By Minreet Kaur
Sikhs celebrate the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Guru and founder of the Khalsa, on Wednesday 20 January.
Guru Gobind Singh was born in 1666, and believed he was sent to the world to protect saints, spread righteousness and destroy oppression and tyrants.
At the age of 33, he founded the Khalsa, a disciplined body of saints and soldiers, men and women of courage and dedication, who would adhere to the highest codes of conduct and the highest morality.
The first five members of the Khalsa order are known as the Panj Piare, five beloved ones, who were spared after courageously offering their lives in sacrifice. Since then, Sikhs are traditionally initiated into the Khalsa as a sign of their devotion and dedication to the faith
To be initiated into the order, a person must wear the 5Ks: the kirpan, a small sword; the kara, an iron or steel bracelet; the kachera, a military form of undershorts; the kanga, a wooden comb worn in the hair, and the kesh, uncut hair, covered with a turban. In the Khalsa, people are given new names, Singh (“lion”) for men, and Kaur (“princess”) for women.
The Khalsa was an armed order to fight oppression and tyranny during Mughal rule in India. There were ethical obligations, such as: protecting the poor, saving kidnapped women, protecting an innocent from religious persecution, serving others without the thought of their own well-being, and helping mankind.
Guru Gobind Singh was a poet and completed the final scriptures, which are passed on as the eternal living Guru. His inspiration, faith and accomplishments are remembered on his birthday each year.
Usually the day is marked by offering prayers for personal prosperity and peace, processions from the break of dawn, the offering of food and drink often in street or market stalls, singing with the accompaniment of certain musical instruments and marking the end of the day with social gatherings.
This year, Covid-19 means the celebrations will be virtual. Gurpreet Singh Anand, secretary-general of the Sikh Council UK, said: “Gurdwaras are making sure that their sangat [congregations] can be part of the celebration through virtual online programmes. Those gurdwaras that are able to open will be providing a chance for their congregations to visit safely in addition to virtual events.”
Celebrating Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday is important for Sikhs as it highlights the importance to remain steadfast during hard times, to use courage and conviction to fight a cause and to affirm the importance in providing justice for humanity.