Khalsa Mindset

Weaponry As God

By Aspiring Khalsa | | |


“… Govende Singh added to Baba Nanak’s book a military code, in which he laid down rules for carrying on war; and he formed a complete military knighthood…”
Journal of the Royal Institutions of the Sikhs (Vol IX), Civil and Religious Institutions of the Sikhs. (via )


1699, the year Guru Gobind Singh initiates and joins the Guru Khalsa Panth was a major inflection point in shaping the modern Sikh philosophy. Panjab in the following century witnesses the emergence of a rebellious people, possessed on the path towards achieving kingdom.
Guru Gobind Singh’s radical decree to infuse warrior codes into his Sikhs is often today seen as a necessity of the times given the Mughal’s had just executed his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur. But early 1800s writers such as Rattan Singh Bhangu, a warrior himself, describe the 10th Guru’s declaration as an ambitious vision to establish a new type of rule; one rooted in righteousness or dharam. This was against the wishes of Sikh leadership (masands) and even the 10th Guru’s own mother, Mata Gujiri, who were not keen on causing tension amongst local Hill chiefs. Undeterred, the young Guru Gobind Rai pushes forward with his long term aspiration.
While Vasaikhi was the final event in forging this new path for the Sikhs, there are years of philosophical underpinnings written by Guru Gobind Singh prior to the event which guide and institutionalize martial traditions for the Khalsa in the coming century and beyond. The early formations of the Sikh martial tradition actually began with the 10th Guru’s grandfather, Guru Hargobind (6th Guru), who formed the first Sikh army, Akal Sena. The 10th Guru’s father, Guru Tegh Bahadur (9th Guru), who’s name literally means ‘Brave sword,’ was a formidable warrior of the Akal Sena army as well.
To understand the 10th Guru’s work, one needs to understand an integral idea in Sikh philosophy which is the following concept from the Guru Granth Sahib — Akal Purakh, the all-pervading divine, encompasses all qualities and creation of the universe. It is with this concept that Guru Gobind Singh likens the qualities of weaponry and violence to God itself. The following snippets of writing from the Dasam Granth are a basic glimpse of these concepts.
Although Guru Gobind Singh’s Granth is becoming more prominent once again with the modern digital age, it was in olden times held to an almost equivalent status to the Aad Guru Granth Sahib. Referred to some as the Granth for yudh, weaponry and violence are revealed as elements of God by the poetics of the 10th Guru. These are elements and qualities of the universe which the Khalsa submits to as Akal Purakh ki fauj.
It is from Gobind Singh’s sword and pen which set forth the Khalsa Panth to beat the drums, plant the flags, and establish righteous rule wherever they stood.

Akal Ustat


In the epic praise of the Timeless, Akal Ustat, Guru Gobind Singh characterizes God as the All-Steel (sarbloh) and All-Destroying (sarbkal) Lord, a new foundation which is built upon in later writings. These lines are found inscribed on Guru Gobind Singh’s famous , as well as Baba Deep Singh’s , written alongside hymns from the Aad Guru Granth.

Bachittar Natak


Bachittar Natak (1688) is one of the longer epics that Guru Gobind Singh wrote in which a portions tells the play of his life, including early battles. The section above is the intro to the epic in which Guru Gobind Singh praises the sword, likening it to the “savior of the universe” and the destroyer of the vicious. The genius of the 10th Guru’s poetics are at full display as the rhythm/sounds of the stanzas mimic the clanging of swords. Today, these famous lines are often sung by Sikhs in the form of kirtan across the world.

Shastar Naam Mala


Shastar Naam Mala, the naming of weapons, is Guru Gobind Singh’s compilation that can be characterized as the literal praise of weapons and likening to God. Shastar Naam mala possibly displays the central idea better than any other source as it is very literal. The famous line ਯਹੈ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਪੀਰ (these are our masters) is significant as it represents the Khalsa’s disregard for human heirarchy. An interesting and relatively unknown fact about this compilation is that the largest portion is in praise of the tupak or gun. Many are unaware that the Guru’s, going all the way back to Guru Hargobind, had access to guns and kept a significant number of them.


Chandi di Vaar / Vaar Durga Ki & Ardaas


Possibly one of the most interesting aspects of Guru Gobind Singh’s writing is the repeated use of Chandi/Durga/Bhaguati as manifestations of Akal Purakh. One may recognize the above lines from Ardaas, but it originally comes from the 10th Guru’s Chandi di Vaar, the ballad of Chandi. It begins with the lines above and continues to the remembrance of Guru Tegh Bahadur which many Sikhs will be familiar with. From there, it tells the story of a war between the Chandi and demons. Bhaguati, which is frequently invoked at the beginning of various bani, is said to be equivalent to the Khanda (double edged sword) according to early Sikh texts. An interesting note is that Chandi, in Indic mythology, is always depicted riding a tiger or Singh. The concept of the Singh being the vehicle for the righteous sword may not be a coincidence. According to Rattan Singh Bhangu’s Panth Parkash, this vaar was read during the original Khande De Pahul (Amrit) ceremony by the 10th Guru. He also writes that Banda Singh Bahadur and Khalsa Sikhs onward would recite the ballad before battle. In a way, the tradition has carried on as Sikhs recite daily the beginning of Chandi Di Vaar within ardaas which begins by saying, “First, remember the Eternal Sword.”


Sarbloh Avtar

(via )


Sarbloh Avtar comes from the Sarbloh Granth, attributed to Guru Gobind Singh, although authorship is debated as it likely contains his court poets as well. But regardless, Sarbloh Avtar is particularly intersting because it connects with the lines from Akal Ustat (the first passage above) which also appear in the Sarbloh Granth.
Previous Gurus had written about Waheguru’s beauty using the metaphor of Ram, Krishna, etc. and often through physical attributes (eyes, face, etc). Sarbloh Avtar is a fascinating example of an original story about Sarbloh, meaning all-steel, which begins by describing Sarbloh’s physical features and beauty as weaponry.

From Philosophy to Kingdom

These writings are just glimpses into the vast universe of 10th Guru’s work. Ultimately, Guru Gobind Singh transformed the Khalsa Panth to become the eventual rulers of Panjab and beyond. When reading how Sikhs attained sovereignty from the work of Rattan Singh Bhangu, who’s grandfather, father, and himself were all legendary Khalsa warriors, one can see the results of the mindset that Guru Gobind Singh injected into his Sikhs.
It should be understood that Guru Gobind Singh did not utter these words lightly either as one who picks up the sword, must be prepared to meet his end by ‘eating steel’ (Bhai Nand Lal). The 10th Guru exemplifies this in two separate shabads when he requests God to grant him death on the battlefield. He lived by these lines when preparing to take the final stand at Chamkaur, accepting inevitable death by the sword, before the dozen remaining Khalsa Sikhs commanded him to make a narrow escape (as he had vested them collective power superior to his own). The Khalsa’s affinity for the sword and courageous spirit is what allowed the Singhs to eventually drive tyrants out of Panjab despite being outnumbered.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the eventual King of the Khalsa Empire, was once asked why he didn’t have a grand throne like other kings and he responded that his sword was the only distinction he needed (via ). It is apparent that Guru Gobind Singh’s philosophy remained very strong in the Sikhs all the way to the formation of one of the strongest empires in the world one hundred years later.
When listening to or reading the hymns of the 10th Guru, one can visualize Khalsa Sikhs from any point in history listening to those same words as well. And those who meditated on such shabads would transform their minds and psyche, turning from sparrows to hawks, and conquer whatever stood in front of them.
ਅਕਾਲ ਸਹਾਇ


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