Derived from the Arabic word ‘Khalis’, meaning pure or unsullied, ‘Khalsa’ was the name given by Guru Gobind Singh to Sikhs who have been baptized or initiated. Khalsa also simply refers to a community that considers Sikhism as its faith.
The history of it:
Guru Gobind Singh started the Khalsa tradition after his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, had been beheaded for resisting the religious persecution of non-Muslims (Kashmiri Hindu Pandits) during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
Guru Gobind Singh created and initiated the Khalsa as a warrior with a duty to protect the innocent from any form of religious persecution.
The sacred ‘Amrit’ ceremony was first initiated by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, with Guru Gobind Singh baptizing 5 Sikhs and then in turn asking the five Khalsa’s to baptize him. Following this, the Guru personally baptized thousands of men and women into the Khalsa order.
The founding of Khalsa is celebrated by Sikhs during the festival of ‘Baisakhi’.
Khalsa stands for:
The Khalsa baptism stands for ones own personal spiritual evolution and a commitment to live up to the expectations of Guru Gobind Singh. All Sikhs are expected to be Khalsa or be working towards that objective.
Even since its beginning in 1699, Khalsa redefined the Sikh tradition. Along with the Amrit ceremony, it also formulated rules of conduct for the Khalsa warriors. It created a new institution for the leadership of the Sikhs, replacing the ‘Masand’ system maintained by the earlier Gurus of Sikhism and provided a political and religious vision for the Sikh community.
Upon initiation, a Khalsa Sikh was given the titles of Singh (male) and Kaur (female). The rules of life, included behavioral code (‘Rahit’ – such as no tobacco, no alcohol, no adultery, no halal meat), and a dress code (Five Ks, being the Kesh, Kanga, Kaccha, Kara, and the Kirpan).
The Khalsa has been predominantly a male institution in Sikh history with the authority being the male leaders. In the contemporary era, it has become open to women but its authority remains with Sikh men.