Guru Gobind Singh’s Creation of Khalsa
– A Fulfilment of Guru Nanak’s Mission –
Dr Kirpal Singh
Former Prof & Head, Punjab Historical Studies Department, Pbi. Univ., Patiala
The earliest reference to the Sikh Gurus in the contemporary Persian works is in Dabistan whose author was popularly known as Mohsin Fani. He had been in contact with the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind (1605-1644 AD.) It is stated in the Dabistan that the Sikhs call their Guru Mohalla. This word is from the Persia word Halool which according to Steingass Persian-English Dictionary means entering, penetrating transmigrating. Mohalla means “soul penetrated”. It has been stated there that the Sikhs used Mohalla for every Guru which means a previous Gurus’ spirit had penetrated into the living Guru. It implies that the same spirit was working in all the Gurus. It is stated also in Adi Guru Granth, “Jot Oha Jugat Sai” (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 966). If the same spirit was working in the Gurus, the mission cannot be different. In this way the mission of Guru Gobind Singh cannot be at variance with the mission of Guru Nanak. The work initiated by Guru Nanak was completed by Guru Gobind Singh.
How Khalsa was the fulfillment of Guru Nanak’s mission can be studied from different points of view. From the point of view of Sikh doctrine, it was in conformity with the basic tenets of Sikhism as it is clear from the following:
1. Guru Nanak was deadly against caste system. He lived with a Muslim named Mardana for a number of years. In order to free the society from the curse of caste system, he introduced the system of common kitchen – Langar. Following the same principle, Guru Gobind Singh created Khalsa after amalgamating low castes with high castes. His selection of Panj Piaras, “five beloved ones”, was from Khatri, Jats, Washerman and other low castes. All were given Pahul from the same bowl demolishing the barriers of the caste.
2. Guru Nanak had indentified himself with the lowly. He lived with the carpenter Bhai Lalo, boatsman, Majnu at Delhi; petty accountant – Adraka at Patna. He had stated:
“Nanak seeks the company of those who are lowest of the lowly. Why should he rival the lofty. Where the poor are looked after, there does reign the Grace of God.”
nIcw AMdir nIc jwiq nIcI hU Aiq nIcu ]
nwnku iqn kY sMig swiQ vifAw isau ikAw rIs ]
ijQY nIc smwlIAin iqQY ndir qyrI bKsIs ]
– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 15
Following the same principle, Guru Gobind Singh elevated the lowly in the creation of Khalsa. In the words of Rattan Singh Bhango, the author of Prachin Panth Parkash, Guru Gobind Singh promised these poor Sikhs sovereignty:
En sab Singhan ko Devon Patshahi;
Yaad Karein Hamri Gurayee. (Prachin Panth Parkash, p.27)
3. Guru Nanak had transformed his spiritual self into Guru Angad, his disciple. Similarly, Guru Gobind Singh transformed his personality into Khalsa after taking Pahul from the Khalsa. The tradition of Aape Gur Chela started by Guru Nanak was continued.
4. During the dialogue with the Siddhas, as narrated in Siddh Gosht - long verse of Guru Nanak, Guru Nanak had told the Siddhas that his Guru was Shabad. So, Guru Nanak had established the Shabad to be the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh too declared that after him the embodiment of Shabad viz. the Adi Guru Granth would be the Guru of the Sikhs.
The tract of territory now comprising Punjab India and Punjab Pakistan, known by different names down the centuries – Sapta Sandhu1 of the Rig Veda, Hafta Hindu of Zand Avasta, Panchnada of Mahabharat and Agni Purv2 - has been the victim of foreign invasions since times immemorial. Long before Alexander’s invasion in 325 BC this tract of territory was conquered by Darious I (522-485 BC) of Iran. Hafta Hindu has been included in the list of his conquered territories in the rock inscription fixed on his tomb.3
After Alexander’s invasion there have been numerous invasions of Ghaznivde dynasty. Alpatgin frequently employed his armies under General Sabukatgin for the reduction of the province of Multan and Lamghan (area near Gazni), and thousands of inhabitants of these provinces were carried away as slaves to Ghazni. Jaipal, the Raja of Lahore finding his troops unable to withstand the armies of northern invader formed an alliance with the raja of Bhatia (Bhatner) but the confederate armies failed to prevent the assailants from carrying away great spoils from India each time they attacked the country.4
During the invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni from (1001-1027 AD) larger number of men lost their lives. Women were captured and taken away with huge wealth which he could plunder from various quarters.5
After Mahmud, his son Mahmud again conquered Lahore in 1036A.D.6 In the history of India, Timurlane’s invasion in 1399 AD brought more destruction and misery. Writing about the city of Bhatner, Latif writes, “but a few of them escaped the sword of Timur’s troops who attacked them and slew many thousands. Timur in person pressed the army so hard that he drove them back and captured the city gates. The enemy was hunted from street to street”.7
Guru Nanak’s Lamentation of Foreign Invasions
Guru Nanak (1469-1539 AD) the founder of Sikhism greatly lamented the invasion of Zahiruddin Babar, the Mughal Emperor and founder of the Mughal empire in India. How people suffered on account of Babar’s invasion has been fully described by Guru Nanak in his verses preserved in the Adi Guru Granth, the Sikh-scripture:
“Babar with the wedding party of sin for Kabul invaded down
And forcibly demanded surrender of Indian womanhood
Then went modesty and righteousness into hiding.
And falsehood was strutting about in glory
Set aside were Qazis and Brahmins,
And Satan went about solemnizing marriages.
Muslim women reciting the Quran
In their affliction called on Khuda.
Other women of low caste and of Hindus
In their suffering may also be put in the same account.8
pwp kI jM\ lY kwblhu DwieAw jorI mMgY dwnu vy lwlo ]
srmu Drmu duie Cip Kloey kUVu iPrY prDwnu vy lwlo ]
kwjIAw bwmxw kI gl QkI Agdu pVY sYqwnu vy lwlo ]
muslmwnIAw pVih kqybw kst mih krih Kudwie vy lwlo ]
jwiq snwqI hoir ihdvwxIAw eyih BI lyKY lwie vy lwlo ] (Guru Granth Sahib, p 722-23)
At another place Guru Nanak laments:
“Dishonoured were women of Hindus.
Muslims, Bhattis and Thakurs
Of some were the gowns torn from head to foot
Some in cremation yards found resting places.9
iek ihMdvwxI Avr qurkwxI BitAwxI TkurwxI ]
iekn@w pyrx isr Kur pwty iekn@w vwsu mswxI ] (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 418)
They who wore beautiful tresses and parting
Off whose hair dyed with vermilion,
Have their locks now shorn with scissors.
And dust is thrown upon their heads.
They dwelled in their private chambers.
Now they cannot find a seat in public.10
ijn isir sohin ptIAw mWgI pwie sMDUru ]
sy isr kwqI muMnIAin@ gl ivic AwvY DUiV ] (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 417)
How powerful is Guru Nanak’s expression addressed to God:
“So intense is our suffering. O Lord
and Thou feelest no pain?
O Creator Thou belongest to all
If powerful duel with powerful I grieve not,
But if a ravenous lion falls upon a flock of sheep
then the Master must answer.”11
eyqI mwr peI krlwxy qYN kI drdu n AwieAw ] krqw qUM sBnw kw soeI ]
jy skqw skqy kau mwry qw min rosu n hoeI ] skqw sIhu mwry pY vgY KsmY sw pursweI ]
Khalsa: A Fulfillment of Guru Nanak’s Mission
In creating Khalsa not only the principle objectives of Guru Nanak were achieved but his teachings and tenets were also followed. G.C. Narang has rightly stated, “The seed which blossomed in the time of Guru Gobind Singh had been sown by Guru Nanak and watered by his successors. The sword which carved Khalsa’s way to glory was undoubtedly forged by Gobind but the steel had been provided by Guru Nanak.”12
How Khalsa fulfilled the mission of Guru Nanak by rolling back the tide of foreign invasions, can be gleaned from various events recorded in history.
Sikhs Oppose Nadir’s Invasion
Nadir Shah’s invasion (1738-39 AD) brought a political earthquake in the whole of north-western India. The Marathas who used to take ransom money from the Delhi Mughal government failed to protect it. The Mughal army was defeated and destroyed by Nadir’s army. Nadir Shah looted Delhi and its neighbouring areas for two months and there was nobody to oppose him. On his way to Persia he took northern route under the Shiwalik hills until he came to Akhnur. At that time Sikhs decided to attack his rear and relieved him of his booty. Astonished at this he asked Zakaria Khan (Governor of Punjab 1726-45 A.D.) the whereabouts of the people who had dared to oppose him. Zakaria Khan replied, “They are a group of Fakirs who visit their Guru’s tank twice a year and disappear.” “Where do they live?” asked Nadir. “Their home is their saddles.” Nadir warned Zakaria Khan by saying, “Take care the day is not distant when these rebels will take possession of your country.”13
Sikhs Oppose Maratha Empire
The Marathas from the south invaded Punjab in 1757 AD at the invitation of Adina Beg Faujdar of Jalandhar Doab. Adina Beg also invited the Sikhs. Sirhind was conquered jointly. But the Marathas were haughty and wanted to dominate and could not make common cause with the Sikhs against the Afghans. The Marathas occupied territory uptil Attock and made Adina Beg the Governor of Punjab. Ahmad Shah Abdali could not tolerate the Marathas occupation of Punjab, brought a huge army and defeated the Marathas with heavy losses in the armed contest known as the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 AD. The Sikhs were alone in Punjab to fight against invasions of Afghans.
Sikhs Oppose Abdali Invasions
After the Third Battle of Panipat Ahmad Shah Abdali devoted the rest of his invasions to subdue the Sikhs. In 1762 A.D. in one of his actions more than twenty thousand Sikhs were killed and the event is still known as Ghallughara in the annals of Sikh history. Their sacred temple of Darbar Sahib Amritsar was pulled down. But the Sikhs continued their struggle against the foreign aggressors. With the tactics of guerilla warfare, they exhausted the invader. At last Ahmad Shah Abdali, founder of Afghan Empire, who had destroyed the Mughal rule and had crushed the Marathas, was himself defeated at the hands of valiant Khalsa bands.
The Last Afghan Invasion
Zaman Shah, the grandson of Ahmad Shah Abdali was the last to invade India in 1799 AD. As has been reported by Umda-Tut-Twarikh, he was challenged by Ranjit Singh, young leader of Sukrachakia Misal when Zaman Shah was in Lahore fort. He could not stay for long. Soon after he retired to Afghanistan.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1839 AD) so decisively defeated the Afghan Jehadis in the battle of Naushera in 1823, the battle of Saido 1827 A.D. and Battle of Balakot in 1831 A.D. that they got bewildered. They had never seen defeat at the hands of Indian forces for many centuries and contemptuously called Indians, including Indians Muslims, Hindko and considered Sikhs infidels. But now after number of defeats at the hands of Khalsa they began to say, “Khalsa Ham Khuda Shuda” (Khalsa too belongs to God).
In this way Khalsa fulfilled the mission of Guru Nanak and freed the country from the fear of invasions from the north west frontier.
I. Rig Veda. T.H. Griffiths, Vol. II.
2. Hobson Jobson. Henry. Yule, Delhi. 1903. p. 741.
3. Vedic India. A.Z. Ragozin, Londor, 1895. p. 107.
4. History of Panjab. Mohammed Latif, New Delhi. 1964. p. 77.
5. Ibid. p. 84-86.
6. Ibid. p. 87.
7. Ibid. p.114.
8. The Adi Guru Granth, p. 722.
9. Ibid. p. 418.
10. Ibid. p. 4I7
11. The Adi Guru Granth, p. 360.
12. Transformalion of Sikhism. G.C. Narang, Delhi. 1989. p. 1
13. Forster’s Travels,Vol. I. p. 272. Prachin Panth Parkash Rattan Singh Bhango, pp. 215-18.
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