Khalsa Singhs (Tat Khalsa)

Doctrines Taking the initiation ceremony (amrit sanskar) to become part of the Khalsa Singh order of Guru Gobind Singh, led to the belief that the Guru and the Khalsa disciple (or baptised Sikh) are one, made equal in sharing the status of Guru and disciple. This was further developed into the idea that the Khalsa together as a Panth (community of followers) attained the status of Guru in important decisions for the community (as sangat/congregation was equated with the sabad/word and Akal Purakh in the early Sikh tradition). Therefore the congregation is known as the Guru Panth. At his death Gobind Singh appointed the Adi Granth as Guru, making it the Guru Granth; Gobind's spirit, as well all the previous Gurus', is believed to be infused therein. This idea of the presence of the spirit of the Gurus in the scripture is also extended to and associated with human beings; that when five pure Sikhs get together it is believed that Guru Gobind Singh is also spiritually present. The Khalsa Singh also believes in a code of conduct (rahit), that demands a daily ritual/routine of washing, reciting prayers, and remembering Akal Purakh as well as maintaining the five K's (see below). The Khalsa Sikhs also believe in Gobind's Saint-Soldier (Sant-Sipahi) ideal, which represents a further development of the nonduality of the formed and formless (sargun-nirgun of Nanak), and the temporal and spiritual (miri-piri of Hargobind), all of which highlight that for Sikhs reality is doubled-edged, that both interpretations of reality are merely ways of pointing to and discerning an incomprehensible whole.

History Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) inaugurated the Khalsa in 1699 on Baisakhi (the first day of the year in North India, March 30th). On this day Gobind summoned the entire Sikh Panth to Anandpur to witness the most important day in Sikh History. Before the congregation Gobind appeared with drawn sword and proclaimed that his sword was hungry for a Sikh head; who would volunteer to sacrifice their life for the Guru? Eventually one devout Sikh stood up (Daya Singh). The Guru took him behind a screen and came back with a sword dripping of blood. Four more eventually volunteered with the same consequence. After the fifth, the Guru brought all five from behind the screen alive; five goats had been killed instead. This was a test devised by the Guru to select the most loyal and devout of his Sikhs who would form the core of the new Khalsa. These are known as the Cherished Five (Panj Piare).
He then initiated them all by a ceremony called Khande di Pahul, where he made them drink water (pahul) stirred by a double-edged sword (khanda) after he had chanted special hymns from the Adi Granth during the stirring. These five became the first members of the Khalsa (Arabic/Persian for 'pure, elect') who were renamed Singhs (Lions). The Guru then, quite uniquely, asked them to baptise him into this new order, an unprecedented reversal of the Guru-disciple relationship. They did, and from that point the Guru was known as Guru Gobind Singh, the only Guru to have 'Singh' after his name. Today Sikhs are born Singhs by inheritance, not by way of trial. This transformation conjoined the temporal and spiritual realms; the saint was now a saint-soldier. This inauguration also made Sikhs finally choose between competing loyalties. Thus it cut all ties to the Ram Raiyas, Dhir Malias, and the Minas (see entry). The inauguration served to create warriors out of religious men, who would be able to fight for their faith in the light of Mughal oppression and persecution.

Symbols The inauguration of the Khalsa was a symbolic event: to transform sparrows into hawks, deer into lions, saints into soldiers. This is further evidenced by the assumption of a new name, a new code of conduct and a new dress or uniform. The latter consisted of the "five K's", or "Panj Kakke": Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (comb), Kara (iron or steel bangle), Kirpan (sword, dagger), Kach (shorts). The uniform evidently kept the persecuted Sikhs united, and distinct. This is the traditional account, however. Not all the five K's are mentioned in the relevant literature only three: Kesh, Kirpan and Kach, and when five are mentioned it adds Bani (i.e. the Word of the Gurus written as scripture) and Sadhsangat (the company of saints). It is only in the 19th century that the five traditional K's are mentioned. Either way this highly visible identity had a symbolic gesture: to show all, especially the Mughals, that this is who Sikhs were, Warrior Singhs, and that they were immanently prepared to die fighting for their faith.
The uncut hair signified traditional ascetic renunciation but it was tamed by the comb which did not allow it to become matted thus symbolising continued participation in the world; the sword symbolises political and religious justice. Yet it too is balanced by the iron bangle or bani, which symbolises the unity of humankind with Akal Purakh. The shorts were pragmatic for a warrior who needs ease of movement, but also symbolised chastity, another aspect reminiscent of ascetic celibacy. However, again, this is balanced with the Sikh ideal of a family life (grihasti). Altogether they symbolise the Sant-Sipahi ideal of a human being who is neither too worldly nor too other-worldly, but a moderate wo/man. The Khalsa's warrior clothing was always of a blue colour.

Adherents There are no official numbers of the Khalsa Singhs at that time. Even today, though there are a large number, it is impossible to give a reliable estimation due to confused census definitions. However in the 1891 census 78,952 Hindus and 859,138 Sikhs returned themselves as 'Guru Gobind Singhi'; and 129 Hindus and 3,621 Sikhs returned as 'Khalsa'. (Census of India, 1891, Vol.XX, and vol.XXI. The Punjab and its Feudatories, by E.D. Maclagan, Part II and III, Calcutta, 1892, pp.826-9 and pp.572-3.) (See also the note at the end of the Explanatory Introduction).

Main Centre
 Anandpur Sahib has become an important centre for Khalsa Singhs because of its historical significance.