Vaisakhi of 1699 (The Call to Die)

Often it comes from those who are recognised as intellectuals and those who pride themselves in being called “modern Sikhs”. In their opinion what happened on Vaisakhi of 1699 is better filed away as something obsolete as it is no longer require by Sikhs living in today’s world. They say this was a necessary but temporary reaction to the needs of that time and we no longer need it. Are they right or wrong? Or is it a deep-rooted conspiracy to derail Sikhism on to the track of apostasy. An humble attempt has been made in the following lines to understand the whole issue.

Some Popular Stories

Vaisakhi of 1699 is probably the most distorted event in Sikh History both in its historical and philosophical perspective. The concept that is designed to protect and safeguard Sikhism for all ages to come has been distorted to misrepresent Sikhism. It has been projected as if Guru Gobind Singh started a new religion on that day. He transformed the peace-loving Sikhs of Guru Nanak into a sect every ready to go to war and kill.  Some say he did this to protect Hindus from the Muslim rulers and some even suggest he did this to avenge the killing of his father. The distortion of purpose and meaning of the events of Vaisakhi of 1699 has been achieved by circulating false stories about what happened on that day. There is a human weakness to tend to believe in anything said in praise of a person you love and respect. A mother will believe all good things said about her kids to be true even though some of them are false. Those who intended to distort Sikh philosophy have exploited this weakness of the Sikhs. This has not stopped and is still continuing. Look at the stories about the miracles connected with Sikh Gurus. Even though all these miracle stories contradict the teachings of Gurbani, most of the Sikhs believe in them as they are designed to “appear” as praise for their Gurus. The person who cooked up these stories has achieved his/her purpose of weaning the Sikhs away from the teachings of Gurbani. There is another aspect to it. The enemies of the protagonist in Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina supported and pushed his proposals to such an extent that they started looking ridiculous. This is what has happened with Sikhs especially the militant aspect of their philosophy. Sikhism has always taken militant stand against the bad people since the times of Guru Nanak. However the enemy has twisted the events of Vaisakhi of 1699 and used it to push the militant aspect of Sikhism in order to paint them as trigger-happy and those who start a fight at the drop of a hat. Look at some of the stories connected with Vaisakhi of 1699.

  • Guru Gobind Singh actually beheaded and resurrected the five beloved ones
  • Guru Gobinds Singh killed some goats in the tent to give a false impression to the Sikhs outside that he has beheaded the Sikh inside the tent.
  • Some sparrows drank by chance a drop of Pahul prepared for the five beloved ones and got so emboldened that they attacked the white hawk, the pet bird of the Guru.
  • Guru Gobind Singh invoked the blessings of Devi for creation of his Khalsa.
  • Some of the Sikhs were very upset and they complained to his mother about what he is doing.

All these stories are figments of imagination, unauthenticated, and contradict teachings of Gurbani. These are designed to distort the basics of Sikhism. Sikhism does not believe in miracles. Life and death are in the hands of God only. As per Bhatt Vehi, Pargana Thanesar, neither Guru Gobind Singh nor the five beloved ones have ever disclosed as to what happened inside the tent. What happened in the tent is a mystery and it is best to let it be a mystery. Any conjecture will lead us away from its meaning. It is not important to know how a rose plant grows into a rose flower. What is important is the rose in full bloom. A scientist might be able to give an account of minute details of what happens in the plant that makes it to grow buds and bloom into flowers. But this information will in no way enhance or blur the beauty or the effect of the rose in this world. This information is totally irrelevant. So what happened in the tent is not important. What is important and noteworthy is that Guru asked his Sikhs to come forward to die if they consider their faith more important than their physical existence and the Sikhs queued up to die on the call of their Guru.

The story of worship of a Devi to seek its blessing for creation of Khalsa is totally unauthenticated, mischievous and designed to distort the basics of Sikhism. Sikhism believes in oneness of God and denies existence of any other angels or Devi or Deva. Guru Nanak has made it crystal clear when added digit one to Onkar. All the Devis or Devas are product of the imagination of those who have written Simratis or Shastras of Hindu religion. Guru Amar Das makes it clear when he says:

dayvee dayvaa mool hai maa-i-aa.

simrit saasat jinn upaa-i-aa.  (SGGS M3, Page 129)

It has been repeatedly reiterated in SGGS that God is the only one we should pray to. No one else has the power to give us anything. Guru Nanak says in Raag Sorath that these Devis and Devas are incapable giving anything to mankind.

dayvee dayvaa poojee-ai bhaa-ee ki-aa maaga-o ki-aa deh.  (SGGS M1, Page 637)

There is an interesting story about the complaint made before Guru Hargobind by Raja Tara Chand about a Sikh by the name of Bhairo. This has been reported by an eye witness in the book Dabistan Majahib. Bhairo went into the temple of the Devi and broke the nose of the idol. Guru asked Bhairo to explain his action. He asked Tara Chand whether his Devi can speak and tell who has broken her nose. Tara Chand laughed at this and told Bhairo that Devis never speak. Bhairo replied, what is the point in worshipping a Devi who can not protect itself and cannot speak. Raja Tara Chand has no answer to this. [1]

One can cite numerous examples from SGGS where in our Gurus have rejected Devis and Devas including Brahma, Vishunu and Mahesh or Shiv as object of worship. Those interested may read page 227,257,394,559,637,735,852,855,894,992,1034 1035,1053 and 1162 of Guru Granth Sahib. So it is abundantly clear that this story of worship of Devi is totally unauthentic and designed to wean the Sikhs away from worship of one God which is the fundamental principal of their religion.

It is noteworthy to read what Ghulam Mohyiuddin, the newswriter for the Empror of Delhi at that time, wrote about this event. “He has abolished caste and custom, old rituals, beliefs, and superstitions of the Hindus and banded then in one single brotherhood. No one will be superior or inferior to another. Men of all castes have been made to eat out of the same bowl. Though orthodox men have opposed him, about twenty thousand men and women have taken baptism of steel at his hand on the very first day.”[2] It is pertinent to note that prominent among those who refused to be administered with Khande Di Pahul[3] were the Hindu Hill Chiefs, who were specifically invited on the occasion, as they were not willing to give up their castes and existing religious practices like worship of idols and gods and goddesses and other rituals. If any Devi were worshipped, they would have been the first to ask for it. However, the Sikhs lined in numbers to be administered with Khande Di Pahul and as per some estimates the number of those administered with Khande Di Pahul rose to more than eighty thousand within a few days. Groups of five stated administering Khande Di Pahul to Sikhs all over the country.

Some Popular Theories.

There are many theories as to why Guru Gobind Singh made administration of Khande Di Pahul and the 5 Ks a condition of being a Sikh. One view is that he did so in order to instil bravery in his Sikhs to fight the tyrant rulers of Delhi. Another view is that he intended to create a militia to defend the Hindus from the tyrant Mugals. Yet another view is that Sikhs went into hiding at the time of martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur in Delhi [4] and Guru Gobind Singh decided to make it sure that his Sikhs should have a look which makes them impossible to hide in the crowd. All the above views are wrong and far from the Sikh philosophy. The hidden or apparent agenda of these theories is to suggest that Guru Gobind Singh established or started a new militant sect of Sikhs, which has nothing to do with the philosophy of peace loving Guru Nanak. The events in history and the philosophical framework of Guru Nanak do not corroborate these views. Consider the following facts.

1 Guru Gobind Singh fought most of his battles before 1699 and his grandfather Guru Hargobind also fought and won his battles even before Guru Gobind Singh was born.. The Sikhs have displayed rare courage, bravery and military skills in all these battles. So it is absurd to say that Khande Di Pahul was intended to instil bravery in Sikhs.

2 Martyrdom of Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dyala is the proof that Sikhs faced the tyranny of the Aurangzeb with exemplary courage unmatched in human history. And the way the body and head of Guru Teg Bahadur was taken into possession by Sikhs (Bhai Nannu, Bhai Udho, Bhai Agya, Bhai Jaita, Bhai Lakhi Dass, Bhai Nigahia, Bhai Hema, Bahi Harhi, Bhai Naik Dhooma) is unassailable evidence that they did not went into hiding to save themselves from the wrath of the Aurangzeb.

3 Most of the battles fought by Guru Gobind Singh were thrust upon him by the Hindu Hill Chiefs of the Shivalak area. Not only this, these Hill Chiefs instigated and supported the Delhi Empire to liquidate Guru Gobind Singh. In fact, these Hill Chiefs were opposing the creation of Khalsa brotherhood as it was directly opposed to their beliefs based on Varanashramdharama (caste system) and rituals. So the argument that Khande Di Pahul was intended to create soldiers to protect these Hindu Hill Chiefs is preposterous.

The Purpose

Then the question remains what was the purpose of all this. The best way to understand it is to enumerate the effects of what happened and then construct an opinion through the logical analysis of these effects. After this ceremony the Guru explained to the audience that the person who chooses to be a Sikh:

  • Will, when required, readily sacrifice his/her life;
  • Will daily read Gubani carefully and practice the teachings enshrined in Gurbani as a routine in his/her life;
  • Will remain Sabat Soorat and adorn 5 Ks;
  • Will use “singh” and “kaur” as suffixes after the names of males and females;
  • Will be a member of the Khalsa brotherhood where all are equal and liberated from anything and everything associated with his/her family origin, caste, creed and occupation;
  • Will not perform any kind of rituals, have no duality in his mind and believe in one God.
  • Will not believe in any kind of superstitions whatsoever.
  • Will not shave or cut hair from any part of his/her body.
  • Will not indulge in adulterous sex.
  • Will not use drugs, tobacco and alcohol.
  • Will not consume Halal meat

The list above contains both Dos and Don’ts but it may still not be complete, but it is comprehensive enough for our analysis. Another thing to be kept in mind is the time of this event. It happened in 1699 i.e. only about nine years before the death of Guru Gobind Singh. We will discuss its importance later in this article. Coming back to what happened on Vaisakhi of 1699, what sticks out most conspicuously is the call to sacrifice life and the instructions for the five Ks. It is generally accepted that all the nine Gurus, preceding Guru Gobind Singh, have preached practised all other instructions except these two. So it will be pertinent here to discuss these two in the light of teachings of Gurbani to find out if they are in consonance with Sikh philosophy. We will also come to know if this generally held belief is true or not.

The Five Ks

Guru Gobind Singh instructed his Sikhs that they will always adorn five Ks. The most conspicuous of the five Ks is uncut hair. All Sikh Gurus, form Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, have kept their hair uncut and asked their followers to do the same. While selecting the “five beloved ones” Guru Gobind Singh did not pick only those who were having unshorn hair, but all the five who came forward to die were having long uncut hair. This shows that all Sikhs at that time were already keeping their hair unshorn. So it was not a new set of instructions. Similarly, Sikhs have started regularly keeping a sword with them since the time of Guru Hargobind. The wrist bracelet (Kara) has an interesting story behind it.[5] Guru Gobind Singh with a view to see how far his Sikhs have rid themselves of the rituals conducted by the Brahmins, invited one Brahmin, on one Saturday morning and gave him some oil, beans and iron. The Sikhs were surprised at this and they accosted the Brahmin on his way and asked him what the matter is. He told them that Guru has donated this to him to get rid of some evil spell and only he can accept and consume these goods. The Sikhs who were conversant with the teachings of their Gurus regarding these superstitions took no time to realize that this is a test for them. They took all the material from the Brahmin, made some snacks from oil and beans and melted the iron to make wrist bracelets for them.  They told the Brahmin that they can also consume these things and neither their Guru nor they believe in any rituals or superstitions. Guru was very happy at what his Sikhs have done and honoured them in public and asked them to bear the wrist bracelet all the time to indicate that Sikhs do not believe in any rituals or superstitions. This happened many years before the Vaisakhi of 1699. So the Sikhs have already started bearing iron wrist bracelet. The other two Ks (Kanga or Comb and Kachh or underwear) are part of normal gear of a person and symbolize cleanliness and chastity. It is apparent that all the five Ks were already a part and parcel of Sikh way of life.

Before we go further in this discussion it will be pertinent here to make it clear that Five Ks are not a dress code or Bana (apparel). The dress is something that evolves out of climatic and cultural requirements of a society. Many a time five Ks are mistaken as instructions for dress code [6]. Five Ks will fit in any cultural or climatic requirements of the dress of people living in any part of this world. Punjabi dress is not the official dress of Sikhs. Even the first five persons to be blessed with Khande Di Pahul were from different parts of India. (11) Only one of them was from Punjab.

Another thing to be noted here is that uncut hair is an article of faith for Sikhs. But no Guru has ever preached that keeping uncut hair will ever help a person in his/her spiritual advancement. Uncut hair or Saabat Soorat is like the logo of a company. It does not make the products of the company good or bad, but does tell us which company they belong to. Some people say that since there are many Saabat Soorat Sikhs in this world who are doing abominable things, so it is better if Sikhs disassociate themselves from the Saabat Soorat. Their logic is basically flawed. No company in this world has ever withdrawn its products because there are spurious products in the market with identical logo. They take legal action against those who produce spurious goods. Similarly, we should act against a person who looks like a Sikh what does not act like a Sikh.

There is another aspect to the concept of Saabat Soorat which needs to be discussed before we close this thread. A few days ago a survey published in the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia showed that 80% of women are unhappy with their bodies. The number of men is slightly less. Look around you and you will find that those who have black hair want blonde hair, those who are tall wish to be short, those who have green eyes want black eyes. This is the effect of Maya or illusion. Human beings are never satisfied with what they got. And they think that they are better artists than God so they start messing up with their appearance. The concept of Saabat Soorat is designed to harness this weakness and resign to the will of God.

The “Unusual” Call to Die

It was the most unusual call from a Guru ever made in the history of mankind. There have been calls to jump into a war (holy or otherwise) and attain martyrdom, but no one has made such a call in a gathering meant for religious discourse. What was the reason? To find an answer to this we will have to scan through the teachings of Sikh Gurus recorded in SGGS. What does Sikhism teach us about Death? Is death something to be afraid of or a one-time opportunity? Is life a time to revel in pleasures or a one-time opportunity to make the most of it? What is more important a life full of shame and disgrace or a death in dignity? Let us go to the shelter of our Guru and find an answer to these questions.

Death is an inevitable end of life. However, under the influence of Maya or Illusion we do not remember this fact. Only those who realize the truth remember this ultimate truth.

maran likhaa-ay mandal meh aa-ay jeevan saajeh maa-ee. (SGGS, M 1, Page 876)

(Everyone will die for sure) [7]

amal galolaa koorh kaa ditaa dayvanhaar

matee maran visaari-aa khusee keetee din chaar

sach mili-aa tin sofee-aa raakhan ka-o darvaar]  SGGS, M 1, Page 15

(Intoxicated with the attachment of this world, we forget death. Only those who know the ultimate truth realize this)

Because of this human weakness birth is regarded as a time for celebration and death a time for mourning. However, Sikhism teaches us that both birth and death are two sides of the same coin. They are the beginning and end of the same thing. Sikhism teaches us to treat them alike.

janmay ka-o vaajeh vaaDhaa-ay.sohilrhay agi-aanee gaa-ay.

jo janmai tis sarpar marnaa kirat pa-i-aa sir saahaa hay. (SGGS, M 1, Page 1032)

(Ignorant celebrate birth not realising that whosoever is born will die for sure.)

man kee parteet man tay paa-ee

pooray gur tay sabad bujhaa-ee.

jeevan maran ko samsar vaykhai.
bahurh na marai naa jam paykhai.] 2 ] SGGS , M 3, Page798

(The true Guru teaches to control your mind and behave at the time of birth in the same way you behave at the time of death.)

gurmukh hovai so sukh kamaa-ay.

maran jeevan kee sojhee paa-ay.

maran jeevan jo sam kar jaanai so mayray parabh bhaa-idaa.I12ISGGS, M 3. Page 1059

(The one who understands the real meaning of life, treats death and life alike, wins the love of God.)

Death is not something opposite to life but an end of a life. So, it is as important to die gracefully as it is to live with grace and dignity. That is the reason it has been said;

gurmukh maran jeevan parabh naal. (SGGS M 1, Page 932)

(The Gurumukh or the one who follows his Guru remembers God both in his life and death.)

Guru Amar Dass Ji explains how a Grumukh adds grace to his death.

jeevat marai mar maran savaarai

gur kai sabad saach ur Dhaarai. ||1|| rahaa-o. ( SGGS, M 3, Page 1174)

(He imbibes the truth of Shabad from Guru and decorates his death by being dead while alive)

And he further clarifies this concept of being dead while alive. [8]

ki-o kar ih man maaree-ai ki-o kar mirtak ho-ay.

kahi-aa sabad na maan-ee ha-umai chhadai na ko-ay.

gur parsaadee ha-umai chhutai jeevan mukat so ho-ay.

naanak jis no bakhsay tis milai tis bighan na laagai ko-ay. ||2|| (SGGS, M3, Page 948)

(How can one harness the mind and be dead when we do not follow the Guru and are engrossed in ego? But those who earn the blessings of the Guru succeed in getting rid of their ego and get salvation.)

ki-aa jaanaa kiv marhagay kaisaa marnaa ho-ay.

jay kar saahib manhu na veesrai taa sahilaa marnaa ho-ay.

marnai tay jagat darai jeevi-aa lorhai sabh ko-ay.

gur parsaadee jeevat marai hukmai boojhai so-ay.

naanak aisee marnee jo marai taa sad jeevan ho-ay. ||2|| (SGGS, M 3, Page 555)

(How can one die? If one remembers God it is easy to die. Every one is afraid of death and wants to live, but those who learn to be dead while alive live for ever.)

In other words, to be dead while alive is the way to gain glory in death and this comes with the help of Guru’s grace earned by a total surrender to his teachings. It means living beyond the limitations and temptations of your body and your family. Only these limitations and temptations are the cause of fear of death in our minds. Guru helps us to conquer this fear and meet death gracefully.

satgur milai so maran dikhaa-ay.

maran rahan ras antar bhaa-ay. (SGGS, M 1, Page 153)

(The Guru teaches us how to die in grace and enjoy death.)

On the other hand, a person who follows the dictates of his mind is wasting away this opportunity of death and committing a suicide.

manmukh mareh mar maran vigaarheh.

doojai bhaa-ay aatam sanghaareh. (SGGS, M3, Page 362)

(Those who do not follow the Guru spoil their death and waste this opportunity)

In other words death in itself is not bad. The way one dies is what matters. Guru explains it in more detail.

maran na mandaa lokaa aakhee-ai jay mar jaanai aisaa ko-ay

sayvihu saahib samrath aapnaa panth suhaylaa aagai ho-ay. (SGGS, M 1, Page 579)

(Do not consider death as something bad. Serve the Almighty God and enjoy the fruit of your service in death)

In fact, the Gurmukh, who surrenders himself completely to the teachings of his Guru, earns his right to die in glory.

maran munsaa soori-aa hak hai jo ho-ay maran parvaano

sooray say-ee aagai aakhee-ahi dargeh paavahi saachee maano.


maran munsaaN soori-aa hak hai jo ho-ay mareh parvaano. ||3|| (SGGS, M1. Page 579-580)

(Death is a right of those brave persons who know how to die and be accepted in the court of God.)

Gurumukh enters the field of his life like a warrior and dies in glory. Kabeer has explained it beautifully.

gagan damaamaa baaji-o pari-o neesaanai ghaa-o.

khayt jo maaNdi-o soormaa ab joojhan ko daa-o. ||1|| (SGGS, Kabeer, Page 1105)

(It is war time for the warriors and they enter the field of life with great fervor and zeal)

And the Gurmukh warrior gets the best possible price for his head from the Guru. Guru Ram Das makes it clearer.

mayray man bhaj raam naam at pirghaa

mai man tan arap Dhari-o gur aagai sir vaych lee-o mul mahghaa. ||1|| rahaa-o.

(SGGS, M 4, Page731)

 So, the five “beloved ones” who offered to die on the call of the Guru were fully conversant with this philosophy of life and death and they came forward to decorate their death with glory. This call was not made for the first time on the Vaisakhi of 1699. This has been the prerequisite of becoming a Sikh since the time Guru Nanak gave his first sermon. To live and die in dignity is basic to Sikhism. To revel in worldly pleasures but live in disgrace has been rejected by Guru Nanak.

jay jeevai pat lathee jaa-ay. sabh haraam jaytaa kichh khaa-ay. (SGGS, M1, Page 142)

(Your riches are of no use if you live a life of disgrace.)

So, he gave a call to the humanity to live and die in dignity. It was on this call that Bhai Mardana left his family behind to accompany Guru Nanak. [9] Guru Nanak made it clear to all those who followed him.

ja-o ta-o paraym khaylan kaa chaa-o. sir Dhar talee galee mayree aa-o.

it maarag pair Dhareejai. sir deejai kaan na keejai. ||20|| (SGGS, M 1, Page 1412)

(Come to me with a will to die. Burn your bridges before stepping on this path.)

Guru Arjan Dev Ji has made it even clearer when he told all those who follow Sikhism.

pahilaa maran kabool jeevan kee chhad aas

hohu sabhnaa kee raynukaa ta-o aa-o hamaarai paas. ||1|| (SGGS, M5, Page 1102)

(Accept death and abdicate all hopes of life, be humble and then come to the Guru.)

The five beloved ones have accepted these conditions in total submission to the will of Guru and they have no fear of death in their mind. They knew that they are doing the right thing. They loved their death as this was the right way to die. It was like home coming for them.

fareedaa gor nimaanee sad karay nighri-aa ghar aa-o.

sarpar maithai aavnaa marnahu na dari-aahu. ||93||  (SGGS, Farid, Page 1382)

(Death is like home coming. Do not be afraid of death as it is inevitable.)

The discussion above proves that from day one Sikhism was/is a call to die. When Guru Nanak launched his feet on to the path of Sikhism he left everything behind. So, did Bhai Mardana who followed him. They sacrificed the interests of their families for the sake of mankind. It must be clarified here that they did not ignored their families. They shouldered their responsibilities and worked hard for their families. However, they rose above this and served the mankind. And this is what Sikhism is based on. One must rise above one’s own interests to serve the mankind. This precisely is the call to die. Die to live for others. And this call has been resonating in Sikhism since day one.

The Significance

We have seen above that none of the instructions given by Guru Gobind Singh on the Vaisakhi of 1699 were new or different from those preached by his predecessors. They were already in place since the time of Guru Nanak. Then what was/is the significance of reiteration of these instructions on that day? Significance lies in the institutionalisation of these instructions. Guru Gobind Singh institutionalized these instructions which were already a part and parcel of Sikh way of life. It will be easy to understand the significance of this step by comparing it with the concept of Shabad Guru in Sikhism. All Sikh Guru preached and practiced the concept of Shabad Guru. But Guru Gobind Singh institutionalized this by according Guruship to Guru Granth Sahib before his death. Similarly, all Sikh Gurus followed and preached the concepts of Five Ks; Guru Gobind Singh institutionalized them by his masterly stroke on the Vaisakhi of 1699. It was a necessary step for the survival of Sikhism as Guru Gobind Singh knew that there will be no human Guru for the Sikhs after his death. That is why; as I have said early in this write up, the timing of this event is the key to understand the significance of Vaisakhi of 1699.  It happened in the year 1699 only nine years before his death. Some one might come up with a question here saying does this mean Guru Gobind Singh introduced rituals in Sikhism. This question is not valid here. All actions are not rituals. And we can’t have a life without actions [10]. Imagine a situation if there were no such instructions issued by Guru Gobind Singh. There would have been multiple ways of initiation of followers into Sikhism. Just as in the absence of compilation and installation of SGGS as the Guru, the concept of Shabad Guru would have been killed by those who are affected by it, similarly in the absence of these instructions Sikhism would have been reduced to an insignificant sect of Hinduism. Just as installation of SGGS as Shabad Guru is vital for Survival of Sikhism as a philosophy of life, the institutionalization of 5 Ks is vital for survival of Sikhism as a religion. But for these instructions there would have been chaotic situation in Sikhism.

The Relevance

The instructions issued by Guru Gobind Singh on Vaisakhi of 1699 are as relevant today as they were relevant in 1699 and they will always remain relevant. There is a funny argument put forward some time saying that Sikhs should follow the teachings of Gurbani and their Saroop (appearance) or five Ks will come by itself. In this argument it is assumed that there is a cause and effect relationship between teachings of Gurbani and Sikh Saroop. Another silly argument put forward is that since these instructions regarding appearance and Five Ks came only at the time of last Guru so it means that these have the least significance and this also signifies that we should follow the teachings and Saroop will be the natural concomitant of this process. All these arguments are phoney and products of a reluctant mind. A reluctant mind can never become religious. There is no cause and effect relationship between teachings enshrined in Gubani and Sikh Saroop. One is not the natural corollary of the other. At best they are complementary in nature. Sikhs from the time of Guru Nanak have been told to observe both. And the Sikhs for all times to come are required to observe both.

Any thing if distanced from its context becomes irrelevant. This is what is happening with the Vaisakhi of 1699. What happened on that day has been distorted to such an extent that it has gone miles away from its context both in terms of philosophy and history. However, when we look upon it in its right context Vaisakhi of 1699 is still relevant today and there is no reason to believe that it will not be relevant tomorrow.


1 Narrated by Bhai Kahn Singh in his book Ham Hindu Naheen at page 80 of 2002 edition.

2 Quoted by Dr Sangat Singh in his Sikhs in History at page 72 in fourth edition 2001.

3  Guru Gobind Singh poured water in a bowl and stirred it with Khanda, the double edged sword, while  reciting Gurbani. He called it Khande Di Pahul. Some people wrongly call it Khande Da Amrit.

4 It is really unfortunate that even some books published by Dharam Parchar Committee of SGPC propound or support this view. See History of the Sikhs and their Religion, Volume 1, Page 282.

5 As mentioned by Dr Sahib Singh in his book Jeevan-Birtant Guru Gobind Singh Ji, 2002 edition. Page 96

6 The latest example is the views expressed in the editorial of Sikh Bulletin of Feb 2005

7 The translations of Gurbani, where given is not literal translation). Effort has been made to convey the inner meaning in order to make the discussion more clear and to the point

8 How to experience death while alive is in itself an interesting and illuminating concept propounded in Gurbani. Here it has not been discussed in detail due to limitations of subject.

This does not mean that he relinquished his family for good. Only the priority has changed from first to second..


10 The argument that the introduction of Khande Di Pahul and 5 Ks is akin to introduction of rituals and similar to Janeo or sacred thread of Hindus is a full fledged subject in itself. For limitations of subject it has not been discussed in detail here. Suffice it to say here that ritualism is observance of set pattern of behaviour in order to achieve the set goal. By this standard the only ritual in Sikhism is to follow the teachings of Gurbani. Beside rituals are designed to benefit a third person and exploit the person performing rituals. There is no such thing in case of Khande Di Pahul and five Ks.

11. The five beloved ones or Panj Pyare as they are popularly known were

  • Bhai Daya Singh from Lahore Panjab
  • Bhai Dharam Singh from Meerut UP
  • Bhai Mohkam Singh from Dwarika Gujrat
  • Bhai Himmat Singh from Jagannath Puri Orrisa
  • Bhai Sahib Singh from Bidar Karnataka

(This article was written in March 2005 and published in the Vaisakhi edition of Sikhspectrum)

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