1699: Guru Gobind Rai (Singh) establishes the Khalsa
A depiction of Guru Gobind Singh initiating the first five members of the Khalsa Woodcut, Amritsar or Lahore, about 1874-5
Guru Gobind Rai was 33 years old when he had Divine inspiration to actuate his designs. In early 1699, months before Baisakhi Day, Guru Gobind Rai sent special edicts to congregants far and wide that that year the Baisakhi was going to be a unique affair. He asked them not to cut any of their hair — to come with unshorn hair under their turbans and chunis, and for the men to come with full beards.
On Baisakhi Day, March 30, 1699, hundreds of thousands of people gathered around his divine temporal seat at Anandpur Sahib. The Guru addressed the congregants with a most stirring oration on his divine mission of restoring their faith and preserving the Sikh religion. After his inspirational discourse, he flashed his unsheathed sword and said that every great deed was preceded by equally great sacrifice: He demanded one head for oblation. After some trepidation one person offered himself. The Guru took him inside a tent. A little later he reappeared with his sword dripping with blood, and asked for another head. One by one four more earnest devotees offered their heads. Every time the Guru took a person inside the tent, he came out with a bloodied sword in his hand.
Thinking their Guru to have gone berserk, the congregants started to disperse. Then the Guru emerged with all five men dressed piously in white. He baptized the five in a new and unique ceremony called pahul, what Sikhs today know as the baptism ceremony called Amrit Shakna. Then the Guru asked those five baptized Sikhs to baptize him as well. He then proclaimed that the Panj Pyare — the Five Beloved Ones — would be the embodiment of the Guru himself: “Where there are Panj Pyare, there am I. When the Five meet, they are the holiest of the holy.” The Guru did not cut off the heads of any of them. He had used a goat’s blood and wiped his sword on it to make it seem as if he had actually done a beheading. This was to prove the devotion of his Sikhs; he wouldn’t kill his most faithful Sikhs, or anybody who did not deserve to be punished. Those who were ready to give themselves up to their Guru were the bravest and most devoted. They were chosen to begin the Khalsa Panth. Guruji joined the Khalsa Panth after his devoted Sikhs, and they led the Khalsa alongside the Guru.
1699 Amrit Sanchaar
He said whenever and wherever five baptized (Amritdhari) Sikhs come together, the Guru would be present. All those who receive Amrit from five baptized Sikhs will be infused with the spirit of courage and strength to sacrifice. Thus with these principles he established Panth Khalsa, the Order of the Pure Ones.
At the same time the Guru gave his new Khalsa a unique, indisputable, and distinct identity. The Guru gave the gift of bana, the distinctive Sikh clothing and headwear. He also offered five emblems of purity and courage. These symbols, worn by all baptized Sikhs of both sexes, are popularly known today as Five Ks: Kesh, unshorn hair; Kangha, the wooden comb; Karra, the iron (or steel) bracelet; Kirpan, the sword; and Kachera, the underwear. By being identifiable, no Sikh could never hide behind cowardice again.
Political tyranny was not the only circumstance that was lowering peoples’ morale. Discriminatory class distinctions (–the Indian “caste” system–) promoted by Brahmins and Mullahs were also responsible for the peoples’ sense of degradation. The Guru wanted to eliminate the anomalies caused by the caste system. The constitution of the Panj Pyare was the living example of his dream: both the high and low castes were amalgamated into one. Among the original Panj Pyare, there was one Khatri, shopkeeper; one Jat, farmer; one Chhimba, calico printer/tailor; one Ghumar, water-carrier; and one Nai, a barber. The Guru gave the surname of Singh (Lion) to every Sikh and also took the name for himself. From Guru Gobind Rai he became Guru Gobind Singh. He also pronounced that all Sikh women embody royalty, and gave them the surname Kaur (Princess). With the distinct Khalsa identity and consciousness of purity Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opporunity to live lives of courage, sacrifice, and equality.
The birth of the Khalsa is celebrated by Sikhs every Vaisakhi Day on April 13. Vaisakhi 1999 marks the 300th anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh’s gift of Panth Khalsa to all Sikhs everywhere. WAHEGURU JI KA KHALSA, WAHEGURU JI KI FATEH!