Khalsa Panth

Charnjit Singh Bal

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Word Khalsa is derivative of Persian/Arabian word Khalis that literally means pure, un-adulterated, un-tainted, noble, autonomous, etc. Considering Guru Gobind Singh’s contemporary Islamic quasi-theocracy and Hindu vassals' combined attempts to annihilate or subjugate the nascent Sikh Panth; and devious Sikh Massands' stranglehold on the Sikhs, prompted him to transform Sikhs to Khalsa and the Sikh Panth to Khalsa Panth, 'noble' and 'autonomous' describe Khalsa designations appropriately.

The Khalsa Panth is culmination of the Sikhism that was founded by the reformist first Sikh Guru Nanak Sahib. The Sikh Gurus (Nanaks) nurtured the universal Sikhism, that promotes socio-religious Liberalism and Pluralism to Khalsa Panth that champions the a Noble cause of basic Human Rights including universal religious Freedom, social Justice and just political system. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib who administered the first Sikh baptismal ceremony on 30 March 1699 dubbed a baptized Sikh as a Khalsa, a rank that connotes a noble warrior or saint-soldier and Sikhism as Khalsa Panth, a designation that signifies noble Nation or noble way of life.


The Sikh Gurus practiced what they preached. From the very inception of Sikhism the Sikh Gurus not only professed and inculcated the noble virtues essential for a true Khalsa and the Khalsa Panth, through preaching and writings, but they exemplified by living a noble life tempered with piety, sagacity, courage, fortitude and magnanimity.

Although Sikh Guru Sahibs and the Hindu and Muslim co-authors of Guru Granth Sahib essentially believed in acceptance of God's will a cardinal pious virtue, but they had the courage of their convictions also, to denounce social, religious and political injustices and atrocities. Their exemplary courage in the face of overwhelming adversities inspires and instills the essential virtue of courage in the true Sikhs and real Khalsa.

Guru Nanak Sahib witnessed the massacre, plunder, rape and enslavement of women at Amnabad (Sadpur), Punjab during Babur's third invasion of India in 1521. The Guru Sahib voiced his grievance to the omniscient God.

eyqI mfr peI kulfxY, qY kI drd n afiea]

krqf qUM sBnf kf soeI] jy skqf skqy kAu mfry qf min rosu n hoeI]

skqf sIhu mfry pY vgY KsmY sf prsfeI] rfgu afsf, pMnf 360

So much torment inflicted, (the innocent) wailed (in anguish); didn't you (O Lord) feel any compassion (for them)?

Creator you are the guardian of us all. If a mighty assaults another mighty, there is no grievance; but if a mighty lion pounces on the herd, the herder is accountable. Page 360

The conscientious Sikh Guru Nanak, although born into a privileged class of the Hindu caste system, displayed inimitable courage at an early age and rejected the Hindu blind faith ritualism, dogmatism, occultism, cultism and caste-ism. The Guru Sahib denounced tyrannical Muslim imperialists for socio-cultural, economic exploitation, religious persecution and political repression of the non-Islamic element of the predominantly Hindu society. The reformist Guru Nanak Dev Sahib chastised the sinister Hindu and fanatical Islamic clergies, the tyrannical autocracy and the officials.

rfjy sINh mukdm kuqy] jfie jgfiein bYTy suqy] rfgu mlfr, pMnf 1288

Rulers are (carnivorous) lions; Officials are dogs (hounds); (who) sneak up and startle the reposing, sleeping (innocent people). Raag Mlar, Page 1288

In 1540 AD Babur's son and successor Hamanyu fleeing after being routed by Sher Shah Soori, stopped at Khadoor Sahib where Guru Angud Sahib's seat was, presumably to pay homage to the Guru. Guru Sahib who was preoccupied watching the games of the adolescents did not pay much attention to the visitor. Hamanyu accustomed to people prostrating before him drew his sword. The undaunted Guru Sahib said, "where was the sword you are drawing on a holy man, when you were fighting Sher Shah Soori?" Hamanyu was embarrassed and subdued.

In 1565 AD, Guru Amar Dass Sahib refused audience to (Hamanyu's son and successor) Akbar, the mighty Emperor of India until and unless Akbar complied with the Guru Sahib's canon of everyone partaking langar sitting at an equal level (communion meal) irrespective of caste, creed, gender, social status, et cetera to ensure social equality. At the time due to the economic conditions and social custom every one ate while sitting on the floor except, may be, the aristocracy and the elite. Akbar, the mighty Emperor of India sat down with the on the floor to partake Guru’s Langar.

Guru Har Rai Sahib disowned his son Ram Rai and deprived him of the Guru-ship for cringing in the court of tyrannical Muslim emperor Aurengzab and changing the word Musalman in Guru Nanak's hymn with 'Bayeeman' to placate the Emperor and gain favors.

In 1661 Har Krishan Sahib was just over five years old when his father Guru Har Rai Sahib died. Soon after the child-Guru assumed Guru-ship his older brother Ram Rai complained to the emperor Aurangzeb about being deprived of the Guru-ship. The emperor summoned both the Guru Sahib and Ram Rai to appear in his court at Delhi. The child Guru demonstrated uncommon courage and refused to oblige because his father Guru Har Rai Sahib had advised him not to see the tyrannical emperor. Raja Jai Singh, a courtier in Aurengzeb's court arranged dialogue between the emperor and the Guru through an intermediary. Emperor ruled in favor of Guru Har Krishan.


The fortitudinous Sikh Gurus encountered hostility from their own kith and kin. Although Guru Arjun Sahib had already given his share of personal inheritance to his two older brothers, but the eldest Prithi Chand driven by greed and jealousy swindled the tithe and other offerings from the Sikhs meant for the Guru and colluded with the hostile Muslim aristocracy and clergy against Guru Sahib. However the magnanimous Guru Arjun Dev Sahib never said or did any thing to retaliate.

Guru Teg Bahadur's nephew, Dhir Mal, (Gurdittaji's son), sent a masund, named shinha along with twenty cohorts of his to assassinate Guru Sahib. Shinha fired on Guru Sahib at close range. Although wounded Guru Sahib sat unperturbed through the episode while Dhir Mal and his party looted Guru Sahib's belongings including the original copy of Guru Granth Sahib.

Religious Freedom

Sikhism founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539 CE) in the late fifteenth century had to fight the two contemporary Goliaths, overt Islamic Jihad and covert Hinduism, for its survival. The history of progressive Sikhism that professes religious freedom, brotherhood of Man and socio-religious harmony is intertwined with the tyrannical Mogul imperialism that would have converted all non-Muslim populace of India to Islam if the Sikh Gurus hadn’t championed the cause of universal socio-religious freedom. For that noble cause Sikhism had to make supreme sacrifices including martyrdom of three Gurus, four juvenile sons of Guru Gobind Singh and numerous Sikh men, women and children. Whereas any signs of tyrannical Mogul imperialism have virtually been obliterated, Sikhism has culminated into one of the half a dozen major religions of the world.

Guru Arjun Dev's Martyrdom

In 1606, Guru Arjun Sahib was arrested on the false allegation of aiding and abetting Jahangir's rebellious son Khusro. Guru Sahib was asked to choose either conversion to Islam or death. The Guru Arjun Sahib opted to be martyred for the noble cause of religious freedom rather than yield to the coercion to convert to Islam. The paragon of fortitude, Guru Sahib endured the torture while reciting Gurbani.

The actual reason for Guru Arjun Dev Sahib's martyrdom is evidenced by an entry made in Jahangir's autobiography. "In Goindwal, on bank of river Beas, (pronounced Bayaas), lived a Hindu by the name of Arjun in the guise of a Pir, Fakir (eminent mendicant). He not only persuaded many innocent Hindus, but some naive and ignorant Muslims also to be his devotees; and was loudly beating his drum to proclaim his pious eminence and closeness to the God. People called him guru and came from all directions to congregate around him. They (the Sikh Gurus) have operated this prolific business briskly for three to four generations. Often the idea had come to my mind to either put an end to this nefarious business or to convert him to Islam. I was totally aware of his scam so I ordered that he be arrested, his children be turned over to Murtza Khan (Governor of Punjab), his property be confiscated and he should be punished according to political justice and Yaasa."


Guru Hargobind Sahib was only eleven years old at the time of the martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjun Dev Sahib. He was faced with two choices, either to let the Muslim tyrannical rulers and fanatical clergy to annihilate Sikhism and other non-Islamic religions of India or fight the tyranny. Guru Sahib chose the latter and showed extraordinary personal courage, valor and political acumen and maneuvered Sikhism on its course chartered by Guru Nanak Sahib through the crucial times.

The martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev Sahib in 1606 at the behest of the fanatical Mogul Emperor Jahangir prompted the succeeding young Guru Hargobind Sahib to redefine the role of the Sikh Guru. The Guru Sahib discerned sagely that the Sikhism had to fight for its survival or be devoured by the mighty Moguls who were tyrannically converting predominantly Hindu society of India to Islam. At his succession ceremony the Guru Sahib donned one sword to symbolize Piri, [spiritual authority] and second to symbolize Miri, [temporal authority]. Evidently the Guru sahib's concept of Miri-Piri and motivation to assume the dual role of Mir and Pir were to challenge the religious coercion, political tyranny, social oppression and ensure peaceful and prosperous co-existence not only for the Sikhs but also, for the whole multi-religious and multi-cultural society of India.

The Guru's motives to assume the dual role of Mir-Pir were misconstrued at the time; but were soon validated when the Sikhs had to fight four defensive battles in 1628, 1630, 1631, 1634, A.D. against the aggressive Muslim imperial forces. Led by the Guru Sahib himself, the Sikhs routed the numerically superior Mogul forces in all four battles.

Guru Teg Bahadur's Martyrdom

lftkhar Khan, the Governor of Punjab (1671 to 1675) waged a campaign of terror and converted the Hindus to Islam at the point of the sword. Confident of the Sikh Gurus' invincible resolve to defend universal religious freedom, a delegation of sixteen Brahmins led by Kirpa Ram, approached and beseeched Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib in 1675 to save their religion from the Muslim tyrants. Fully aware of the ominous consequences the Guru Sahib assured the delegation that the Guru Nanak’s house will help. To the zealot Muslim tyrants the Guru Sahib came to represent a charismatic leader of the non-Islamic, predominantly Hindu, segment of the multi religious society and threat to their evil designs to create an absolute Islamic society in India.

The Guru Sahib was arrested along with his three devoted disciples Sattee Dass, Mattee Dass (both brothers) and Dyal Dass at Mallikpur Rangra by Mirza Noor Mohammed, the jail warden of Roper and taken to Delhi after being jailed for four months at Sirhind. Like his grandfather, Guru Arjun Dev Sahib, Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib was offered the choices of conversion to Islam or martyrdom. The indomitable Guru Sahib chose the latter. To intimidate Guru Sahib Mattee Dass was sawed alive in two, Dyal Dass was boiled alive in a cauldron and Suttee Dass was wrapped in cotton wool and burnt alive before him. The Governor and Quazi of Delhi tortured Guru Sahib for five days. Finally the Guru Sahib was martyred by beheading at the behest of Aurangzeb.

The martyrdoms of the Sikh Gurus are unique exemplifications of ultimate sacrifices for a cause of the universal religious freedom. Since Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib championed the cause of religious freedom at the request of a Hindu delegation, many mischievous Hindu writers with ulterior motives portray Guru Sahib’s martyrdom as a sacrifice to save Hinduism because they want to propagate contemporary, progressive Sikhism as a sect of primeval Hinduism. The guru Sahibs would have done the same for the Muslims if they were victims of Hindu atrocities.

There were striking similarities in the crucial events in the lives of the sixth Guru Hargobind Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. Both had their fathers martyred. Both were young, eleven and nine years of age respectively at the times of their fathers' martyrdoms and succession to the Guru-ship. And both had to face the dilemma of either annihilation of Sikhism or challenge the tyrannical Muslim Rulers who were far superior in manpower, resources and equipment. Both opted for the latter and not only successfully warded off the murderous onslaughts but inflicted mortal blows to the mighty Mogul Empire and Muslim Jihad (crusade). The Mogul Empire crumbled soon after. Although both the Gurus won decisive battles against aggressive Mogul and Hindu forces but they made no attempts to occupy territory.

Culmination of Khalsa Panth

Guru Teg Bahadur's martyrdom caused Guru Gobind Singh Sahib to redefine the rank and role of a Sikh. On assuming the Guru-ship after the martyrdom of his father and predecessor Guru Teg Bahadur at the hands of India's tyrannical Mogul Ruler Aurangzeb Guru Gobind Singh Sahib was faced with a choice between decimation of the India’s non-Muslim religions or champion the cause of universal religious freedom. Guru Sahib knew to succeed in this noble mission he would have to fight against overwhelming odds since the Mogul empire had enormous resources, army and weaponry. Never the less Guru Sahib, like his grand father Guru Hargobind Sahib, chose the latter, for he had the courage inherent in all the Sikh Gurus (Nanaks).

The providence seems to have assigned to the tenth and the last Sikh Guru incarnate Gobind Singh Sahib the role of giving finishing touches to Sikhism that was founded by Guru Nanak Sahib and nurtured by the successive Sikh Gurus. To perpetuate the Mission of Guru Nanak Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib initiated the unique Sikh baptismal rite on 31st march 1699 to evoke the blend of saintly and soldierly virtues in a Sikh and transform him into a Khalsa i.e. a saint-soldier or noble warrior.

Sikh Baptism

The administration of the Sikh baptismal rite is a sacrosanct pledge meant to elevate a Sikh to the status of a saint-soldier or noble warrior who exemplifies the noble Sikh-way of life and champions the cause of the down trodden, universal religious freedom, socio-cultural harmony and political justice. Ideally a Khalsa is a role model whose integrity and credibility should be above suspicion. Bhai Nand Lall, a prominent scholar and poet in Guru Gobind Singh Sahib's court, describes the attributes of a Khalsa in his book titled Tankhah-nama.

Kflsf soie ju inMdf iqXfgY] Kflsf soie lVy hoeY afgY]

Kflsf soie pr idRsit iqafgY] Kflsf soie nfm rq lfgY]

Kflsf soie gurU ihq lfvY] Kflsf soie sfr muih KfvY]

Kflsf soie inrDn ko pflY] Kflsf soie dust kAu gflY]

Kflsf soie ju cVY qurMg] Kflsf soie krY inq jMg] gurmq mfrqMZ pMnf 323

Khalsa is who relinquishes vilification. Khalsa is who fights [injustice] in the forefront.

Khalsa is who relinquishes covetousness. Khalsa is who loves [praises] God's name.

Khalsa is who devotes himself to the Guru. Khalsa is who confronts [enemy's] assault.

Khalsa is who cares for the poor. Khalsa is who destroys the wicked.

Khalsa is who is a ready cavalier. Khalsa is who fights (evil temptations) daily.

sUrf so pihcfnIaY, ju lrY dIn ky hyq] mfrU, kbIr jI, pMnf 1105

Valiant is acclaimed, he who champions the cause of the downtrodden.

In the words attributed to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib,

ByK n ipXfro moih ko vrn nhIN ipRRX kfih]

rhq su pXfrI muih koAu isdk mhF ipRX afih] guru pRqfp sUrX, ruq 5

Guise is not precious to me; (high) caste is not my favorite.

Code of ethics is dear to me; dedication is most cherished. Gurpertaap Surya

jwgiq joiq jpY insu bwsur, eyk ibnw mnu nYk n mwnY]

pUrn pRym pRqIq sjY, bRq gor mVI mt BUil n mwnY]

qIrQ dwn dieAw qp sMjm, eyk ibnw nh eyk pCwnY]

pUrn joiq jgY Gt mY, qb Kwlsw qwih inKwls jwnY] 33 svYXY

(If one) recites magnificent Lord’s praise; doesn’t believe anyone other than One God.

Nurtures absolute love and faith; doesn’t believe in ritual fast, grave, tomb.

(Shuns) sanctimonious pilgrimage, charity, compassion, penance; doesn’t revere anyone except the One (God).

His magnificent light is lit inside him; then only he can differentiate between noble and ignoble.

Ultimate Sacrifices

The last incarnate Sikh Guru Sahib made the supreme sacrifices, unparallel in the history of mankind. In the battle of Chamkaur he sent his two adolescent sons to fight the thousand times numerically superior combined forces of the Moguls and Hindu Rajahs of Himalayan hills and certain martyrdoms. Two of his sons even at their tender ages, six years ten months and nine years glorified Sikh/Khalsa Panth by opting to be martyred rather than to yield to the demand to convert to Islam and spend the rest of their lives in luxury. They were immured (a wall built around) and beheaded by Wazir Khan, the savage Governor of Sirhind. The Guru Sahib's mother died of shock when told about the martyrdom of the two innocent grand children.

Wazir Khan sent two of his hatchet men to assassinate Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. One of them managed to stab Guru Sahib while he was reposing. The Guru Sahib survived the murderous attempt but succumbed to the same wound that split open when the Guru Sahib was putting on the cord on his bow. Thus the Guru Sahib paid the ultimate price with the martyrdom of his family to nurture the Sikhism to its culmination to Khalsa Panth.

Political Opportunism?

Contrary to assertions by some naïve or biased historians and scholars; the Gurus had no imperialistic ambitions. There was never a place for political opportunism in the philosophy of Sikhism. The mission of the Gurus was to inspire exalted spiritual consciousness, dispel the ignorance and blind faith, remedy economic, cultural and socio-religious injustice and fight political tyranny.

The histories of Sikhism and Mogul Empire are turbulently, sometimes tragically, intertwined since the founding of both and end of the latter. Where as any signs of Mogul Empire have long been obliterated, the Sikhism/Khalsa Panth has flourished and recognized as one of the half a dozen major religions of the world.

Although Sikhism/Khalsa Panth has made highly impressive achievements, it has a long way to go to take its rightful place in the world's religious spectrum. The progressive, liberal Sikhs and intelligentsia must play an active leadership role to guard Sikhism, the Universal and liberal religion of the new age, from being swallowed or hi-jacked by the ultra-orthodox outside forces or the regressive fundamentalist elements.

"Sikhs must cease to think of their faith as just another good religion and must begin to think in terms of Sikhism being the religion for the new age. The religion preached by Guru Nanak is the faith of the new age.” H. L. Bradshaw

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