Category Archives: The Khalsa Knighthood

Bole so nihal! Sat Siri Akal! Thank You Bill Sinkford!

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About Bill Sinkford

Bole so nihal! Sat Siri Akal! – A shout of joy, popularized by Guru Gobind Singh which means, “Anyone who hears this news will be blessed! Truth (The Truthful One) is undying!”

Within three days of 9-11 Bill Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association mobilized USA UUs into activism on behalf of USA Sikhs and USA Muslims fighting against the flood of hate crimes and anti-Muslim backlash. UU communities sponsored educational forums and participated in Gurdwara Open-Houses all over the country.

September 14, 2001:

An Open Letter from the Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Dear Friends,

As this week has unfolded, my fear that Arab and Muslim individuals and communities would be attacked has sadly come to pass. Let me re-state my call to Unitarian Universalist communities to reach out and stand with our Arab and Muslim sisters and brothers who lament the terrorists acts of this Tuesday and grieve with us the losses.

Let me also encourage our congregations to reach out to Sikh communities in this country. Though the Sikh community is not Muslim, they too are at risk of being blamed for this tragedy.

Our task as people of faith is to be present to our grief and fear, but not to respond with anger. We must seek justice and, as our President says, to punish those responsible. But retribution will not create safety, nor move us toward justice.

Yours in faith and hope,

William G. Sinkford

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Dr. Doris Jakobsh, Oh My! by Kamalla Rose Kaur

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One of my dearest and most controversial friends ever is Dr. Doris Jakobsh, a Canadian scholar who stumbled into Sikh Studies.

“While I was at Harvard I visited the gurdwara at Millis. It was managed by Gora Sikhs of Yogi Bhajan. I found this ‘marriage’ of East and West fascinating and decided I needed to know more about Sikhism. At that point in time, 1990-1992, Sikhism was not a subject that was often taught at the university level. That has changed somewhat since then. It was a new field of study as a lot of work had already been done on Islam, Hinduism and other Eastern religions. No serious study had been done on gender equality in Sikhism, so I chose this subject for my Ph.D.

For the whole story read:

Japji Captures The Heart of God

How fabulous Dr. Doris must have felt when Oxford Press, no less, published her thesis as a book!

Relocating Gender In Sikh History does not compare Sikhi with other faiths. It simply digs for the real history of Sikh women, and comes up very very short. Sikhs forgot to write down Sikh women’s history. Sadder yet, Sikhs forgot to write down Sikh men’s history too. Things that most every Sikh believes, historically speaking, are not that easy to document and prove.

Yet no one denies that Guru Arjan put together the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, or that he wrote the poems he claims to have written, or that the other poets in the Sikh scripture are also true and authentic historic leaders and artists.

For me, Relocating Gender in Sikh History is simply a look at the available historical source documents and Sikh’s claims of gender equality within Sikhi. It is clear to me that if Sikhs could pop up with historical documentation to combat Dr. Doris’s conclusions, we would. Instead some Sikhs passionately denounce Dr. Doris, slandering her wildly; the universal sign of losing a debate, or discussion.

“In her pathological desire to fit with the ‘Culture of the Fitters’ of the Sikh religion, and to form an ‘ugly gestalt’, she even has shamelessly attempted to demolish the best Khalsacentric work done on Sikh females by Dr. Nikky-Gurinder Kaur Singh documented in her book entitled The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).” *

Dr. Doris and Dr. Nikky-Guninder Kaur are good friends. Dr. Nikky Kaur studies the Sikh scripture and reflects 0n Sikh theology in her book, while Dr. Doris writes about Sikh women’s history.

“Jakobsh feels she has the right to make Sikh female ‘sociological respectable’ by imposing rational efficiency of logical positivism. In the process, if she has to trample over to the sacred writing of the Sikhs in Guru Granth Sahib so it be!”*

*Doris R. Jakobsh: A Self-Appointed Researcher of Sikhism by J.S. Mann and S.S. Sodhi, published by Sikh Spectrum

Baldev Singh, another critic, is extremely angry with Dr. Doris accusing her of false statements about Sikh Gurus, maligning Jats, spurious anti-Sikh writings, questioning the martyrdom of Guru Arjan and the bravery of Sikhs, echoing of British anti-Sikh propaganda, manipulation of a population census, and absurd, misleading and deceptive statements.

Relocating Gender in Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity (Author: Doris Jakobsh)A Critical Analysis by Baldev Singh

But to nonSikhs, Dr. Doris simply appears to have had the bad karma to have been the first historian to focus on what we know and do not know about Sikh women’s role in Sikh history.

Are Sikh men responding better than Christian males faced with the same forces in the 1970s and since? Dr. Doris assures me that she has not received any death threats. This is good, very very good.

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The Sikh Way of Life

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Pep Talk For Khalsa Women

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Though the Sikh Reht Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct, SRM) encourages women to stand as the Punj Piare (leaders) within the Khalsa Knighthood, so far within the history of mainstream Sikhi, male only Punj Piares have ruled. As in every other culture, women’s rights efforts spark violence. I have every faith that Khalsa women will rise and face this danger bravely though I pray we will not suffer like the Suffragettes!

I know most nonSikh readers here at SOULBRIDES’ KITCHEN join me in proudly sharing this famous historic pep-talk with Sikh women.

Friends and fellow citizens:

I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.


The preamble of the Federal Constitution says:

“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot.

For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, or, an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity.

To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household – which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.

Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.

The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes.

Susan B. Anthony – 1873

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Sikh Politics

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Gyani Jarnail Singh’s and Kamalla Rose Kaur’s quick tutorial on “Sikh Politics”.

Note: Gyani Jarnail Singh of Malaysia is an expert on Sikhi. The “Gyani” in his name is added (like Dr.) because he has studied Sikh theology at a university (or Gyanis study for years in Gurdwaras). His parents and grandparents were also Gyanis.

This does not make him a “priest” rather he is a “scholar” – he knows the language, Gurmukhi, and he has studied Sikh history and much more.

How Do Sikhs Govern?

Gyani Jarnail Singh:

In the Sikhi concept of the PANJ (five member group) – no individual has any veto power. Just like the ancient Greeks ‘democracy”..Sikhs have the Gurmatta. This institution held sway until the 1850’s rule of mahara Ranjit Singh. Each Sikh soldier or civilian was invited to a Gurmatta..each one had the right to stand up and speak his mind…and a final decision of CONCENSUS was then taken by the assembly after hearing all. The MISL Leader..the CHIEFTAN..had the same right as the lowly soldier..the footman..the cleaner. Thus once a stable cleaner was chosen to be NAWAB at the Mughal court.After the fall of the Sikh Empire in 1850..the British institution of “secret ballot elections” have taken root in Sikh Society. The Panj system has also been put on the back burner. Now the Panj is highly politicised and serve their political masters.

Is there a Sikhi Central?

Kamalla Rose Kaur:

For a very short time Sikhs had their own country, and then the Brits invaded. The British fought a war against the Sikhs and won, but they fell in love with the Sikhs. Thus the British helped the Sikhs and they also hindered the Sikhs.

Sikh Central is presently in India but Sikhs in diaspora have no representation in the present (British established) Sikh religion administration. Some/many accuse Sikh Central of being infiltrated by nonSikhs or taking bribes, or corporate lobby money. Some/many disagree!

Gyani Jarnail Singh:

Yes the SGPC – elected by the million or so eligible “SIKHS” (according to SRM – Sikh Code of Conduct) every five years according to the British Govt sponsored Gurdwara Act 1925..is a sort of Sikh Central.

Its authority is confined to old Punjab – now divided into Punjab/Himachal/Haryana. Efforts are underway to take away Haryana out of its spehre by forming a Haryana SGPC. Delhi already has a DGPC for Delhi gurdawras and the Patna Takhat as well as Hazoor Sahib Deccan are independently controlled by their states. So not only are the few MILLION Disapora Sikhs not reprsented in the SGPC….so are a few million Sikhs in the rest of INDIA ( those outside Punajb/Haryana/himachal). So in a way the Sikh Central is a very MINORITY sort of “Sikh central”…similar to if the few citizens of Vatican were to be Christian Central on behalf of the 1 billion or so christians…

2. The point to note is that the Govt of India holds the “Elections”… so it decides when and when… For example during the tenure of Jathedar GS Tohra…he was defacto President ( together with his assembly) for a total of FIVE TERMS..25 years ++ as the Govt decided to have NO ELECTIONS. Thus it is a Sikh Central over which the SIKHS have absolutley NO CONTROL. GS Tohra was kept in power for a quarter century….for reasons known/unknown ?? and the SIKHS coundnt do a damn thing about it.

3. Due to the SGPC being a “Financial Powerhouse” Goluck money from all historicl shrines runs into hundreds of millions yearly…anyone in control of it is in POWER. Inspite of the Indian govt using all sorts of “proxies”….newly set up Gurdwar Boards and such…the SGPC has traditionally been won by the Akali DAL…now the personal fiefdom of the BADAL Family/Dynasty…since the 1970’s !!

Thus when “POLITICS” rules the roost..invariably shady chraacters stand and win…through money laundering/vote buying/alcohol flows freely, hoodlums roam freely and drugs etc..every weapon in the arsenal is used to retain the status quo…95% of the SGPC members are TAINTED heavily. The one or two “religious” ones get voted out subsequently or turn over a “old” leaf and join the rascals

As it stands now the SGPC is heavily infested with self serving politicians..more into politics than religion – and thus it is foolhardy to have the Present SGPC do any amendments to the SRM..they are sure to do worse than better- as they already institutionalise Brahminised rules like NO women in Harmandir Sahib (Golder Temple) kirtan and other sewa (women can’t sing or serve) – …they SELL “ritualised readings of SGGS called Akahnd paaths ( readings done by anonymous granthis in anonymous places and times…and this is supposed to help the buyer get wishes !!)…given half a chance they may very well put it ALL this RITUALISATION in writing in the new SRM (Sikh Code of Conduct) . IMHO we are much better off with what we have in the Present SRM !!

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The Khalsa and the 5Ks – by Harjinder Singh

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Vaisakhi 1699

In 1699 Guru Gobind Rai the tenth Sikh Guru, called his Sikhs together in Anandpur Sahib in the north of Panjab. He stood before the meeting, holding a sword, and asked for people to come forward who were willing to give their head.

The first five who did so are called the Panj Piaré, the five beloved ones. They were the first members of the Khalsa, the order of initiated Sikhs, those who are totally committed to the Sikh way of life, to doing God’s work. They then in their turn initiated Guru Gobind Rai into the Khalsa, and many others followed. From then on all Khalsa men were known as Singh (=Lion) and Khalsa women as Kaur (=Prince). Thus Guru Gobind Rai became Guru Gobind Singh.

This took place under the rule of one of the more intolerant Mughal Emperors, who then ruled most of the north of India. Being a Khalsa (Knight) involved physical fighting against the oppressors, to achieve freedom of worship for all.

Guru did stipulate that the sword was only to be used as a last resort, after all other means had failed. Guru wanted his Khalsa to be Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier), who would not fight for material gain or out of anger, but who would defend the defenceless and fight against injustice.

As visible signs of their commitment the members of the Khalsa were to wear five outward signs, the so called Five Ks, and this practice is followed to this day.

Do realise that initiated Sikhs or Khalsas are only a relatively small group within the wider Sikh community or Panth. Many people of Sikh background wear a Kara, and more committed ones also keep uncut hair and wear a turban. It is unlikely that Sikhs who are not initiated wear a Kachhera, while only initiated Sikhs will wear the Kirpan.

The 5 Ks

The 5 Ks are :
Kesh (uncut hair, no cutting, trimming or shaving)
Kara (a steel bracelet)
Kangha (a wooden comb)
Kacchera (cotton boxer short)
Kirpan (small steel sword)
The kirpan stands for this fight against injustice referred to above.

The Five Ks symbolise dedication to a life of devotion and submission to the Guru. For an initiated Sikh or Khalsa the fact that the Guru has asked the Sikhs to wear the Five Ks is sufficient reason and no more needs be said.

The Khalsa cannot be anonymous. Her/His religion is known to all. She/He stands out among people, and any unseemly behaviour on her/his part would be noted as unbecoming of a follower of the Gurus.

Anybody seeing somebody wearing the Khalsa uniform (the Five Ks) should know that they can go to her/him for help. Regardless whether they wear western or Panjabi style clothes, they are visible Sikhs. Unfortunately many Sikh ladies, even initiated ones, choose not to wear a turban, and are therefore not easily recognisable as Sikhs.

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What Is The Khalsa?

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The Khalsa Knighthood arose to fight the Muslim Inquisition in Indian in 1699. The Khalsa Knighthood of the Sikhs is and was a very unusual group because both men and women belong, and because the Khalsa Knighthood is “defense only”. A Khalsa Knight is under vow to never attack anyone. They must never fight out of fear or anger or revenge. They can only defend the oppressed from oppressors. This they vow to do but that is it.

Thus Sikhs fighting in WW2 did NOT fight against Hitler, rather they fought on behalf of Jews and Jew’s right to practice the Jewish faith.

Not all Sikh men and women belong to the Khalsa Knighthood – and, unfortunatlely, not all Sikhs who you see wearing the 5 symbols of the Khalsa Knighthood – uncut hair, comb, sword, steel bracelet, and underwear – are keeping the 5 Khalsa vows that these symbols represent.

1. Kesh, uncut hair: Khalsa Sikhs vow to keep their bodies natural and live wholesome lives. No intoxicants, no smokes.

2. Kanga -comb: They bathe daily and keep clean.

3. Kirpan – the sword: Khalsa Knights vow to defend the innocent and/or oppressed. A Khalsa Knight is under vow to jump in and help those being oppressed or attacked. They feed the poor too.

4. Kara – the bracelet: They vow to defend the Divine Ideals, and again never to attack. Khalsa Knights vow to be ethical, to shun corruption, to live truthfully.

5. Kacchera – underwear: Khalsa Knights wear underwear (rather like simple boxer shorts). This symbolizes the 5th Khalsa vow. Khalsa Knights treat all men and women as brothers and sisters, as equals. They vow to not view the opposite sex as sex objects or romance objects, or practice any sort of rock-star-itis.

In Sikh history, a history that Sikhs remember, Sikhs have fought in battles to defend the rights of Hindus and also Muslims to practice their religions in peace. Sikhs are proud of this. Sikhs are a proud people with a glorious (study them) past. Only Sikhs have ever run into battle yelling “Sat Siri Akal!” which means “Truth is Undying” or “The Truth Will Out!”.

That said, most Sikhs are ordinary folk. Most are not Khalsa, and some who think they are Khalsa, are breaking Khalsa vows. Basically Sikhs are just as messed up, at times more messed up, than other humans. They are a tiny minority everywhere. Before 1984, Sikhs had politically clout in India (they were the swing vote between Hindus and Muslim in a small, but very prosperous, part of Northern India) since then they don’t. All their historic Gurdwaras (temples) are in India and also in Pakistan, and those two countries are full of hotheads (mostly Hindu, Muslim; also Sikhs, Jain, and Christian Missionaries), and those two countries have the bomb.

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