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The significance of Khalsa

Man Singh Nirankari

The words Sikh and Khalsa have today acquired meanings which are devoid of the original thoughts and concepts associated with them. Over the years, these words have been tailored to suit popular religious or political beliefs and ideas.

The word Sikh is often interpreted to mean a disciple (from Sanskrit word shishya) but it may be suggested by some, that it derives its origin from Pali and means the same as the great Buddha’s Dhammapad — the elects or in Sikh parlance, chosen by God, God’s own. The nomenclature of Khalsa which Guru Gobind Singh gave to the brotherhood of Sikhs, also means the same, being derived from the Persian term then current for the king’s own lands. (Dr Gopal Singh, The Religion of the Sikhs, p. 1)

Khalsa is an Arabic word meaning :
– Free from impurities, pure.
– The land or the estate which belongs directly to the king without any intermediary claims of lord / noble or farmer to the same. In the district of Rawalpindi in West Punjab (Pakistan), some villages go by the name of Dehra Khalsa, Thaoha Khalsa, Choha Khalsa, etc. They were so named because they were the personal property of the king / monarch some time in the past.
– Akal Dharma (Waheguru ji ka Khalsa — God’s own).
– One who has embraced Khalsa religion : followers of Guru Nanak.
Jagat jot japae nis basur ek bina man naik naa anai ...

33 Savaiye
The use of the word Khalsa has been current in spiritual vocabulary since long. Kabir used this word to emphasise his special relationship with God :

ej[ epho iB GJ/ ykb;/ gq/w Grfs fij ikBh .. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 655

Kabir had established a direct communion and unbreakable relationship with God; he also gives a hint of becoming one with Him; he established direct relationship with God without any intermediary.

An identical Arabic word, almost interchangeable with Khalsa occurs in the Guru Granth Sahib. Khalaas, an Arabic word, has a similar meaning ‘free’, ‘emancipated’, and ‘unfettered’.

efj oftdk; ybk; uwkok .. .....

Ravdas, the emancipated shoe-maker, says . ..... Guru Granth Sahib, p. 345
fiB e" ;kX{ G/Nhn? ;' dorj j'fJ ybk;[ ..
They who meet the saints, are exonerated in God’ Court. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 134

The word Khalsa was used for those Sikhs who had direct communication with the Guru, without the intermediary system of the masands. During the period of Guru Amar Das, 22 gursikhs were appointed manjis in different parts of the country for the propagation of the Sikh religion. An eminently suitable Sikh was made responsible to look after the ecclesiastical needs of the local Sikh community.

During the time of Guru Ram Das and later Guru Arjun, the system was reorganised and local leaders were elevated to the rank of masands. This masand system worked very efficiently for quite some time, but became more or less hereditary. The masands collected the tithes and offerings for the Guru and transported them to its destination. When the ambit of Sikhism widened, many of these leading Sikhs became powerful members of the Sikh hierarchy. Bhai Gurdas gives a list of some of them in the 22nd canto of the 11th vaar and acknowledges the nobility of their character. He writes :

Samman hai shahbazpur, Gursikha di saar lehanda,
Jodha, jalo Tulaspur, Sohan Alamganj rehanda,
Gurmukh wadian wade masanda.

A special feature of their service to the Guru was that they kept in touch with each and every family living in their jurisdiction. They collected one tenth of the earnings and offerings and also preached the Sikh religion. This institution continued from the fourth Guru up to the year 1698 AD.

A number of Sikhs from remote places sent their offerings directly to the Guru, as they were not attached to any masand, and, hence without recourse to any intermediary. The person who had embraced the Sikh religion through the mediation of the masand, was also known as sehlang. The word sehlang connotes a person who is attached to an intermediary.

The defect in a hereditary system is obvious. Sometimes the son may not be of the same calibre as his father, and degeneration in the system appears. During the time of Guru Gobind Singh, steady deterioration in the masand system became obvious. They became thoroughly corrupt. Most of them became depraved. This masand system was abolished in 1698 AD, one year before Khande da Pahul was introduced by the Guru. So the entire Sikh sangat was given the title of Khalsa, as all Sikhs automatically established a direct link to the Guru.

Taj masand, Prabh ek jap,
Yeh bibek tahan keenai.

Jo kar sev masandan ke,
Kahen ann parsad sabhe moh deejai.

33 Savaiye
Gur Sangat keeni Khalsa,
Manmukhi dohela.
Bhai Gurdas 2nd
The entire sangat became Khalsa, and the manmukh-masands were completely eliminated.

In support of the above-mentioned thesis, the Hukumnamas, (Gurus’ letters written to Sikhs from time to time) are being quoted.

The SGPC has published a book, Guru Khalsa De Nishan Te Hukumnamae, in which Hukumnamas of Guru Hargobind and Guru Tegh Bahadur make explicitly clear the significance of the word Khalsa, and no iota of doubt remains.

The Hukamnama no. 9, p. 15, Patshahi Chhevin : Addressing Bhai Japu, Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Murar, Bhai Jati, Bhai Diala, Guru Hargobind exhorts them to serve the sangat, recite His Naam, to submit to His Will and Law, and then reminds them that purab di sangat Guru ka Khalsa hai, i.e., the eastern sangat is Guru’s Khalsa. Similarly, Hukamnama no. 23, p. 27, Patshahi Nauvin, enjoins upon the Sikhs of Patna to visit him on Diwali and reminds them that they are the Khalsa of the Guru, Patna di sangat Sri Guru jee ka Khalsa hai.

Thus when Guru Gobind Singh abolished the institution of the masands in 1698, one year before the Amrit ceremony, the entire sangat became Khalsa.

It would be imperative to elucidate the connotation of the term Khalsa with some excerpts from the Hukumnamas of Guru Gobind Singh : Hukamnama no. 74, p. 64, Patshahi Dasvin, enshrines Guru’s ordinance turning the sangat of Macchiwara into Khalsa and forbidding them to deal with the masands. “Shri Guru jee dee aagya hai Bhai Kalyan Rai, sarbat sangat Macchiwara ki guru rakhega, sangat mera Khalsa hai .... Samat 1755. This Hukamnama relates to a year before Khande da Pahul.

The term Singh was commonly used by the Rajputs before the time of the Tenth Guru. It was introduced by Guru Gobind Singh for all those Sikhs who got initiated. The transformation was so complete that sawa lakh se ek laraoon was no exaggeration. Khalsa may not be necessarily a Singh, a Singh is always a Khalsa. This fact gets further elucidated when we think of such Sikhs as Bhai Nand Lal, Bhai Ghanaya and others who were not Singhs but were members of the Khalsa fraternity.
Hukamnama no. 83, p. 73, of Guru Gobind Singh declares : Bhai Mehar Chand, Jat, Guru rakhega ... toon mera Khalsa hai. This letter was issued two years after initiation. It clearly reveals that Bhai Mehar Chand, Jat, had not opted for Pahul, even two years after its introduction, but still was being mentioned in the above letter as Khalsa.

A similarly — worded Hukumnama no. 86, page 76, issued in 1758 Samat, declares Bhai Mehar Chand, Dharam Chand and Karam Chand as Khalsa of the Guru.

There are a number of Hukamnamas by Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib Devan, who lived in Delhi after the demise of the Tenth Guru, which also support the issue under review. Hukamnama no. 98, page 88, sent by Mata Sundri mentions Bhai Nain Sukh, Bhai Fateh Chand, Sahib Rai, Kakoo Mal, Jagat Rai, Roop Chand, Kirpa Ram, Baboo Rai, Sohna Mal, Daya Ram, Bagh Rai, Chatter Bhuj, etc., who have been addressed as Khalsa of Akal Purkh.

Similarly, Hukamnama no. 106, page 96 (1786-1729 AD), issued by Mata Sahib Devan, 11 years after Guru Gobind Singh’s demise, mentions Bhai Thakur Das, Subhai Mal, Sabhu Nath, Sahib Rai as “Siri Akal Purkh ji ka Khalsa.”

The concept built up as above, facilitates, and adds to, the correct comprehension of the following lines in the daily Ardas (prayer) which mentions :

Jahan jahan Khalsa ji Sahib,
Tahan tahan rachhia riyat, Panth ki jeet.

Panth here includes all followers of Guru Nanak and they are being called Khalsa. Khalsa ji ke Bol Bale also connotes the high spirits of the entire Sikh Community.

Guru Gobind Singh affectionately addressed the entire sangat with the words Khalsa mero roop hai khas. Like Guru Nanak and his successors, he continued the revered and exalted status of the sangat. Though there is some distinction in the various terminologies, the underlying concept, however, remains the same.



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