, equality and group consciousness.

According to Dr. Hari Ram Gupta, "In those days Hindus of respectable families wore five ornaments: gold earrings, a necklace, gold or silver bangles, finger rings and a waist belt of gold or silver or a Tragi. The wearer felt proud of displaying his superior social position. At the same time, he saw the risk of losing these articles as well as his life in the bargain. Guru Gobind Singh provided to his followers, five jewels which were within reach of everybody down to the poor, peasant and the lowest labourer. Instead of creating fear in the mind of the wearer, his five jewels made his Singh bold, brave and awe-inspiring."[63]

To quote from a report of the proceedings, "Though several refused to accept Guru's religion, about twenty thousand men stood up and promised to obey him as they had the fullest faith in the divine message."[64] The novitiates came forward in batches to receive baptism. The first five among those who now volunteered were Ram Singh, Desa Singh, Tahal Singh, Ishar Singh and Fateh Singh. They were called Panj Mukte the five liberated ones by the Guru.[65] According to Guru Kian Sakhian, in the next row stood Mani Ram, Bachittar Das, Ude Rai, Anik Das, Ajaib Das, Ajaib Chand, Chaupat Rai, Diwan Dharam Chand, Alam Chand Nachna and Sahib Ram Koer followed by Rai Chand Multani, Gurbaksh Rai, Pandit Kirpa Ram Dutt of Mattan, Subeg Chand, Gurmukh Das, Samukh Das, Amrik Chand, Purohit Daya Ram, Bama, Ghani Das, Lai Chand Peshoria, Rup Chand, Sodhi Dip Chand, Nand Chand, Nanu Rai of Dilwali and Hazari, Bhandari and Darbari of Sirhind. Countless more batches came, each one more eager than the other. Anandpur was seized with an uncanny fervour of the spirit.[66]

According to one estimate as many as 80,000 men were baptised in a few days. The Guru called them the Khalsa, the pure and his very own ideal (Isht Suhird). The Guru also sent instructions that those who call themselves Sikhs should get themselves confirmed by receiving new baptism. The baptised Sikhs were termed as Khalsa.[67] In the pre-Khalsa period, the term Khalsa was restricted to such privileged Sikhs who were directly connected with or had access to the Gurus. In one sense, all the Sikhs were made Khalsa, the privileged ones directly connected with the Guru without any intermediary such as Masands.

In addition to the five symbols, the initiated were to observe a definite Rehat (code of conduct). They were not to cut any hair on any part of their body.[68] They were disallowed to smoke, chew tobacco or take alcoholic drinks.[69] They were not to eat the meat of an animal which had been slaughtered by being bled to death, as was customary with the Muslims. They were forbidden to have any sexual relationship with a person other than lawfully wedded spouse. They were to wear a turban and not a cap. The Guru enjoined upon the Khalsa to be strictly monogamous. Regarding sexual matters, the Guru said that his father Guru Tegh Bahadur had given him these instructions which should serve as a guide to the Sikhs:

"O son, as long as there is life in the body, make this thy sacred duty ever to love thine own wife more and more. Approach not another woman's couch either by mistake or even in a dream. Know, that the love of another's wife is a sharp dagger. Believe me death entereth the body by making love to another's wife. They who think it great cleverness to enjoy others wife, shall in the end, die the death of a dog."

Again the Guru declared:

Never enjoy, even in dream, the bed of a woman other than your own wife.[70]

The most remarkable episode in this connection happened when the Guru having administered Amrit to the five Sikhs stood up in supplication and with folded-hands begged them to baptise him in the manner as he had baptised them in order to enable him enter the Khalsa brotherhood. They were amazed at such a strange request, but he silenced them saying that he too wanted to be one of them. As he was their Guru, they collectively would be his Guru. The 'five beloved' initiated the Guru to the order of the Khalsa according to the new rites. After this, there remained no difference between the baptised Sikhs and the Guru. They were to be his Khalsa, body of his body and soul of his soul, nay his other-self, his beloved ideal (suhird). The Guru thus merged himself in the Khalsa and the whole body of the Khalsa was invested with the dignity of Guruship. Henceforth a convention was established that five chosen/selected Sikhs could represent the Khalsa. The Guru also sent instructions that those who called themselves Sikhs should get themselves confirmed by receiving the new baptism. The baptised Sikhs were termed as the Khalsa.’

The term was not without precedence. In the pre-Khalsa period, the term Khalsa was restricted to such privileged Sikhs who were virtually directly connected with the Gurus and whose subordination to the Masands was simply dejure. "The word Khalsa in the sense of the privileged Sikhs occurs in a Hukamnama (fiat) issued by Guru Hargobind and also in the one issued by Guru Tegh Bahadur."[71] But with Guru Gobind Singh anyone who is baptised by the new method and abides by the instructions of the Guru was a member of the Khalsa brotherhood.

Apart from wearing five symbols and observing code of conduct, the Sikhs were expected not to pay homage to any external object except the Granth, not to recognise caste prejudices, superstitions, empty rituals, esoteric and ascetic practices. They were to have faith that the Guru was always present in the general body of the Khalsa and that wherever even five staunch Sikhs would assemble, the Guru is deemed to be present there. They were free to establish marriage relationship among themselves without any caste considerations. They were not to entertain any gender complex and were morally be and to consider women equal to men.

But they were not to have any social or matrimonial relations with smokers,[72] with persons who shaved their heads,[73] with those who killed their daughters as soon as they were born and with the descendants or followers of Prithi Chand, Dhirmal, Ram Rai and those Masands[74] who had fallen away from the tenets and principles of Guru Nanak. They were not to worship idols, cemeteries or cremation grounds.[75] They were to rise at dawn, bathe and recite Gurbani as enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. They must have faith in the singularity md unity of God.

According to a News-writer of the period, the Guru is reported to have said, "I wish you all to embrace one creed and obliterate differences of religion. Let the four Hindu castes who have different rules for each sect abandon them.[76] The Sikhs were to live a truthful life and would never allow his attention to be deviated from Immortal God. The Guru, in fact, recommended an unqualified worship of one True Lord, as it was set out by him in his Jap, Akal Ustat and other compositions. All beliefs, rituals or ceremonies that implied the recognition of anything but the one True Lord were categorically rejected as is evident from the following Swayya in which a direct reference is made to the Khalsa[77], his duties and beliefs:

'He who repeateth night and day the name of Him Whose enduring light is unquenchable,

Who bestoweth not a thought on any but the one God Who hath full love and confidence in God Who putteth not faith even by mistake in fasting, or worshipping cemeteries, places of cremation, or Jogis places of sepulchre Who only recogniseth the one God and no pilgrimages, alms, the non-destruction of life,

Hindu penances or austerities; And in those hearts the light of the perfect One shineth, he is recoginsed as a pure member of the Khalsa."


The creation of the new order of the Khalsa had manifold ramifications. It caused a great stir in the body-social of the Sikhs. Some embraced the order of the Khalsa, others reacted despondently. Some of the Sikhs felt cautioned against accepting the new order till written orders from the Guru were received. Some others remarked that the code was extremely tough to abide by and also incompatible with our family traditions and customs. Many explained that the code was creation of the preceptors themselves. The situation at some place led to dissensions[78] among the Sikhs while at others it resulted in tension between the Sikhs and the non-Sikhs. Khatries and Brahmins, by and large, remained aloof. Some of them even professed that they had faith in the religion of Guru Nanak and other Gurus; but many out of them refused to renounce the teachings of the Vedas and Shastras. They had been quite willing to pay lip service to the ideal of a casteless society; but they loathed embroiling themselves to the task of the new order with the result that many of them reverted to Brahmanism. Some just remained Sikhs, better known today as Sahjdhari and very few of them entered the order of the Khalsa.

Sainapat, a poet in the court of the tenth Master mentions two events which amply depict the attitude of certain Sikhs. One concerns a Khatri who openly spoke against the new order of the Guru in a congregation at Delhi. The congregation turned him out. He then rushed to his like-minded friend named Pritam. The Sikhs warned Pritam for siding with the discarded person. Pritam ignored the warning with impunity and convened a special conclave at Darapur where the Sikhs had gathered in a large number to enjoy a fair. Pritam and his associates prevailed upon the Sikhs to keep the matter of adopting the new order in abeyance till the receipt of written orders of the Guru. The dissentients did not stop at that. Sometime later, they proclaimed at an assembly of the Sikhs arranged by them that there was nothing wrong in abiding by the religion of the ancestors and thus, they persuaded many to ignore the innovations enjoined by the Guru.[79] Meanwhile a Sikh passed away. His family members chose not to observe ceremonies of Bhadan (shaving off their heads). The matter evoked protests and caused a great commotion among those who did not like the divine covenant initiated by the Guru. They arranged boycott of the adherents of the new order of the Khalsa. Some of them occasioned a general strike in the main bazaar of Delhi to show their solidarity. Quite a number of them approached the local government officials to instigate them to take actions against such Sikhs who were determined to follow the path as chartered by Guru Gobind Singh. The government officials however, issued orders that the shops should remain open.[80]

Since the Guru had invested the Khalsa with status equal to his own and projected them as limb of his self, they became the most esteemed personnel and it was but logical that they assumed leadership of the Sikhs. Hitherto the leadership was in the hands of Masands/Manjidars or someone considered to be held in high esteem by local Sangat but now it passed on to the Khalsa self-sovereign and enjoying the status of the Guru himself. Expressed in ethnological term, the Masands or local leaders were mostly urban Khatris while the Khalsa consisted of the people bulk of whom were Jats and menial classes such as artisans and scavengers et al.

The Khalsa leadership, therefore, comprised of the latter mostly, who from the time of Manu had been denied any respectable status in the caste based Hindu society. Since the Khalsa order repudiated castes and other distinctions on the bases of wealth, profession, culture, and creed etc., Jats and other socially neglected classes rejoiced and the Khalsa movement became synonymous with the rise of hitherto neglected classes/ groups/individuals.[81]

Ideologically, the Khalsa aimed at a balanced combination of the ideals of Bhakti and Shakti or to express it in the modern terminology the Khalsa was to be a brotherhood in faith and brotherhood in arms at one and the same time. The Guru's injunctions included, that the Khalsa should bear arms, Kirpan (Sword) being one and the most important of them, that they should use double-edged sword in the preparation of the Amrit and use of the appellation of Singh at the end of each name which signified the martial valour, the Khalsa was expected to inculcate. Sword became an object of reverence with the Sikhs, for it symbolised power and safety. The sentiment of the Sikhs for the Sword was so much that God was given the name of 'All Steel' by the Guru. This being so, those who worshipped sword promised exemptions from every other kind of religious rites or ceremonies and he was to be regarded as the Khalsa who combats in the van, who mounts on the war horse, who is ever waging war and who is perpetually armed.[82]

The Guru himself says:

I am the son of a brave man, not of a Brahmin

How can I perform austerities?

How can I turn My attention to thee,

O Lord, and forsake of domestic affairs?

Now be pleased to grant me the boon

I crave with clasped hands

That when the end of my life cometh,

I may die fighting in a mighty battle.[83]   (Krishna Avtar)

As is evident from the writings of the Guru in connection with the Khalsa, the soldierly qualities were given place of eminence. In fact militarism was adopted as an article of faith. The Guru says:

All steel, I am thy slave Deeming me, thy own, preserve me;

Think of mine honour, whose arm thou has taken,

Deeming me thine own, cherish me Single out and destroy mine enemies May both my kitchen and my sword prevail in the world.[84]

The Guru's primary concern was thus with his Degh (Kitchen) and his Tegh (Sword), the one as the symbol of service to assist the weak, the helpless and the oppressed and the other the emblem of power to extirpate the tyrants, and the Khalsa was the instrument that he created to achieve his two-fold purpose.[85]

All this, coupled with the new awareness of social egalitarianism had a miraculous effect on the psyche of Guru's disciples. Teja Singh and Dr. Ganda Singh have observed that; 'Even those people who had been considered dregs of humanity were changed, as if by magic into something rich and strange. The sweepers, the barbers, and confectioners who had not even touched a sword and whose whole generations had lived as groveling slaves of the so-called higher classes became under the stimulating leadership of Guru Gobind Singh doughty warriors who never shrank from fear and who were ready to rush into the jaws of death at the bidding of the Guru.'[86] According to Gordon, 'the dry bones of an oppressed peasantry were stirred into life, and the institution of the Sikh baptismal rite at the hands of a few disciples anywhere in a place of worship, in a house or by the roadside brought about the more full and wide spread development of the new faith. In this way, within a few months, new people were born, bearded and beturbaned, fully armed and with a crusaders' zeal to build a new common-wealth. They implicitly believed that 'the Khalsa shall rule, their enemies will be scattered, only those that seek refuge will be saved.'

From sociological point of view, the Khalsa represented a new mosaic where tribal or caste affiliations had no room, nor were the superstitions, demeaning ceremonies and empty rituals given any accreditation status. On the other hand, it stood for broad outlook transcending parochial prejudices. Even the differences on the basis of religion were considered irrelevant or the creations either of the ignorance or of opaque understanding. This impression emerges exactly when the Guru dinned into the ears of his disciples that the four sects of the Hindus, the Brahmins, Kashatryas, Vaish and Sudras, would like Pan patta (Beetleleaf), Chuna (Lime), Supari (Beetle-nut) and Kathabecome of one colour[87] when well-chewed. The Khalsa stood for righteousness, social equality, faith in Nirgun God, honest labour, and division of its fruit and repudiation of all types of exploitation. Evidently, this type of social pattern was more fit for arousing the dormant energies of the people and making them flow into the channel which fed the national stream of the country.

The emergence of the Khalsa was significant from another respect also. It generated among the people the longing for social freedom and ascendancy. Evidently, this pattern of society was more congenial for the dormant energies to awaken with the result that the new confidence and new aspirations began to articulate the people, admittedly the precondition for progress. Moreover, as the accent of the programme of the Khalsa was to transcend the artificial barriers on the basis of caste, creed, race and region, the field was prepared for the sapling of Nationalism and Universalism to take roots.

Moreover, the Khalsa marked the culmination of a Sikh- Guru relationship. Guru Gobind Singh expressed his feelings about the Khalsa in one of his Sawayyas popularly known as Khalse di Mehma shabad in which his appreciation for them is juxtaposed with his decision to do his best for them.[88]

All the battles I have won against tyranny

I have fought with the devoted backing of these people

Through them only have I been able to bestow gifts

By their kindness, the store houses have been filled

I owe my education to them

By their kindness were the enemies killed

I owe my glorious existence to them

Otherwise ordinary men like me are found in millions

Service to them is pleasing to me

I do not enjoy serving any other people

Giving gifts to them is meritorious

Gifts to them prove fruitful in the next life.

Praiseworthy is this, all other gifts are futile,

My wealth my body, my soul my head,

All that is in my house is dedicated to them.

This consideration of the Guru for his creation, the Khalsa, should not be interpreted as a personal affair. It should be interpreted in terms of the mission of the Guru. Just as the Guru according to his own belief was the chosen instrument of God for restraining men from senseless acts[89] so his Sikhs of the Khalsa order were the willing agents for working out that mission. Thus the Khalsa was the body of mankind always at war for destroying the evil and protecting righteousness.

In addition to it, the Khalsa marked the completion of the evolution of the Sikh Sangat. In the beginning Sangat was merely a religious gathering of devotees functioning more or less in isolation as a body. Gradually, an increase in its functions occurred and the isolation of one from another was loosened by the forging of common links, such as the preparation of scriptures, the building up of certain religious centres, institutions of Manjis and Masands as the agencies of the central leadership and assertion of the principle of the supremacy of the Guru. With the creation of the Khalsa the network of semi-integrated Sangat was fully integrated. The investing of the Khalsa with supreme powers later on marked the completion of the historical process long underway. The Khalsa Sangat became sacrosanct because of the authority which they could now legitimately claim to have. The Khalsa Sangat as a collective body thus appeared to be equated with the Guru himself. Through the Guru, the Khalsa belonged to God. (Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa).

Besides this, the Khalsa symbolized determination to complete the social and religious revolution initiated by Guru Nanak. The successors of Guru Nanak had guided this revolution with great devotion and dexterity. Yet some lapses were conspicuously visible at the time of Guru Gobind Singh's accession. The creation of the Khalsa was not merely an endeavour to integrate the members of his community, it was also a powerful bid for the culmination of the mission set in motion by his predecessors in the field of social and religious life. The code of conduct prescribed for the newly created Khalsa was so devised as to impose a strict discipline on the Sikhs to ensure firm adherence and commitment on their part to the lofty ideals of Sikhism.

Still, from another point of view, the Khalsa order was significant. It marked the period of important beginnings. By the Guru’s reforms, the Sikh community was not only strengthened but also converted into a great vehicle of revolution. New awareness dawned upon the Sikhs. They discovered that there was no dichotomy between man and God as man emanated from God Himself. They discarded age- old wrong notions about Reality (God) and his creations including this world. They realised that contemporary social and political constructs did not conform to the theological vision of God as experienced by the Guru, and its social reflections. As a result, they addressed themselves to build thinking-action praxis in the light of the Guru's personal examples and their utterances. The process was sure to introduce significant changes in all aspects of the society.

Taking cue from the inevitable, the forces championing status quo rallied to crush the Khalsa. Consequently the Khalsa had to launch a titanic struggle first against the Mughals and then against the Afghans who ruled over Punjab, the territory where the overwhelming majority of the Sikhs lived. The struggle continued till the Khalsa emancipated the land and established their sovereignty in 1765 after the conquest of Sirhind. A new form of polity replaced the old one and the concept of kingship changed as also the nature of bureaucracy.

Henceforth the king would not be an absolutist monist, rather first among the equals, dedicated to exercise the sovereignty of God as his faithful agent, always caring his creations, seen and unseen, without any discrimination. This was the reason that during the Khalsa rule, the welfare and protection of the people were always at the centre stage. In social sphere too, the Sikhs tried to make radical changes. They always denounced casteist approach. Other approaches which smacked of religious/social particularism were also discarded. The Khalsa always put premium on harmony based on recognition of the Divine in everyone. As a consequence of all this, the differences on bases of caste and creed et al in the eighteenth century were relegated to the background or ceased to be influential factors in the territories ruled by the Khalsa.

With the creation of Khalsa, a few new doctrinal developments took place. One, the Khalsa was united directly with the Guru since Guru in Sikhism had been equated with the Real one the Akal Purakh Himself. The dissolution of the institution of Masand, and then of personal guruship signified that the Khalsa was as much of the Guru as of God. The Sikh salutation, Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh— literally means that the Khalsa belongs to the Lord (Waheguru) and the Khalsa exploits were in reality God's victories. Second, the Khalsa as a corporate body was equalitarian inter se, as well as in terms of relation to the Guru himself. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh first administered baptism to the select five and then himself received baptism from them. By doing so he underscored the point that there was complete identification between the Guru and the Khalsa. The fact has been very clearly brought out in Sarah Loh Granth (a volume attributed to Guru Gobind Singh) as well as in a Var by Bhai Gurdas Singh who overwhelmed by a sense of wonderment exclaimed, "Let all of us hail and greet Guru Gobind Singh who was Guru and Disciple at one and the same time."[90] The Khalsa therefore, being the image of Guru and God, became the body of spiritually and socially realised individuals committed and dedicated to the 'Word' as enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib; the Jyoti or spirit of the ten Gurus as also to work for the uplift the mankind as a whole and was apotheosised as Guru in 1708. The latter point has been repeatedly emphasised by Guru Gobind Singh and his predecessors.

Since the constituents of the Khalsa Panth are realised selves, they realise the essential unity of mankind, and it is only the foolish (Those who suffer from duality), who overlook the inner unity and wrangle over the outward differences.

Another doctrinal development was the concept of true democracy whose constitution was built not on law books but on the laws of love, truth and justice. In this constitution, the people inspired by the natural goodness of humanity, the spontaneous benediction of God and the Guru's mystic presence in all beings were made supreme. Its directive principle was the Principle of Happiness of all. A vital responsibility of the Khalsa was the maintenance of ethical values. However, the Khalsa democracy is different from the modern political democracy at least on two counts. One, the latter is essentially numerical or quantitative whereas the democracy of Guru Gobind Singh's vision is qualitative through his realised persons (Khalsa) who in turn get the job done through their representatives selected unanimously.

Notes and References

[1] J.D. Cunningham, A History of the Sikhs, p. 60, (ed.) H.L.O. Garrot.

[2] Ibid., p. 59.

[3] J.N. Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzeb, Vol. Ill, p. 314.

[4] Gokal Chand Narang, Transformation of Sikhism, p. 88.

[5] Fauja Singh and Taran Singh, Guru Tegh Bahadur Jiwan te Rachna, p. 167.

[6] Translation by Dr. Trilochan Singh of Slok No. 54 of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur.

[7] Fifty-sixth Slok of Guru Tegh Bahadur according to M.A. Macauliffe, was sent to Guru Gobind Rai while he himself was in prison at Kotwali, Chandni Chowk at Delhi, M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion Vol. IV, p. 385.

[8] Tarikh-i-Punjab authored by Bute Shah was written in 1848. Tarikh-i-Hind was written by Ahmed Shah Batalia in 1818. Both historians record almost identically and claim that their information was based on royal news writer's reports.

[9] Akal Ustat, Swayyas, p. 85.

[10] Ibid., p. 86

[11] Khulasatut-Twarikh, p. 81.

[12] The Arabic term for polyheism is shirk meaning 'associating other falsegods with God’. Hugh's, Dictionary of Islam, p. 579.

[13] Kafir means literally covering up the truth (Regarding God) and secondily ingratitude.

[14] J.N. Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzeb, Vol. Ill, pp. 163-64.

[15] J.N. Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzeb, Vol. Ill, p. 175.

[16] Muntakhab-ul-Twarikh, p. 652, as quoted in J.N. Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzeb, p. 212.

[17] Kalimat-l-Taiyyabat, p. 115.

[18] Hari Ram Gupta, History of Sikh Gurus, p. 249.

[19] Bakhtawar Khan, Mirat-e-Alam, p. 159.

[20] J.N. Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzeb.

[21] Abul Kalam Azad, Hijat-e-Sahadi, pp. 52-53.

[22] Maasar-i-Alamgiri, p. 120.

[23] Ghulam Ali Azad Bilgrami, Khazan-e-Amira, p. 328.

[24] Khafi Khan, Muntakhab-ul-Lubab II, p. 213.

[25] James Hastings, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, p. 117.

[26] Ibid.

[27] S.G.F. Braudein, Dictionary of Comparative Religion.

[28] J.S. Grewal, Guru Nanak in History, p. 68.

[29] Anfasul-Arifin, p. 9.

[30] S.A.A. Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India, p. 411.

[31] Maasir-ul-Umara, Vol. I, p. 237, (Persian version).

[32] Bachittar Natak, Chapter VI, pp. 1 to 28.

[33] Ibid., Chapter VI, p. 28.

[34] Sab te apna nam(u) japaio, sat(i) nam(u) kahuh na driraio.

Sab apnt apnl urjhana, Parbrahm kahuh na pachhdna.

[35] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, p. 89.

[36] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, VI, pp. 322-323, about Guru's attitude towards Masands, also refer to Hukamnamas Nos. 46-50 from the book Hukamname by Dr. Ganda Singh.

[37] Ganda Singh, Hukamname, Hukamnama No. 3 of Guru Hargobind, p. 67. Hukamnama No. 8 of Guru Tegh Bahadur, p. 76.

[38] H.A. Rose, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Vol. Ill, p. 72.

[39] Harji, Goshtian Guru Meharban, Gosht No. 30, also refer to Sodhi Harji— Jiwan Te Rachna by Gurmohan Singh Ahluwalia.

[40] Ganda Singh, Hukamname, No. 46.

[41] Ganda Singh, Hukamname, Nos. 49 and 50.

M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, p. 95.

[42] Akal Ustat, Stanzas 254-255.

[43] Certain Muslims who renounced their allegiance to Zaid grandson of Hussain.

[44] Akal Ustat, Swayyas 85-86.

[45] Surjit Singh Gandhi, History of the Sikh Gurus, p. 429.

[46] Takht(i) raja so bahai je takhtai laik hoi. (SGGS, p. 1088)

[47] J.P. Sangat Singh, Bachittar Natak Steek, Chapter VI, Stanza I, pp. 110, 111, 112.

[48] J.P. Sangat Singh, Bachittar Natak Steek, Chapter VI, Stanza 5, pp. 110, 111, 112.

[49] Ibid., Stanza 6.

[50] Ibid., Stanza 7.

[51] Ibid., Stanza 29.

[52] Ibid., Stanza 43.

[53] ]io(h) kar(i) khuho(h) niklai gal(i) badhe pant.

Jio(n) man(i) kale sup sir(i) has(i) de na jani.

Jan kathuri mirg tan(i) mar mukai ant.

Tel tilo(h) kio(n) niklai vin(u) ptxe ghdtti.

]io(h) muho(h) bhahne garl de nailer nisdrti.

Bemukh loha sadhiai vagdl vadani. (Var 34, Pauri 13)

[54] The Guru sent fiats (Hukamnamas) to the following effect to all the Sangat wherever they were:

The Sikhs should come to me wearing long hair. Once a man becomes a Sikh, he should never shave himself. He should not touch tobacco and should receive baptism of the sword. Sainapat, Sri Gursobha, Chapter V, p. 30.

[55] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion Vol. V, p. 91.

[56] Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs, p. 84.

[57] The episode of the Panj Pyaras, their names and details of the preperation of Amrit have been recorded in Gurbilas literature associated with Guru Gobind Singh. See Koer Singh, Gurbilas Patshahi Das (1751 C.E.) (ed.) Shamsher Singh Ashok, pp. 127-139. Sukha Singh, Gurbilas Padshai Das (1797 A.D. pp. 90-92, personal library of Trilochan Singh).

[58] Jap(u) Ji was composed by Guru Nanak, Anand by Guru Amar Dass, Jaap, Sawayyas and Chaupai by Guru Gobind Singh.

[59] Nishan-i-Sikhi m Pahj Harfe kaf.

Hargiz Nabashid azih Pahj muaf.

Kara Kardo Kachh Kangha bidati.

Bila Kes Hech Ast Jumla Nishah.

(These five letters of 'K' are emblems of Sikhism. These five are most incumbent and are steel bangle, big knife, shorts and comb with unshorn hair. Without unshorn hair, all others are of no significance).

[60] Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs.

[61] "Var Durga ki", Shabdarth Sri Dasam Granth Sahib, Vol. I, p. 174.

[62] Kapur Singh, Parasharprasna, or Baisakhi of Guru Gobind Singh, pp. 139-148.

[63] Hari Ram Gupta, History of the Sikhs, Vol. I, pp. 274-75.

[64] Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs, p. 87.

[65] Swarup Singh Kaushish, Guru Kian Sakhian, pp.120-125.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ahmed Shah Batalia (Tarikh-i-Hind) and Ghulam Mohi-ud-din (Tarikh-i- Punjab) specifically mention twenty thousand persons accepting the new order, and in some of the modem works, the number given is 80,000. These computations appear to be no more than guess works. But it may be safely assumed that the number of persons present at Anandpur at that time ran into thousands and it was larger than the usual gathering on Baisakhi Days.

[68] Sainapat, Sri Gursobha, Chapter VI, 1/197.

[69] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, p. 153. "The Guru said ’wine is bad, bhang destroyeth one generation but tobacco destroyeth all generations.'" Santokh Singh says that the tabacco leaf resembles the ear of a cow and so the Guru prohibited their use. (Suraj Parkash, 557).

[70] M.A. Macauliffe, op.cit., Vol. V, p. 110.

Par nari ki sej

Bhul supne huh na jaiyo

[71] The photostat copies appear in Hukamnamas ed. by Dr. Ganda Singh on serial Nos. 5 and 8.

[72] Sainapat, Sri Gursobha, p. 31.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid., p. 36.

[75] Bhai Nand Lai, Rahitnama. Gor Marhl Mat Bhttl Na Jdwe (worship not even by mistake a tomb or a relic of cremation) (Guru Gobind Singh, Swayyas).

[76] The above address is based on the report of a news-writer sent to the Mughal court as it is vouched by the Persian Historian Ghulam Mohi-ud- din (Teja Singh & Ganda Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs, p. 68)

[77] For translation of the relevant portions of Guru Gobind Singh's compositions, see The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, pp. 261-263, 306-310.

[78] Sainapat, Sri Gursobha, Chapter VII.

[79] Sainapat, Sri Gursobha, Chapter VII.

[80] A literal translation of the Stanzas in Sri Gurusobha by Sainapat, Chapter VII.

[81] Koer Singh understands that the rise of the Jat power was the direct result of the creation of the Khalsa. A close study of the Chapter IX of Gur Bilas makes it abundantly clear that the lower classes felt a sense of pride to join the new order and in a way, they found in it the augury of new era for themselves.

[82] J.D. Cunningham, History of the Sikhs, pp. 375-76.

[83] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, p. 312.

[84] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, p. 311.

[85] Indubhushan Banerjee, Evolution of the Klwlsa, p. 118.

[86] Teja Singh & Ganda Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs, p. 68.

[87] Sir John Malcolm, Sketch of the Sikhs, p. 45.

[88] D.P. Ashta, The Poetry of Dasam Granth, p. 146.

Trilochan Singh, Guru Gobind Singh {A brief life Sketch), Delhi, 1964, pp. 20-21. Trilochan Singh (and others). The Sacred Writings of the Sikhs, London, 1960, p. 272.

[89] S.S. Bal & J.S. Grewal, Guru Gobind Singh, p. 124.

[90] VJah(u) Wah(u) Gobind Singh, ape gur(u) chela.