To understand ‘Khalsa’ we need to understand ‘Sikhi’.

For one to understand the origins and meaning of the word “Khalsa” we need to go back to the 16th century to understand the origins of its fundamental philosophy, which is rooted in ‘Sikhi’. (The anglicised word ‘Sikhism’ is derived from the Punjabi verb Sikhi, with roots in Sikhana (to learn), and Sikhi connotes the “temporal path of learning”).

Sikhi was founded in the 16th century (around 500 years ago) in the Punjab, India, by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who promulgated a message of devotion and always emphasised the importance of remembering God. Sikh means ‘disciple’, therefore Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the teachings within the Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Sikh holy book).
Sikhs believe that there is only one God; He is The Great Overseer of The Universe; He is the creator of life and death and although he may not be visible; He is with us in spirit everywhere we go (‘Ik Om Kar’).

Equality is a very important element within the Sikh religion, regardless of caste and class all humans are equal. Everyone possesses the same rights, with all men and women being treated equally. This emphasis on equality therefore sees many people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds being welcomed into the Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) and to enjoy ‘Guru ka Langar’ (literally translated – the communal meal from the Guru).

The Sikh religion encourages that life should be lived in truth and justice. Sikhs should earn their livelihood honestly and not take away from others and they should only consume what rightfully belongs to them. Sikhs should also undertake a form of ‘Sewa’ (service to God), by giving to the needy and helping others, this usually takes place at the Gurdwara but is encouraged in all walks of life as charitable deeds.

Although the Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, he passed on his teachings to nine Gurus, who along with Guru Nanak Dev Ji became known as the ‘Ten Gurus’, these are (in order):

1. Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539) – the founder of the Sikh religion.

2. Guru Angad Dev Ji (1504-1552) – created the ‘Gurmukhi’ (written Punjabi), this also is the text that Guru Granth Sahib Ji is written in.

3. Guru Amar Das Ji (1479-1574) – established ‘Guru ka Langar’ (still served in all Gurdwaras worldwide) which saw all rich and poor eating together and becoming one no matter what caste difference there may have been.

4. Guru Ram Das Ji (1534-1581) – founded the city of Amritsar, in the Punjab and began the construction of the Golden Temple in Amritsar which is a very important spiritual place for Sikhs.

5. Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563-1606) – completed the construction of the Golden Temple in Amritsar and composed the ‘Sukhmani Sahib’ (a prayer of peace for Sikhs to read every day), he also compiled the Guru Granth Sahib. He was subjected to brutal torture and death, by burning, by the Moghul Emperor Jahangir for refusing to convert to Islam.

6. Guru Hargobind Ji (1595-1644)- was the first Guru who took up a sword to defend the religion and urged all Sikhs to help the weak and vulnerable. He carried two swords one representing temporal power (Miri) and the other spiritual power (Piri). These today are represented on the Sikh Khanda symbol.

7. Guru Har Rai Ji (1630-1661) – devoted his life preaching the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and further consolidated the military defence ethos started by the 6th Guru.

8. Guru Harkrishan Ji (1656-1664) – the youngest Guru was a symbol of ‘purity’ and emphasised the importance of speaking the truth and believing in ‘Sikhi’.

9. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (1621-1675) – founded the town of Anandpur, which now has a holy temple called ‘Anandpur Sahib’. He was executed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb for supporting Sikhi and Hinduism and refusing to convert to Islam.

10. Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666-1708) – created a brotherhood- the ‘Khalsa’. He came out to the congregation of Sikhs on 30th March 1699 at ‘Anandpur Sahib’ with a sword dripping of blood and asked who was ready to give their life for Sikhi. To which five males came forward, Guru Gobind Singh Ji led
them all into a tent. He gave these five men ‘Amrit’ (holy water) and baptised them as the ‘beloved five’, (Panj Pyare) who were ready to give their life for their religion. These became his and the Sikh religions disciples, as they did not fear death in the name of their religion or righteousness. This day is celebrated annually as ‘Vaisakhi’ on or around the 14th of April.

All these teachings are still emphasised within the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh Ji decided that there was no need for a further living soul of a Guru and therefore named the 11th Guru as ‘Guru Granth Sahib Ji’ (1708) just before Guruji left this earthly abode. This 11th Guru would last for eternity, in the form of the Sikh transcripts which everyone can read and hear today. The Guru Granth Sahib Ji is revered today by Sikhs as their living Guru.

Who and What is Khalsa?

Who better to describe this than the founder of Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Sikh Guru:

“He who keeps alight the unquenchable torch of truth, and never swerves from the thought of One God; he who has full love and confidence in God and does not put his faith, even by mistake, in fasting or the graves of Muslim saints, Hindu crematoriums, or Jogi’s places of sepulchre; he who recognises the One God and no pilgrimages, alms-giving, non-destruction of life, penances, or austerities; and in whose heart the light of the Perfect One shines, – he is to be recognised as a pure member of the Khalsa”
(Guru Gobind Singh Ji, – 33 Swaiyyas)

The word “Khalsa” means “pure”, (in thought, word and deed), Khalsa are Sikhs** who have undergone the sacred Amrit Ceremony (like a Christian baptism ceremony) initiated by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The Khalsa order was initially created on Vaisakhi Day March 30th, 1699, with Guru Gobind Singh Ji baptising 5 Sikhs from various communities (to eradicate class and creed discrimination) and in turn asking the 5 Khalsa to ‘baptise’ him. Following this the Guru Ji personally ‘baptised’ thousands of men and women into the Khalsa order. The Khalsa ‘baptism’ ceremony is undertaken as part of one’s own personal spiritual evolution when the initiate is ready to fully live up to the high expectations of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. All Sikhs are expected to be Khalsa or be working towards that objective and live to the high morals.

**All Sikhs are the followers of Guru Nanak (1469-1539) the 1st Sikh Guru and the founder of Sikhi and believe in the other nine living Gurus who in them have the same ‘Nanak spirit’. To all Sikhs this Nanak spirit is alive today and is embodied in the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

The three duties that a Sikh must carry out can be summed up in three words; Pray, Work, Give.

Nam Japna: Keeping God, The Great Overseer of The Universe, in mind always.
Kirt Karna: Earning an honest living.
Vand Chhakna: (sharing one’s earnings with others) Giving to charity and caring for others.

One of the fundamental beliefs is ‘recognising the whole human race as one’

The Khanda, the Sikh emblem consists of A Solid Circle, Two Interlocked Swords, One Double-edged Sword in the Centre. It’s also part of the logo of the Khalsa Lodge of Mark Master Masons and can be briefly explained as follows:

The central double-edged sword (known as Khanda), represents the belief in one God. The Chakkar (solid circle) represents God, without beginning or end and reminding us all to remain within the rule of God. Two crossed kirpans (swords); the right one represents temporal power (Miri) and the left one spiritual power (Piri).