RĀJ KAREGĀ KHĀLSĀ, lit. "the Khālsā shall rule," a phrase expressive of the will of the Sikh people to sovereignty, is part of the anthem which follows the litany or ardās recited at the end of every religious service of the Sikhs. While the ardās is said by an officiant or any Sikh leading the saṅgat standing and facing Gurū Granth Sāhib, the anthem is recited aloud in unison by everyone present, with responses from the assembly. Rendered into English the anthem comprising doharās or couplets reads:
1. Verily by the order of God the Immortal was the Panth promulgated. It is incumbent upon all the Sikhs to regard the Granth as their Gurū.
2. Regard the Granth as the Gurū, the manifest body of the Gurūs. Those who desire to be united with God may find Him in the Śabda, the holy Word.
3. The Khālsā shall rule and none will remain defiant; all such shall come into the fold after wandering in humiliation. All who take refuge (in the Panth) shall be protected.
Some more couplets follow signifying the ultimate victory of the Panth and praise of God and the Gurū. While the first two couplets appear in Giānī Giān Siṅgh, Panth Prakāsh (1878),as srī mukhvāk, i.e. the Gurū's own utterance, the third is found at the end of Bhāī Nānd Lāl's Tankhāhnāmā, a catalogue of prohibitions laid down for initiated Sikhs. The remaining couplets have no authentic source and might well be later additions by the devout.
The ideas embodied in the three couplets cited relate to two basic themes, the Panth and the Granth, a restatement of the earlier doctrine of mīrī-pīrī or the symbiosis of the mundane and the spiritual, of religion and politics. The statement that the Khālsā Panth was created under God's own command is substantiated by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's autobiographical Bachitra Nāṭak in which he states, that God sent him into this world to uphold dharma and to uproot evil. And the Gurū's parting order to the Sikhs to treat the Holy Book as their manifest Gurū confirms the earlier belief that the Gurū's utterances represent the Gurū. ‘Śabda is Gurū,' had said Gurū Nānak (GG, 943);'Gurū’s bāṇī is the Gurū and vice versa,' says Gurū Rām Dās (GG, 982); and the Book is the abode of God,' said Gurū Arjan, Nānak V, who compiled the Holy Book, the Gurū Granth Sāhib (GG,1226).
The third couplet, rāj karegā Khālā āqī rahe nā koe, khuār hoe sab milaiṅge bache saran jo hoe, appearing at the end of Tankhāhnāmā, lit. code laying down penalties for faltering Sikhs, is the Gurū's blessing as well as the expression of his vision of the destiny of the Khālsā (Panth). It is this blessing and this vision which carried the Panth, under the Granth, triumphantly through the cataclysmic half century that followed the departure of the founder of the Khālsā.
The idea that the Khālsā was destined to rule may be expected to appear spontaneously after the institution of the Khālsā. The Sikh doctrine that religious worship and social commitment are interrelated and that political participation and power are complementary to Sikhs' religious activity, makes the aspiration to political power as a fulcrum for social change and upliftment quite legitimate. Saināpati, a poet contemporary of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, closes his Srī Gur Sobhā declaring: "The Gurū, king of kings, shall establish righteousness upon earth through the Khālsā." The author of Prem Sumārag, who attributes his work to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, writing in mid-eighteenth century, prophesies the establishment of the rule of the Khālsā. Kuir Siṅgh and Sarūp Dās Bhallā, also in the eighteenth century, project the idea, that sovereign rule had been potentially bestowed upon the Khālsā by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh Ratan Siṅgh Bhaṅgū, writing in 1841, espouses the same theory.
The idea of protection in the second line of the couplet is a logical concomitant of the idea of divine sanction guaranteeing authority to the Khālsā. Khālsā being God's own (Vāhigurū Jī kā Khālsā), its victories (and achievements) also belong to God (Vāhigurū jī kī Fateh). And God for the Sikhs is the Compassionate Preserver. He gives protection to those who seek it. Says the Gurū Granth Sāhib, jo saranī āvai tisu kanṭhi lāvai ihu birdu suāmī sandā (GG, 544). Bache saran jo hoi is, therefore, essential to rāj karegā Khālsā. That the Khālsā acted upon this edict is evidenced by the brief Khālsā rule under Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur ensuring peace and security for all subjects regardless of their class or creed. Even the enemy chronicler, Qāzī Nūr Muhammad, in spite of his obvious hatred for the Sikhs, writes in his Jaṅgnāmā, lit. war notes (1767): "nakushtand nāmard rā hechgāh, farārandah rā ham na gīrand rāh never do they (the Sikh warriors) kill the weak, nor do they chase those who flee the field." The Khālsā raj as it came to be established under Bandā Siṅgh was liberal and free from religious fanaticism and social discrimination. The ideas enshrined in the Sikh anthem and crystallized in the liberation of the Land of the Five Rivers from the Mughal and Afghān rule, acquired a new momentum and sanctity. The continued recitation of the rāj karegā Khālsā anthem as part of litany at least twice a day has been for the Sikhs a constant source of inspiration and strength in their religious, social and political life in the past and shall always act as continuous stimulus for the future.
J. S. Grewāl