“Raj Karega Khalsa”
Political objective of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji
(Based on updated research by Padamshree, Dr J S Grewal (“The Sikhs: Ideology, Institutions & Identity” 2009 Oxford University Press)
India’s Padamshree, Dr J S Grewal, has updated and summarized his research in 14 essays this year (2009. These cover three related themes: Sikh ideology, institutions and identity. His leading item following the introductory essay on the revolutionary nature of Guru Nanak Sahib’s egalitarian mission with its monotheistic God-loving message, is “Raj karega Khalsa” (The Khalsa shall rule). This is brought out as the political (miri) objective of Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji – to crush the enemies of the Sikhs of Guru Nanak Sahib and to establish a benevolent egalitarian Khalsa regime, in which no one inflicted pain on another.
Such an unequivocal conclusion by a top scholar, much acclaimed by the Indian establishment and recognized with the highest award, is most refreshing. Clearly, in his usual objective style, Grewal has gone where his dedicated research has taken him.
Dr Grewal follows the logical unfolding of Guru Nanak Sahib’s revolutionary ideology, which so annoyed the rulers of the time – both, Muslim and Hindu. This rebellion against religious, social and political persecution was, to some extent, anticipated by the new awakening through the Indian bhagti movement, which included reformists from diverse backgrounds. Some of them speak to us through Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. There were similar reformation movements elsewhere e.g. in Europe. However, so far as India’s bhagti movement is concerned, only Guru Nanak’s ideology could lay the foundation of a new order, which grew in organization and political strength and was ultimately victorious over the worst trials and tribulations any world community has experienced in the history of humankind.
Dr Grewal’s research based on contemporary evidence, shows the unbroken continuity of Sikh ideology up to Guru Gobind Singh, climaxing in armed defence of Guru Nanak’s mission and the "political" objective of the Guru (as “Raj Karega Khalsa”). A supporting essay, “Martyrdom in Sikh History and Literature” brings out martyrdom (shahidee) as a uniquely Sikhee concept introduced by Guru Nanak Sahib.
Guru Nanak’s challenge to his Sikhs was to overcome the fear of death. His challenge to the followers of his path was: “Je tau prem khelan ka chao, sir dhar tali gali mori aao” – if you wish to play the game of love, place your head on the palm of your hand and come my way.” Some Sikhs confuse this quotation from Guru Nanak Sahib (Sri Guru Granth Sahib p. 1412), with Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who, no doubt, would have repeated the same challenge at Anandpur Sahib in 1699. There is no ambiguity here about the nature of the sacrifice demanded by the Guru. The eighteenth century saw this tradition of inner victory over self, also defeating the oppressor. The sword of the Khalsa and the martyrdom tradition went together as two sides of the same coin (and therefore can be distinguished from the Gandhian "ahimsa" and the Islamic "shahidi" traditions).
Grewal shows that the objective of Khalsa raj, predicted during Guru Gobind Singh ji’s time, was achieved. Even as early as 1710, the inscription on the coins struck by the Khalsa led by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, reveal the true nature of his mission.
The following are the main points made by Dr Grewal:-
Guru Gobind Singh identified himself with the unbroken Guru line in the “Jot oha jugat sai” tradition from Guru Nanak Sahib to himself. Contemporary evidence, including that by the “author” of Dasam Granth, shows that Guru Sahib was very much aware of the great threat to Guru Nanak’s mission after Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom. Guru Gobind Singh saw his own mission as the defence of Guru Nanak’s ideology at all costs.
Guru Gobind Singh believed in one Supreme Being, “The so called avtars like Rama and Krishna [and there were countless such] were human beings”. The stories associated with them merely showed that “forces of good used physical force against the forces of evil, and showed martial prowess. These aspects were relevant for Guru Gobind Singh’s own position.” Thus, Guru Gobind Singh was, “divinely commissioned to spread this dharm [of Guru Nanak for Kaliyuga] and to destroy its enemies.” Guru Gobind Singh was supported by the Khalsa. These were the “Sikhs who had been initiated into the faith by Guru Nanak and his acknowledged successors and whose descendents were linked with Guru Gobind Singh directly…Their welfare and their future was his primary concern.”
Again, quoting cotemporary sources including the Hukamnamas and works like Dabistan-I Mazahib, Grewal shows the evolution of the term “Khalsa”. With the elimination of the middlemen called “masands” and the sectarian Sikhs associated with other descendents of earlier Gurus, the Khalsa attached directly to the Guru remained as the true Sikhs. They were the Khalsa. “The stanzas written in praise of the Sikhs embody Guru Gobind Singh’s appreciation for this category of Sikhs.” They were the main concern of Guru Gobind Singh. They were going to defeat the evil forces and become the rulers of the land.
Grewal brings out a most interesting change in the manner in which the Guru’s sangats were addressed. In earlier Hukamnams the Guru addressed the sangats as “my” Khalsa. But Grewal points out that ,”The evidence of a hukamnama of Guru Gobind Singh shows that “the Khalsa of the Guru” had become “the Khalsa of Sri Vaheguruji” before his death. The ultimate victory of Vaheguruji’s Khalsa was certain. This is confirmed by the hukamnamas of Banda Bahadur, Mata, Sudari, Mata Sahib Devi and the Khalsa. The “Nasihatnama” indicates that the establishment of Sikh rule had become a belief of the Khalsa during the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh.” The “Gursobha” by Sainapat Singh, a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh ji mentions recapture of Anandpur. “The Khalsa were meant to be sovereign”.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s own mission was clear in order to conclude the personal Guru line. To uproot the forces of oppressions, which threatened the very existence of the Khalsa of Guru Nanak Sahib. “The chances of success lay in transforming his followers into a political community….a new form of initiation, a new appearance, new aspirations, and a new sense of unity transformed the Khalsa into a political community with a strong conviction that their destiny was to hold political power for protecting and promoting the dispensation of Guru Nanak. The end of personal Guruship with the vesting of Guruship in Shabad-Bani and Khalsa came as the culmination of the Sikh movement to enable the Khalsa to stand on their feet as political community committed to uphold and propagate the Sikh tradition in the world.”
In conclusion, as we celebrate Vaisakhi 2009, we need to be clear about “Raj karega Khalsa” aspiration of the Sikhs as recited in conclusion of Sikh Ardaas. The “miri” (temporal) aspect is an inseparable part of Sikh ideology and identity. It is meant to be a political statement and needs to be interpreted accordingly, albeit not in a narrow sense. Wherever they live, as a theo-political community, the Sikhs are duty bound to be active participants in the establishment of a just society which accords with the egalitarian ideology of Guru Nanak. The Khalsa of the Guru supports such regimes and opposes oppressive regimes. And in this struggle between good and evil, the Khalsa of Sri Vaheguru ji shall always be victorious.
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Gurmukh Singh (UK)