Insignia and Code of Conduct : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

As stated already, the new form of baptism introduced by Guru GobindSingh effected a thorough-going, miraculous change in the mind, heart,and spirit of the Sikhs. We may aptly pause here a while to examine morein detail the need, significance, and effects of this new form of initiation,as well as the Code of Conduct, prescribed by Guru Gobind Singh forthe Khalsa.

The form of initiation ceremony introduced by Guru Gobind Singhadmirably suited the need of the hour and the fulfilment of the ideals hehad in view. A spirit of submissiveness and humility, which the older formgenerated in the neophyte, was no longer sufficient It had proved ruinousfor the Hindus. The Word and the two-edged sword, which admitted aperson into the stronghold of the Khalsa, could not but command hisreverence and love. Having drunk ‘steel dissolved in water,’ he imbibedthe spirit of steel-framed Patriotism. Even God he addressed as Sarb-Lohor Al!-Steel. Through his baptism, the Guru poured his life and spirit intohis Sikhs and invested them with his characteristic olympian air. Hisimpress not only elevated and altered the constitution of their minds, butalso did something which went contrary to the experience of all ethnologists.

It operated also materially and gave amplitude to their physical frames. 1They came to be looked upon as models of physical prowess and beauty,and statelines of manners. The whole tone of national character hadundergone a tremendous, marvellous change. Sweepers, barbers, watercariers, washermen, and confectioners, who had never even touched asword or shouldered a gun, and who had, for countless generations, livedas grovelling slaves of the so-called higher classes, were, under the Guru’sleadership, converted into doughty warriors, ready to rush into the jawsof death at the bidding of their Guru, and leaders of armies before whomthe Rajas and the Nawabs cowered with terror. 2

1 • Burne’s Travels, i 285, and ii, 39; Cunningham’ History of the Sikhs.

2. Dr G.C. Narang. Transformation of Sikhism.

This change was not confined to menfolk alone ; it extended towomenfolk as well ; for the Guru declared the latter to be eligible forhis Amrit equally with the former. In Sikh history we find many womenexhibiting feats of bravery and warriorship which surpassed even men’sperformance in that field.

There is another aspect of the Amrit ceremony which shows whatthought and foresight the Guru had exercised in this matter. He declared thatany five Sikhs who observed Rehit and lived the life of a true Sikh would,thenceforward, be competent to baptize others. No particular class or set ofpeople was to hold the monopoly in such a vital matter. He had seen whatevils the system of making one class the custodian of religious knowledgeand religious rites had been responsible for in Hinduism. He wanted to founda high type of democracy where all would be equal in all respects and inall spheres of life. To have appointed a few selected persons to go aboutbapitizing people, would have cut at the very root of his deeply cherishedideals. It would have been an obstacle in the free growth of his Khalsa inall lands. No one was to arrogate to himself the position of a Guru of theSikhs in future. His giving to any five Sikhs the right to baptize others, ashe himself had baptized the Five, shows that he had decided, even at thattime, that he would be the last of the Gurus in human form. What a pitythat, even in spite of this clear injunction, people have sprung up inmodern times who claim to be gurus, and make this claim a means ofamasing wealth, gaining influence, and enjoying all sorts of earthlycomforts and pleasures ! What a pity that there are Sikhs who havebeen easily roped in by these arrogant pretenders ! They have set verynarrow limits to what was intended to be wide as the universe.

The psychological effect of the new manner of naming the

Sikhs is quite evident. A person belonging to the lowest caste tookAmrit and became a Singh. He felt that he was as good and highas the famous Rajputs of whose valiant deeds he had heard veryoften. He shook off all fear and cowardice. He was a ‘lion for thatis the literal meaning of the word ‘Singh’. He was no longer a dasor slave. A person having such thoughts about himsef could not butbe brave and fearless. 1

As stated already, in order to give the Sikhs distinct form andappearance, Guru Gobind Singh prescribed a special uniform for them.

1. ‘All who subscribed to his tenets were upon a level, and the Brahmins whoentered his sect had no higher claims to eminence than the lowest Sudras who swepthis house. It was the object of Gobind to make all Sikhs equal and that theiradvancement should solely depend upon their exertions and, well aware how necessaryit was to inspire men of low race, and of grovelling minds, with pride inthemselves, he changed the name of his followers from Sikh to Singh, or lions,He made it incumbent upon them all to wear five kakars of five signswith the sound of the letter ‘K’ :- kesh (unshorn hair), kangha (comb),kachha (a pair of shorts), £ara(steel bracelet), and kirpan (sword). Afew remarks about the kakars will be quite apt and useful in this place.

As regards kesh or unshorn hair, it should be remembered, in thefirst place, that preservation of hair was not an innovation introducedby Guru Gobind Singh. The Sikh Guru had all let their hair growits natural length. Their devout followers and close associates didthe same. Of course, they had not insisted that all their followersshould preserve their hair. They had relied on example alone in thismatter. Feeling the necessity of giving the Sikhs a distinct appearance,Guru Gobind Singh ordained that all his followers should preservetheir hair. The injunction was meant to achieve the consummationof the scheme of reoganization planned and begun by Guru Nanakand deligently furthered and pursued by his successors.

Secondly as all know, originally Hindus also used to preservetheir hair. The heads and faces of their rishis and munis used to beadorned by knots of hair and flowing beards just like those of theSikhs of Guru Gobind Singh. As a matter of fact, in ancient timesit was the universal custom to wear one’s natural hair Cases of ShriRam Chandra, Shri Krishana, holy christ, and prophet Muhammadcan be instanced here. 1 Even in these days men of religion in theEast and the West are seen with long hair and flowing beards.

Moreover, modern scientific research has shown that the hair onthe body and head absorb solar energy and convert it into a form thatcan be used for the growth of the body. In this way, the hair constitutes(Cond from page 133)

thus giving to all his followers that honourable title which had been before exclusivelyassumed by the Rajputs, the first military class of Hindus, and every Sikh felthimself at once elevated to rank with the highest, by this proud applellation.’

Sir Johu Malcolm^Stefc/i of the Sikhs, pp. 46- 48.

1. Several texts from Hindu writings can be cited on the importance and sanctityof hair. Thus, in the institution of Manu it is put down, “Even should a man bewrath, let him never seize another by the hair. When a Brahmin commits an offencefor which the members of other castes are liable to death, let his hair be shaved offas sufficient punishment.” In the Mahabliarta it is stated that when Arjan was,according to the laws of warfare, on the point of killing Aswathama for murderingthe childem of the Pandavs, he appeased his wrath by merely cutting off Aswathama’shair. And when Krishan defeated Rukmini, who had resented the abduction of hissister Rukmini, he merely cut off his hair — a punishment deemed worse than deathitself. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion Vol. 5,p. 90.

That up to as late as the reign of Bahadur Shah, the Hindus grew beards isproved by the fact that on December 7, 1707, the Emperor issued an order that allHindus in his realm must shave off their beards.

an important means of providing a special and essential form of foodto the body. It is for this reason that long-haired races are stronger andbraver than those who cut their hair. Some Western thinkers and researchscholars even go so far as to say, “Our research and study tell us thatgenerally our women are superior to our men in mental power. To usthe only cause of this superiority seems to be that the former do notr ut or shave off their hair, while the latter do so. It is our conviction.iat if women begin to cut their hair like men, then after a fewgenerations, their mental superiority will begin to vanish.”

It will thus be seen that the practice of the ancient Rishis, Munis,leaders of religion, and the Sikh Gurus, in preserving the hair was notonly in conformity with the laws of Nature, but also helpful towardsthe growth of the body and mind.

Kesh or long hair is, thus, not only natural but also beneficial forthe body and mind. The kangha or comb is needed to keep the hairclean. The kirpan or sword is for self-defence and for the protectionof the weak and the oppressed. The Guru wanted the Sikhs to reverethe sword and to use it in a good cause. The sword has been, at alltimes and in all places, an emblem of dignity, power, and self-respect.

Even in these days kings don the sword on all ceremonial occasions,even though they possess numerous other weapons. Guru Gobind Singhwanted that his Sikhs should be rich in the qualities of dignity, power,and self-respect also; for without them man can neither win nor maintainhonour and independence. It was in order to arouse this sense of dignity,power, and self- respect in his Sikhs that he enjoined upon them theduty of never going without a sword in their belt.

The kara or steel bracelet on the Sikh’s wrist serves to make himremember, at all times, that he is a Sikh of the Guru, that he must notuse his hand in doing anything which might bring discredit to the Guruand the Faith. The kara is a symbol of dedication and resolve. Whenevera Sikh thinks of extending his hand to do something ignoble, the karaon his wrist will remind him that such an act is against the Guru’sinjunctions and will displease the Guru. Thus it keeps him from goingwrong and helps him to overcome temptations towards sinful acts.

The kachha or a pair of shorts was prescribed to cover the lowerpart of the Sikhs’ bodies in place of the slovenly and unwieldly dhotisof the Hindus. This dress was far better suited to the life of activityand adventure which the Sikhs had to lead.

The Guru wanted his Sikhs to strictly follow the rules of conductprescribed by him. He ordained that those who broke any of themshould be suitably punished. Breaches of the rules were put into twocategories — major and minor. Cutting of hair, eating flesh of animalskilled in the Muhammadan fashion (Halal or Kutha), using tobacco,and having sexual intercourse with a Muhammadan woman were toconstitute the four major breaches of the rules. Any one guilty of oneor the other of them was to be deemed to have fallen away fromSikhism or to have become patit (apostate). Such a one must seekbaptism afresh in order to become a Sikh again. Putting off of kacchha,kara, kirpan, or kangha, commission of any immoral act, and performingof rites and ceremonies prohibited by the Guru, constitute minorbreaches. Any one guilty of one of the other out of them becomestankhahiya or liable to some penalty. He has to make a confessionbefore an assembly of Sikhs and accept the punishment awarded by it.

For the proper guidance of the Sikhs, the Guru laid down furtheror prescribed four fundamental tenets for them. His Khalsa, he said,must be kirt-nash, dharm-nash, kul-nash, and karm-nash. Let us explainwhat these tenets mean to the Sikhs.

The Guru enhanced the dignity of labour by declaring that hisKhalsa was to be kirt-nash, i.e no honest profession in itself was to bedeemed ignoble or exalted, and no classes were to be set up on thebasis of professions followed by the Sikhs.

The Khalsa was to be dharm-nash, i.e. every person, on becominga Sikh, was to give up completely the beliefs and rituals that were notin strict accord with the Guru’s teachings. This injunction was intendedto prevent the growth of sects among the Sikhs. All were to have onefaith, one form of worship, and one code of rules to guide them insocial and religious life. It is a matter of genuine regret that somepersons have, all the same, succeeded in founding petty sects withdoctrines often in violent conflict with the basic principles of Sikhism.

The Khalsa was to be kul-nash,i.e no pride of high descent wasto puff up, and no stigma of low birth was to hold down, those whoaccepted Amrit. Actions, and not descent, were to determine the positionof a Sikh in the nation. If a person ceased to lead the life becoming aSikh of the Gurus, birth in a Sikh family alone would not entitle himto the position or privileges of a Sikh.

The Khalsa was to be karm-nash, i.e. was not to get entangledin the countless rituals and ceremonials enjoined in the Hindu religion.

No rituals could by themselves help a man in his spiritual advancementor avert the dire consequences of his evil deeds.

A little thought over the tenets and symbols discussed above willshow that all of them had one object, namely, the welding of thedifferent sections into a distinct nation, and. eliminating the germs offuture disruption. If these lessons had not been neglected afterwards,but had been followed in the right good spirit, and steady progress hadbeen made in the direction indicated by the Guru, most of the present-daydifficulties in the growth of the Indian nation would have never beenthere. Now, too the sooner the Indians grasp the true significance ofthe reforms advocated and introduced-by the Sikh Gurus, and furtherthem with all their might, the better it will be for the future of thecountry.