I have been reading ‘The Mughal Empire’ by John F Richards. The book turns out not just to provide background to the history of the Guru-period but it also tells the story of the clashes between the Sikhs and the Mughals and throws light on the word ‘khalsa’.
I will discuss the passages in the book on the clashes between the Sikhs and the Mughals in the next column, this week I will concentrate on the origin of the word Khalsa.
In the book there are many mentions of the word ‘khalisa’. In the glossary ( page 300) you’ll find its explanation : khalisa – lands or other entities producing revenue directly for the emperor and the central treasury.
On page 70 there is a mention of a minister of crown revenues whose title was diwan-i-khalisa, responsible for all revenues that were going directly into the central treasury. On page 76 crownlands under direct administration of the imperial finance minister are described as ‘khalisa’.
When I was in Chandigarh with the Institute of Sikh Studies I was told that Khalsa does not mean pure but that it is derived from a Persian or Farsi word meaning land that comes directly under the Crown. It is obvious that this must be the word khalisa used by the Farsi speaking Mughal court.
What is the meaning of the word in spiritual context ? The Khalsa are those that come directly under the Patishah of Patishahs, under God, just like khalisa land came directly under the emperor.
Why is the word we use Khalsa and not khalisa ? I do not know but we are faced by the same problem when we say that Khalsa means pure, as this is derived from the word khalis.
What I also do not know is how the word khalisa was pronounced. Was the first ‘a’ an ‘aa’, was the ‘i’ a sihari as in pit or a bihari which in English sounds like ‘ee’ ? Is it reasonable to assume that the end ‘a’ is an ‘aa’ ?
Assessing the proper meaning of Khalsa is important. If the Khalsa are meant to be the ‘pure’ than most of us, including your ‘man in blue’, should leave the Khalsa. I seriously try but make many mistakes and even Guru who is on a much higher level admits to making mistakes.
To add to the confusion I looked at the 33 Savaiye. In the first one there is mention of khálas and nakhálas, which is translated as Khalsa and not Khalsa. Any views on this khálas ? Does this mean pure, and were they wrong to tell me that pure is khalis ? Khalas might be a different spelling of khalis or it might be a different word with a different meaning.
Appeal to stop the use of violence
All Sikhs, Sikh organisations and Gurdwaré should undertake never again to use violence as a means to settle differences of opinion. There is no precedent from Guru’s days for this bad practice, the Guru taught us to stand up against injustice, not against opinions that we do not agree with.