516.The Man in Blue – Sikhí V

Vaisakhi 1699, the Khalsa uniform : the Turban and the Five Ks. In 1699 Guru Gobind Rai, the tenth Sikh Guru, asked his Sikhs to come to Anandpur Sahib for the Vaisakhí festival. On the day he stood before the sangat, holding a sword, asking the Sikhs to offer their head.

The first five who came forward are called the Panj Piaré, the five beloved ones. They were the first members of the Khalsa, the order of initiated Sikhs who are totally committed to the Sikh way of life. They initiated Guru Gobind Rai and many more followed. Since then Khalsa men are known as Singh (=Lion) and Khalsa women as Kaur (=Princess). Guru Gobind Rai became Gobind Singh.

This took place during the reign of one of the more intolerant Mughal Emperors, who then ruled most of India. Being a Khalsa involved physical fighting against the oppressors, to achieve freedom of worship for all.

Guru stipulated that the sword was only to be used as a last resort, after all other means had failed. Guru wanted his Khalsa to be Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldiers), who do not fight for material gain or out of anger, but who fight against injustice.

As visible signs of their commitment the members of the Khalsa are to wear the turban and the Five Ks.

The 5 Ks are :

  • Kesh (uncut hair, no cutting, trimming or shaving)
  • Kara (a steel bracelet)
  • Kangha (a wooden comb)
  • Kacchera (cotton boxer short)
  • Kirpan (small steel sword)
    The kirpan stands for the fight against injustice referred to above

The Five Ks symbolise dedication to a life of devotion and submission to the Guru. For an initiated Sikh or Khalsa the fact that the Guru has asked the Sikhs to wear the Five Ks is sufficient reason and no more needs be said.

The Khalsa cannot be anonymous. Her/His religion is known to all. She/He stands out among people, and any unseemly behaviour on her/his part would be noted as unbecoming for a follower of the Gurus.

Anybody seeing somebody wearing the Five Ks and the Turban should know that they can go to her/him for help. If you wear the Khalsa uniform you are a visible Sikh. Unfortunately many Sikh ladies, even initiated ones, choose not to wear a turban, and are therefore not easily recognisable as Sikhs.

The Turban (Pag, Pagri, Dastár) was both in the Muslim and the Hindu community a sign of high worldly or spiritual status. Just like the names Singh and Kaur, that before were only used by those of high caste, the Sikh turban is a symbol of the elevation of the low-caste to the same status as those of high-caste.

The Khalsa and the 5 Ks

Vaisakhi 1699

In 1699 Guru Gobind Rai the tenth Sikh Guru, called his Sikhs together in Anandpur Sahib in the north of Panjab. He stood before the meeting, holding a sword, and asked for people to come forward who were willing to give their head.

The first five who did so are called the Panj Piaré, the five beloved ones. They were the first members of the Khalsa, the order of initiated Sikhs, those who are totally committed to the Sikh way of life, to doing God’s work. They then in their turn initiated Guru Gobind Rai into the Khalsa, and many others followed. From then on all Khalsa men were known as Singh (=Lion) and Khalsa women as Kaur (=Prince). Thus Guru Gobind Rai became Guru Gobind Singh.

This took place under the rule of one of the more intolerant Mughal Emperors, who then ruled most of the north of India. Being a Khalsa involved physical fighting against the oppressors, to achieve freedom of worship for all.

Guru did stipulate that the sword was only to be used as a last resort, after all other means had failed. Guru wanted his Khalsa to be Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier), who would not fight for material gain or out of anger, but who would defend the defenceless and fight against injustice.

As visible signs of their commitment the members of the Khalsa were to wear five outward signs, the so called Five Ks, and this practice is followed to this day.

Do realise that initiated Sikhs or Khalsas are only a relatively small group within the wider Sikh community or Panth. Many people of Sikh background wear a Kara, and more committed ones also keep uncut hair and wear a turban. It is unlikely that Sikhs who are not initiated wear a Kachhera, while only initiated Sikhs will wear the Kirpan.

The 5 Ks 

The 5 Ks are :

  • Kesh (uncut hair, no cutting, trimming or shaving)
  • Kara (a steel bracelet)
  • Kangha (a wooden comb)
  • Kacchera (cotton boxer short)
  • Kirpan (small steel sword)
    The kirpan stands for this fight against injustice referred to above  

The Five Ks symbolise dedication to a life of devotion and submission to the Guru. For an initiated Sikh or Khalsa the fact that the Guru has asked the Sikhs to wear the Five Ks is sufficient reason and no more needs be said.

The Khalsa cannot be anonymous. Her/His religion is known to all. She/He stands out among people, and any unseemly behaviour on her/his part would be noted as unbecoming of a follower of the Gurus.

Anybody seeing somebody wearing the Khalsa uniform (the Five Ks) should know that they can go to her/him for help. Regardless whether they wear western or Panjabi style clothes, they are visible Sikhs. Unfortunately many Sikh ladies, even initiated ones, choose not to wear a turban, and are therefore not easily recognisable as Sikhs.

Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 8:12 am  Comments (1)  
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418.The Man in Blue – Khalsa

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.

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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369.The Man in Blue – No Khalsa without the Guru Dasam Granth

I was very shocked when I saw a young man during the Southall Nagar Kirtan wearing a jacket with the above slogan printed on the back. The problem is that this kind of slogan which goes directly against the directions given to us by Guru Gobind Singh will be believed by many Sikhs.

The ten Gurus did not each teach their own Sikhí, they were all Nanak, they all carried forward God’s light that was given to Guru Nanak. That light is present in the Guru Granth Sahib, our eternal Guru, and in the lives of all the ten Gurus. There really is only one Guru and that is God.

Guru Nanak wrote that if you want to play the Game of Love you have to carry your head on the palm of your hand. Some two hundred years later Guru Gobind Singh asked for exactly that same commitment. Guru Gobind Singh told us that the True Khalsa serves all, and serving all, seeing God’s presence in all, is what the other nine Gurus taught and practised.

Guru Hargobind took up the sword, Guru Teg Bahadur took up the sword before he became the Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur gave his life defending Hindus. The principles on which Guru’s Khalsa is based are in the Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Gobind gave these principles a new form.

On Vaisakhi 1699 there was no Dasam Granth, when Guru before he passed away declared the Guru Granth to be the eternal Guru of the Sikhs there was no Dasam Granth.

The above does not mean that it is wrong to read the Dasam Granth, and I have not said anything about the authorship of the Dasam Granth. I do not know who wrote the Dasam Granth, and I am not getting involved in a debate that cannot be won, as nobody knows who wrote the Dasam Granth.

There is a lot of interesting material in the Dasam Granth, and also some writing of which I cannot understand what it has to do with any religion. But whatever I think is irrelevant, Guru Gobind Singh taught us to follow the teachings of the Guru Granth, and that is what I concentrate on.

No Khalsa without the Guru Granth, no Sikhí without the Guru Granth. That is not my personal interpretation, it is what Guru taught us. The irony is that many people who claim to be ardent supporters of Guru Gobind Singh  try to make him out to be more important than the other Gurus, and try to make a Granth that did not even exist in Guru’s lifetime equal or even more important than the Guru Granth.

Guru Gobind Singh like the other Gurus did not want to be worshipped, Guru Gobind Singh wanted us to follow the Guru Granth.

Published in: on May 1, 2009 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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