Baisakhi: The Birth of the Khalsa

By Jasbir Singh

The Sikhs world over celebrates Baisakhi every year on 13th or 14th of April, the day on which the Sikh religion was born. The birth of the Khalsa was done in the grandest of ceremonies 324 years ago on the first day of the Vaisakh month on March 29, 1699.

Sikh religion is the latest evolved by human beings after Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

The emergence of Sikh religion was the logical outcome of the blueprint given by Guru Nanak Dev the first of Sikh Gurus. The unique event of Baisakhi in 1699 was the culmination of the political and social scenario prevalent in those times.

The Mughal state had assumed the form of a purely Islamic state under Aurangzeb and orthodoxy was adopted as an “imperial policy”. He discontinued the celebration of Nowruz – first day of the lunar year. A few years later music and dancing were prohibited. Non-Muslims were singled out for discriminatory treatment in the fields of public services, construction and repair of temples, conversion and taxation. In March 1695, all the Hindus except Rajputs, were ordered not to ride elephants, fine horses or palanquins or to carry arms.

Guru Teg Bahadur, the 9th Sikh Guru whose 400th Prakash Parv – the birth anniversary was celebrated worldwide last year, was beheaded in 1675 in Delhi at Sisganj near the Red Fort on the orders of Aurangzeb. His crime: saving the Kashmiri Brahmins from being converted to Islam. Such were the suffocating circumstances which led to the birth of Khalsa, the Sikh religion on the day of Baisakhi in 1699.

The tenth Guru for the protection of religion and justice decided to put his plan into operation on March 29, 1699. He sent ‘hukamnama’ to his large number of followers inviting them to visit Anandpur Sahib, a city in Punjab founded by his father, in full strength on the Vaisakhi festival. The people came from far off places as Jagannath Puri in the east, to Bidar in the south, Lahore and Delhi in the north, Dwarka to the West.

The Guru rose early that day and sat in meditation. He then appeared before the sangat while Bhai Mani Singh gave exposition of a shabad from the Adi Granth. The Guru then with his sword unsheathed spoke, “is there anyone here who would lay down his life for his Guru and Dharam?”

The crowd could not understand what the Guru meant and gazed in awed silence until he spoke again. Sri Guru Gobind Singh repeated his call for the third time.

Then Daya Ram, a Khatri – a carpenter, from Lahore stood up and said in humility, “My head is at thy disposal, my true Lord. There would be no greater gain than dying under thy sword”. The Guru took him to a specially improvised enclosure close by and returned with his sword dripping blood. Another person from Delhi Dharam Das, a Jat came forward to offer himself for sacrifice. He too was taken to the enclosure. In the same way the Guru made three more calls. Mokham Chand, a chibba from Dwarka in Gujarat, Himmat, a Jhinwar from Jagannath Puri in Orissa and Sahib Chand, a barber from Bidar in Karnataka cheerfully responded one after another and advanced to offer their heads.

After few minutes, the Guru led the five Sikhs back from the enclosure. Decked in gorgeous saffron outfits and turbans, the beloved five – “the panj piyaras” walked differentially behind their Master, overwhelmed with gratitude.

Then, Guru took water in an iron bowl, stirred it with a khanda – a double edged dagger with the recitation of hymns. A plate full of patasas – sweets brought by Mata Jito, the Guru’s wife – was put in the water. Amrit – the nectar of immortality was now ready and was administered to the five-beloved to signify their initiation into the ‘casteless’ fraternity of the Khalsa – the Sikh faith.

Their names were changed, and they were given one family name “Singh” which is derived from Sanskrit “simha” meaning lion — it was and is commonly used as a surname by the Rajputs, Gurkhas and many others belonging to Hindu martial classes. A sikh woman takes the surname “Kaur” on baptism. Kaur is also a common surname derived from the word “Kanwar” used for Rajput women and means both a princess and lioness.

From this moment, on that Baisakhi of 1699 marked their complete break with the past and it required the initiated to live a virtuous life of morally responsible action under the discipline and code especially prescribed for him.

For outward symbols, the five K’s (kesh, kanga, kara, kirpan, kachha) are the marks of investiture on the personality of an initiated Sikh. The five symbols taken together signify that a Sikh, both as an individual and a corporate body should be strong in body, mind and soul and develop an integrated personality.

The distinctive appearance of a Sikh imparts a semblance of unity, close brother hood, equality, group consciousness and above all an ethical and morally right conduct. In addition to the five above emblems, a Sikh is prohibited to smoke, chew tobacco or take alcoholic drinks.

The tenth Sikh Guru who founded the faith on Baisakhi, suffered enormously at the hands of the ruler of those days still proclaimed in his hymn that “maanas ki jaat sabhe eko pahachanbo,” i.e. consider all men of all castes and creeds as same”. 

The very purpose of all ten Sikh gurus was to underline and strengthen the social, cultural, religious and spiritual unity of the Indian nation and society. It was to underline, re-narrate, retell and reemphasize this unity that Guru Gobind Singh ji when editing the Holy Guru GranthSahib included the Vani (hymns) of thirty great saints of various castes, and religions and places of India apart from the hymns of six Sikh Gurus.

Also, the Panj Piyaras who were administered Amrit on the Vaisakhi of 1699 were of different regions of India like Lahore, Bidar, Jagannath Puri, Dwarka and Hastinapur. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was born in Patna Sahib (Bihar), created Khalsa in Anandpur Sahib (Punjab), edited and prepared Guru Granth Sahib in Yamunanagar (Haryana) and left for heavenly abode in Nanded (Maharashtra). All Sikh Gurus considered the whole of India as their motherland and never hesitated to sacrifice everything including their lives for it.

Moreover, it is the duty of every Sikh to serve the very purposes enshrined by all Sikh Gurus including Guru Gobind Singh Ji and stand by them strongly and tell loudly and clearly that patriotic blood runs in

the veins of every Sikh.

On this auspicious day of Baisakhi, the Sikhs should re-dedicate themselves to the great ideals of our great Gurus and service of the nation called India.

Sardar Jasbir Singh 
is National General Secretary of the Forum for Awareness of National Security (FANS). He is also chairperson of the advisory committee of the Guru Gobind Singh Chair for National Integration & Sikh Studies in Rajasthan University, Jaipur. Earlier, he was Chairperson of Rajasthan Minorities Commission.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times  

Images courtesy of SikhNet, The Week and Provided

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