The above is the question before us as we celebrate the Parkaash (Birthday) of Guru Gobind Singh ji. He introduced the collective decision making processes and brought the Sikh movement to “self -surviving” maturity. He became “Aapay-Gur-Chela” and removed the distinction between the Guru and the Khalsa. Guru’s Sangat became Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Thus, “Gur-Sangat keeni Khalsa” (Bhai Gurdas Singh, Varan Bhai Gurdas, Var 41.1)
In this first column of New Year 2017, we remind ourselves what it means to be “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa” as we continue to face many internal ideological and external identity challenges. Ideological challenges can be met by mainstream “nidharrak parcharaks” like Bhai Harinder Singh Alwar whom I met at Blackburn Gurdwara in Melbourne, Australia, recently. Identity challenges are for national Sikh organizations in diaspora countries.
During the Mughal period, when the jagirdars and local chiefs were removed from receiving land revenue (maalia), so that it was received directly by the Mughal emperor, the land became khalsa – the king’s own land without any intermediary.
Sangats from the days of Guru Nanak Sahib, were Sikhi centres. They were local Sikh associations led by prominent Sikhs, which contributed funds for the growth of the Sikh movement. It was inevitable that the rapidly growing Sikh Panth could no longer remain below the radar of the Mughal emperors of Delhi. The Islamic state could not accept the growth of another religious path (referred to as Tisra Mazhab by Bhai Gurdas Singh).
After Guru Nanak Sahib, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji is most prominent for extensive travels with vaheer (large group of families with armed guards) to distant places in the north-eastern districts of the sub-continent. Sangats were further revived and organized, and many new Sangats were established.
Regrettably, there were also ongoing disputes, partly fueled by the Mughal administration as a matter of policy, about the Gurgadhi succession. There were many gurus with their own masands. Dr Ganda Singh dwells at length on the extreme corruption of some masands.
Thus the masands were removedand Sangats were made Guru’s Khalsa (reference Hukamnamas of Gurus Hargobind and Guru Tegh Bahdur). Through the Vaisakhi 1699 episode of “Aapay Gur Chela”, Guru Gobind Singh ji also removed the Guru-person intermediary, and the Khalsa became Waheguru ji ka Khalsa.
The Khalsa was revealed as the Tisra Mazhab (Third religious path as distinct from the Hindu and the Muslim), in perfect human form and in accordance with the Hukam of Akal Purakh. The Khalsa was different and distinct from, “the Indic (hindak) tradition represented by the Vedas, the Puranas, the Shastras, the temples and the idols of stone etc. (Vaar 41.15)
In Sikhi “dharam” (sense of doing what is right) is more important than “dharra” (group or organisation). As “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa” and as responsible citizens, it is our “dharam” to make governments and self-styled leaders accountable for their actions.
Today, we should promote leadership qualities through team-working and timely succession planning in the organizations we work with. Let us be Waheguru ji ka Khalsa serving the cause of the egalitarian Khalsa Panth.
Gurmukh Singh OBE