“When I have taught the sparrow to fight the hawk, when a single individual can challenge 125,000, only then will I deserve the name Gobind Singh.”
The Sikh festival of Vaisakhi commemorates the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, symbolising a range of humanitarian ideals and values, including the necessity to fearlessly stand up for universal human rights focusing on the inherent unity, equality and dignity of mankind irrespective of “race”, religious affiliation, or gender.
In the picture beneath this article’s main title, the Guru is shown asking for volunteers prepared to offer their heads (ie. potentially sacrifice their lives) for these ideals. Out of the thousands gathered, an initial five people volunteered; the Guru inducted them into the Khalsa as its first formal members via the Amrit/Khanda-de-Pahul “baptism” ceremony, and as a gesture of humility and equality he then asked them to induct him as well.
The creation of the Khalsa was also the culmination of the process of militarisation begun by Guru Gobind Singh’s predecessor and near-namesake Guru Hargobind a few generations earlier, and the basis was not only self-defence but the principle that the innocent and the vulnerable must also be defended from persecution and unjustified aggression.
Guru Gobind Singh explicitly promoted the teaching that people should “View the whole of humanity as one race”; indeed, the core principle is that one should desire the wellbeing and happiness of the entire human race without any kind of distinction or bias regarding people’s individual religious affiliations or “ethnic” backgrounds.
“It is not life that matters; it is the courage you bring to it.”
The integrity, compassion, and bravery of Guru Gobind Singh (to whom the quote above is also attributed) can serve as sources of inspiration to all of us, regardless of our backgrounds; he is part of the shared history and heritage of mankind. We can all take pride in that.
The world has always needed great men and women whose goal has been to unite, not to divide; to elevate, not drag down into the gutter; to bring out the very best in humanity, not the very worst. Guru Gobind Singh and other historical and contemporary heroes like him from all over the world are shining examples of the heights of nobility that the human spirit is capable of achieving, and their positive message continues to have resonance for our troubled modern times.
Some suitable music to mark the occasion, as per the theme of my previous article The Music of Unity and the Politics of Division :
Jagjit Singh singing a prayer written by Guru Gobind Singh. The video depicts numerous scenes from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing in the traditional North Indian classical style. This is originally a recording from a live concert.
And finally, as powerfully sung by Lakhwinder Wadali and Puran Chand Wadali (the introduction to the song is translated on-screen during the video).
“Nanak says that with the Name of God comes ever-rising joy and optimism; with Your blessings, may the whole of mankind prosper.”
Happy Vaisakhi, everyone. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
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Filed in: History,Religion,Sikh