Khalsa : the fulfilment of
Guru Nanak’s Mission
The territory now comprising Punjab (India) and Punjab (Pakistan) were known by different names down the centuries — Sapta Sandhu1 of the Rig Veda, Hafta Hindu of Zand Aveita (wherein it has been described as earliest creation of Ahura Mazda), Panchnada of Mahabharta and Agni Purva2. The territory has been the victim of foreign invasion since time immemorial. Long before Alexander’s invasion in 325 BC, this tract was conquered by Darius I (522-485 BC) of Iran. Hafta Hindu has been included in the list of his conquered territories in the rock inscription on his tomb.3 After Alexander’s invasion there have been numerous invasions of Ghazniwide dynasty. Alpatgin frequently employed his armies under General Sabukatgin for the subjugation 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 invaders, 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), a large number of men lost their lives. Women were captured and taken away with huge wealth which he plundered from various quarters.5
After Mahmud, his son Mahsud again conquered Lahore in 1036 AD.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 Granth, the Sikh scripture :
“Babar with the wedding party of sin from 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
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
“They who wore beautiful tresses and parting
Of whose hair dyed with vermillion,
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
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
Khalsa : A Fulfilment Of Guru Nanak’s Mission
The cry of Guru Nanak against the injustice and tyranny at the time of Babar’s invasion was heard by God, Who subsequently in due course of time ordained Guru Gobind Singh to create Khalsa in fulfilment of Guru Nanak’s mission. In creating Khalsa not only the principal objectives of Guru Nanak were achieved but his teachings and tenets were also followed as 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 the 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 was from Khatri, Jats, washermen and other low castes. All were given Pahul from the same bowl demolishing the barriers of caste.
2. Guru Nanak had identified himself with the lowly. He lived with the carpenter — Bhai Lalo; boatsman — Majnu; petty accountant — Adraka. He 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 rain the Grace of God.”
Following the same principle, Guru Gobind Singh elevated the lowly in creation of Khalsa. In the words of Rattan Singh Bhangoo, the author of Prachin Panth Parkash, Guru Gobind Singh promised these poor Sikhs sovereignty : In Garib Singhanko Devon Patshahi; Yaad Karein Hamri Guryayee, (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 Khalsa. The tradition of Aape Guru Chela started by Guru Nanak was continued.
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 earned the Khalsa’s way to glory was undoubtedly forged by Gobind, but the steel had been provided by Nanak.”12
How Khalsa fulfilled the mission of 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) 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 for two months and there was nobody to oppose him. On his way to Persia, he took northern route under the Siwalik 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 the whereabouts of the people who had dared to oppose him, Zakaria 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 saddle.” Nadir warned Zakaria by saying, “Take care, the day is not distant when these rebels will take possession of their 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 Afghan. The Marathas occupied territory uptil Attock and made Adina Beg the Governor of Punjab. Ahmad Shah Abdali was not to tolerate the Maratha occupation of Punjab. He 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 left 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, 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, 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 the 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 Sukarchakia Misl when Zaman 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 in 1827 AD and Battle of Balakot in 1831 AD, that they got bewildered. They had never seen defeat at the hands of Indian forces for many centuries and contemptuously called Indians, including Indian Muslims, Hindko and considered Sikhs infidels. But now after a 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 northwest frontier.
1. Rig Veda, T.H. Griffiths, Vol. II,
2. Hobson Jobson, Henry, Yule, Delhi, 1903, p. 741.
3. Vedic India, Z A Ragozin, London, 1895, P. 107.
4. History of Panjab, Mohammad 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. 417.
11. The Adi Guru Granth, p. 360.
12. Transformation of Sikhism, G.C. Narang, Delhi 1989, p.1.
13. Forster’s Travels, Vol. I, p. 272,
Rattan Singh Bhangoo, Prachin Panth Parkash, pp. 215-18