Paper for the Conference on Sikhi(sm), Literature and Film, Hofstra University, 19-21 Oct 2012
Bhai Jaita’s epic Sri Gur Katha: a New Milestone in the Sikh Literature
Raj Kumar Hans, MSU Baroda
None of the earlier sources, not even the late-eighteenth or early nineteenth century, talks of „Panj Kakkars‟. Ever since the Singh Sabha‟s authoritative sanction to the Guru‟s injunctions in this respect in the last quarter of the nineteenth century it has occupied the attention and energy of the Sikh scholars to find academic answers to the opaqueness about such a central issue in the sources. In an exhaustive analysis of these sources and also of their twentieth century interpretations, W. H. McLeod while accepting the possibility of the five items having been worn by the Khalsa Sikhs since the earliest days of the order reaches a conclusion that there is no evidence that Guru Gobind Singh decreed the Five Ks and promulgated at the inauguration of the Khalsa.xxvi One wishes he had seen and studied Sri Gur Katha as well to clear the fog with his own mind. It is Bhai Jaita‟s Sri Gur Katha which mentions all the 5 Ks in the most explicit manner:
PaaNch bade prabh ke dar heiN,
Ar paaNch ka maan hai gurdarbare.
Kripaan Kada Kachh Kes KaNkat,
Kar deeneheN nischai paaNch kakkare.
PaaNch kakkar diye gur ne,
PuNj paaNch ka paaNch vikaaran maare.
Bhed koyee gop nahi en mahiN,
Prabh ke chinH paaNch prabhu ati piyare.xxvii
Five large portals to His threshold!
And five are revered in the Lord‟s court!
Kripaan Kara Kacch Kesh Kangha,
Established as the Five „K‟s.
Five Kakkaar the Guru gave:
A fist of five to fell five evils.
Not a wisp of opacity in these,
The Lord‟s cherished symbols – Five.xxviii
Once Guru Gobind Singh had fixed the five symbols for a distinct identity of the Khalsa he also made changes in the earlier practice of Sikh initiation with an elaborate ritual of “amrit bidhi” as given by Bhai Jaita:
When an amrit seeker approaches, handpick five noble Singhs.
All may take a bath washing hairs as well and step into garments fresh and clean.
Now spread a clean blanket and all should sit on it.
Upon the blanket place an iron bowl, let all bridle their gaze and attend upon it.1
Inspect the initiate for symbols five and let him sit before the five Gursikhs.
Add sugar-coins to water in the bowl and seat all the six heroic Sikhs.
With a dagger (khanda) the first stirs sugar-coins (batasa) and water in the sacrament bowl.
As he stirs he recites the Jap scripture, the other hand he holds over the bowl.2
The other four join in, their hands extended over the bowl to consecrate the amrit.
Each of the Five in their turn recites the five scriptures.
With chanting the Jap, Jaap, Sawaiye, Chaupai, Anand consecrate the amrit.
Let the Initiate drink it five times with cupped hands and dab with it his eyes and tresses.3
With each gulp of the Amrit the Initiate chants Waheguru ki Fateh.
Let all who have gathered for baptisms ingest amrit from the same basin of iron.
Enlightening all about the code of conduct (rahit-kurahit), render the prayer and distribute parshaad.
Celebrate the baptism with sharing a meal, eaten by all from the same plate.4xxix
After making a clear statement on 5Ks and offering the details of the initiation ritual Bhai Jaita elaborates Guru Gobind Singh‟s manual of the Sikh, more specifically the Singh code of conduct, the Rahit, in the closing section of Sri Gur Katha.