Guru Sahib Ji considered the best soldiers were those who were physically strong, mentally and morally sound and also who were ready to lay down their lives smilingly without hesitation or second thought. Guru Ji instilled in them that war was for the privileged and martyrdom in combat the ultimate honour. The culmination of this was when Guru Gobind Singh Ji staged a most extraordinary feat on Vaisakhi 1699 in order to create the nucleus of his army by creating the Panj Piyaray and the Khalsa panth.
The myth of martial and non-martial races need not be given much credence as three of his baptised Panj Pyairay were from low and untouchable classes of society. Guru Sahib Ji slashed down the age old traditions of society that war was the prerogative of the Kahatris alone. Any one, who was sincere, puritan by heart could be a soldier in the Guru’s army. To Guru Gobind Singh Ji all races could fight equally well if and when provided with a just cause and good leadership.
The leader and the led where like a hand in a glove. Both fight a common enemy with a single mission – either victory or martyrdom. Irrespective of their ranks and status both leader and led in the Gurus army sat and ate together.
They were given the name Singh (lion) which even today is a basic factor to prove the universal brotherhood of the Khalsa; a pure soldier fighting for the cause of righteousness against tyranny and injustice in the name of Dharama.
Guru Ji symbolised war as Dharam Yudh which was a war of righteousness in which, participants were proclaimed as God’s warriors, fighting battles under God’s protection and gained victories in His name.
The sword became a substitute for the rosary with which God was to be saluted and worshipped. It was to strike terror into the hearts of the oppressor and infuse courage and confidence in the hearts of his Khalsa soldiers.
At this occasion Guru Ji blessed the Khalsa with the battle cry of “Bole so nihal Sat siri Akaal” – The one who believes in the truth of God is immortal; which ever has been shouted has unnerved and nonplussed the enemy in the battle field. In the eyes of General Wavell “Never met a despondent Sikh in the front line, in a hospital, in the rear, he may moan over a small wound but in a fight, he will go on to his last breath and die laughing at the thought of paradise with the battle cry of Bole so nihal Sat siri Akaal as he falls.”
To begin with, one out of four Sikhs in a family was required to enlist as a regular soldier in the Guru’s army. If a family found it difficult to spare a member, it then bore the expense of employing a soldier. This had to be resorted to because the common masses dreaded the very thought of fighting the Mughals who had established themselves in all spheres of life. But gradually the people began to realise that in order to alleviate their sufferings, despondency and frustration a third community under the leadership of Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the only solution.
Within a short time, in response to Guru Ji’s call, large bands of Sikhs from the villages far and near Anandpur Sahib volunteered to join Guru Ji’s army. In fact Guru Ji’s message was so deep rooted and strong that Sikh boys, before they learnt to tie their turbans learnt the use of arms, and white bearded men wanted to join up. The Khalsa was fed on the divine words of chivalry and fearlessness.