The Sikh Flag-Nishan Sahib Part One -Gurcharan Singh Kulim,Kamuning Hills/London The position of the Nishan sahib among the Sikhs is not only significant and important but unique and unparalleled when compared to the flags in the rest of the world.There has been little constructed discussion, and far less constitutional understanding among the Sikhs regards the Nishan sahib and its existence and... position in the Sikh faith.Many think it's significance is simply as much as that of the flag of a country! I would like to explore this further and share my research and understanding about the subject, history, development and origins of the Nishan Sahib, associated with some historical antcedents. Unlike the flags of other nations, the Nishan sahib is not simply a flag of the Sikhs.It is connected seriously to the Sikhs developed tradition, Sikh image / vision, Sikh cultural and religio-spiritual history of its people and the community's futuristic aspirations. The Nishan sahib is undoubtedly the 'living' ensign of the continual high spirited development of the Sikhs, it is the sign of the ever revolutionary Sikh religion and its hard working adherents.It is perhaps the only flag that was created for more than being a flag.Many may believe that it is the expression of our military and warrior might and a window of the fighting qualities of the martial Sikhs; and that it began with Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, which is an incorrect assumption. Guru Amardas Ji in the following shabad merited by a bhat called kalashar says- Jis dhiraj dhor dhaval dhuja, sait bekunth binna. Sawaiye meh 3rd,1392/15 [ਜਿਸ ਧੀਰਜ ਢੋਰ ਧਵਲ ਧੁਜਾ , ਸਿਤ ਬੇਕੁੰਠ ਬਿੰਨਾ . ਸਵੈਯੇ ਮੇਹਲਾ ੩ਰ੍ਦ ,੧੩੯੨ /੧੫] This shabad indicates that there was a white Flag that flew over the centre at Goindwal sahib.This suggests that prior to Gur Hargobind sahib there was already the Nishan of PIRI- saintliness - in existence. Some scholars of Sikhism, are of the opinion that the mentioned white flag carried the sign of the ੧(ਓੰ This flag is believed to represent Guru Nanak's Era [raj]- rule- as said in Ramkali Vaar, Rai Balwand, pages 966/15 Nanak Raj Chalaiya sach kott stani niv de// funn Dharam dhuja farhat sda aggh punj trangg nivawaran kau// [ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਜ ਚਲਾਯਾ ਸਚ ਕੋੱਟ ਸਤਾਣੀ ਨੀਵ ਦੇ // ਫੁੰਨ ਧਰਮ ਧੁਜਾ ਫਰੱਹਟ ਸਦਾ ਅਗ੍ਗ੍ਹ ਪੁੰਜ ਤ੍ਰਾਨੱਗ ਨਿਵਾਵਾਰਾਂ ਕੌੳ//] sawaiye :4,Bhat Mathra Pages 1404/06..... However, this colour appears to have changed from white to saffron.Further changes took place which we will discuss later on ... after the martydom of Guru Arajan Dev Ji. In swaiye 5, kal, pages 1407/016 it says ...Dharam dhuja Arjan har Bhagta....[ਧਰਮ ਧੂਜਾ ਅਰਜਨ ਹਰ ਭਗਤਾ ] In the supplicatory prayers[ARDAS],it is read This Sikhaa Noo Sikhee Daan, Kesh Daan, Rehit Daan, Bibek Daan, Bharosaa Daan, Daanaa Sir Daan Naam Daan, Chounkiyaa Jhande Bunge Jugo Jug Attal, Dharam Ka Jai Kaar Bolo Ji Waheguroo ਸਿਖਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਸਿਖੀ ਦਾਨ , ਕੇਸ਼ ਦਾਨ , Rehit ਦਾਨ , ਬਿਬੇਕ ਦਾਨ , ਭਰੋਸਾ ਦਾਨ , ਦਾਨਾ ਸਿਰ ਦਾਨ ਨਾਮ ਦਾਨ , ਚੋਉਂਕਿਯਾਂ ਝੰਡੇ ਬੁੰਗੇ ਜੁਗੋ ਜੁਗ ਅੱਟਲ , ਧਰਮ ਕਾ ਜੈ ਕਾਰ ਬੋਲੋ ਜੀ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ] Kindly confer upon the Sikhs the gift of Sikhism, the gift of long hair, the gift of observing Sikh laws, the gift of divine knowledge, the gift of firm faith, the gift of belief and the biggest gift of Name. O God! May the choirs, the mansion and the banners exist forever; may the truth ever triumph; utter Wahe Guru (Wondrous God)! Thus, it can be seen there is a special mention and position of the Nishan Sahib in the most important part of Sikh prayers.Sikh history tells that Sikhs have fought bravely and attained martydom while defending the Nishan Sahib. Just how important and privileged the Nishan Sahib is regarded by the Sikh Panth can be gauged from the following story of one Sikh, Bhai Alam Singh Ji. It is said, Bhai Alam Singh Ji was captured by the Mughals during the second battle of Anandpur Sahib, as he advanced far forward than the Sikh positions, and continued to carry the fluttering Sikh Nishan Sahib proudly and without fear.He soon found himself surrounded by the enemy soldiers.The Mughal Commander ordered Alam Singh Ji to " throw the Nishan Sahib down ".Bhai Alam Singh Ji replied, "THIS Flag is the symbol of my personal dignity and that of my Guru and I will never let it fall". The Mughal Commander then says"we will cut off your hands, in that case." Bhai Alam Singh Ji without an iota of fear, replied, "In that case , I will carry the Nishan Sahib with my feet".The Mughal said , we will cut off your legs too. Bhai Alam Singh Ji boldly defying ,responded," Then, I will hold it between my lips, with my mouth!This flag belongs to my GURU , I will never let it fall ever" The commander retorted, 'we will blow your head off, what will you do then?'Bhai Alam Singh Ji responded by saying "In that case, only HE, who owns & is the Master of this Nishan Sahib, will come himself in person to up hold it and the Khalsa Panth's dignity high!But while I breath, I will hold it high". In those days, the rules of war were that no flag carrier was ever killed or shot by the enemy, but the Mughal commander seeing such fierce and embolden defiance from Bhai Alam Singh; with one swipe, cut off Bhai Alam Singh Ji's head, in clear violation of the agreed rules of engagement in battle. But it is said that before the Nishan Sahib could fall to the ground, Guru Gobind Singh Ji's [son]Sahibzada, Baba Ajit Singh Ji appeared and took hold of the Nishan sahib and held the Nishan Sahib high with one hand, while with the other he slayed off the head of the Mughal Commander,spreading fear and chaos in the ranks of the enemy! The Nishan sahib is a gift from the Guru ji.As it flies and flutters majestically high in the air, the Guru Ji 's entire message of Sikhism is shared over the Gurduara sahib and holds firmly, giving out its light of hope and truth of Naam,Jaap and sewa as well as symbolising the victorious Guru Khalsa.It also reflects the autonoumous state of mind, spirit and physical independance of the Sikhs. May it flutter forever, as the Sikhs live and prosper.Historians & experts of Punjabi language define the Nishan sahib as a triangular piece of cloth,[Far-lha], saffron in colour, hung on a spear or a high pole with a pointed khanda,[double egded sword];embeded into that triangular cloth is the Sikh emblem of Khanda[with a round chakra, with a double edged sword running in its middle with two kirpans on either side of the chakra] It is advised and is a historically customary practice among Sikhs,that if a Nishan sahib is hoisted for the first time, then it should be brought from a historically important shrine or spot.It is firmly believed it will fly forever and offer guidance and dignity and be part of the history of the Sikhs in time to come. The Nishan sahib is triangular in shape,with both top opposing ends @ 45 degrees.It is embeded with an ੧(ੳੰ [EK'o'n] and the Khanda. A number of historical records are associated with the Nishan Sahib.In one , Pracheen Panth Prakash,by Rattan Singh Bhangoo,written after 33 years of effort between 1808 to 1841, it is said that an item similar to the Nishan sahib was seen flying in the Sachkhand [place similar to heavens, where truth reigns supreme]and it was brought down for the Panth.[Pracheen Panth Prakash is the first recorded account of Sikh history written by a Sikh] Kesri patt do sangh hille, bijlee jaise khayal [ ਕੇਸਰੀ ਪੱਟ ਦੋ ਸੰਘ ਹਿੱਲੇ ,ਬਿਜਲੀ ਜੈਸੇ ਖਯਾਲ] [saffronly clad, two powers flutter, like lightening is the thoughtful mind]. What has been beautifully narrated and brought out here, becomes interestingly definite.Whose minds and thoughts can be like lightening fast and thoughtful?Only that of the Khalsa created by the Tenth Master. The Nishan sahib is the lifeline of the brave, unique and one who is trained to fight off 125,000 with intelligent actions and thoughts.As such the definition,importance, belonging and ownership of the Nishan sahib becomes clossally magnificent to describe in simple words and far more important for Sikhs and their proud psyche. According to the writings of Bhai Nand Lal Ji,the Nishan Sahib of Guru Gobind Singh had the writings WAHEGURU JI KI FATEH upon it. At this point, let us revert back to the words of the ardas, supllicatory prayer,in which the Nishan sahib continually strengthens our whole,and commitment,to the coporate Panth,self individual and Humanity.:- Prithme Sarbat Khalsa Ji Ki Ardas Hai Ji, Sarbat Khalsa Ji Ko Waheguru Waheguu Waheguru Chit Aavai Chit Aavan Ka Sadkaa Sarab Sukh Hovai [First the entire respected Khalsa make this supplication that may they meditate on Your Name; and may all pleasures and comforts come through such meditation]. Jahaa Jahaa Khalsa Ji Sahib, Tahaa Tahaa Rachhiya Riyaa-it, Deg Teg Fateh, Bira Ki Paij, Panth Ki Jeet, Sri Sahib Ji Sahai Khalse Ji Ko Bol Baaley, Bolo Ji Waheguru [Wherever respected Khalsa is present, give Your protection and grace; May the free kitchen and sword never fail; Maintain the honour of your devotees; Confer victory upon the Sikh people; May the respected sword always come to our assistance; May the Khalsa always get honours; Utter Wahe Guru (Wondrous God)]! The presence of Waheguru Ji ki Fateh on the Nishan Sahib of Guru Gobind Singh without question strengthens its relational bond with the Ardas, the Panth and Sikhs. The ardas begins with ੧(ੳੰ - EK'O'N KAR, Waheguru Ji Ki fateh, and Sikhs repeatedly utter "sayeth waheguru"[bolo ji waheguru]. When in a Gurduara, or any other religious place,wherever the Nishan Sahib flies outside the building when ardas is being said,it is believed , it is not confined to the four walls of the buillding, through the high and mightily placed Nishan sahib, the message of the ardas goes through to the immediete environment, society,into the space, , air, infact into any which direction it is carried through.In fact, it connects with the beauty of God's creation.Brahmand[Universe]. PART TWO There are many organisations, groups, teams and nations who have flags, as well, but the respect and philosophical honour that Sikhs have for the Nishan sahib is unmatched, unequal and not seen or felt with such emotions for any other flag anywhere else in the world. The Nishan sahib holds a very special place among because many seated traditions of the Sikh religion, and their very roots of history are closely linked to the Nishan sahib, though not be obviously apparent through the naked eye. Yesteryear Sikh historians say that the words AKAL SAHAII came to be written across the Nishan sahibs during the reign of Maharajah Ranjit Singh Ji- The Lion of Punjab. There were twelve Sikh misals [Sikh confederacies], and one of them was named the Nishanwalia misal.Only the very brave and outstanding Sikh fighters were enrolled into this misal.Traditionally, the flag-Nishan bearers for every other misal were nominated from Nishan walia misal.It can be gauged from this just how important the Nishan was regarded in the Panth.Special braves were prepared by the Nishan walia misal for the task of the flag Bearers who were to honour the continual & steadfast flying of the Nishan sahib in battle and peace. The Nishan sahib represented the honour of the entire nation of Sikhs, even though an individual carried it.The British noted it's place of honour among the Sikhs.The famous Scholar of Sikhism, Arthur MacCauliffe says in one of his introduction about the Sikh religion to the west.. "'I present to the people of the west,an entirely unique, and amazingly confident nation of people called Sikhs.They do not idol worship, nor have ritualistic practices, they have no class or caste.They abhor sati, and neither imprison nor control their females.They do not drink, nor smoke or inhale tobacco.Unlike the hindoos, they do not go on pilgrimages, nor abstain or run away from the chores and responsibilities of family life [grehest] nor indulge in idle gossip mongering or character asssination of another human being, by hiding behind fake sadhoos, societies and names. Instead, they have stamina for patience, willingness to face ardous tasks,meet severe challenges at individual and coporate levels, they share their takings and earnings with the poor, through honest work.They prevail in the truth,they are virtuously generous to fellow humans,they hold respect for themslves and others,their values are Godly as they arise to immerse in the name of the Lord in the early ambroisal hours; seeing them in action with their ideal lives is believing.They are not idol worshippers who who shirk the beauty of God given life, nor indulge into ritualistic tasks". Their houses of prayers-Gurduaras - are recognised from afar by the highly and mightily placed flags of the Gurus,The Nishan sahib.These Nishan sahibs carry the responsibility to remind every one the holiness and cleaniness of the name of the Lord that is sung every day in congregation, sangat. Arthur MacCauliffe describes the Sikh religion very beautifully for the first time to the people of the west is almost unbelievable and little understood by most, even Sikhs.Few, very few Sikhs know and appreciate it themselves and the golden baggage of their ancestral history.The Nishan sahib is THE GUARDIAN of such a valuable strove of treasure, sometimes ununderstood and unseen and unappreciated by the Sikhs themselves; as they close an eye to their now almost rituals to carry on in their lives. The makers of Sikh Sidhant, Sikh constitution- this is inclusive from the times of the Sikh Gurus,say in their records... "There should/must be a daily parkash- seating on the throne of the Guru Granth Sahib.In the presence of the Guru Granth sahib there should be no massaging of the legs / stand of the pedestral seat,[manji sahib]there should be no rubbing, scrapping & bruising continoully of the nose in reverence of the Guru Granth sahib,on the floor or against the walls.There should be no storage of bottles of water under the manji sahib.It is not acceptable to place idols and statutes depicting any gods in the Gurduaras,nor acceptable to bow down against any pictures and portraits of elderly and so called holymen or women. Doing such is regarded as manmat-anti Gurmat.No one is barred from entering the Gurduara based upon colour, creed, ethinicity,religion or age and sex, but a certain code of cleaniness must be observed by all- no tobacco or alcohol musr be consumed or on person of those who enter the Gurduara, Their must be clean, civilisied & decency must be the protocol.No other human must seat above the seat of the Guru sahibaan,or in any such manner where it is felt that lesser importance and respect is given to the Guru Granth Sahib.One should always cover their head, in the presence of the Guru Ji and neither should one practice the veiling of the face [ghundd] when in the presence of the Guru Ji, or any time in their lives as Sikhs." In addition to the above it is also on record that there should be a Nishan Sahib and a Negara [a dhol type drum] within the Gurduara premises.The Negara is to be used to drum at opportunate times whenever necessary for the benefit of the local sangat.Together with the Nishan sahib,the Negara carried the" voice" and presence of the Sikhs far and wide.The practice of the drumming of the Negara has virtually died out these days, except for some very few Gurduaras. Historical records tell us that the drumming of the Negara began with Guru Hargobind sahib ji.When ever Guru Hargobind Sahib ji moved from one place to another, the Negara was sounded until he reached the spot he was going to. When a Bhai Rupa Ji was despensed to do parchar of Sikhi, Guru Ji gave him a Nishan sahib and a Negara.This was a significant act, indicating that the parchar of Sikhi was to be conducted without fear and freely. Guru Hargobind Sahib also ordered the drumming of the Negara at the commencement of langger, so that it was known in the locality and as far as possible that Guru Ji's langger was available.Sadly this is another practice that has died out in the Gurduaras. Guru Gobind Singh Ji is said to have WAHEGURU JI KI FATEH written upon his Nishan sahib.This makes it all the more important to understand the subject and significance of the Nishan sahib.The word Fateh is connected to the values of the DEGH TEG FATEH. It is written in Gurbilas Paathshaii 10vin [dasvin]when Guru Gobind Singh Ji initiated the Five Piaras, he advised them about the rehat and kurahit[the code and the transgressions]; He uttered ... Guru Granth jane sada angg sangg/ jahan dharamsala tahaan niat je yo / Gur Daras ki je maha sukh pe yo/ jap waheguru jaap chitte sda hi/ sda naam lije , gur geet gahi/ sada degh tegh tume jeet hoyi/ [[aways regard the Guru as part of you,wherever there be a house of prayer, immense your mind into God,recite and remember the God, and you will have a good life; always recite and live in the naam of waheguru; always recite the nam and sing His praises, and always the degh and teg will grant one the boon of victory]] Guru Gobind Singh Ji started off the practice of whenever one Singh met another Singh Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh was declared. The Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh upon the Nishan sahib of Guru Gobind Singh conveys HIS personal GurFateh to the entire Sikh nation.It is a salutation to the Sikhs from Himself.It is his Namskar to his Sikhs.