The Khalsa in Chaupa Singh’s Rahitnama
A Critical Appraisal

by Dr. Gurnam Kaur*

* Sri Guru Granth Sahib Studies Deptt., Punjabi University, Patiala [Punjab]

[Reproduced from The Sikh Review, April 2001]

The problem of authenticity regarding secondary Sikh literature is indeed acute. The touch-stone for any such text to be judged is Guru Granth Sahib, because it is the primary source, the shabad-praman, the shabad Guru. In this context the guidance provided by the shabad-Guru is as “come, holy Preceptors loving disciples, chant the holy word : Chant the Master’s word that is Supreme over all utterance. ….utterance other than the holy preceptor’s is hollow…”1 When all those scholars who are outsider to Sikhism deal with the secondary Sikh literature, they draw the pre-conceived conclusions and play havoc with the Sikh tenets because they are too ignorant to understand the Scripture. Many a Western scholar has done this while studying Rahitnamas or Janam Sakhis.

It has been established upto now that Rahitnamas do not carry the Sikh spirit in total. They carry the personal attitude and bent of mind of the writers. While commenting upon Rahitnamas Pandit Tara Singh Narotam says in Sri Guru Tirath Sangrahi that the mixture of many exegesis or narratives and big or small religious books are called Rahitnamas.

nwnw pRkwr kI kQw imSrq vw vfy Coty pusqk rihqnwm AKvwey [

His comments imply that Rahitnamas are not the primary ones. They are secondary sources which need to be evaluated. While commenting upon the Rahitnamas in Mahan Kosh, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha says.

auh pusqk, ijs iv`c is`K Drm dy inXmW Anuswr rihx dI rIiq d`sI hovy, is`KW leI iviDinSyd krmW dw ijs iv`c vrnx hovy, rihqnwmy AnMq hn, jo pRymI isKW ny AwpxI b`uiD Aqy inscy Anuswr ilKy hn, pr anHW dy vwk ahI mMnx Xog hn, jo gurbwxI Aqy BweI gurdws jI dI bwxI nwl ivroD nw rKdy hox 2

Rahitnamas are therefore essentially codes of conduct in which such rules and regulations are prescribed according to which a Sikh should live and also depict actions which are prohibited. According to Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, Rahitnamas are countless in number, which have been written by devoted Sikhs according to their intellect and belief. So only those sayings of the Rahitnamas are acceptable which are not opposed to Gurbani and Bhai Gurdas’s writing. Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha further says that Pandit Bhagwan Singh (a follower of Baba Sumer Singh) composed a granth named “Bibekwarid” in samat 408 Nankshahi in which he had collected 37 Rahitnamas. But he mixed his own ideas in it and tried to dilute the Gurmati spirit in them.

So in the light of above discussion we can say that we would have to provide a system to deal with such literature which is the secondary one. The system should be as is given in Gurbani. Sikhism is a whole-life religion based on Gurbani. So socio – religious concerns are also prescribed. The foundation of the Khalsa, the socio-spiritual being, was laid down by Guru Nanak when he said: that if you want to play “the game of love” then step on my path with your head on your palm. While so doing sacrifice your head ungrudgingly:

jau qau pRym Kylx kw cwau]
isr Dir qlI glI myrI Awau]
ieq mwrgu pYr DrIjY]
isr dIjY kwix n kIjY]

Next to Gurbani, the primary source are Bhai Gurdas’s (1559-1639 A.D.) writings which are considered to be a guide to evaluate the authenticity of such secondary works as Rahitnamas, etc. Bhai Gurdas was the scribe to whom the first recession of the Guru Granth was dictated by the fifth Guru Arjun Dev. He lived his life in close contact with the Guru. His own compositions are Varas (Ballads) and Kabit Swayaas which claim a high degree of authenticity and validity. Bhai Gurdas tried to analyze the Sikh teachings and tenets on the basis of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. His writings, especially his ballads are considered a key to the Sikh Scripture. It seems the best code of conduct for the Sikhs.

Chaupa Singh and his Rahitnama
Chaupa Singh’s Rahitanama, along with other Rahitnamas, has been edited by Shamsher Singh Ashok as well as by Pyara Singh Padam but both of them have not evaluated the text. Chaupa Singh was contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh. According to Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha he was a male nurse to Guru Gobind Singh and a very devoted Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh.4 It means he lived in the company of the Guru. From the inner evidence of Rahitnama we also find that he happened to be in close contact of the Guru. Chaupa Singh says at one place.

“sMmq 1724 dws cOpw isMG pwsoN gurmuKI AKr Aqy twkirAw AKrW dy mihrm hoey [“ 5

He has written this in connection with the education of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It is also doubtful because it is said that Qazi Pir Muhammad was appointed to teach the Guru Persian, and Bhai Gurbakhsh, Gurmukhi.6

Similarly, at another place Chaupa Singh narrates the event of the creation of the Khalsa that in samat 1754, the 7th day of the month Sawan the Guru initiated the Pahul of Kesas and ordered Chaupa Singh to bring the water in a bowl:

“Pyr swihb purK jI pMQ lgy nKyVn” sMq 1754 swvn idn sqvyN kysw dI pwhl dw audm kIqw [ bcn hoAw copy isMG ktory ivic pwxI pwie ky lY Awey [ so lY AwieAw [ bcx hoAw hQ krd pkV ky ivc Pyr Aqy pMj svXy pV copw isMG pVny lgw [ idvwn swihb cMd ny bynqI kIqI jI, scy pwqSwh jy ivc pqwsy pwaun qw rs ACw hovy [ bcx hoAw Drm cMd ivc pqwsy Awix pwau [ qw ktorw iqAwr krky dws copw isMG hQ aupr Dr krdy kF snmuK jwie Kloqw [ ( pMnw 21 )

So it is an established fact from Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha’s writings, as well as from the inner evidence of the Rahitnama, that Chaupa Singh was a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and was in close contact with the Guru. Looking into the facts provided by Chaupa Singhs Rahitnama, one can easily conclude that he was an eye-witness to the events taking place at Anandpur Sahib and he must be well-acquainted with Sikh tenets. But when I went through this text I found that Chaupa Singh, inspite of being in the company of the Tenth Guru lacks the maturity and scholarship of Bhai Gurdas. He could not transcend the Brahamnical background. The way he has praised Chhibbar Brahmins time and again in the whole text and considered them to be the only faithful followers of the Guru it seems that he himself was a Brahmin of Chhibar subcaste.

I would like to cite a few examples relating to this fact to support this view. First example can be cited from the Rahitnama related with the narration of the martyrdom of the Ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur and the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh.

When he writes about the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur the Ninth Guru, he does not say that Bhai Satti Das, Bhai Matti Das and Bhai Dyala accompanied the Guru who were devoted Sikhs, but he says that Satti Das and Matti Das, the Diwan Brahmin Sikhs, were arrested along with the Guru. While narrating the incident of the last ceremonies of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s head, he says that when the Guru asked how many Sikhs laid their lives with the Guru ? Then the answer is:

“jI, scy pwqSwh duie isK bRhmx iCbr dIvwn Awhy rsoeIey, swihb dony pRswid Kwdy Awhy, so sucm krky pRswid auh krdy rhy [ nwl gurU ky inBy” [

It means they were the cooks who cooked food with every formality and ritual of keeping it pure and sacred! But we know very well what Guru Nanak Dev has said about such Brahmnical attitude – in Asa Di Var. It is further told by Chaupa Singh that, according to Guru Gobind Singh, Chhibar Sikhs are the “primary” Sikhs of the Guru, who are emancipated themselves and they emancipated their kith and kin,” He has not mentioned the name of the Sikhs who brought Guru Tegh Bahadur’s honoured head to Anandpur, though Giani Gian Singh in Twarikh Guru Khalsa has mentioned his name as Bhai Jaita, who was from “low caste” and who became Jiwan Singh after taking Amrit.7 And the tradition popular with the Sikh lore is that Guru bestowed upon him the honour, “The low-caste are sons of the Guru”. Also the Sikhs who cremated the body of Guru Tegh Bahadur by burning their own house were also low-caste (Lubanas), not a high caste, like Brahmin. There is no place for caste distinction in Sikh ideology. Guru Nanak has said in the very beginning that lowest among the low-caste; those still lower and contemned – Nanak is by their side. He envies not the great of the world. Lord! Thy grace falls on the land where the poor are cherished:

“nIcw AMdir nIc jwiq nIc hMU Aiq nIcu ] nwnk iqn ky sMig swiQ vifAw isau ikAw rIsu ] ijQY nIcu smwlIAin iqQY ndir qyrI bKsIS] 8

There are so many other examples which we can pick up from Chaupa Singh’s Rahitnama where he has tried to establish that Guru Gobind Singh always favoured Chhibar Brahmin Sikhs. We know very well that, in Swayaas, Guru Gobind Singh addresses Kesho Brahmin telling him about the Khalsa which, according to the Pandit, included all the so called low-caste people. The Guru asks the Brahmin to overcome his shock for he had received what was writ in his lot. The Guru says that only he pleases him who serves his people, nothing else is pleasing to his mind. He further says that it was through them that he had won the battles and through their favour he distributed bounties to the poor. It was through them that all his sins and sorrows were over. Through their favour his house was overflowing with material possessions. Through their kindness, he had gathered knowledge and all his enemies he had smothered. The Guru says in the end, “I am exalted, for they have exalted me, else there were many a poor one like me, wandering luckless and friendless.”

So there was no special status, for the Guru, of a Sikh from a particular caste. Rather he said that he was beholden to his Khalsa, and even the charity, which had been the privilege of the Brahmin for centuries, if it is given to the Khalsa pleases the Guru.

The Creation of the Khalsa
According to Chaupa Singh the Guru created the Khalsa to differentiate the Sikhs, rather the pure Sikhs, from other people, or you can say the “mixed Sikhs”. He, while writing in the context of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom, as mentioned above, brings out the aim of the creation of the Khalsa.

This saying creates doubt in one’s mind. The evidence we find in Sri Guru Granth Sahib shows that the Supreme Truth and the Preceptor are one. He is the Supreme holy Preceptor, who the five evils has bound and subdued”:

so siqguru ij scu iDAwiedw scu scw siqguru ieky ] soeI siqguru purKu hY ijin pMjy dUq kIqo vis iCky ]10

To be angry is not the part of Guru’s personality. For the Sikhs to have distinctive appearance cannot be the only reasons for the creation of the Khalsa. It has been already told in Sri Guru Granth Sahib at many places what a Sikh should be and how he should live and look; e.g. it is said by Guru Ramdas that one known as the disciple (a Sikh) of the holy Preceptor must rising at dawn, on the Name Divine meditate. He should cleanse himself and take bath in God’s Name, the pool of Amrita. Then under the instructions of the Guru he must repeatedly utter the Divine Name. Describing such qualities of the Sikh, the Guru says that Nanak, servant of God, seeks dust of feet of such a disciple as contemplate the holy Name, to it inspires others.

gursiqgur kw jo isKu AKwey so Blky auiT hirnwm iDAwvY [ audmu kry Blky prBwqI iesnwn kry AMimRqsr nwvY [ aupdyis gurU hir hir jpu jwpY sB iklivK pwp doK lih jwvY [ jo swis igrws iDAwie myrw hir hir so gurisKu gurU min BwvY [ijs no dieAwlu hovY myrw suAwmI iqsu gur isK grU aupdysu suxwvY [ jn nwnk DUiV mMgY iqsu gurisK kI jo Awip jpY Avrh nwmu jpwvY [ 11

There might be Sahajdhari followers also, but when we have the instructions in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, that one should maintain his natural form as granted by God to him, we can well imagine that most Sikhs were with unshorn hair:

nwpwk pwku kir hdUir hdIsw swbq sUriq dsqwr isrw ] 12

That is, make ‘purifying the impure mind’ your hadith (tradition of the Prophet Muhammad), and, making your form complete, wear the turban over your head. Time and again Chaupa Singh quotes the Guru saying:

“iCbrW isKW nMU s`do”

and time and again he refers to:

“rly ky isK bhuq hYn”

The common meaning carried by the word in Punjabi Language is: mixture, or adulteration. So, maybe, he has used this word in connection of the Sikhs other than those belonging to the Brahman caste.

The only aim according to Chaupa Singh is,

“Pyr swihb purK jI pMQ lgy inKyVn”

That is, the Guru started the process of differentiation. But this cannot be the only aim of the creation of the Khalsa. According to Kavi Sainpat, as written by Dr. J. S. Grewal, “The creation of the Khalsa was directed primarily against the masands who had been the mediating agency between a large number of Sikhs and their Guru. In fact the ‘purification of the world’ is equated by Sainapat to the crown lands, the Khalsa, of the contemporary Mughal rulers. Not only were the Sikhs vital to the Guru as his direct disciples but also the Guru was indispensable to the Khalsa (as) water is to a fish.”13 We know that with the event of the manifestation of Sikh revelation a new era of enlightenment dawned in the religo- social history of India in fifteenth century, which was atleast two centuries earlier to the dawn of this period in Europe. The ideal before Guru Nanak, the founder of this new era, was the freedom of man. Man was bound internally as well as externally. For the achievement of this mission he placed before man a very difficult way, the way of total submission:

“jau qau pRym Kylx kw cwa, isr Dr qlI glI myrI Awau]”

It was a long way to complete this mission from Guru Nanak upto Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Gobind Singh was to convert the Sangat into Khalsa so that it can take care of himself and the society in which he moves, so that he can fight tyranny and to defend the righteousness, the right to live and practice one’s faith freely, for which Guru Tegh Bahadur has to sacrifice his head. In the Dasam Granth in Bachitar Natak it is told that God instructed the Guru, “I bless thee as my son, that thou spread My path. Go, and instruct men in Righteousness and the Moral Law, and make people desist from evil”:

mY Apnw suq qoih invwjw[
pMQ pRcur krby kh swjw[
jwih qhW qY Drmu clwie[
kbuiD krn qy lok htwie[29[

(dsm gRMQ bic`qr nwtk )

As Giani Gian Singh writes:

jXo qurkn kw qyj nswvY
is`Kn mYN ieqPwk rhwvY[
kro aupwau siqgro soeI[
jo qum krXo cho so hoeI[

Moreover, Khalsa was created in equipoise, not a rage. It was created in the image of the Guru and in the Khalsa Guru himself is residing. It was created in the pleasure of God as written in the Sarab Loh Granth:

Kwlsw Akwl purK kI Poj[
pRgtXo Kwlsw prmwqm kI mOj[

and Bhai Gurdas Singh II says:

ieauN hukm hoiea krqwr kw sB duMd imtwey[
qb shjy Drm pRgwisAw hir hir js gwey[

The process of the creation of the Khalsa, as narrated by Chaupa Singh, and the dates given by him, do not match the description we find in the tradition and in history. He writes, as already mentioned:

“Pyr swihb purK jI pMQ lgy nKyVn” sMq 1754 swvn idn sqvyN kysw dI pwhl dw audm kIqw [ bcn hoAw copw isMG ktory ivic pwxI pwie ky lY Awey [ so lY AwieAw [ bcx hoAw hQ krd pkV ky ivc Pyr Aqy pMj svXy pV “178” copw isMG pVny lgw [ idvwn swihb cMd ny bynqI kIqI jI, scy pwqSwh jy ivc pqwsy pwaun qw rs ACw hovy [ bcx hoAw Drm cMd ivc pqwsy Awix pwau [ qw ktorw iqAwr krky dws copw isMG hQ aupr Dr krdy kF snmuK jwie Kloqw ] qw swhb pUrn purK jI ivcoN culy ley Aqy AMimRq pMj vwr nyqRI lwieAw[ Pyr pMj culy sIsI lwey[ rsnw cMfI cirqr (aukiq iblws) 27 svYXw piVAw “1” svYXw

dyih isvw br moih iehY,
suB krmn qy kbhU n tro…

According to Chaupa Singh, then the Guru gave the Pahul first of all, to Chaupa Singh and directed to say, “Wahiguru Ji ka Khalsa Wahiguru ji ki Fateh,” and four poor Sikhs came to the Guru. They stood with folded hands. The Guru gave them pahul through Chaupa Singh. He further says,

“bcn hoAw qnKwh lau ieno pwso”

According to him these four Sikhs were Dhanna Singh, Hari Singh, Sewa Singh, Jodh Singh. These five Sikhs became Kesadhari on the first day. The next day some more Sikhs stood with folded hands. The word “poor” is to be noted. Moreover the names given by him are not those known as Panj Pyaras.

bcn hoAw jo kVwh pRswid krky pMjw isMGW pwsoN pMj svYXy pV ky AMimRq Ckwie lYxw[ pMj isK iml kY pwhul dyxI[ gurU kw isMG krnw[ rhq-aupdys, gurmMqr, ssqR rKxy[ nwau Dwie ky rKxw[

Now we can easily judge how far his statement is authentic. We know that the first article of faith announced by Guru Nanak Dev Ji was:

“n ko ihMdU nw ko muslmwn”

With this he announced the oneness of Godhead and oneness of man. It is the basis of the freedom of man. And Guru Gobind Singh said:

koaU Biea muMfIAw, sMinAwsI koaU jogI Biea
koaU bRhmcwrI koaU jqI Anu mwnbo[
ihMdU qurk koaU rwi&jI iemwm SwPI
mwns kI jwiq, sbY eykY phcwnboo[…85 Akwl ausqiq

We know very well, according to the tradition, how the Guru called the Sangat to gather at Anandpur on the Vaisakhi of 1699 and then, turn by turn, how he demanded from that large gathering the heads of five Sikhs and how they came forward with folded hands to offer their heads.

All the five belonged to different castes and to different regions of India: Bhai Daya Singh a Khatri by caste from Lahore, Bhai Mohkam Singh, a calico-printer from Dwarka, Bhai Dharam Singh a Jat (a peasant) from Hastinapur, Bhai Himat Singh a Jhivar (water carrier) from Jagannath Puri, and Bhai Sahib Singh a barber from Bidar. The Guru initiated them with the Amrit prepared with double edged sword in the iron bowl. They became Khalsa and “Singh” was affixed with everybody’s name. In the code of conduct, five K’s became compulsory i.e. Kesh (the uncut hair), Kangha (a comb), Karha (iron bracelet). Kachhahra (shorts), and Kirpan a sword.

It is also evident from the tradition that after completing the ceremony the Guru asked the five beloved ones to serve the Amrit to him; and thus was he re-named Gobind Singh after taking Pahul. As Gurdas Singh II writes:

hir scy qKq rcwieAw siq sMgiq mylw[
nwnk inrBau inrMkwr ivic isDW Kylw[
guru ismr mnweI kwlkw KMfy kI vylw[
pIa pwhul KMfDwr hoie jnm suhylw[
sMgiq kInI Kwlsw mnmuKI duhylw[
vwh vwh gooibMd isMG Awpy guru cylw[

Now, if we come to the code of conduct, i.e. the Rahit given by Chaupa Singh in his Rahit Nama, one is wonder-struck whether it creates a Khalsa or a different class of Brahmans where everything is a prohibition. Sikh religion is a societal religion. Man is to live in the society and he is supposed to actively participate in the society. There are many contradictions in the Rahit Maryada given by Chaupa Singh, and it is not possible to discuss them all in this paper. But if we go through them we can find that there are many rules prescribed by him which are in opposition to the spirit of Bani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and have nothing to do with Sikh Rahit Maryada. We can take a few examples to quote. Now, according to Sri Guru Granth Sahib the same Divine Light resides in all. So all are equal in the eyes of God. Sikhism does not approve of any distinction based on colour, caste, or sex.

A Sikh conforms to – and means – a man with unshorn hair. There is no prescription for a Sahajdhari Sikh, and there seems no need of that, but Chaupa Singh writes:

“gurU kw isK rom kYNcI nwl auqwry sihjDwrI hovY jo[ichrw swbq rKy dIdwr ichry dw hY[“

We know that Khande Bate Di Pahul is the definitively final. After that there is no tradition of Charan Pahul. Chaupa Singh says:

gurU ky isK dy Gr lVkw jMmy qw guV dy ivic pwhul pMjW isKW dy crnw dy jl kI ipAwey[ isK gurU kw dIdwr ley[ jy kysDwrI krnw hoie suq ko bwhr k`F ky KMfy dI pwhul idvwey[

According to Sikhism the family life, i.e. Grahast Ashram has been considered the most important one. All the Gurus led the family life inspite of being the Gurus, the highly spiritual ones. All the Indian religions before Guru Nanak believed in asceticism. Renunciation of family life had been considered the necessary path of salvation. But this path is not acceptable in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib the important aim is to realize the Divine ordinance, and to live according to that realization:

hukmu bUiJ rMg rs mwxy]
siqgur syvw mhw inrbwxy ]2]
ijin qUM jwqw so iggsq audwsI prvwx]
nwim rqw soeI inrbwx]

Guru Nanak was the first one to raise his voice against the biased attitude of man against woman. He has said in Asa Di Var that man takes birth from woman, to her is he engaged and married. With woman is man’s companionship. From woman originate new generations. If woman dies another is sought. By woman’s help is man kept under restraint. Why revile her of whom are born great ones of the earth?

BMif jMmIAY BMif inMmIAY BMif mMgx vIAwhu]
BMfhu hovY dosqI BMfhu clY rwhu]
BMfu muAw BMfu BwlIAY BMif hovY bMDwn]
so ikau mMdw AwKIAY ijqu jMmY rwjwn]

Guru Amardas has averred in the spiritual context that those are not the true wedded couples that with each other consort; those are the truly wedded who in two frames are one light:

Dn ipru eyih n AwKIAin bhin iekTY hoie]
eyk joiq duie mUrqI Dn ipru khIAY soie] ( pM
. 788)

But we find in Rahitnama;

” gurU kw isK nwr dw ivswh nw kry, ikAw ApnI ikAw prweI Byd nw dyvY, Cl rUp jwxy[”

(pN. 10)

These are but a few examples to show that what Bhai Chaupa Singh has said, much of it is against Sikh tenets. Everywhere he has quoted Gurbani saying and it seems to me that he does not know Bani properly. At many places the quotes given by him are not written in correct form, e.g.:

“Kt Gwl kCu hQhu dyie[ nwnk rwih pCwxY syie[”

When it is:

“Gwl Kwie kCu hQhu dyie[ nwnk rwhu pCwxih syie]”(pM. 1245)

It is not to say that he has written nothing positive, or in favour of Sikh tenets, but it is mostly confusing and contradictory; you can not form a clear picture of the Khalsa, as it is given in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, of a Gurmukh Sikh and in the compositions of Bhai Gurdas. His Rahit Nama produces another class of Khalsa which is nearer to Brahmanical prohibitions rather than Sikhism. Even the dates given by him do not match.


Note: For Sri Guru Granth Sahib the English translation by Prof. G. S. Talib is used, for Dasam Granth by Dr. Gopal Singh Dardi.

1. Sri Guru Granth Sahib P.920.

2. Bhai Kanh Singh Nabha, Mahan Kosh, P.1015.

3. S.G.G.S. p. 1412

4. Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha Op cit.p. 479

5. Shamsher Singh Ashok, Rahitnama Chaupa Singh. P. 18

6. Khazan Singh, History of the Sikh Religion (Language Department, Punjab) P.167.

7. Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, Op cit. P.527

8. S.G.G.S. P. 15.

9. Shabdarth Dasam Granth, Swayas (Punjabi University, Patiala)

10. S.G.G.S. P. 304.

11. Ibid. P. 305

12. Ibid. P. 1084

13. Dr. J. S. Grewal, Essays in Sikh History (Guru Nanak Dev University, Amartisar 1972) P.52.

14. S.G.G.S., P. 385


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