The practise of Jhatka is one of the most recognisable rituals of the Nihang Singhs. It involves killing an animal, usually a goat, with one swift swing of a sword which painlessly kills the animal with one blow. Jhatka is one of the most contentious and misunderstood traditions of the Nihang Singhs. It has always been an important tradition within the Khalsa and its existence is well documented in historical literature. At major festivals and celebrations Nihang Singhs perform Jhatka and distribute the resulting goat meat which is termed Mahaparshad, meaning blessed food. Within the Dalpanth, mobile battalions of the Nihang Singhs, Jhatka is performed much more regularly and meat forms and important part of the diet due to the rigorous and physically demanding lifestyle its members live. “Jhatka is a distinguishable tradition of the Nihang Singhs. The Khalsa has been performing Jhatka since the time of the Gurus, it is part of our Kshatri (warrior) tradition. One is at liberty to choose for themselves whether or not they wish to eat Mahaparshad. Many oppose the tradition of Jhatka and the British tried to ban it, this means nothing to us and we will carry practising the traditions entrusted to us by our Gurus.” The internationally renowned Sikh preacher Giani Thakur Singh Ji, a student of Damdami Taksal, explains the tradition as follows: "Nihang Singhs eat Jhatka meat because of their traditions. The Guru allowed this tradition of Jhatka to be practised within his army and by his soldiers; it was not for civilians to eat. Maharaj said to them that if need be you may Jhatka an animal and eat it, not just goats or chickens but any animal you may find in the jungle. The Nihang Singhs of today still follow this tradition. When performing Jhatka on a goat, first the goat is bathed, then japji Sahib and Chandi Di Var are read. One Singh stands by the head of the goat and upon the final lines of Chandi Di Var being read, ‘Those who sing this divine ballad will be liberated from the realm of life and death’, at this moment the goat is decapitated with one blow and the soul of the goat is liberated. The goat itself lowers its head to receive salvation”. (Giani Thakur Singh, Asa Di Var Viakhya Part 25) The late Jathedar Baba Kharak Singh, a revered warrior-saint of the Budha Dal, performs Jhatka Once the goats head has been removed in one blow, the blood is collected in an iron utensil and is used to anoint the Guru’s battle standards and weaponry in the Gurus army. This is a form of shastar puja or weapons worship. Jathedar Baba Surjeet Singh explains; “Weapons are sustained by blood. We make an offering to our weapons which have been praised extensively by the Tenth Guru within their writings. We offer the blood to the Guru’s battle standards and pray that whenever we go to war with the Guru’s grace we shall be victorious.” (Oral Interview, July 2007) The goat is then skinned; the skin of a goat has historically had great worth within the Sikh tradition. As well as being used to make various utensils and clothing, goats skin continues to be used to prepare Tabla drums which can be found in all Sikh Gurdware to accompany other instruments in the rendition of Kirtan (religious music). Furthermore, goats skin was also used to make the battle drums (nagara) of the Khalsa. Rattan Singh Bhangu mentions that when a small group of Singhs under the command of Nihang Tara Singh Wan were preparing for battle against a large Turk force sent from Lahore; The tradition traces back to the time of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji who started the tradition of hunting for Sikhs. Even today Nihang Singhs continue to enjoy hunting trips and often wear either boar tusks or lion claws as a decorative piece as a trophy of their hunt. The Sikh community situated at Hazoor Sahib also frequently hunt in the jungles surrounding Nanded.. The goat is the favourite animal for Nihang Singhs to Jhatka. Bhai Gurdas Ji, the foremost philosopher of the Sikh tradition elucidates various reasons for this; In the inimitable Sikh spirit of divine service to humanity, Sardar Karam Singh ji, the father of Baba Mit Singh ji , sadly passed away in 1903 while freely administering medicine to plague victims in the region. Baba Mit Singh ji was also briefly infected with the deadly plague, though he was marvellously healed by God's holy touch. The tradition was later reinforced by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who upon delivering baptismal vows to the Khalsa instructed; ‘Drink the immortal nectar and upon joining the Khalsa fold go hunting. Continually seek to perfect your use of weapons. Perform Jhatka and eat goats. Do not even go near Halal meat.’ (Pracchin Panth Parkash Steek, Part 1, Page 110) As well as providing nutritional value, Jhatka helps prepare one for the scenes which are witnessed in warfare, many do not take likely to scenes of blood and death and therefore the exposure to Jhatka is essential. Furthermore, the head of goat is believed to require roughly the same amount of force that is required to take off the head of a man. Thus, Jhatka has been a great way for Nihang Singhs to practise their martial skills. Recognising the importance of Jhatka for Nihang Singhs many Sants of past and present have at times made offerings of Goats to Nihang Singh battalions. Sant Joga Singh of Karnal closely associated with the Nanaksar samprada is one such saint. The effect of meat on a person’s spirituality varies from individual to individual, the great saint and author Bhai Raghbir Singh Bir in his writings on spiritual living writes; ‘It is my personal view that excessive consumption of meat has evil effects and retards the spiritual progress. Its consumption should be reduced to the minimum. More liberal use should be made of milk, fruit and vegetables. I have, at times, eaten meat daily, and at other times, avoided it for a full year at a stretch, and have come to the conclusion that meat should be eaten sparingly, say, once or twice a week. Of course, those who do not eat meat at all, considering it unsuitable for spiritual growth are at liberty to do so as they choose.’ (Bandgi Nama – Communion with the Divine, page 194) “Today people have changed traditions in order to please the desire of the tongue and eat other forms of meat from shops etc...Jhatka was a special tradition that was only for the soldiers of the Guru to practise, not normal householder Sikhs.” (Giani Thakur Singh, Asa Di Var Viakhya Part 25) Partap Singh Mehta, while commenting on the Gurus instructions regarding meat states; ‘Satguru has ordered one to make the following choice, first draw a line and decide which side you want to stand on. If you wish to carry arms and live according to Kshatri Dharam (way of a warrior) then you should go hunting, hold foremost Kshatri ideals and eat meat. If you wish to stay Vaishnu (vegetarian) or follow the path of the saints then meat is forbidden. Those who wish just to meditate on God and those of Sattvic nature should not eat meat as it promotes Tamogun within the mind. They who practise for Dharam yudh and the protection of the weak, in battle they must spill much blood and be ready to sacrifice their own life. Such a person should have no fear of hunting and eating meat as they are preserving their Kshatri Dharam. But remember this, to eat meat because the tongue desires it or to indulge in pleasure is sin and in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji it is said such a person will reap severe punishment.’ (Sau Sakhi Steek, Part 2, page 137) Nihang leaders stress the point meat resulting from Jhatka performed according to Nihang Singh traditions may be consumed, no other meat from shops etc, known as ‘khulla mass’ or freedom of meat, can be eaten: ‘This is not Kshatri Dharam (way of a warrior). Don’t shame us by wondering in shops, restaurants, market places etc eating meat, refrain from doing this! Perform Jhatka with your own hands and go hunting for prey. Only then are we permitted to eat meat’ (Jathedar Baba Santa Singh, Pracchin Panth Parkash Steek, Part 1, page 110) “Those who wish to eat meat should eat Jhatka which gears individuals towards warfare. Those Sikhs who just wish to perform selfless service and meditate should avoid meat and maintain a very simple diet. There is no obligation on anyone to eat meat, one should never eat khulla mass.” (Jathedar Baba Joginder Singh, Oral Interview July 2006) “It is important to perform Jhatka to anoint our weapons with blood and make an offering to Bhagauti. It then becomes mahaparshad (great blessed food) and one is free to make their own choice whether or not they want to eat this. Guru Sahib has instructed that one may perform Jhatka and eat meat. However, one should never eat meat brought from shops, butchers or restaurants. Who knows in what condition the animal, what illnesses it may have had and by what means it was killed?”(Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh, Oral Interview July 2007) Conclusion Jhatka is an ancient Kshatri ritual which the Sikhs have practised since the times of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and was reinforced by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It is of great spiritual significance and also serves physical purposes. Prominent Sikh historians of past and present and non-Sikhs sources have given various examples of Jhatka being performed, including at the Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Deliberate attempts to demilitarise Sikhs and efforts of Sikh saints have lead to many Sikhs being ignorant of this historical tradition. Nihang Singhs and other Sikhs have kept alive this tradition and forbid consumption of non-Jhatka meat.