As I sat reading a newspaper editorial that presented a detailed analysis of caste, subcaste and religion based on permutations and combinations that had influenced the outcome of the recent UP by-elections, two questions popped up – why is it that even in 2018, society remains deeply divided on the lines of caste, religion, and region? And when will we realise that if we continue choosing our representatives on the basis of caste and not merit, we will continue to be shortchanged.
I turned my attention to my own faith to analyse the issue from the perspective of Sikh history and philosophy. The Sikh religion is fundamentally against any form of discrimination. Looking back on Baisakhi day back in 1699, I realised that it could offer a great deal of hope to the country. The events of Baisakhi at Anandpur Sahib, now in Ropar district of Punjab are well-known.
On that day, Guru Gobind Singhji, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, appeared in front of a large congregation, eyes blazing and a gleaming sword in hand to announce that he needed a volunteer to offer his head in sacrifice; he made that call five times that morning till five volunteers had offered to sacrifice their lives. These five were the first entrants to the order of the Khalsa, the Pure Ones, the Panj Pyare or the five beloved ones of the guru and are held in high esteem by the Sikhs.
Who were these brave and valiant five men? While the event is often retold as a story, very little is known about the original Panj Pyare. Where had these men come from? A bit of research and some amazing facts were uncovered. The five are described here: Daya Ram was the first one to offer his head to the Guru. A Khatri by caste, he belonged to an affluent trading family of Lahore. After baptism, he became Bhai Daya Singh. Dharam Dass was a Jat farmer from the ancient town of Hastinapur, now Meerut District.
He became Bhai Dharam Singh. Himmat Rai was a Kumhar, potter by caste from Jagannath Puri, Orissa. He was named Bhai Himmat Singh. Mohkam Chand was a Chhimba-Darzi, tailor-dyer by caste and came from Dwarka in Gujarat. He was known as Bhai Mohkam Singh later. Sahib Chand was a Nai, barber and came from Bidar in Karnataka. He became known as Bhai Sahib Singh. Guru Gobind Singhji made the Panj Pyare sit in a circle, as he prepared Amrit, the nectar of immortality by pouring water into an iron bowl, with sweet Patashas and stirring the water with a Khanda, a double-edged sword, he recited the Baani, prayers from the Adi Granth.
The Panj Pyare then drank the Amrit one by one straight from the bowl. The Guru neutralised their caste and socio-economic status and created a brotherhood of equals called the Khalsa, Pure Ones. The five now had to follow a Rehator code of conduct – grow unshorn hair and wear the five K’s, adopt a common surname, Singh meaning ‘lion’ and worship only the one almighty God.
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