Some of the most amazing stories of the human race revolve around the creation of a new path. One such ground breaking event was the creation of the Khalsa. The faithful and the curious had gathered in their hundreds in 1699 on this day at Anandpur to celebrate Baisakhi or New Year. Guru Govind Singh was the religious leader of the Sikhs at the time. After the festivities and religious discourses had begun, it was the Guru’s turn to speak to the gathering.
He unsheathed his sword, held it up so that the people would see the blade and asked, ‘Who is there among you that will give up their life for their faith?’
People looked at each other in wonder and disbelief. Some even got up and left the gathering for their hearts were not true. Others simply sat and waited, hoping that they would not be involved in any kind of sacrifice. Then they saw that one man had stood up. This was Daya Ram from Lahore. He walked to the front bravely, unmoved by the gasps and words that must have reached his ears. The Guru took him into a tent. Soon a thud was heard and silence fell on every chattering tongue. The Guru appeared at the entrance of the tent, his sword reddened with freshly spilled blood. He held it up and called again, ‘Who is there among you that will give up their life for their faith?’
He must have been thinking about his father’s words at the time of his martyrdom. His father had given up his life willingly to the sword of the Mughal, saying, ‘Sar diya, seer nahin,’ which means that he had merely given his head but not his faith. But were there going to be others who would remember Guru Tegh Bahadur’s words?
At his call the next to come was Dharam Das, a Jat from Hastinapur. He was taken inside the tent as well. Guru Gobind Singh called on the gathering three more times. Muhkam Chand, a washerman from Dvarka, Himmat Rai, a water-carrier from Puri, and Sahib Chand, a barber from Bidar offered their heads. One by one, each was led into the tent. Then the crowd held their breath in fearful silence. Whose turn would it be to make the ultimate sacrifice next?
But this time the Guru emerged with all five. They were dressed alike in saffron, with swords by their sides. Their unbound hair was wrapped neatly in saffron turbans. The Guru hailed them as his Panch Pyare or the five beloved. They came from both high birth and low but all that was in the past. They had been baptized with Amrit, sweetened water that was stirred with a double bladed sword. This was to be part of their character, strength with a core of sweet humility.
True to the spirit of equality and humility, the five Khalsa then baptised the Guru. They were now the first of the Khalsa or the Pure. They were bound to the martial faith of the Khalsa Sikh, to fight for the helpless and against the oppressor, to serve all humanity regardless of rank or birth and to advance the cause of one God.
The spirit of the Sikhs has been the subject of many stories and poems. I include one of those, Bandi Beer by Rabindranath Tagore below: