VAISAKHI: The Day When Saints Became Saint-Soldiers
By Dr Raghbir Singh Bains
Sikhism is a religion of Divine love. It is more than 500 years old. It is the youngest religion in the world with over 30 million followers living in about 165 countries of the world. Sikhism has been part of the world history since the fifteenth century.
Sikhism is the outcome of personal experiences of the divine by Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the religion. It is a faith with a universal message of peace and prosperity. It is a life affirming faith with positive attitude and high spirits. It is a practical, original and genuinely monotheistic religion. It is a religion which appeals to both head and heart. It is a religion of hope and optimism. It teaches universal justice, equality and sanctity of human life. It is a religion which never compromises with oppressive, suppressive and tyrant forces but it teaches pacifism and respects people having faith in other religions even.
Sikhs Belief in human Liberty, Equality and Fraternity
The concept of human liberty, equality and fraternity, initiated by Guru Nanak Dev, the first Guru, culminated in the Khalsa at the time of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last living Guru. It took 239 years for the ten Gurus to inject the divine philosophy into the veins of the downtrodden and oppressed society.
Guru Gobind Singh stopped the brutal and tyrant rulers of his times by convincingly merging martial and spiritual traits of the Sikhs. He made the meek and weak to challenge and rise up against the repressive and fanatic forces. He turned the saints into saint-soldiers who could thwart the unjust invasions on India.
Seeds Sown Against Injustice by Guru Nanak Dev
The seeds of bravery against injustice were sown by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He provided the steel to his successors. The successor Gurus watered the crop and gave a fine treatment to the steel. The harvesting was done by Guru Gobind Singh who welded the steel and united the Sikhs under a new ‘Order of the Khalsa’ or the pure. In fact, the Guru understood that disciplined and distinct nationalist force of saint soldiers had to be originated in order for the Sikhs and truth to endure.
Khalsa Revealed on the Day of Vaisakhi in 1699
Guru Gobind Singh inaugurated the Khalsa on the day of Vaisakhi in 1699 at Sri Kesgarh Sahib (Punjab-India) by gifting Khande-de-Pahul (Amrit-elixir) to his followers. In fact, the Guru laid foundation of a kingdom which hundred year later Maharaja Ranjit Singh established in northern India. It was expected that this new nation of saint-soldiers would not tolerate tyranny, humiliation and injustice against human beings but freedom, equality, love, fraternity, justice and democracy for all.
Vow on the Day of Vaisakhi
Vaisakhi is the landmark in the history when the Sikhs took the vow that they will neither cut their hair and nor they will remove the Kirpan from their person. They will not use drugs-intoxicants. They will stay away from adultery. They will wear five kakars (the articles of the Sikh faith); the kesh (uncut hair- representing a simple life, saintliness and devotion to God); the kangha (a wooden comb representing a clean mind and body); the kara (a steel bracelet worn on the wrist as a sign of eternity of God); the kaccha (a special undergarment representing disciplined and hygienic living); and the kirpan (a metal sword representing justice and indomitable spirit). These integral and indispensable articles are still fragrant. The articles constantly remind the commitment of the followers to universal principles of justice, equality, peace and global prosperity.
It was on the day of Vaisakhi that the initiated Sikhs were named Khalsa. The appellation of “Singh” was suffixed with the first name of the Sikh males and the word “Kaur” was put after the first name of the Sikh females.
On this day, Guru Gobind Singh energized the sparrow-like people with priceless gem of `Amrit’ and transformed them into mighty hawks who would stand for human dignity and self identity. The Guru conferred the title of Panj Pyaras (five beloved ones) on the five Sikhs who offered their heads upon his call to introduce the Order of the Khalsa.
The Khalsa (the pure one) exterminated and removed the shackles of the class and caste system prevailing in India. The divisions of being rich and poor were abolished.
The Guru Laid Foundation of Democracy
The sanctified water or “Amrit” which dripped from the Guru’s sword turned the meek and weak into saint-soldiers so that they could sacrifice all that was best with them for the cause of righteousness.
On the day of Vaisakhi, the Guru laid the foundation of democracy and Khalsa commonwealth. He vehemently declared that the supreme power lay with the corporate body of the Sikhs and Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
It is emphasized that the Sikh Gurus virtually fought for human liberty, equality and fraternity. They believed in oneness of God and unity of human race. In those days, Mughals were ruling a large part of India. They were committing atrocities and looting their subjects. The Gurus raised voice against inhuman treatment.
Sikhs Made Sacrifices to Uphold Righteousness
History will not forget that once the Afghan and Mughal rulers tried to liquidate the Sikhs, their religion and Sikh concepts from over this earth but failed in their mission to do so. Atrocities committed by the mistaken rulers on them always inducted a new spirit among the Sikhs.
From the day of Vaisakhi in 1699, the Sikhs offered their blood to upkeep the teachings of peace, dignity, honour and endurance taught by their Gurus. They were crushed alive by Mughals on the rotating spiked wheels. They were cut into pieces mercilessly. Their children were bricked alive. The Sikhs preferred to have their skulls scraped off rather than allow their hair to be cut. They were sawn apart but never faltered or flickered from their faith. Sikh mothers watched their infant children cut into pieces which were beaded on to the strings and the brave mothers wore necklaces of those pieces around their necks but never drifted away from their faith. As a punishment they had to grind tons of grains with sweat on their brows as ordered by the rulers of those times. These sufferings made Sikh mothers bold and they never uttered a word of pain.
All of them kept their faith alive maintaining the concept of Bani and Bana as long as there was breath in their body. The Sikh bravos saved the Sikh Panth and survived the onslaught and stormy attacks on the very existence of their religion.
Worldwide Nagar Kirtans (religious procession) on the Day of Vaisakhi
The Sikhs are hard working people. They are spread all over the world. Because of their distinctive identity and unique visibility, they face tribulations in establishing their distinctiveness in many countries of the world. They arrange Nagar Kirtan (religious procession) on the day of Vaisakhi every year to refresh their vow and to create awareness spreading the concepts of equality, justice, universal peace and global prosperity as required of them by the Sikh Gurus. Vaisakhi in fact demonstrates the enduring values of the Sikh community – a belief in equality, social justice, tolerance and respect for all religions and faiths. Let us endure and practice the universal concepts for all the times and under all the circumstances.