ENSIGN OF DIGNITY
gur kY sbdy dir nIswxY ]
gur kY sbdy dir nIswxY ]
Gur kaae sabadae d.arr neesaan.aae
Word of the Guru is your identity (password).
Sikh Banner – Nishan Sahib
The Guru’s (Prophet’s) Word – name of God, is the identity card to go to the Lord’s presence. This is the thing of the spiritual domain. One of the passwords – identity, at the worldly level is Nishan Sahib – The Sikh Banner.
The flag of every denomination has its own distinction of color, shape, design, symbol and of other details to make it specific to represent the physical body it stands for (Country, rank, group, faith, organization) and to proclaim identity of its philosophy.
In the Sikh world, a banner is called Nishan Sahib. Nishan means a symbol, sign, seal or a stamp – a mark of identity, and Sahib is added for respect. It is sometimes referred to as Kesri Jhanda (Kesri – saffron colored, Jhanda – flag), Jhanda Sahib or simply Nishan.
Nishan Sahib is ensign of the Khalsa (Panth – the Sikh world). It is hoisted in religious gatherings and other congregations related to the Sikhs. It leads religious and other processions in which mostly Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Holy Book) is there, and Parbhat Phaerees (Morning Hymn-singing parades). It is put up on all the Gurdwaras (The Sikh Prayer Houses), or is set up in the court or yard of the building.
Nishan Sahib is an expression of authority, has spiritual tones, and it commands a high level of respect. The Sikhs consider Nishan Sahib auspicious and revere it as something special – a gift from the Guru: his fold (protective cover or his lap). The devotees respectfully place flowers on the parapet at its base, and light candles there, especially on the days of the Sikh celebrations.
Religious processions are preceded by the five Nishan Sahib carried by the barefoot, Amritdhari (properly inducted into the faith) devotees of high ethics (Singhs or Khalsas). The people standing enroute bow to the Nishans and some even touch the feet of their bearers, called ‘Panj Piarae’ (Five beloved of the Guru). Carrying the flag is considered a special favor and an honor.
At Gurdwara Paunta Sahib, a place of the Tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh, the Sangat (Congregation) ambulates around it singing Hymns with devotion, and bows to it. The Nishan had been leading the Sikh soldiers, parades and groups, since the time of the Gurus. The Sikhs tie these to their vehicles on their pilgrimages.
Nishan Sahib is pride of the Sikhs. Once hoisted, it is never done half-mast. Nishan Sahib, along with cover for its pole, is changed every year, or when needed, doing Shabad-Kirtan (Singing of Hymns), Ardas (Invocation), shouting Jaikaras (slogans), distribution of Parshad (sanctified sweet pudding), and rejoicing. At places (Gurdwara Hemkunt and others), the steel pole is lowered, washed with diluted milk, and cleaned before putting on the new cover cum flag. The change is generally made on the Baisakhi (13 April), birthday of the Khalsa. On this day (Baisakhi of 1699 AD), Guru Gobind Singh initiated the people into the Sikh faith by a special ceremony (giving Amrit – a holy drink), for the first time.
The old cover and banner of the flag are made into pieces and the people take these away as a gift from the Guru. They may stitch a Chola (Long shirt) for the newborn, or for a small child. They may put the cloth to some other good use, i.e. wrapping their prayer books in them, or as a scarf for the head. Out of respect, the old flags or worn out clothes made out of these, as such or their ashes after burning these, may be put into the flowing water, a lake, or are buried. It will be disrespect to throw them into trash, or to use them as cleaning rags.
A flag represents loyalty, unity and distinction, as well as philosophy of the group it stands for. It declares the right and claim to the territory and indicates presence, possession, and authority of the group whose flag it is. It announces independence of the body and mind (individuality), pride and sovereignty of the people it belongs to.
Nishan Sahib stands for the Sikhs in their body, mind, and action. It is an assertion of their physical and mental independence, and of the unity under its protection. It announces the purity of their thought, and spiritual elevation through their belief in one God, faith in their Gurus as well as Guru Granth Sahib, and in the edicts of the Sikh faith including the discipline of Amrit (holy-drink given for inducting a person into the Khalsa – a properly initiated Sikh). It proclaims their faith, beliefs, high morale, honest conduct, hard work, truthfulness, justice, equality, liberty – live and let live attitude, forgive and forget policy, compassion and helpfulness to the needy etc
Watching a gently fluttering flag lifts up the mind with joy, and one can derive concentration from it for his or her Naam-Jaap (meditation – recitation of the name of God). It beckons never to forget the Lord, and reminds to unite with Him. It affectionately wakes up those lost in the mundane, and benevolently shows them the path – “Here is the Holy Book – Word of the Guru, read it, realize the Truth and get emancipated.” Its dignified waving prompts everyone to lead a life of high ethics.
Nishan Sahib is the ensign of harmony between the God factor and Shakti – Maya; the world-factor.
In general, a flag is a piece of cloth or other suitable material with its individual color, shape, symbol, etc. It is usually hoisted from a pole.
PARTS – Nishan Sahib
A Nishan Sahib has the following parts –
Pharera – A saffron colored triangular flag itself.
Phuman – Pompom of black color and of a suitable size, tied to the tip of Pharera through a black string.
Symbol – on the Pharera . Ik-Oankar, and Khanda-Symbol, color black.
Pole – Usually steel, wood, or bamboo. It has a cover of saffron color.
Khanda – Double edged sword atop the pole. Mostly iron, may be stainless steel. It may be gold or nickel plated.
Dastaar – A blue cloth strip tied at the top, under Khanda. Its both ends are left equal and free.
Nishan Sahib. Cloth is the usual material. Plastic-fiber cloth and plastic sheets are in common use. Temporary paper flags are often seen on some celebrations. Sometimes, a metal sheet is used. Pharera (flag) and cover for the pole are mostly made of the same material – cloth of one sort or the other.
Most of the non-Sikh flags are rectangular. The religious flags of many faiths, and some political standards are triangular.
Nishan Sahib – Pharera (flag) is always saffron in color and triangular, with its vertical axis at 90 degrees to its horizontal base. Horizontal base is twice the length of the vertical side. The top and base meet to make an acute angle at the tip to which a Phuman – black pompom, is tied with a string to leave it hanging (to flutter).
The triangular shape may have its own mystery, and might have a mystical effect – pointing to immortality. But in general, in the Sikh faith, no mystery is attached to any shape, color etc., and all its teachings are open and clear. This shape may claim union of God, spirituality, and the mundane (three corners or sides of flag). The other flags might have influenced the shape and color of the Sikh banner.
Triangular shape makes two flags out of the one rectangular piece of material, and so is economical to manufacture, but this is not of any importance. Triangular cloth does not fold over easily to hide its ‘contents’ (symbol) and hangs from the pole tapering down gracefully. Rectangular material needs more wind to flutter and also, may get easily torn at its free flapping end.
Saffron color stands for courage and sacrifice. White and yellow colors denote purity. Green is for productivity of the earth, growth and productivity (abundance of the produce etc.). Red is the color of change, revolution, high morale, and of celebration (joy). Black is mostly for protest, resentment, death, grieving, destruction, and witchcraft etc.
The Hindu religious flags are “Bhagva” (Gaerva: brick-red), red or white. The color of the Muslims is green. Nishan Sahib is of the saffron color – pleasant, bright, and glowing reddish-yellow, representing purity (spirituality), courage and bravery.
Saffron color existed in the Rajput traditions, possibly like the epithet “Singh.” In the Rajputs, the ritual of Jauhar (Satti – self-immolation of wife after the death of her husband) was performed in the yellow dress (Dr. Maan Singh Nirankari, Retired Principal, Government Medical College, Amritsar). But, the Sikhs don’t adopt such extremes, nor do they approve Jauher (Satti). Moreover, the Sikh color is Saffron, and this color signifies purity, no doubt sacrifice too. Very likely, the Rajputs expressed purity by using the yellow clothes. In celebrations like marriages and betrothals, saffron water is sprinkled on the clothes of the guests to honor them, and to signify sanctity of the occasion, its spiritual overtures, and to express happiness.
Saffron color for the banner was selection of Guru Hargobind (Indirect deduction. Gurmatt Martand, S.G.P.C., page 616) and was not blue to begin with. At the time of Guru Gobind Singh, the color of Nishan Sahib changed to blue, and Nihangs maintain the tradition. In the Maharaja Ranjit Singh period, Nishan Sahib was blue (Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgir, World Sikh News, June 30, 1995 AD). After the Maharaja, may be under the influence of Dogras (majority environmental effect) it became white. Baba Naaena Singh and Akali Phoola Singh left the color of the Akali-Dal flag yellow, but changed Dastaar (see Dastaar) to antimony. Some use antimony color for Pharera (flag) which is not a tradition. They seem to derive this color from the color of the turban of Guru Gobind Singh. It is not clear as to how and when the color returned to saffron (A discussion with Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal, Arlington TX, USA).
Dr. H.S. Dilgir referred to the editorial of a daily “Akali,” of the 24th Dec: 1921 AD. He wrote that Pandit Moti Lal Nehru and other members of the Congress Party accepted the condition of the Sikh-color – saffron, and it was taken into the Indian National Flag in 1929 AD.
Taking saffron into the Indian Flag was acceptance of the Sikh ideology that a Nishan Sahib represented their politics, as well as faith. The Sikhs have the same flag for the both – politics, and faith.
The Muslims have “Kalma written in the symbol form” and “Chand-Tara” (Star and Crescent), and their color of the flag is green. The Hindus, usually use Om or Sri Ganesh (like two Zs, placed crosswise), mostly on the brick-red banner. Every religion has some symbol for its flag or even otherwise. The Jews have the Star of David, and the Christians the Cross, etc. The Sikhs have two symbols discussed under Nishan Sahib.
NISHAN SAHIB – SYMBOLS
There are two symbols – the Khanda symbol and Ik-Oankar. Out of the two, the most commonly used in the Sikh flags is the Khanda symbol. These symbols are done in black color. Master Taran Singh mentions it as blue (Sikh Dharam Dae Rahas Tae Ramaz, provided by Mr. S.S. Puri, Lilburn GA, USA). These may be cut out of the black cloth and stitched on to the flag, or printed black, or the needlework may be done with black thread.
Anyone symbol out of the two, will be sufficient to convey that it represents the Sikhs. Both these symbols are also put on the letterheads, buildings and vehicles. As an emblem, these are fixed to the turban and are worn as pins, buttons, or gold ornaments – mostly lockets around the necks.
Ik-Oankar is the Seed-Formula (Root formula). With this Ik-Oankar, starts “Mool Mantar” (the Sikh Basic Formula). “Ik” is equal to One “ 1 “ in the Roman characters, and “Oankar” means, “All Pervading, Omnipresent, God” – All pervading God is only He, and there is none other like Him. It is like “Om” of the Hindus and “La Il-lah Il-lil-lah” (Or, may be 786, in the Arabic characters) of the Islam.
Khanda Chakkar Kirpan
Khanda – double-edged sword. Chakkar – quoit: a flat, steel ring with sharp outer edge. Kirpan – slightly curved dagger, or small sword. The people have started calling this simply a “Khanda.” It becomes confusing because the name means only a double-edged sword. It will be reasonable to call it “Khanda-Symbol,” or “Khanda-Kirpan.” This symbol is something like Sri Ganesh in the Hindus, or Chand-Tara in the Muslims. The history of Khanda-Symbol, may be a mystery, but it has attained great significance as a symbol of the Sikhs.
It is hard to say anything conclusive about the meanings of this Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan symbol, because it all appears to be stretching the individual imagination. At the Sikh Takhts (Religio-political High Seats) especially, and at some other Gurdwaras, the weapons are often seen arranged like Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan. This might have given the idea of the symbol, but it can be the other way round, too.
At Akal Takht, Amritsar, only the weapons used to be displayed on the Palki (Palanquin). It was some time back that Guru Granth – the Sikh Holy Book, was placed there (Dr. Man Singh Nirankari).
It is double edged, straight, sword. Its edges are concave. It is placed in the middle of the symbol. To some, the Khanda, like a numerical “1” represents One God.
It stands for the “Amrit”, which is prepared with it (Dr. Dilgir – referred to above, and Naunehal Singh Grewal, Sikh Review – June, 1995).
It symbolizes disintegration of the false pride, vanity and demolition of the barriers of cast and inequalities (Khanda, H.S. Singha, Mini Encyclopedia of Sikhism, page 65).
Double-edged Khanda means to cut evil both ways (Around the Golden Temple, Narinderjit Singh, page 20).
The original Khanda, with which the Tenth Master prepared Amrit on the Baisakhi of 1669 AD, is at display in the Gurdwara Kes-Garh, Anandpur Sahib, District Ropar, Punjab, India. It is a full length weapon.
A Chakkar – quoit, has no beginning or end; it exhorts the Sikhs to make the whole universe the object of their compassion and activities (H.S. Singha, referred to above).
It may be for the universality or eternity of the God Factor – the mystique of the Almighty and the humanity (Dr. Dilgir, referred to above).
Circle means continuation of life (Narinderjit Singh, referred to above).
The Khanda symbolizes justice, self-preservation, and continuity of the humanity and destruction of cruelty. Besides representing the eternal God, it stands for the continuity of His creation (universe), transmigration and the cycle of birth and death (reincarnation).
Two swords, one on each side of the symbol, are usually taken to represent the spiritual, and the temporal aspects of the faith. It seems to be in line with the two swords of the 6th Guru Hargobind i.e. one sword of Meeree (sovereignty) and the other of Peeree (Guruship – Spirituality). His sword of Peeree worn on his right was 40″ and that of Meeree on left was 36″ long. This indicated that the temporal power was under the spiritual one (N.N.S. Grewal, referred to above). Two Kirpans stand for temporal and spiritual leadership of the Guru (H.S. Singha, referred to above).
Two Kirpans show that the balance in every thingis most essential in the life. One of the two means that you need power to protect your faith. The other impresses on the need of authority to live with dignity and to face and curb all wrongs, as well as to help the needy – to use it for justice and Dharam (principles – protection of the faith). These two demonstrate the balance of life including that of the spiritual and mundane, and this make one a Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier).
In the symbol, two Kirpans might have been used for symmetry. Kirpan is an essential item of the Sikh-Reht (Bindings of the one inducted into the faith).
Phuman is a Pompom, black in color. Size, suitable. It is attached to the apex of the flag through a short (suitable) length (15” to 18”) of a black string. It makes fluttering of the flag smooth in high wind and as well, enables it to flap when the wind is low. Tibetans think that each turn of their prayer wheel, and each flutter of their flag, is saying of their mantar (mantra) once. There is nothing like this in the Sikh World.
Is the pointed apex of the triangle (flag) a finger towards one God? May be, yes!
Dastar means a turban. It is a blue cloth band (strip) of short width (5 to 7 inches) and about three hands in length (From elbow to the tip of fingers – 18″, is one hand). It is tied at the top where end of the pole and Khanda (Double edged sword) join. Its two equal lengths are left free to wave. It is tied to most of the flags. It has the same high esteem and significance as the Pharera itself.
In the battle of Anandpur, 1703 AD, at the time of Guru Gobind Singh, Bhai Man Singh son of Bhai Jita Singh, who was a regular Nishanchi – Nishan-Sahib bearer, was leading the Sikh soldiers with a blue flag. He fell down wounded and the flag came down with him. Watching this, Guru Gobind Singh tore a piece from his blue Dastar (Short turban), left its one end free, tucked the other end into his regular (full) turban and declared that the standard of the Khalsa (Pharera) shall never fall again. Tying a Dastar to a Nishan Sahib started since then. Rarely, there are saffron Dastars (turbans) on some of the saffron Phareras (flags), but it is not the tradition. A Nihang leader displays a blue Pharera (length of cloth) tucked into his turban.
Now a days, it is not uncommon to see a metal frame around Khanda (Double edged sword) at the top, and an electric light fitted to it. On one pole, there was a weathercock fixed atop this frame. It is very common to put up loudspeakers on the pole. Even a light on the same pole should not be okay though it is very useful and may be accepted, but the other objects like loud speakers, appear sacrilegious. Such things are not in good taste, and distort the appearance of Nishan.
In general, the pole of a flag may be wood, bamboo, reed, and cane, metal or plastic – any suitable material will do.
Nishan Sahib – The flagpole is mostly bamboo, except for the permanently fixed poles that are made of iron pipes. The present day metal poles are generally very tall to give direction from far away, to the faithful, and the needy. A pole may have a hinge at its lower end. The tall poles are held with the steel-rope stays. A pulley, bucket, and steel-rope is fixed to pole for changing the worn out flags. The flagpole is covered with the same-colored (saffron, or blue) cloth and it is stitched or tied to the flag and both of these make one unit.
A Khanda (Double edged sword only) is fitted at the top of the flagpole. It affirms the location of a Gurdwara. Khanda may be taken as pointing to the fact that the Sikhs believe in one God. It also, portrays their high spirits, rights, freedom, justice, and sovereignty etc. This is the only religious cum political flag in the world with a weapon at the top of its pole. The cavalry-spears with small flags are a different story.
Nishan Sahib, including its pole, may have any size. Other religions also, don’t seem to have any set standards for size. “Yukti Kalpattar” describes different types of flags depending on the length of the pole according to the political rank of the person.
The flags are traced to the time immemorial to the Hindu culture in India, civilization of China, and Egypt. Perhaps, the first flags were animal heads on poles carried by hunters, and human heads of the vanquished for the winners to boast of their victory. Later, the animal skins were used to make them (Grolier’s encyclopedia).
The flags headed the armies, and also might have been put on the fighting vehicles like chariots as we see in the paintings of the episodes of Mahabharat or Ramayan (the great Hindu epics). Flags are there in the mythological and old historical paintings, too. It is hard to pinpoint the exact era of the start of the flags. There is no doubt these forms of flags kept evolving with time. Each faith has its own flag.
Nishan Sahib – the Sikh Flag. It is generally accepted that it came into being at the time of the 6th Guru Hargobind. In 1608 AD, he erected Akal Bunga (Also called Akal Takht – the Divine Throne), at Amritsar, and fixed a Jhanda (flag – Nishan Sahib) on it. Before this, the Gurus did not use flags. The flag was saffron and at top of the pole was sharp pointed spear-like Khanda. (Gurmatt Matand, SGPC, page 616. Jhanda Sahib, Mahakosh by Kahn Singh). Clearly, the Sixth Master hoisted one flag only and that too, at the top of the building. It was after him that two flags were fitted in the courtyard of Akal Takht. In 1862 AD, Udasi Sadhus Bawa Santokh Das and Pritam Das, set up two Nishan Sahibs close together, at Akal Takht. The one was for Akal Takht and the other for Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) – covering both politics and spirituality.
Introduction of Flag
It was about three years after the advent of Nishan Sahib that King Jahangir confined Guru Hargobind to the fort at Gwalior in 1612 AD. Baba Budha and Bhai Gurdas, two leading Sikhs, organized morning Chaukis – the Holy Hymn singing processions carrying Nishan Sahib, at Amritsar, and around the fort of Gwalior. It was to protest and express their resentment against confining the Guru to the fort.
After the Guru came back to Amritsar, these Chaukis – flag carrying and singing processions, continued in the Parkarma (walkway) around the Golden temple. It was to express their humble thanks to the merciful Waheguru – the Lord, for the release of the Guru. This continues as a Sikh holy tradition. At that time, these marches added the political tinge to the religious flag. The Sixth Master introduced Nishan Sahib – a flag, as an identity, and assertion of the Sikhs. This was the active foundation for the liberty of the country from the grips of the foreigners – first landmark of an open struggle for independence.
Flags at Akal Takht
There are two flags at Akal Takht. Their poles are covered with gold-plate and the both are joined with the two cross bars. At their crossing is fixed a golden Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan emblem, Khanda in it is concave at both edges and is not spear like. This shows that this emblem is a later addition. Tops of the poles have spear-like golden double-edged Khandas. The flags (Phareras) have the Khanda symbols (Khanda-Kirpan-Chakkar), which no doubt also came in later.
The flag towards Akal Takht is one foot shorter than the other. It symbolizes that the temporal power should be under the control of the spiritual authority. Height of the two poles, has also been mentioned by Professor Darshan Singh, Ex. Singh-Sahib (Head) of Akal Takht, in one of his Kirtan (devotional singing) cassette. Dr. Madanjit Kaur, Ex. Head, Department of Guru Nanak Studies, and Dean of the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab, got the measurements taken with a sextant, and confirmed it. The photographs taken by Mr. Gurinder Singh Khokhar, supported this fact.
In the Gurbani (Hymns in Guru Granth Sahib – the Sikh Holy Book), the words like Dhuja, Jhanda, Neja, and Nisan, meaning a flag, have been used –
Mention of Flag in Gurbani
ijsu DIrju Duir Dvlu Dujw syiq bYkuMT bIxw ]
ijs DIrj Dur Dvl Dujw syiq bYkuMT bIxw ]
Jis dh:iraj dh:ur dh:awal dh:uja saet. baaekunth: been.a
(The Guru is such that) his banner of patience is visible right at the start of the bridge to God’s domain.
Svayae Mahlay T.eejae Kae-1393-16.
Puin DRMm Dujw PhrMiq sdw AG puMj qrMg invwrn kau ]
Pun Drm Dujw PhrMq sdw AG puMj qrMg invwrn kå ]
Phun dh:aram Dh:uja fahrant. sad.a agh aap punj t.arrang
And, his banner of righteousness flutters to ward off all the waves of sins.
Svayae Mahle Chauthae Kae-1404-6
kuil soFI gur rwmdws qnu Drm Djw Arjunu hir Bgqw ]
kuil soFI gur rwmdws qnu Drm Djw Arjunu hir Bgqw ]
Kul Sodhi Gur Ramdas t.anu dh:aram dh:uja Arjun Har-e bhagt.a
In the clan of Guru Ramdas a Sodhi, is born Arjun who is the flag of devotion to God
Svayae Mahlae Panjvaen’ Kae-1407-16
We have to keep in the mind that the Hymns, also by the saints and others in the Sikh Holy Book, are in poetry and similes have freely been used by their authors. It is hard to conclude from these that the Gurus before Guru Hargobind had the flags, white or any other.
Udasi saints, got possession of the Golden Temple (Including Akal Takht). Udasi saints Bawa Santokh Das and Pritam Das of Dera Brahm Buta, Amritsar, fixed tall trunks of two trees and put Nishan Sahibs at their tops (1775 A.D). Perhaps, the color used was Bhagwa (Brick red). In 1841 AD, one of them fell down in a storm, and it was placed on one side of the bridge on the Holy Tank. It stayed there neglected for a long time. Kahan Singh, in his Mahan-Kosh writes that the Udasis set up one Nishan Sahib (See under ‘Jhanda-Bunga’). Jhanda Singh, head of the Bhangi-Missal, set up a flag here in 1772 AD (Nagara-Nishan, Gurmatt Martand, SGPC, page 616. Jhanda-Bunga, Mahan Kosh, Kahn Singh, page 410. A talk with Dr. M.S. Nirankari). Evidently, Jhanda Singh fixed one Nishan. Later, research added some more data to the history.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 AD, to 1839 AD) contributed towards the service of the Jhanda Bunga – the Place of flag (Mera Dharam Mera Itihas, SGPC, page 221). After him, one Jhanda was put up by Maharaja Sher Singh, and the other by Sardar Desa Singh of Majitha. Poles of the two were iron-pipes clad with gold covered copper sheet (Jhanda-Bunga, Maha-Kosh).
Origin of the Khanda Symbol
A deep mist surrounds the origin and adoption by the Sikhs of the Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan symbol. In an article in tribune, Mona Puri wrote that “Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan” was a very old symbol and that a replica in stone was preserved in the museum at Madras. According to Dr. Nirankari, its photograph was with the State Archives, Government of Punjab and Patiala.
In his article sent to the author, Mr. Gurbachan Singh, New Jersey, USA, wrote on the basis of Bhai Kahn Singh (Author, Maha-Kosh), that Guru Hargobind (!595 AD – 1644 AD) first hoisted saffron colored Nishan Sahib with the emblem of Khanda, at a village in the police station Phagwara, in the former Kapoorthala state. Detail of the reference was needed. Mr. Naunehal Singh Grewal, referred to the above, and wrote that it took 239 years for the Nishan Sahib to take its final shape by adding the Khanda symbol to it. It needed references.
Dr. Madanjit Kaur checked pictures of the coins and medals of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in an article on the symbols, medals, seals, and coins of the Maharaja, by Mr. Manmohan Singh, Secretary to the Government of India. He did not find a Khanda-symbol on anyone of them. Mr. Manmohan Singh, disclosed to Dr. M.S. Nirankari that two Sikh army flags in the British Museum at London, bore the symbol of Kartik – god of war (a peacock). It is clear that even in the era of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, this Khanda-symbol was most probably not in existence or in use.
In a personal talk, Dr. M.S. Nirankari referred to an English writer that the flags at the Golden Temple were red, and that on one was written Dhan Guru Ramdas and on the other, “Ik-Oankar Satgur-Parsad.”
Dr. Dilgir writes that Khanda-symbol came in the time of Nirmalas, the color of the flag was blue, the Khanda-symbol was yellow, and that the Khanda symbol was unanimously accepted by the Sikh Panth. References have not been given.
This Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan symbol was perhaps designed for the Sikh army by the Britishers (Dr. .M.S. Nirankari and Dr. Madanjit Kaur). The photocopy of the two current Khanda-symbols used in the army, was sent to the author by Brig: Pal Singh, Sakchi, Jamshedpur, Bihar. One of it showed a Kirpan standing directly on top of a Chakkar. In the other, there was a lion inside a Chakkar.
The flag of Iran has a Khanda like emblem but it is calligraphic representation of the Kalma (Islamic religious formula).
Some people use the symbols of two crossed Nishan Sahibs or similarly placed two arrows, on their letter heads etc. The only popular symbol is Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan. Another commonly used symbol is <> Ik-Oankar.
At the Gurdwara Sachkhand Hazoor Sahib, an arrow has a great significance. There, anything offered is sanctified (accepted by the Guru) by touching it with a steel arrow. The significance of an arrow-symbol might have arisen from there. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale carried a steel arrow, and some Nihangs also do so.
Making personal symbols looking like Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan, may create confusion, and is not in a good taste. It is also, not reasonable to modify Ik-Onkar in any way. It should be fine to make any appropriate thing around these symbols.
Khanda symbol remains un-standardized. Khanda projects above the Chakkar, remains below it, or its tip stays covered by it. The grips of the Khanda and Kirpans also, have no set shape. The proportion of the sizes of the weapons differs, too. Some, like the Coat of Arms, add arrows or flags to the Khanda symbol.
Nishan Sahib links the Sikhs with their Guru, God, and gives direction to their Gurdwara – place of their worship. It is a symbol of the life according to the Sikh ethics, justice, equality, sovereignty and independence of the Sikh thought and faith. It shows that the Sikh is always in high morale, his or her thinking is lofty, for every thinghe or she looks up to only one God, and stays related to Him.The saffron Nishan Sahib is the pride of all those who believe in the Gurus` philosophy, and they ever keep ready even to offer their lives for its glory! Everyday, in their Ardas – invocation, they say, “Jhandae Bungae jugo jugg atall”- Eternal be the Nishan Sahib and its citadel!
Nishan Sahib On Gurdwaras
Nishan Sahib is always there on a Gurdwara. There is no limit or restriction on their numbers, heights, sizes, and the sites of their hoisting. Maharaja Ranjit Singh took care that all the Gurdwaras had flags (Dr. M.S. Nirankari). Some Gurdwaras have a second flag mostly offered by a person on his or her wish fulfillment (Goindwal Sahib), or in the memory of the visit of Guru Hargobind (Gurdwara Khadoor Sahib). Mostly, display of a Nishan Sahib means that the place is related to the Panth (The Sikh world) and is open to the public. Nishan Sahibs located highest in the world are gracefully fluttering on the 17,000 feet Sapt-Sring peaks around the Hemkunt Lake (Himalayan Ranges), in U.P. (Uttar Pradesh), India.
A gently fluttering Nishan Sahib is a call to the needy, and to all those turned away and rejected by others, ” Come on. You are most welcome. Here is food for you, a place to rest, and a devoted service without any discrimination of faith, caste, color, status, sex or country.” (Saint Balwant Singh, Hassanpura Khurd, Batala). After staying there, in addition the guests will have the benefit of uplifting their minds with a bonus of listening to “Asa Dee Var.” (Musical recitation of the Holy Hymns) – a morning routine in the Gurdwaras (Sant Balwant Singh).
Long time back, Sant Balwant Singh was traveling at night. Directed by the highest light of Nishan Sahib, he went to the Gurdwara. The Granthi (care-taker) offered him food, place to sleep, and massaged the feet of the saint. On questioning, he said, “You have come to the Guru Nanak`s house. See that Nishan Sahib! It calls and guarantees affectionate care, food and a place to rest” –
Jhooltae Nishan rahaena Panth Maharaj kae
May ever flutter banner of the Great Panth!
Note – The author of “Jhoolte Nishan Rahaen.” is not known. It was a popular slogan at the time of Akali-Lehar (Akali movement).
Excerpts taken from ESSAYS ON SIKH VALUES by Dr Kulwant Singh Khokhar