KHĀLSĀ, from Arabic khālis (lit. pure, unsullied) and Perso-Arabic khālisah (lit. pure; office of revenue department; lands directly under government management), is used collectively for the community of baptized Sikhs. The term khālisah was used during the Muslim rule in India for crown-lands administered directly by the king without the mediation of jāgīrdārs or mansabdārs. In the Sikh tradition, the term appears for the first time in one of the hukamnāmās (lit. written order or epistle) of Gurū Hargobind (1595-1644) where a saṅgat of the eastern region has been described as Gurū kā Khālsā (Gurū's own or Gurū's special charge ) . It has also been employed in the same sense in one of the letters of Gurū Tegh Bahādur (1621-75) addressed to the saṅgat of Paṭnā. The word occurs in Sikh Scripture, the Gurū Granth Sāhib, once, but there it carries the sense of the term khālis, i.e. pure.
The term "Khālsā", however, acquired a specific connotation after Gurū Gobind Siṅgh (1666-1708) introduced, on 30 March 1699, the new form of initiatory rites --- khaṇḍe dī pāhul (rites by khaṇḍā or double-edged sword). Sikhs so initiated on that Baisākhī day were collectively designated as the Khālsā --- Khālsā who belonged to Vāhigurū, the Supreme Lord. The phrase Vāhigurū Jī kā Khālsā became part of the Sikh salutation: Vāhigurū Jī kā Khālsā, Vāhigurū Jī kī Fateh (Hail the Khālsā who belongs to the Lord God! Hail the Lord God to whom belongs the victory!!) It is significant that shortly before the inauguration of the Khālsā Gurū Gobind Siṅgh had abolished the institution of masands, the Gurū's agents or intermediaries assigned to saṅgat, of different regions, and his hukamnāmās of the period confirm the derecognition of masands, establishing a direct relation between the saṅgats and the Gurū. Saināpati, a poet enjoying the patronage of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, in his Srī Gur Sobhā relates how some Sikhs, when questioned how they had become Khālsā because khālsā was a term related to the king of Delhi, replied that their Gurū by removing his former nāibs or deputies called masands had made all Sikhs his Khālsā. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, at the time of his departure from this mortal world, conferred gurūship itself upon the Khālsā along with the holy Gurū Granth Sāhib. During the eighteenth century the volunteer force organized by the Sikhs was known as Dal Khālsā (lit. the Khālsā army). Even the government of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh (1780-1839) was called Sarkār-i-Khālsā. In Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's Dasam Granth, and in many later religious and historical Sikh texts, such as Sarbloh Granth, Prem Sumārg Granth, Gur Bilāses, Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth and Prāchīn Panth Prakāsh, the Khālsā is repeatedly extolled as composed of men of excellent moral qualities, spiritual fervour and heroism.
The words "Khālsā jī" are also used loosely for addressing an individual Siṅgh or a group of them. However, it is more appropriate to use the term for the entire community or a representative gathering of it such as "Khālsā Panth" or "Sarbatt Khālsā.” The Khālsā in this context implies the collective, spiritually-directed will of the community guided by the Gurū Granth Sāhib.