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The Philosophy Behind Creation of the Khalsa

Dr Paramvir Singh*

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, traveled to far off places to spread the message of God, which was revealed to him at Sultanpur, a small town in Kapurthala district, at the end of fifteenth century. He visited Eminabad and stayed with his disciple Bhai Lalo, a carpenter by profession. Guru Nanak was at Eminabad when people heard Babar was attacking the town. They knew the king of Delhi was unable to protect them and they went to the spellbinders of that time, but of no avail:

Millions of spellbinders tried to stop the lord Babar,
When reports of his invasion went abroad.
Hindu temples and Muslim sacred spots went up in flames,
And princes cut to pieces with dust were mingled.
No Mughal by such spells was struck blind;
None by their spells was affected.1

Guru Nanak spoke boldly against the brutality of the invader, influenced him with his words and let the people go scot-free from his prison. This incident influenced Guru Nanak and he realized the moral and spiritual degeneration of people:

Far from these is the abode of modesty and righteousness.
Saith Nanak: Falsehood everywhere is pervasive.2
Modesty and honour are nowhere in sight,
Nanak, falsehood prevails everywhere.3

The social, political and religious condition of the society was pitiable and degenerated at the hands of invaders, rulers and priestly class. People sought a liberator to save their dignity and honour. At the moment of this political turmoil, Guru Nanak came forward to save the masses from the brutalities and injustice of the ruling and priestly classes. The religious leaders are supposed to guide the people on the righteous path to strengthen the moral and religious spirit. Qazi, a Muslim Judge, interpreted according to the Islamic law; Brahmin was a religious leader of the Hindus who performed the social ceremonies according to Hindu texts; and Yogis, persons who practiced Yoga, left the active social way of life to exercise self-discipline as their goal of life. Guru Nanak considered that these three bulwarks should guide the masses on the righteous path of life but that all of them had run away from their prime duty. He challenged the people to come forward and sacrifice their life for the sake of humanity and honour:

Shouldst thou seek to engage in the game of love,
Step into my street with thy head placed on thy palm;
While on to this stepping,
Ungrudgingly sacrifice your head.4

The successor Gurus worked to enlighten the masses on the path shown by Guru Nanak. To live with dignity and honour, Guru Arjun, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, sacrificed his life at the hands of Mughal ruler, Emperor Jahangir. Subsequently Guru Hargobind, the Sixth Guru of the Sikhs, realized that to use force against tyranny and oppression of the ruling class was not wrong. He directed his Sikhs to come at Guru-Darbar with weapons and horses. Akal Takht, the throne of the Lord, was built in front of Sri Harmandir Sahib and martial sports started there. But Guru Hargobind used force in self-defence; he fought four battles and defeated his enemies every time. The time passed peacefully during the seventh and the eighth Gurus. The tension started during the regime of Emperor Aurangzeb who tried forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam. Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, came forward to save the dignity of the masses. He sacrificed his life to save the spirit of religion and religious freedom for one and all. After Guru Tegh Bahadur, the successor Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, tried to restore peace. He declared the use of force as the last resort, against the brutalities of the ruling class. He fought many battles and came out victorious. The reason behind his triumphs was that he had created a spirit of self-sacrifice, without any selfish motive, for the righteous cause among his followers. The untrained followers of the Guru fought against the disciplined forces of the enemies. To enlighten this spirit of sacrifice for the righteous cause forever, the Guru created the Khalsa.

Guru Gobind Singh gave a new turn to the Sikh society by giving shape to the already existing theories, and emphasized that Sikhs should adopt these in their practical life. The new name or shape given by Guru Gobind Singh to the Sikh sangat was creation of the Khalsa order. The Khalsa in itself was made a model for spiritual and temporal purity and perfection. Creation of Khalsa by the Guru was for the purpose of establishing an order of righteous people who could fight against evil and could maintain peace and justice.

There were some more reasons for the creation of Khalsa. Mughals established their rule in India and, as a state policy they tried to propagate Islam in this country. The “Muslim rulers and their administrators, from highest to the lowest, thought it their foremost duty to propagate Islam and convert Hindus to Islam even at the point of sword. Hindus were denied the liberty of conscience, expression and worship.”5 Guru Gobind Singh in order to uproot the tyrant rulers did not hesitate to use force. However the sword of the Guru was the shield of the meek. This was used in self-defence and to establish values in the society as, in the views of Hari Ram Gupta, “only few and rare persons can attain martyrdom who have to be the witness of the ideals of what they live for and remain prepared to die for them. However when ruthless rulers slaughter masses they may not be called martyrs. These innocent masses required to be protected. The natural consequence is militarization of the people and giving them training in self-defence.”6

The people, who sacrificed their lives for the righteous cause, are called martyrs. Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed his life to protect the religious freedom of the Hindus and achieved the status of martyrdom but that made “no effect on the tyrant rulers. Guru Gobind Singh, therefore, set himself against tyranny, injustice and intolerance and raised his sword against evil doers in an organized manner.”7

The medieval period of Indian history is full of religious dogmatism, hypocrisy, inequality and ritualism. The saints and bhaktas of that time spoke boldly against these malpractices. Sikh Gurus worked to liberate the masses from such superstitions and compiled the hymns of the great saints into the Guru Granth Sahib to create one powerful medium against hypocrites.

Guru Gobind Singh created Khalsa on March 30, 1699, the first day of Baisakh month, and administered amrit to them. This event is important in the history of the Sikhs. The Guru demolished the barriers of caste, colour, creed and geographical areas when he bestowed his grace upon Daya Ram, a Khatri of Lahore, Dharam Das, a Jat (farmer) of Delhi, Mohkam Chand, a washerman of Dwarka, Himmat Rai, a water carrier at Jagannath, and Sahib Chand, a barber of Bidar. The Khalsa was created out of the so-called lowly and downtrodden people of that time. But after conversion, these people were considered as the enlightened ones. The “Khalsa was inspired by a sense of divine mission to right the wrongs of the world; and in the discharge of his duties, no fear of earthly power was to stand in his way.”8

Khalsa was not only a militant body; it was an organization of pure ones to fight against the social inequalities and social conflicts of the masses. Their main object was to restore the religious, social and political values in the society. Guru Gobind Singh organized Khalsa for victory upon all types of evils. Under the leadership of Guru Gobind Singh, Khalsa fought many battles and achieved success. The purpose of his battles was not to have “territorial expansion or assertion of political suzerainty, but for preservation of human values and religious liberty (dharamyudh). Moreover the true soldier does not pursue or torture the enemy. He is generous in the treatment of his enemies and war-prisoners.”9 Khalsa as a militant body is always ready to stand against those who had been cruelly persecuting the masses.

In all the battles, Guru Gobind Singh treated both Hindus and Muslims alike. His volunteer, Bhai Kanhaiya used to supply water to the wounded without any distinction of friend or foe. This was an impact of Guru’s moral teaching upon his Sikhs to treat everyone as the children of one Supreme God. Treating all as equal in war, the Khalsa refutes the theory of everything is fair in war. Guru fought the battles not for personal reasons but to restore peace and a sense of equality among the masses. He was “verily a prophet of the people sixty years before Rousseau wrote his Social Contract and over 150 years before Marx formulated his manifesto. Guru Gobind Singh gave the most illuminating reasons for turning against the proud and privileged classes and espousing for the cause of the down-trodden, the cursed, the enslaved, who for centuries had no place in religion, no social freedom and no worthy place in society.”10

Guru Gobind Singh created Khalsa and defined his qualities in one of his writings. In his view, the true Khalsa is one “whose mind dwells night and day on the Ever-effulgent Light and who gives not a moment’s thought to other but the One, Who wears Perfect Love, with Faith, and believes not even mistakenly in fasting, tombs, crematoriums, and hermitages; nor he undertakes pilgrimages, nor customary charities, nor a set code of self-discipline, and believes in the One alone and not another. And when God’s Light illumines perfectly in his heart, then is he known a Khalsa, purest of the pure.”11 The Khalsa with these qualities and characteristics crossed all the boundaries of caste, colour, creed and geographical areas. Guru Gobind Singh declared that all his victories were due to the help of the Khalsa.

The purpose of Guru Nanak was to establish righteous conduct, righteous rule and righteous way to reach God. He enlightened this spirit in the form of a gurmukh, an ideal man in society, further transformed to brahmgiani at the time of Guru Arjun and arose to be Khalsa in the hands of Guru Gobind Singh. This was a continuous and gradual process to transform the society to fight for dignity and freedom of conscience.


1. Guru Granth Sahib, pp 417-18
2. Ibid, p 471
3. Ibid, p 722
4. Ibid, p 1412
5. Kapur Singh, Contribution of Guru Nanak, p 17
6. Hari Ram Gupta and Jagjit Singh, Militarization and Creation of the Khalsa Holy Order in The Sikh Review, May 1988, p 11
7. Gurdev Singh Deol, Social and Political Philosophy of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, p 100
8. Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs, p 67
9. Gobind Singh Mansukhani and Dharamjit Singh, Guru Gobind Singh - Cosmic Hero, p 27
10. Trilochan Singh, The Creative Genius of Guru Gobind Singh in The Sikh Review, August 1967, p 53
11. Dasam Granth, Thirty-Three Swaiyyas, English rendering by Dr Gopal Singh in Thus Spake the Tenth Master, p 131


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