- Jun 17, 2004
What is a Rahitnama Among Sikhs Rahit means a discipline which they are required to follow in their daily life. It represents their life-style and is an index of their world-view. Nama means a writing or a manual. Rahitnama is, therefore, a codified statement of Sikhs' conduct in life. It is supposed to be a comprehensive list of do's and don'ts, prescribing how a follower should respond or behave in particular situations. While all the Gurus had stressed virtuous conduct in religious life, Guru Gobind Singh is credited with having said, "He alone is my Sikh who follows the rahit. In fact he is the Master and I am his disciple." Extensive references to man's conduct in Gurbani and the vars of Bhai Gurdas show that a distinct Sikh way of life had emerged by the end of the 17th century, with emphasis on internal as well as external rahit. The Guru says : "He who sports kes without the rahit of pahul, Is a fool and an imposter; I will not see him. He is a sinner, And he should drop his `garb'." The guidelines were perhaps not put together in a systematic manner. In 1699, however, when Guru Gobind Singh launched the Khalsa Order, promulgation of detailed injunctions for the initiates to follow was an imperative need. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that some kind of rahitnama was drafted. This was all the more necessary, since large numbers of disciples had to be initiated through the amrit ceremony by several teams or jathas of Panj Piaras, and uniformity of injunctions had to be ensured. This assumption is shared by all scholars including Piara Singh Padam and W H McLeod. Unfortunately, no such record is traceable. All the extant manuscripts of rahitnamas date back to a later period, although most of them claim to have been commissioned or approved by Guru Gobind Singh himself. Chaupa Singh's Rahitnama is no exception. Its extant versions have been dated between 1740 and 1765 CE.