Introduction: The Origins of the Khalsa

Purnima Dhavan

in When Sparrows Became Hawks

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199756551
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918881 | DOI:
Introduction: The Origins of the Khalsa

Show Summary Details


This chapter questions the conventional understanding of the creation of the Khalsa warrior community. The argument that Khalsa culture and practices emerged fully formed during the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh is historically untenable. Recent scholarship has demonstrated that the widespread participation of peasants in the military labor market in South Asia was frequently a path to upward social mobility, but it is not clear how the Khalsa Sikhs fit into this picture. By examining the evidence of the influence of Panjabi peasants, Sikh scholars, and Khalsa chiefs in transforming and transmitting Khalsa culture at different moments during the eighteenth century, it is possible to see the gradual evolution and coalescing of some of the key practices and beliefs of Khalsa Sikhs. This chapter reveals how the competing worldviews of multiple groups grounded the radical social vision of the Khalsa in older social and political practices.

Keywords: Khalsa; Sikhs; military labor market; peasants; chiefs; Guru Gobind Singh

Chapter.  8468 words. 

Subjects: Sikhism

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.