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End of the Masand System and the Birth of Khalsa

Towards the end of sixteenth century, Guru Nanak’s message of universal brotherhood and social justice, deeply rooted in spirituality, was spreading so fast, that the third Nanak, Guru Amar Das, felt it necessary to organize different geographic areas under several Manjis and Peerhis, or ‘dioceses’ – to be headed by noble and devoted men and women. They were to spread Guru Nanak’s message and provide spiritual guidance to the Sikhs in their areas. Whatever offerings the Sikhs made were to be used for langar, (the community kitchen), and after meeting the expenses of the local chapters, the surplus was meant for the Guru’s golak (the community chest).

The fifth Nanak, Guru Arjun Dev, in order to meet increasing costs of the langar and the hospice providing free accommodation to the visitors, and also the heavy costs of construction of the Amrit Sarovar (pool of nectar) and the Harimandar Sahib (the divine temple) in Amritsar, introduced dasvandh (a semi-mandatory requirement) for Sikhs to contribute voluntarily, ten percent of their income for the charitable causes. Occupants of manjis were then called masands, and several more masands were appointed at places far and near.

For several years the system worked very efficiently, as the early masands were honest and devoted Sikhs. But over a period corruption took roots, and the Sikhs lost faith in the masands, some of whom were not only misappropriating the dasvandh, good part of which disappeared before it reached the Guru, but were also using coercion to ‘extract’ dasvandh.
In the last decade of the seventeenth century the situation came to a loggerhead. The Sikhs complained to Guru Gobind Singh. He punished some masands, who were accused of immorality, and had no believable defense. To root out the corruption, he abolished the Masand System altogether.

In 1698, in his hukamnamahs, Guru Gobind Singh advised the Sikhs not to recognize or befriend the masands, and their deputies. Whatever offerings they wanted to make, they could either send through bankers’ drafts, or hold and bring those along, at the time of Baisakhi, the harvest festival, in the following year -1699.

Sikhs were joyful, at the good riddance from the masands. Now they could visit the Guru, without escort of the detested masands.

Birth of the Khalsa
On March 30, 1699 (o.c.), Sikhs from all parts of the country had assembled at Anandpur, to celebrate Baisakhi as usual, but in much larger numbers. The day started, as always, with kirtan (devotional singing). After the kirtan when Guru Gobind Singh stood up, he suddenly unsheathed his sword. With the naked sword in his hand, addressing the assembly he said, “I need a Sikh, who is willing to offer me his head”. The whole assembly was stunned. Several minutes passed, there was no response.

Guru Gobind Singh asked once again, “Is there no Sikh to offer his head to me?” There was still no response from the benumbed audience. He thundered, “Not even one?” On this third call, rose Daya Ram, a Khatri from Lahore. “Sache Padshah (0 True King), this head is yours, I will be blessed, if it serves your purpose.” The Guru led him by the arm to a tent nearby. In a short while he returned, carrying the bloodied sword, only to ask for another. No wonder, if some people from the audience looked for the exit; or others who might have thought that the Guru was off track. As per one tradition, some people rushed to the Guru’s mother, Mata Gujari, to appeal to her to restrain her son, from his action. In the meantime, Dharam Dev, a Jat of Rohtak, had humbly come forward, and offered him his head. Guru Gobind Singh returned again with blood soaked sword, asking for the third, the fourth, and the fifth.

Now there was all quiet for some time. All eyes were still on the gate of the enclosure. The Guru did not come out for quite some time. Then, the gate opened, and out walked Guru Gobind Singh with all five volunteers, dressed in new garments – yellow long robes, blue turbans on their heads, and long swords hanging from the cloth bands tied round their waists. Of course, all had long shorts underneath their robes.

Other than Daya Ram and Dharam Dev, the other three were: Mohkam Chand, a launderer from Dwarka, Gujarat; Himmat, a water carrier from Jagannath Puri, Eastern India; and Sahib Chand, a barber from Bidar, South India.

The Guru brought them out and introduced them as his “Beloved Five”, who did not shirk offering their lives to him. The whole assembly was overwhelmed and ecstatic with resounding shout of Sat Sri Akal, echoing back from the yonder hills.

Guru Gobind Singh told the FIVE, he wanted to initiate them into the panth Khalsa, Wahiguru ji ka Khalsa belonging to none other than the Good Lord alone.

He called for some water in a steel vessel. When the water was brought he sat down with the vessel before him, and asked his wife Mata Jeetoji* to pour some patasas in the water.

He started stirring the water with a double-edged sword, while chanting prayers. As usual the devotional liturgy was started with Guru Nanak’s Jap ending with Guru Amar Das’ Anand. In between he recited three of his own compositions – the Jaap, Swayeye and Benati Chaupai.

With the prayers over, the Amrit (ambrosial water) was administered to the FIVE. Five times, they were given palms full of the Amrit to drink. Every time they were to acknowledge Wahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Wahiguru ji ki Fateh (The Khalsa is the Good Lord’s and the victory be the Good Lord’s). Five times the Amrit was sprinkled over their hair and eyes. Then they were asked to drink from the same vessel – to put an end to caste-based food inhibitions, as they now belonged to the same caste. Their new caste was Khalsa Brotherhood, and all of them would have one surname – ‘Singh’ (Lion), putting an end to all caste identities. They all drank from the same vessel, and responded by declaring Wahiguru ji ka Khalsa; Wahiguru ji ki Fateh.

The Guru told them that in future, it would be binding for them, to maintain always the 5 K’s -1. Kes (unshorn hair, for distinct identity, with courage of conviction); 2. Kangha (a small comb in the hair, to keep them clean and tidy); 3. Kirpan (sword, to be ever ready for defence of righteousness, and defence of the oppressed); 4. Karha (a steel bracelet, to remind one of the vows and commitment to do the right thing, always) and 5. Kachha (a pair of shorts, to remain chaste; and to be dressed such that one is able to move out in public at a moment’s notice) .

When the initiation was over, the Guru introduced “The Beloved Five” again to the audience. The hall resounded with loud cries of the jaikara (victory slogan) Bole So Nihal, responded by every body with Sat Sri Akal.

After five jaikaras, when the silence returned, Guru Gobind Singh surprised every body once again. Facing the FIVE, with folded hands, he requested them to initiate him into the Khalsa Panth, by giving him the pahul, in the same manner.

The FIVE begged: O Guruji, you are our preceptor, how can we make you a disciple. Still folding his hands Guru Gobind pleaded, “You are the Chosen Five, and wherever there are five, their collective voice is the Will of God”. Please give me the pahul of the khanda (the double-edged sword), so that I do not falter from the path of righteousness.

The Beloved Five honored his request. Fresh ambrosial water was prepared and Guru Gobind was administered the pahul. His previous name Gobind Das was changed to Gobind Singh. In the words of Bhai Gurdas II, all praise to Gobind Singh, himself the guru as well as disciple

Vahu vahu Gobind Singh, aape gur chela.*

Those who joined brotherhood of the Khalsa were required to pledge to the doctrine of Dharam-nash, Bharam-nash, Karam-nash. Kul-nash and Kirt-nash, to disavow consideration of caste, previous religion, superstition, clan, or profession in mutual or community dealings.
Bhai Gurdas had once said:

One disciple is a Sikh, two form a sangat (holy association), but where there are five, present there is God Himself.

Between the Baisakhi of 1699 and Holi of 1700, about 80,000* Sikhs took khande-di-pahul (initiation of the double-edged sword.)

With the birth of Khalsa, the end of the Masand System was completed.



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