KĀR BHEṬ, from Persian kār (lit. work, labour, occupation) and Hindi bheṇṭ (lit. meeting, offering), denotes voluntary offering made by a devotee to the Gurū. It has been a common practice especially in India, for one going to make obeisance to a saint, teacher, the deity, or king to carry with him some bheṇṭ or offering. The bheṇṭ, as distinguished from legal or customary taxes or tithes, could be in the form of cash, jewellery, a quantity of grain or some other farm produce. If one had nothing better to offer, one could take out a flower, a petal or a green leaf. The term kār bheṭ which gained currency in early Sikhism signified offerings made by Sikhs to the Gurū. A typical connotation was that kār bheṭ must come from earnings made by honest labour or work (kār). Gurū Nānak had extolled kirat, synonymous with kār or ghāl (hard physical labour or industry). Further, unlike bheṇṭ which once offered became the property of the personage to whom it was offered, kār bheṭ was meant to be spent on works of service, such as Gurū kā Laṅgar, the free community kitchen, the digging of wells and tanks and construction of dharamsālās or places of worship. Sikhs brought offerings to the Gurū directly or made these over to masands or leaders appointed by the Gurū in different parts. The masands carried the collections to the Gurū when they led saṅgats to his presence or otherwise visited him. The system remained in vogue until the time of Gurū Gobind Singh who, receiving complaints of malpractice, discontinued it and instructed the saṅgats or local fellowships or devotees to organize collection of kar bheṭ and its remittance to the Gurū through huṇḍīs, equivalent of modern bank drafts. Now offerings, mostly in cash, are laid in front of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, by the devotees as they go to the gurdwārās to pay homage and to perform religious devotions. The word in common use today is dasvandh or one-tenth of the income which every Sikh is expected to contribute in the name of the Gurū to the common funds of the community.

         It is relevant to compare kār bheṭ to kār sevā, another peculiarly Sikh practice of offering free voluntary labour for works such as the desilting of sarovars, or sacred tanks, and building or rebuilding of gurdwārās.


  1. Kāhn Siṅgh, Bhāī, Gurmat Mārtaṇḍ. Amritsar, 1962
  2. Padam, Piārā Siṅgh, Rahitnāme. Patiala, 1971

Tāran Siṅgh