Honoring a Legacy of Service to All
Khalsa Aid – Sikhs Offering Balm
by Tarunjit Singh Butalia
Long before the formation of the Red Cross, there was Bhai Kanhaiya – an ardent Sikh follower of the Tenth Sikh Guru, Siri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. He took it upon himself to roam battlefields carrying a goat skin pouch full of water over his shoulder, serving both Sikhs and Mughals alike who were injured in the battlefield while fighting against each other. At the battle of Siri Anandpur Sahib in 1704 in Punjab, South Asia, he served water to the Sikh and Mughal soldiers who lay wounded in battle. Some Sikhs approached the Tenth Guru complaining that Bhai Kanhaiya was offering support and solace to enemies even while the Mughal army had surrounded Sikh army.
Bhai Kanhaiya was summoned by the Tenth Guru and asked to respond to the complaint. Bhai Kanhaiya responded that he saw no Mughal or Sikhs on the battlefield but only human beings – each of whom had the same spirit of God in them. Siri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib was pleased that Bhai Kanhaiya saw God’s jot (light) in everyone. The Sikh scripture says: “No one is an enemy, none a stranger. I get along with all.”
This spirit of seeing God’s light in everyone – the refugee, war displaced, victims of natural and human-caused disasters, irrespective of religion, caste, creed, or nationality, and serving humanity with compassion and kindness to all, seem to be the Kanhaiya Principles of Sikh Faith.
The four pillars of the Kanhaiya Principles are:
Self-less service (Nishkam Sewa) to humanity without the need for recognition or honor
Serve with compassion (Daya), compliance with truth (Sat), inner contentment (Santokh), humility (Nimrata), and love (Pyar).
Well-being of all (Sarbat da Bhalla)
Treat everyone equally – sharing and not charity.
Khalsa, formally initiated Sikhs, are to uphold these principles in everyday life. To observe the 300th anniversary of birth of the Khalsa in 1999, a UK based charity, Khalsa Aid International, was formed to serve humanity, reduce people’s immediate suffering, and help maintain their dignity in response to both natural and human-caused disasters, including floods, earthquakes, famine, and war.
Since its formation, Khalsa Aid has provided aid to millions of people around the world. It ranges from victims of the Yemen Civil War to refugees landing on the shores of Greece from the Middle East, and more recently, to Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar seeking refuge in Bangladesh. It works in earthquake, flood, and hurricane-stricken areas in Nepal, Australia, and the Caribbean. It has also helped residents in the UK cope with the devastating floods that swept through Cumbria and the southwest England and were there to support the families who escaped the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in London. More on Khalsa Aid responses to natural disasters are listed below:
Malawi – Cyclone Idai Relief, March 2019
Indonesia - Earthquake and Tsunami Relief, October 2018
India – Kerala Flood Relief, August 2018
United Kingdom - Floods, 2015
Nepal – Earthquake, April 2015
Malawi – Floods, February 2015
Australia – Cyclone Marcia, February 2015
India – Vishakhapatnam Cyclone, 2014
South Asia – Floods in Jammu & Kashmir, September 2014
Bosnia & Herzegovina – Floods, May 2014
United Kingdom – Floods, 2014
Philippines – Typhoon, December 2013
India – Uttrakhand Floods, June 2013
Kenya – Famine Relief, May 2011
Haiti – Earthquake, 2010
India – Punjab Floods, August 2007
Bangladesh – Cyclone, May 2007
Indonesia – Tsunami, March 2006
Pakistan – Earthquake, March 2005
Andaman Islands – Tsunami, December 2004
Congo & Rwanda – Volcanic Eruption, January 2002
India – Gujarat Earthquake, January 2001
India – Orissa Cyclone, December 1999
Turkey – Earthquake, August 1999
Today, Khalsa Aid has become the first ever cross-border international humanitarian aid organization based on Sikh principles.
Returning to Bhai Kanhaiya, the Tenth Guru gave him balm and asked him to apply it to both Sikhs and Mughals injured on the battlefield.
While Bhai Kanhaiya formed the Sikh Red Cross in the 1700s to provide water, comfort, and healing to the injured and needy, Khalsa Aid continues the mission of Bhai Kanhaiya today by serving all of humanity in response to disasters of all kinds.
Header Photo: Khalsa Aid Facebook