“Mark me every one of you will have to be a Gobind Singh, if you want to do good to your country. You may see thousands of defects in your countrymen, but mark their Hindu blood. They are the first gods you will have to worship, even if they do everything to hurt you; even if every one of them sends out a curse to you, you send out to them words of love. If they drive you out, retire to die in silence like that mighty lion, Gobind Singh. Such a man is worthy of the name Hindu; such an ideal ought to be before us always.”
– Swami Vivekanand, The Common Bases of Hinduism, Lectures from Colombo to Almora,
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 3
The British Historians and their loyal disciples in the post-Independence period created many distortions about the history of Bharat to create the artificial fault-lines based on Anglo-Saxon presumptions. Under the same influence, many of us tend to believe that it was just an act of institutionalising a sect or instilling martial qualities in the society, forgetting that Guru Gobind Singhji Maharaj himself called it a “Dharma Yuddha”, meant for the rejuvenation of the nation. While celebrating the 350th Prakash Parv of the 10th Guru and founder of Khalsa (The Pure) Panth, we need to understand and re-contextualise the thinking behind this act of founding the Khalsa tradition.
Of course, Sikh Guru’s and especially Guru Gobind Singhji with Khalsa Panth, provided a new path for salvation with codification of text, vows and a Sikh version of baptism. But in Guru’s message mukti (salvation) from political and social oppression got precedence over mukti from the cycle of birth and death. The combination of Guru Panth, symbolised by the Guru Granth Sahib and Khalsa Panth, symbolised by the five emblems and the Rahit (the Khalsa code of belief and conduct), restored the balance between spiritual and material world. His message was that of Bhakti (devotion) with Shakti (might). It was critical at that point considering the then socio-political situation where spiritual actions were perceived as passiveness. Today, with the mindless upsurge of
materialism, Guru’s action oriented spiritualism rooted in the teachings of all the great voices of Bharat, is all the more relevant.
The fragmented society engulfed in selfish interests based on family and caste considerations provides fertile ground for the outsiders for domination and oppression. He realised that if everyone is ready to merge his individual self into the greater self of the community, it can create a larger family strong enough to any external challenges. His dramatic act of asking for the heads of five of his followers, later came to be known as Panj Pyare (Five Chosen Ones), who came from different castes and regions of Bharat, gave a major blow to the caste based discrimination. He went ahead and received Diksha at the hands of the same Panj Pyare who were ready to give supreme sacrifice for the Divine Cause. This way, he made the collective power and the impersonal Guru superior to individual one. Awakening the collective self and organising the virtuous society was another significant message of Guruji which is still relevant for us.
His was the message of ‘Bhartiyata’ which consist of ways of worship to be true and leading to the same Supreme authority. Therefore for him, Nihangis (fighters), Nirmales (Vedanti Sikhs), Sewa Panthis etc all were the carriers of the same message of supremacy of Dharma, for which he firmly believed that the winning over of Adharma is necessary. This lesson of his along with the organisational structure could create the legacy which we witness from the tradition of Banda Singh Bahadur to the brave soldiers of our Sikh Regiment.
Thus, through Khalsa tradition, Guruji provided collective and organisational edifice to the religious actions in tune with the virtue of ‘fight for the victory of righteousness’ propagated by sages and saints of Bharat. Today, we need to cherish this contribution of Guru Gobind Singhji as a nation-builder and social reformer along with his role as a poet, warrior, leader and spiritual Guru etc.