Although the early Mughal emperors had peaceful relations with the Sikh Gurus, the Sikhs started facing religious persecution during the reign of Jahangir. Persecution against the Sikhs continued until the creation of the Sikh Kingdom in 1799. Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru, was arrested and executed by Emperor Jahangir in 1606. The following Guru, Guru Hargobind formally militarized the Sikhs and emphasized the complementary nature of the temporal power and spiritual power. In 1675, Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru of the Sikhs was executed by the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, for saving the religious rights of Hindus. Aurungzeb’s religious policy was totally against Hindus, and they had to pay more taxes then Muslims. “He discouraged the teaching of the Hindus, burnt to the ground the great Pagoda near Delhi, and destroyed the temple.
The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, was determined to exterminate the religious oppression of the Mughal Government. He concentrated against the cruel government and not against Islam. There is no word in his speeches and writings to prove this baseless charge. He was an embodiment of love and affection for all. His instructions to his Sikhs were to treat everybody with courtesy and consideration. He specifically forbade Sikhs to have carnal knowledge of Muslim women. It was for this reason that both Muslims and Hindus were attracted towards him.
Guru Gobind Singh decided to create a national awakening in Punjab. The time chosen was opportune. Aurungzeb was involved in a life and death struggle in the Deccan with the Marathas. Punjab was in charge of Prince Muazzam, who lived in Kabul (this prince later became emperor with the name of Bahadur Shah). Guru ji first tried to plant his ideas in the mind of the warrior class of Rajputs of the Shivalik hills. He soon discovered that the caste ridden and class dominated feudal lords would not respond to his appeals and they would not fit in his ideology. He therefore turned his attention to downtrodden masses.
While reading the Puranas, the Guru realized that God was the wielder of arms to punish tyrants and destroy evildoers. He was also, the giver of gifts and fountainhead of mercy. Further, the Guru had been deeply struck by the idea that God had been sending a savior at critical times to save the virtuous and destroy the wicked. He knew that he had been sent to this world for the same purpose.
In Bachitra Natak the Guru says:
Hum eh kaj jagat mo ae
dharam het gur dev pathae
jahan tahan tum dharam bitharo
dusht dokhian pakar pachharo
[For this purpose I came into this world. God sent me for the sake of Dharam. Wherever you are, spread Dharam. Root out the oppressors and the wicked]
In 1699, the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh sent Hukamnamas (letters of authority) to his followers throughout the Indian sub-continent, asking them to gather at Anandpur Sahib on March 30, 1699, the day of Vaisakhi (the annual harvest festival).
Guru Gobind Singh addressed the congregation from the entryway of a tent pitched on a hill (now called Kesgarh Sahib). He drew his sword and asked for a volunteer who was willing to sacrifice his head. No one answered his first call, nor the second call, but on the third invitation, a person called Daya Ram (later known as Bhai Daya Singh) came forward and offered his head to the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh took the volunteer inside the tent, and emerged shortly, with blood dripping from his sword. He then demanded another head. One more volunteer came forward, and entered the tent with him. The Guru again emerged with blood on his sword. This happened three more times. Then the five volunteers came out of the tent unharmed. These five, who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their Guru, were called Panj Piare (“the five beloved ones”).
These five volunteers were :
The Guru declared that Baba Nanak had found only one devoted Sikh in Guru Angad while he had found five such Sikhs. Through the devotion of one true disciple, Sikhism had flourished so well. By the consecration of five Sikhs, his mission was bound to spread all over the world. He further said that since the time of Guru Nanak, Sikhs took Charanpahul. The newly initiated Sikhs drank water in which Guru had dipped his great toe. It was derived from an old Indian tradition where Students will drink the water in which teacher’s feet were washed. It developed a spirit of humility and meekness. The times had changed. In place of humility and meekness, boldness and pluck were required. He would therefore change the form of baptism, and would administer to his warrior Sikhs water stirred with a double-edged sword (Khanda) in an iron vessel, with continuous recitation of hymns from Adi Granth, (This is what is called “Khande Baatte da pahul”). In the Khanda, Guru Gobind Singh combined the two swords of Miri and Piri of his grandfather (Guru Har Gobind ji, Sixth Guru) into one and changed the name Sikh to Singh or lion. This title previously was exclusively confined to the noble Rajputs, the second military class of Hindus after Kshatriyas. His Singhs looked upon themselves as inferior to no other. Every man was a sworn soldier from the time of his baptism. His Singhs fought against the enemies of their faith and for freedom like lions. They would be heroes in this life and attain salvation and bliss thereafter.
Mata Jito Ji immediately brought a plate full of sugar cakes (patashas) and with the approval of Guru put them in water. The Guru observed: “We filled the Panth with heroism (Bir Ras) by stirring it with the Khanda, you have mixed it with love (Prem-ras).” While stirring water the Guru recited the sacred hymns of the holy Adi Granth. The following five banis were recited by the Guru while preparing the Amrit or the Nectar: Guru Nanak Ji’s Japji Sahib, Guru Amar Das Ji’s Anand Sahib, and his own Jap Sahib, Chaupai Sahib and Ten Swayyas. The five Sikhs were asked to kneel down on their left knees and look into the eyes of Guru. The Guru then gave every one of them five palm fulls of sweet water called Amrit or netcar to drink, and five times was the holy water sprinkled over their heads and faces. The Guru said that the five beloved ones were his sons. Their mother was Jito. Individually each was called a Singh and collectively they were given the name of Khalsa.
After administering the baptism, the Guru stood before these five beloved ones and requested them to baptize him in the same manner. They pleaded their unfitness for such a performance. The Guru replied that he was not superior to his devoted disciples. His superiority lay in one thing. The Guru had attained salvation, nirwan or Sachkhand while his disciples were in the process of attaining it. The Guru said “The Khalsa is the Guru and the Guru is the Khalsa. There is no difference between me and you.” They baptized him, with each one of the five giving one palm full of nectar and sprinkling it on his head and face turn by turn. He added Singh to his own name in place of Rai and henceforth came to be called Guru Gobind Singh.
Guru Gobind Singh made the best use of this spiritual sentiment. According to Giani Kartar Singh Kalaswalia in Sri Guru Dashmesh Prakash, Guru Ji sent five Sikhs to Kashi from Paonta Sahib to study Sanskrit. He built five forts at Anandpur. He selected five beloved ones at Anandpur and read five banis while preparing amrit. He administered five palms full of amrit or holy water to each of them. Then “Wah Guru Ji Ka Khalsa” and “Wah Guru Ji Ki Fatah” had five words in each line. Guru Gobind Singh was in search of a word, which could have the sanctity of five and the presence of God. He adopted the word Khalsa for his Singhs because it fulfilled both the conditions in the most appropriate manner. Besides, Guru Har Gobind Ji had already used this word for his Sikhs.
In Persian script, Khalsa consisted of five letters:
The word Khalsa, therefore, has the sacredness of number five as well as the presence of God with his Singhs both engaged in a pleasant conversation. God himself asks the Singhs:
“What do you want from me? Here am I. What would you have?”
The Singhs reply: “Lord! Give us liberty.”
Initiation into the Khalsa is referred to as Amrit Sanchar (water of immortality life-cycle rite) or Khande Di Pahul (Initiation with the double-edged sword). Anyone from any previous religion, age, or knowledge group can take Amrit (Amrit Chhakh), when they are convinced that they are ready. This baptism is done by the Panj Pyare in front of the Guru Granth Sahib. The devotee must arrive to the place of baptism, usually a Gurudwara, in the morning after bathing completely including having washed their hair and wearing the 5 articles of the Khalsa uniform. After the baptism, the new Singh or Kaur must abide by the four restrictions or must get re-baptized if they break any of them. Taking Amrit is a huge commitment, “You are making a commitment to God, to God’s creation, to yourself – and you’re giving up yourself.” It is about giving up your own ego, accepting God into your life, and accepting yourself as one with the entire creation.
Guru Gobind Singh provided to his followers five jewels, which were within reach of everybody down to the poorest peasant and the lowest laborer. Instead of creating fear in the mind of the wearer of losing these jewels, Guru Ji’s five jewels made his Singh bold, brave and awe-inspiring. These jewels were
These are for the identification and representation of the ideals of Sikhism, such as honesty, equality, fidelity, meditating on God, never bowing to tyranny, and for helping/protecting the weak, and self-defense.