Sâkhi Rehit Ki

The Sâkhi Rehit ki is a short and lesser known Punjabi composition in verse written by Bhai Nand Lal. In manuscript form it is often appended to the Bhai Chaupa Singh Rehitnama where it appears towards the end. The rehitnama consists of 28 verses.

Unlike the Tankhahnama Rehitnama there is a great focus on preserving the distinctive identity of the Khalsa in this composition. As such, the opening lines of the Rehitnama forbid the Khalsa from recognizing the authority of the Brahmins and institutions of other religions, as well as to adopt any of their ritual and religious practices. None are to be obeyed except for the Khalsa and Gurbani. This great focus on maintaining a separate identity might indicate that it was written a few years after the Khalsa had been created in response to some members of the Khalsa who still had not given up their ties to their former cultural and religious rituals and practices. The Khalsa is to reject the external appearances of the Hindu and Muslim traditions and focus on the guidelines given by the eternal Satguru:

Wearing the sacred thread is a Hindu custom [not a Khalsa one]. The emblem that has been conferred on the Khalsa will make a Sikh easily recognizable amidst a hundred thousand Hindus and a hundred thousand Muslims. How can he conceal himself when he wears a turban on his head and has a fine flowing beard and an uncut kes?

The rehitnama then continues in a section that stresses the importance of unity in the Khalsa, having its members to regard each other as brothers and to serve each other as the image of the Guru himself. It then continues to describe the weaknesses of mankind on how the ego easily overtakes any religious ritual and how people are often dependent on others instead of striving for independence in thought and action: “People are like sheep. Where one sheep goes there the others follow behind. Most people do likewise”.

Though Bhai Nand Lal rejects the authority of the Vedas and the Brahmins over the Sikhs, he does not reject their legitimate place in history. The poet contextualizes the Sikh faith within the larger Indic traditions by expressing that Sikhi is the path to be followed in Kalyug whereas the other traditions and their rituals were confined to earlier yugas only:

Idol worship, Brahmin rituals, wearing the dhoti and leaving the head bare are duties that were required during past yugas [not during the present]. During Kalyug the proper duty to observe is that which binds the disciples to the Guru. Each Yuga has its own Veda. For the Kalyug it is the Atharva Veda. According to the Atharva Veda he who lives in Kalyug and obeys The Word of the Guru shall find rich fulfilment, whereas he who does not obey it will sink [in the Ocean of Existence]. Freedom from the cycle of death and rebirths is not obtained by reading the Shastras, the Vedas or the Puranas. The ladder which leads to freedom is the Divine Name. He who reads, hears or repeats the Divine Name shall be freed from the transmigratory round of births and deaths. Without the Guru there can be no release, though one searches the Vedas and the Puranas. Hear O’ Khalsa as Gobind Singh declares: In Kalyug the Divine Name is supreme.

The rehitnama continues to warn the Khalsa against accepting the authority and rituals of the Brahmins by focusing on the beauty and the merits of obeying the Shabad. This is a theme that is also seen in the Prashan Uttar Rehitnama of Bhai Nand Lal from 1695. Another theme that is seen in the Tankhahnama and stressed in this composition is the condemnation of slander and those who slander others. This might be indicative of a period where the Khalsa had begun to divide and slander each other.

In the closing lines of the rehitnama the poet reiterates and encourages the Khalsa to always stay united and never to divide by holding fast to the Divine Word only.

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