Song of the Khalsa

November 6, 2020 |

Categories: Music historyOur Stories

This article was originally published in the November, 1995 issue of Prosperity Paths.  It is a beautiful description by S.S. Shanti Kaur Khalsa of Song of the Khalsa being sung at the first World Sikh Conference in Amritsar in 1995.  It is very vivid description and worth republishing…..

The heat swirled around the people as the fans moved the air, in a futile attempt to cool the gathered crowd. The call had gone out to all of the Sikhs across the Punjab and abroad to attend the Vishav Sikh Samelan in Amritsar, the first World Sikh Conference ever held. By the hundreds of thousands, Sikhs came to hear the views of others, speak their own account, and seek the wisdom of the sages and peers of our times. After five days of meetings, conferences, lectures, and displays, the sangat gathered at Manji Sahib Hall, bathed in the glow of the sacred Harimandir Sahib, to hear the closing ceremonies. Thousands gathered on that day, from all segments, from all lands, from all the diverse groups of Sikhs that make up the Khalsa Panth.

Sardar Manjit Singh Calcutta, the Secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, announced the speakers as one by one the key personalities of the Vishav Singh Samelan came forward to voice their closing sentiments. Sants and sages, educators, doctors, and political personalities each stood to speak briefly to the gathered crowd sharing their perspective and opinion on the outcome of the Samelan.

A couple hours into the program, Sardar Manjit Singh told the sangat about the diverse nationalities of the western sangat that had accompanied the Siri Singh Sahib to Amritsar. There were Sikhs from America, Canada, Japan, Europe, and Mexico sitting in the sangat who had traveled with the Siri Singh Sahib more than 10,000 miles to answer the call of the Akal Takhat to attend the World Sikh Samelan. With a glowing introduction, Sardar Manjit Singh called MSS Livtar Singh Khalsa of Atlanta, Georgia, to address the sadh sangat.

The crowd looked with interest to see this distinctive fair-skinned man with a flowing blonde, gray beard and beautiful white bana. His graceful demeanor grabbed their attention and he returned their stares as he began to speak.

Many speak of courage;  speaking cannot give it, he began with a slow metered voice. The Siri Singh Sahib, who was sitting on the stage, suddenly called out, “No, no! Sing it. Sing it!” Within a matter of a few seconds, Livtar Singh grabbed his guitar, and accompanied by SS Sat Kirn Kaur Khalsa and others, he began the familiar tune and words of the Song of the Khalsa. As the first cords rang out of the Manji Sahib Hall, all of the western Khalsa in the sangat came to their feet with folded hands. With great emotion and feeling, they sang their song with heart felt devotion that clearly spoke of great brotherhood and sisterhood among them. The sangat was enamored by this, and their eyes were riveted upon the stage and those in white who stood in their midst.

Still, the English words were incomprehensible to most of the people in the gathered crowded. The Siri Singh Sahib stood and moved next to MSS Livtar Singh, putting his hand on his shoulder as he finished the song. In Punjabi, he explained to the sangat the important place that the Song of the Khalsa holds in the western sangats. The song very beautifully illustrates the root of the Sikh psyche and is sung at all Gurdwaras in the West before the Anand Sahib. Then he requested MSS Livtar Singh to begin again, but this time in the slow and metered pace as he had first begun. MSS Livtar Singh spoke line by line, and the Siri Singh Sahib translated this into Punjabi for the benefit of the sangat.

Many speak of courage. Speaking cannot give it. It is in the face of death that we must live it. When the first line was translated, a hush fell over the vast crowd. The huge loud speakers that extended all over the Darbar Sahib complex carried the words out onto the parkarma and into the streets of Amritsar. People stopped in their tracks to listen. So many Sikhs in Amritsar had already faced death, but this was something that was not yet spoken of, even in their most private moments. Yet here were these Americans, singing the secret words that hid in the hearts of the Punjabi Sikhs. The beautiful lyrics freed the pain that had been trapped in the hearts of so many.

When things are down and darkest, he continued, that’s when we stand tallest. Until the last star falls, we won’t give an inch at all! As the Siri Singh Sahib translated, he swept his arm across the heavens. Every face was turned to the stage in rapt attention. Wonder crossed their faces as they saw these white-dressed people in a new light, as if for the first time.

Sons of the Khalsa remember those who died. Stood their ground until their last breath so we who live now might live free lives. The Siri Singh Sahib faltered in the translation. He looked away to the horizon, as if to clear his mind so that he could continue speaking without losing himself in the tears that were immanent.  But after he spoke the translation, his tears flowed freely as with those all around him. Every heart remembered the hundreds who have died for the Panth stretching back for 300 years. With dignity, love, and brotherhood thousands of heads nodded with emotion filled agreement as the Siri Singh finished speaking.  Sardar Manjit Singh wiped tears from his eyes, as the Siri Singh Sahib did himself.

Daughters of the Khalsa, MSS Livtar Singh spoke, in your strength our future lies. Give our children fearless minds, to the see the world through the Guru’s eyes! Throughout the crowd, the cry of Bole so Nihal was heard after the translation was given and the sangat replied with a booming Sat Siri Akal. Clearly, a sensitive spot had been touched. For every Sikh this is an area of deep emotion and concern. Each face echoed the plea, “Oh mother, teach our children the glory of this Dharma, because if you don’t, who will?”

As the song finished, and MSS Livtar Singh stood with the Siri Singh Sahib looking out over the sangat, a definite transformation had occurred. For twenty-five years the western sangat had been visiting Amritsar, but for the first time, the Punjabi sangat and the western sangat stood as one people. This one song spoke with a timeless eloquence that transcended all temporal divisions. They clearly understood each other’s pain, each other’s hope, each other’s pride, and each other’s deep love of Guru. All hearts were wide open in a rare and solitary moment of grace. And in that moment, a miracle happened. These diverse peoples merged into one nation, one people – sovereign and spiritual.

Song of the Khalsa in English and Punjabi

Song of the Khalsa in Spanish

Song of the Khalsa in Italian – Molti parlano del coraggio

This article was originally shared on Sikhnet

Listen to MSS Livtar Singh singing Song of the Khalsa

Read the Origins of Song of the Khalsa:  A Recollection from the Author

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