Q17. What is the place of sword in Sikhism?
No faith can survive unless it can defend itself. Sikhism was born in a hostile atmosphere and had to face a lot of persecution. In addition to giving Sikhs lessons in the art of daily living, the Gurus gave Sikhs power to uphold their beliefs. For this reason Guru Hargobind donned two swords: one of spiritual leadership and the other of temporal power. He was the first Guru to throw a challenge to the Mughal power and to wage a war against the cruel and corrupt administration. His disciplined soldiers were successful against the Mughal armies in three battles. Guru Hargobind popularized the cult of the sword for purposes of defence and justice.
In a similiar situation, after the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh took up arms against Emperor Aurangzeb. He justified the use of force as the only means of survival. He wrote in Zafarnama:
“When affairs are past other remedies, It is justifiable to unsheath the sword.”
Where goodness and sacrifice cannot avail, violance has to be met by violance. Undoubtedly, in certain circumstances there are exceptions to the practive of non-violance.
The carrying of the sword or kirpan may perhaps be questioned in the atomic age. In the present world it continues to be a symbol of power, as it has been in the past. On ceremonial occasions, practically all armies in the world wear it. Its carrying reminds one of belief in one’s own self and therefore it creates self-confidence. Even Gandhiji justified the use of violance for a high purpose. The Sikh sword is a symbol of self-respect, prestige and independence. Guru Gobind Singh hailed it as the Saviour and Protector of saints and the oppressed. Infact he even referred to God as ‘sarbloh'(All steel).
The sword is one of the compulsory symbols of the Khalsa. The Khalsa is ever ready in his uniform to protect the weak and suffer for a just cause. Guru Gobind Singh demonstrated in a practical way that the sword can be reconciled with spirituality. Goodness without the means to sustain and activate it will fail to survive. Therefore, it is right to say that the sword holds a very important place in the history and philosphy of the Sikhs.