DASVANDH or Dasaundh, lit. a tenth part, refers to the practice among Sikhs of contributing in the name of the Gurū one-tenth of their earnings towards the common resources of the community. This is their religious obligation - a form of sevā or humble service so highly valued in the Sikh system. The concept of dasvandh was implicit in Gurū Nānak's own line: "ghāli khāi kichhu hathhu dei, Nānak rāhu pachhāṇahi sei-He alone, O Nānak, knoweth the way who eats out of what he earneth by his honest labour and yet shareth part of it with others" (GG, 1245). The idea of sharing and giving was nourished by the institutions of saṅgat (holy assembly) and laṅgar (community kitchen) the Gurū had established. In the time of Gurū Amar Dās, Nānak III, a formal structure for channelizing Sikh religious giving was evolved. He set up 22 mañjīs or districts in different parts of the country, each placed under the charge of a pious Sikh who, besides preaching Gurū Nānak's word, looked after the saṅgats within his/her jurisdiction and transmitted the disciple's offerings to the Gurū. As the digging of the sacred pool, amrit-sar, and erection in the middle of it of the shrine, Harimandar, began under Gurū Rām Dās entailing large amounts of expenditure, Sikhs were enjoined to set apart a minimum of ten per cent (dasvandh) of their income for the common pool, Gurū kī Golak (q. v.). Masands, i. e. ministers and tithe collectors, were appointed to collect kār bheṭ (offerings) and dasvandh from Sikhs in the area they were assigned to, and pass these onto the Gurū.

         Dasvandh has since become part of the Sikh way of life. The custom bears parallels to Christian tithes requiring members of the church to pay a tenth part of the annual produce of their land or its equivalent in money to support it and the clergy, and to Muslim zakāt requiring assignment of 2. 5 per cent of one's annual wealth for the welfare of the destitute and the needy. Classical Indian society had no set procedure for regulating donations or charities, though references are traceable such as those in Parāśar Rishi's writings urging the householder to reserve 1/21 part of his income for Brāhmaṇs and 1/31 part for the gods. The Upaniṣads and the Bhagavadgītā commend "true alms" given with a sense of duty in a fit place and at a fit time to a deserving person from whom one expects nothing in return. Dasvandh is, however, to be distinguished from dān or charity. It essentially attends to the needs of the community and contributions are made specifically for the maintenance of its religious institutions such as gurdwārā and Gurū kā Laṅgar and projects of social welfare and uplift.

         The custom of dasvandh was codified in documents called rahitnāmās, manuals of Sikh conduct, written during the lifetime of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh or soon after. For example, Bhāī Nand Lāl's Tankhāhnāmā records : "Hear ye, Nand Lāl, says Gobind Siṅgh, one who does not give dasvandh and, telling lies, misappropriates it, is not at all to be trusted. " The tradition has been kept alive by chosen Sikhs who to this day scrupulously fulfil the injunction. The institution itself serves as a means for the individual to practice personal piety as well as to participate in the ongoing history of the community, the Gurū Panth.


  1. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944
  2. Gopal Singh, A History of the Sikh People. Delhi, 1979
  3. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970
  4. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990
  5. Cole, W. Owen and Piara Singh Sambhi, The Sikhs : Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Delhi, 1978

Wazir Siṅgh