Vaisakhi, which is fervently celebrated in the global Sikh community, has its traces back to the early stages of Sikhi (Sikhism). From the time of Guru Amardas Sahib, the third Guru (1552-1574), Sikhs had started gathering in large numbers during the festivals of Divali and Vaisakhi at Goindwal Sahib, Panjab. This provided the Gurus an opportunity to bring the diverse community together and lead them to prosperity, while still treading the righteous path shown by the founder of Sikhi, Guru Nanak Sahib (1469-1539).
...the Sikh Gurus took essential steps...
In addition to illuminating society with the light of the Ik-Oankar (Divine) and its attributes, the Sikh Gurus took essential steps to keep the community unified and in high spirits, especially in those turbulent times when the oppressors were in the form of foreign Mughals and upper-caste natives. The inhumane level of cruelty, injustice and deceitful nature of the Mughals and the upper-class had created a sense of fear and terror among people.
The fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Sahib’s martyrdom engendered by the ‘iron-hearted’ Mughals and their ‘boiling’ levels of cruelty and jealousy impelled the sixth Guru, Guru Harigobind Sahib, to introduce the principle of Miri-Piri (temporal and spiritual). This led to a monumental revolution in the community and prompted them to focus equally on spiritual enrichment and governance skills to overcome the challenges faced by them.
...the empowerment of each and every individual...
The ‘state of the art’ of the community was still in the process of taking its final form and shape. The discriminatory practices of the upper-class and the daunting brutalities of the Mughals were hindering the community’s social, psychological, economic, and political development. The time had come when the empowerment of each and every individual was crucial for the survival and prosperity of the community.
Something to ponder upon: Even in those turbulent and inconsistent times, the life-principles of a Sikh were never compromised or diluted while undergoing the phase of untangling the complex web that the society was trapped in. When the Mughals were burning and beheading them, the true spirit of Sikhi was kept inflamed by several Sikhs like Bhai Lakhi Shah Lubana, who set his own house to flames for cremating the body of Guru Teghbahadar Sahib, the ninth Guru (1621-1675). It delivered an inspiring message of courage, sacrifice, and selflessness to the whole community.
...deep contemplation, churning, and preparation...
After Guru Teghbahadar Sahib’s martyrdom, Gobind Rai (later to be known as Guru Gobind Singh Sahib), the tenth Guru, took over the responsibility of moving the caravan forward. Moving the community forward required deep contemplation, churning, and preparation.
At that time, crops of the oppressors were infected with such deep diseases that the mere use of a sickle to harvest them was not sufficient. Something greater and transformative was needed, to uproot the bad crops and sow the seeds of purity and serenity. The creation of a novel and integrated social order was required. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib recognized that for such an order to be implemented, people needed to be infused with wisdom, devotion, and power.
After more than two decades (1675-1699), the ‘Order of the Khalsa’ was established on the Vaisakhi of 30th March 1699. It led the Sikh community to a paradigm that had the magnificence of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib and the politeness of Guru Nanak Sahib. As Guru Nanak Sahib had proclaimed:
ਧੌਲੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਦਇਆ ਕਾ ਪੂਤੁ॥
Righteousness (dharam) is the son of compassion (daya).
-Guru Granth Sahib 397
So it happened. First came kindness, then righteousness. Soon after arose courage and strength. Finally, yet importantly, came governance.
On Vaisakhi 1699, the tenth Master transformed the Sikhs into ‘Khalsa’ which is the sum of the above five attributes. One wonders if it is a coincidence or Divine will, that the five:
- Daya Ram (compassion)
- Dharam Das (righteousness)
- Himmat Rai (courage)
- Muhkam Chand (strength)
- Sahib Chand (sovereignty)
Representing five divine qualities, who responded to the Guru's call and became beloved (pyare) of the Guru. They came from five different directions/regions:
- Lahore (Pakistan)
- Hastinapur (Delhi)
- Dwarka (Gujarat)
- Jagannath Puri (Odisha)
- Bidar (Karnataka)
They belonged to five different castes (khatri, jat, jhiwar, chhimba, nai), related to five different occupations: shopkeeper, farmer, water-carrier, calico-printer, barber (The five youths were from five castes –Panth Prakash, Ratan Singh Bhangu).
The underlying message was that the Guru, in his all-embracing approach, wanted to adorn everyone with higher human values and unite them into one – without any discrimination of caste, creed, color, country, form, gender, race, region, etc. (I shall merge all the castes into one –Tankhahnama, Bhai Nand Lal).
That is why, the Guru's first message was the annihilation of or freedom from previous lineage, occupation, actions, beliefs and doubts (kul nash, kirat nash, karam nash, dharam nash and bharam nash). It meant that Guru Sahib was making a 'khalisah' (pure and sovereign) human being, who needed to come out of the yoke of their old lineage, occupation, actions, beliefs, doubts, etc. to be the Guru's Khalsa, by discarding the rituals associated with their ancestors and embracing the Guru’s teachings. Becoming a Guru’s Khalsa meant shedding all doubts and completely subduing one’s ego (It involved renouncing one’s descent and accepting the Guru’s lineage –Panth Prakash, Ratan Singh Bhangu).
The Guru bleached them with a double-edged sword (khanda) and treated them with an application of wisdom (bani). Every one of them became an embodiment of kindness (daya), righteousness (dharam), courage (himmat), strength (muhkam) and sovereignty (sahib). They had the generosity of an ocean and serenity of water.
ਜਾਗਤ ਜੋਤਿ ਜਪੈ ਨਿਸ ਬਾਸੁਰ ਏਕੁ ਬਿਨਾ ਮਨਿ ਨੈਕ ਨ ਆਨੈ ॥
Khalsa contemplates upon the Living Light (Infinite Wisdom) day and night, and never allows any other thought to influence their mind.
- Dasam Granth 712
Khalsa, who overcomes all doubts and reins in vices; who controls the impulses of lust, wrath, greed, material attachment, etc. and surrenders one’s conceit.
Khalsa, who has a pure and untainted personality, without any lies, deceit, and dishonesty. Khalsa, who ceases to blame and slander others, but instead acts on every social concern and cause, and leads from the front; who breaks the shackles, liberates the prisoners and joins the ones in despair.
Khalsa, who has the heart to stand with the low, the weak and the distressed, and the courage to berate the belligerent and oppressors.
Khalsa, who attaches one’s mind to the Almighty; who has firm faith in the all-pervading Divine existence and does not recognize anyone else as equal to the Almighty.
Khalsa, who develops a spiritual relationship with the Divine and the Divine manifestation, the creation.
ਨਾਨਕ ਕਾ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹੁ ਦਿਸੈ ਜਾਹਰਾ॥
Nanak’s Sovereign is immanent and manifest.
- Guru Granth Sahib 397
Khalsa, who identifies with the Creator and practices divinity in daily life; not a mere ragi, nadi, bedi, sabadi, moni, yogi, or gyani, but 'Khalsa' who cultivates a life full of loving awareness and devotion to the Divine
ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਨ ਭਏ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਜਿਹ ਜਾਨੀ॥
Kabir says, those beings become Khalsa who know the loving devotion.
- Guru Granth Sahib 655
Khalsa, who is an epitome of wisdom (bani), not merely its heir; and who not just carries the khanda (double-edged sword), but is also duly qualified and eligible to carry it.
This is the Khalsa on whom Guru Gobind Singh bestowed the honor of carrying the weapons and riding the horses (Khalsa is one who adorns the arms…Khalsa is one who rides the horse –Tankhahnama, Bhai Nand Lal).
This is the Khalsa whom the Guru referred to as ‘my perfect and Eternal Guru’ (ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮੇਰੋ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪੂਰਾ॥ –Sarbloh Granth), and finally, invested with the responsibility of carrying forward the teachings and legacy of Guru Nanak.
On this historic Day of Khalsa Inauguration (Khalsa Sajana Divas), let’s introspect and reflect on how we can rekindle the spirit of Khalsa in our lives today.
Jagtej Singh is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Sports Management from the International Institute of Sports Management, Mumbai, India. He is a sportsman, a reader, and a poet. Currently, he lives in Faridabad, India.