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When Sparrows Became HawksThe Making of the Sikh Warrior Tradition, 1699-1799$
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Purnima Dhavan

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199756551

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756551.001.0001

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Introduction: The Origins of the Khalsa

Introduction: The Origins of the Khalsa

(p.2) (p.3) 1 Introduction: The Origins of the Khalsa
When Sparrows Became Hawks

Purnima Dhavan

Oxford University Press

This chapter questions the conventional understanding of the creation of the Khalsa warrior community. The argument that Khalsa culture and practices emerged fully formed during the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh is historically untenable. Recent scholarship has demonstrated that the widespread participation of peasants in the military labor market in South Asia was frequently a path to upward social mobility, but it is not clear how the Khalsa Sikhs fit into this picture. By examining the evidence of the influence of Panjabi peasants, Sikh scholars, and Khalsa chiefs in transforming and transmitting Khalsa culture at different moments during the eighteenth century, it is possible to see the gradual evolution and coalescing of some of the key practices and beliefs of Khalsa Sikhs. This chapter reveals how the competing worldviews of multiple groups grounded the radical social vision of the Khalsa in older social and political practices.

Keywords:   Khalsa, Sikhs, military labor market, peasants, chiefs, Guru Gobind Singh

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