The Evolution of the Word "Khalsa".

A study of the Guru's concept of Khalsa - Opinion by Jagpal Singh Tiwana

The Evolution Of The Word Khalsa ~ By Virinder S. Grewal, Williamston, MI

The word Khalsa was brought to India by Muslim invaders, who settled in India starting in the year 636 A.D. The literal meaning of the word Khalsa is clean, pure or sacred. Mugal Emperors used this word towards the property, land, state or region on which a revenue tax is owed directly to the emperor. The local ruler had no jurisdiction over it. The word was known to Kabir (1398-1495), he was older than Guru Nanak but was his contemporary. He uses the word Khalsa in Raag Sorath:

ਪਰਿਓ ਕਾਲੁ ਸਭੈ ਜਗ ਊਪਰ ਮਾਹਿ ਲਿਖੇ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ॥
Pariou Kaal Sabhai Jag Oopar Maahi Likhae Bhram Giaanee ||

ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਨ ਭਏ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਜਿਹ ਜਾਨੀ ॥੪॥੩॥

Kahu Kabeer Jan Bheae Khaalasae Praem Bhagath Jih Jaanee ||4||3||

Death has fallen on the whole world; the doubting religious scholars are also listed on the Register of Death. The persons who imbibe God's love and devotion become pure.


Bhagat Kabir, Raag Sorath, SGGS, Page, 654/5-1

Guru Hargobind, the 6th Guru, refers to the word Khalsa in His Hukamnama to the Sangat of Purab. Guru Tegh Bahadur used it in addressing the Sangat of Pattan. Thus sixth and 9th Gurus used the word Khalsa to those Sangats who did not have any parishes or Manji's. They had a direct link with the Guru as there were no Masands and sent the offerings directly to him. -----Hukamnamas by Dr. Ganda Singh

Guru Gobind Singh upon discovering that Masands were corrupt and were misappropriating the offerings and funds for their own personal benefit disbanded their Manjis. Upon the abolishment of the Manjis, all the Sangats became Guru ka Khalsa. Offerings were thereafter directly sent to the Guru through Hundies, which was the banking system at that time. Guru Gobind Singh also used the word for those individuals

1. Who renounced previous occupation, Kirit Nas ?

2. Who severed the family ties, Kul Nas ?

This did not imply severing all relationships with one's relatives. The Khalsa had to stay detached from their affection for people and from worldly attachments.

3. Who rejected their earlier faiths, Dharma Nas?

4. Who having given up all rituals, Karma Nas , became the family of Guru  Gobind and are to be known as Singhs after taking Amrita.

All this happened on the Baisakhi of 1699 at Anandpur Sahib. The five beloved ones, who wanted to sacrifice themselves, became Guru Ka Khalsa as they now belonged to the Guru. The Guru having initiated them took Amrita from them, and bowed before them. Guru was no longer their superior and had merged his entity in the Khalsa and hailed, "Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh".

-----Ref History of Sikhs by K. S. Page, 85.

He replied to a question of Pundit Keshav Das about equality among Sikhs by referring to the hymns of Guru Nanak and Ramdas in Raag Sorath and Asa:

ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਏਕ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕਰਿ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਮੋਈ ਜੀਉ ॥੨॥
Guramukh Eaek Dhrisatt Kar Dhaekhahu Ghatt Ghatt Joth Samoee Jeeo ||2||

As Gurmukh, look upon all with the single eye of equality; in each and every heart, the Divine Light is contained. --- Guru Nanak, Raag Sorath, SGGS, Page, 599-2

ਸਭ ਏਕ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਸਮਤੁ ਕਰਿ ਦੇਖੈ ਸਭੁ ਆਤਮ ਰਾਮੁ ਪਛਾਨ ਜੀਉ ॥
Sabh Eaek Dhrisatt Samath Kar Dhaekhai Sabh Aatham Raam Pashhaan Jeeo ||

Sikhs look upon all with equality, and recognize the Supreme Soul, the Lord, pervading among all. -----Guru Ramdas, Raag Asa, SGGS, Page, 446-12

Guru Gobind Singh pointing to his Sikhs declared:

judhh jithae einehee kae prasaadh einehee kae prasaadh s dhaan karae ||
agh ough ttarae einehee kae prasaadh einehee kee kripaa fun dhhaam bharae ||
einehee kae prasaadh s bidhayaa lee einehee kee kripaa sabh saathr marae ||
Einehee kee kripaa kae sajae ham hai(n) nehee(n) mo so gareeb karor parae || 2 ||

It is through the actions of the Khalsa that I have been victorious, and have been able to give charities to others. It is through their help that I have overcome all sorrows and ailments and have been able to fill my house with treasures. It is through their grace that I have got education, and through their assistance I have conquered all my enemies. It is through their aid that I have attained this status; otherwise there are millions of unknown mortals like me. -----Khalsa Mahima, DG, Page, 716

pooran joth jagai ghatt mai thab khaalas thaahi nakhaalas jaanai ||

jaagith joth japai nis baasur eaek binaa man naik n aanai ||

pooran praem pratheeth sajai brath gor marrhee matt bhool n maanai ||

theerathh dhaan dhayaa thap sa(n)jam eaek binaa nehi eaek pashhaanai ||

He the Khalsa meditates on the Ever-radiant Light, day and night, and rejects all else but the one Lord from the mind. He decorates himself with perfect love and faith, and believed not in fasts, tombs, crematoriums and hermit cells, even by mistake. He knows none except the one Lord in the performance of acts of pilgrimage, charities, compassion, austerities and self-control. Such a man, in whose heart shines the full Divinely Radiant Light is a true a pure Khalsa. -----Sarb Loh Granth

Atam Ras Jeh Janhi So Hai Khalsa Dev, Prabh Meh Mo Meh Taas Meh, Ranchakl Nahin Bhev.

One who knows the taste of the Lord's sublime essence, is the Khalsa (image of God), there is not even an iota of secret between God, me or him. -----Sarbh Loh Granth

He refers to the importance of Naam in Sikhism by reciting the hymns of Guru Nanak in Raag Majh and Guru Arjan in Raag Gauri Sukhmani:

ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਉ ਖੁਦਾਇ ਕਾ ਦਿਲਿ ਹਛੈ ਮੁਖਿ ਲੇਹੁ ॥
Naanak Naao Khudhaae Kaa Dhil Hashhai Mukh Laehu ||

ਅਵਰਿ ਦਿਵਾਜੇ ਦੁਨੀ ਕੇ ਝੂਠੇ ਅਮਲ ਕਰੇਹੁ ॥੧॥
Avar Dhivaajae Dhunee Kae Jhoothae Amal Karaehu ||1||

O Nanak, chant the Name of God, with heart-felt devotion. Everything else is just a pompous worldly show, and the practice of false deeds. -----Guru Nanak, Raag Majh, SGGS, Page, 140-10 & 11

ਕਲਹਿ ਬੁਰੀ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ਵਾਦੇ ਖਪੀਐ ॥
Kalehi Buree Sansaar Vaadhae Khapeeai ||

ਵਿਣੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਵੇਕਾਰਿ ਭਰਮੇ ਪਚੀਐ ॥
Vin Naavai Vaekaar Bharamae Pacheeai ||

ਰਾਹ ਦੋਵੈ ਇਕੁ ਜਾਣੈ ਸੋਈ ਸਿਝਸੀ ॥
Raah Dhovai Eik Jaanai Soee Sijhasee ||

ਕੁਫਰ ਗੋਅ ਕੁਫਰਾਣੈ ਪਇਆ ਦਝਸੀ ॥
Kufar Goa Kufaraanai Paeiaa Dhajhasee ||

The strife of this world is evil; these struggles are consuming it. Without the Lord's Name, life is worthless. Through doubt, people are being destroyed. One who recognizes that all spiritual paths lead to the One shall be emancipated. One who speaks lies shall fall into hell and burn. ----- Guru Nanak, Raag Majh, SGGS, Page, 142-7 & 8

ਸਗਲ ਮਤਾਂਤ ਕੇਵਲ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮ ॥
Sagal Mathaanth Kaeval Har Naam ||

ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਭਗਤ ਕੈ ਮਨਿ ਬਿਸ੍ਰਾਮ ॥
Gobindh Bhagath Kai Man Bisraam ||

 Sagal MataaNt Kayval Har Naam, Gobind Bhagat Kai Man Bisraam.

The essence of any religion, doctrine or principle is the Lord's Name alone. It abides in the minds of the devotees of God. -----Guru Arjan, Raag Gauri Sukhmani, SGGS, Page, 296-4

In Guru Gobind Singh's own writings there are passages like:

He who keeps alight the unquenchable torch of TRUTH, never swerves from the thought … has confidence in, and love for his lord … and is willing to sacrifice himself for his Lord … he who never puts his faith in fasting, the worship of Muslim graves or Saints or Hindu Sepulchers, … he who recognizes the One God and believes not in pilgrimages, nor in the destruction of any form of life, doing penances or austerities, and in whose heart shines the light of the Perfect One, is recognized as a pure member of the Khalsa. -----Ref Swaiyas Dasam Granth

The chief source of information about Guru Gobind Singh's life is his own account in Bachitar Natak. He wrote it around 1692 A.D. at the age of 26. For the remaining period of Guru's life, there is nothing older than the Sikh Chronicles, written 80-100 years after his death in 1708. Guru Bilas by Sukha Singh was written in 1797. Santokh Singh and Gian Singh's writings came much later. Rattan Singh Bhanghu wrote the Hymn recited at the Gurudwaras after Ardas "Raj Karay Ga Khalsa" 100 years later. -----Ref Panth Parkash

Guru Gobind Singh was concerned that his followers may confer divinity on him, as is clear from his statements in Bachitar Natak:

My thoughts were lost in prayer, at the feet of Almighty God. I was ordained to establish a sect and lay down its rules.

Jay Hum Ko Parmeshar Oucher Hai, Tay Sabh Narak Kund Meh Par Hai.

Whosoever calls me God, will fall in to the ditch of hell. -----DG, Page, 57

Let there be no doubt, that I am the slave of Lord like other men, who are the beholders of the wonders of creation.

Sikhs should not regard SGGS as God. It contains the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and other enlightened persons. These teachings should be used as tools that make us better human beings.

Guru Gobind Singh has been very liberal in his use of the word Khalsa when referring to the Sangat and to the people who have not taken the Amrita and to those whose names do not end in Singh. The following references from the book of Hukamnamas will bring out the truth of the above statement. He wrote on March 12, 1699 before the Baisakhi of that year to the Sangat of Machiwara, that this Sangat is the Khalsa of the Guru.

On Oct 5, 1699 Guru Gobind Singh used the same words to the Sangat of Sarangdeo. It became routine for him to write or use the word Khalsa to any Sangat he addressed. He also used the word to other individuals and even devoted Muslims. He writes to Bhai Mehar Chand, Dharam Chand, and Karam Chand of Khufia Nivas, Bhai Bideraban, and Gulal Chand on Feb 6, 1702 that you are my Khalsa. Another letter of 1704 addressed to Bhai Sukhia,  Bhai Mukhia, and Bhai Parsa stated that Sarb Sangat is my Khalsa.

Mata Sundri Ji on Oct 12, 1717 wrote a letter and addressed to many people including Bhai Debi Dass, Bhai Gulab Rai. It stated that Sarbat Sangat is the Khalsa of Akal Purkh. In yet another letter of October 20, 1722, she wrote to Bhai Gul Mehar (Muslim), Bhai Kan Ji, Bhai Duni Chand, Bhai Bakshi Mal, Bhai Sahib Rai, Bhai Kaku Mal, Bhai Jagat Rai, Bhai Rup Chand, Bhai Kirpa Rai, Bhai Chatter Bhoj, Bhai Kaura Mal, Bhai Babu Rai, Bhai Chuna Mal, and Bhai Danja Rai, that you are all Guru Ka Khalsa. In a letter of June 2, 1723, she again wrote the same to Bhai Dodh Singh, Bakhtawar Singh, Hukam Singh, Babar Mal, and Prem Chand. Another letter of hers dated October 18, 1723, addressed to Bhai Chain Singh, Bhai Bhopat Singh, Bhai Alam Singh, and Bhai Mani Singh had similar content. This is also true of another one written to Gur Bakhash on August 10, 1730.

Mata Sahib Devi wrote a similar letter to Bhai Duna, Bhai Sabha, Bhai Ala, and Bhai Bhakta. Another letter of hers, dated March 19, 11730, addressed to Bhai Thaku Dass, Bhai Sahba Mal Chapia, Bhai Sinbhu Nath, and Bhai Sahib Rai carried similar content. Still another letter of April 12, 1759 from Khalsa to Khalsa stated the same.

With all the above references it is pretty clear that the word Khalsa has been used for Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who believe in Sikh philosophy, follow the ten Gurus, and SGGS. The word Khalsa denotes spiritual character of an individual rather than physical appearance. It should not be used primarily to refer those Sikhs with beard and turbans.

Khalsa is one who remembers the Name of the Lord night and day and who gives no thought to anyone but one God. His quest to be with his Lord remains unquenchable.
Khalsa is one who has full faith and love for his God and who has no faith in worshiping anything else.

Guru Gobind Singh did not include any of his own writings in SGGS except for one dohira in the Sloks of his father at page 1429-6 & 7.

ਬਲੁ ਛੁਟਕਿਓ ਬੰਧਨ ਪਰੇ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਹੋਤ ਉਪਾਇ ॥

Bal Shhuttakiou Bandhhan Parae Kashhoo N Hoth Oupaae ||

ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਬ ਓਟ ਹਰਿ ਗਜ ਜਿਉ ਹੋਹੁ ਸਹਾਇ ॥੫੩॥

Kahu Naanak Ab Outt Har Gaj Jio Hohu Sehaae ||53||

My strength is exhausted, and I am in bondage, I cannot do anything at all. Says Nanak, now, the Lord is my Support. He will help me, as He did the elephant.-- 9th Guru

ਬਲੁ ਹੋਆ ਬੰਧਨ ਛੁਟੇ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਹੋਤ ਉਪਾਇ ॥
Bal Hoaa Bandhhan Shhuttae Sabh Kishh Hoth Oupaae ||

ਨਾਨਕ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਤੁਮਰੈ ਹਾਥ ਮੈ ਤੁਮ ਹੀ ਹੋਤ ਸਹਾਇ ॥੫੪॥
Naanak Sabh Kishh Thumarai Haathh Mai Thum Hee Hoth Sehaae ||54||

My strength has been restored, and my bonds have been broken. Now, I can do everything. Nanak, everything is in Your hands. Lord, You are my Helper and Support. -----Ref- Mahan Kosh & Old Birs in the library of Punjabi University, Patiala.


In my opinion, Sikhs of today are lost in a labyrinthine maze of rituals and priest-craft, and submerged in superstitions. They hold views that could neither be proved scientifically nor justified logically. They cannot even be cognized inwardly, much less realized. Their wishy- washy religion is high on hope. It promises but cannot deliver in performance or in proof. Sikhs of today try to compress life and truth into an institutionalized system, unaware that to systematize life and truth is to limit it. Their desire to organize and proselytize is stronger than their willingness to enlighten or even inform. They may not even subjectively experience for themselves, the truth of what they profess. They may not realize that only an
innate faith is capable of imparting a true power. They may not know that it is from within that such power springs.

Truth of a religion is experienced and realized when one consciously enters into the temple of his own being and begins to see the things of flesh with the eyes of spirit.

ਮਨੁ ਮੰਦਰੁ ਤਨੁ ਵੇਸ ਕਲੰਦਰੁ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਵਾ ॥
Man Mandhar Than Vaes Kalandhar Ghatt Hee Theerathh Naavaa ||

Mind is the temple, and body disguised as a mendicant; one should take the ritual bath at the sacred shrine of self. -----Guru Nanak, Raag Bilawal, SGGS, Page, 795-9

[Courtesy: Gurmat Learning Zone, July 6, 2008]

Submitted by Jagpal S Tiwana, Dartmouth, Canada

Note: Please forgive any errors in Gurmukhi quoted above which may be due to font errors or mismatched fonts.

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