image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Vaisakhi 2024: Khalsa Sajna Divas Also a Time for Reflection

Scholars of Sikh tradition agree that the revelation of the order of Khalsa Panth was the climax of all that had gone before and the inspiration of all that was to follow. Two hundred years after Guru Nanak (1469-1539) laid down the founding precepts for New Age ideology and institutions, Guru Gobind Singh completed that mission on the Vaisakhi day in 1699.

At Anandpur in Panjab, Guru Gobind Singh revealed a transcaste egalitarian Khalsa order, the foundation of which had been laid by Guru Nanak Sahib. First five Sikhs rose above the fear of death, and were prepared to tread the path of truthful conduct. They had offered their heads to the Guru and the Guru had given them a new identity and way of life, and embraced them as the Five Beloved Ones (Panj Piaray). They had qualified for admission to the fully evolved order of the Khalsa Panth. They were ready to accept the spiritual and worldly discipline of Sikhism as responsible householders and social activists. Today, the Panj Piaray represent Sikh institution of collective leadership and the ideal of service and sacrifice towards which every Sikh, the seeker after Truth, aspires.

Thus, having completed the first phase of the revolutionary miri-piri (temporal-spiritual) mission of Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, returned the Guruship from human succession back to the Word i.e. Gurbani teaching enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib. Thus, the collective body of the Khalsa Panth represented by the Sikh Holy Congregation (Sangat) at local level, in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, represents the physical form of the Guru, as Guru Khalsa Panth.

The joint Guruship of Guru Granth and Guru Panth is a unique feature of Sikh tradition. This means that, collectively, the Sikhs are empowered by the Guru to interpret the Word of the Guru in Guru Granth Sahib. It is in this sense that it may be said that Sikhism is truly a religion of the people, by the people and for the people. The Guru has given us the constitution, Guru Granth Sahib, and the egalitarian institutions to work together towards an ideal just society, the Halemi Raj and Begumpura, united in its diversity. The concept of Khalsa Panth is inclusive as symbolised by the Gurdwara which has open doors for all, regardless of caste or creed. Sikhi exposes and opposes any claims to exclusive treatment in human society.

The Khalsa concept represents the underlying humanity in each of us. It is a way of life above human divisions. Transformation to Khalsa is revelation of the soul bride in each of us which is yarning for union with the Creator Being while serving fellow human beings and the creation. Thus is Khalsa Akal Purakh ki Fauj &ndash the army of the Timeless Lord.

It can be said that Khalsa rises above exclusivity itself by giving up ego-centric sense of status indicated by caste, rich and poor divide, race, position in society and xenophobic attitude of them and us. Understanding the Khalsa concept requires a paradigm shift in thought and deed.

It is not surprising that Khalsa stood for much that the Bipran caste-class system opposed. Guru Gobind Singh ji warned the Sikhs against the Bipran (Brahmanic/Vedic) influence.

That is the trend which Sikhs can reverse by returning Sikhi back to mainstream Khalsa ideology, guided by one code derived from the interpretation of Gurbani by Guru Khalsa Panth, without any bipran, derawadi or authoritarian political influence.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd.