Colors worn by Guru Gobind Singh Ji

Colors worn by Guru Gobind Singh Ji

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

One of the stories describing the origins of the Nihangs indicates that following the evacuation of the city of Sri Anandpur Sahib Ji, Guru Ji reached the village ‘Dhillon’, there he is said to have ripped his blue dress into strands and burned them. He had however saved one strand and tied it to his sword, which he later presented to Bhai Maan Singh Ji with whose service he has been pleased. This account indicates that the ‘Panth’ of ‘Nihangs’, adorning blue vestments begun at this juncture.

The majority of historical texts indicate that Guru Gobind Singh Ji upon reaching the village ‘Maachhivarha’ after the battle of Sri Chamkaur Sahib, was presented with a white cloth by Bibi Gurdeyee Ji. Meanwhile the Mughal Army reached ‘Machhivarha’ searching for Guru Ji.

Guru Ji ordered for a ‘Chola’ (long shirt) to be made from the cloth provided by Bibi Gurdeyee Ji. This ‘Chola’ was dyed blue. Guru Ji disguised himself as a Muslim seer and escaped along with his devotees.

Such texts also mention that when Guru Ji reached the village ‘Dhillon’, he ripped his blue dress into shreds and burned them, saving only one shred which he tied to his sword. He then gave this shred to Bhai Maan Singh Ji, with whom he was pleased. The ‘Panth’ of ‘Nihangs’ was started from this point according to many interpretations.

If we go in deep to verify this story, we find some interesting points. For example, Sainapati, the court-poet of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, in his ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ states: –

Bhekh Nirbaan Ke Roop Aayo.

Therefore, according to the poet Sainapati, Guru Gobind Singh Ji disguised himself as a ‘Nirbaan’ saint. If it is true, then we have to accept that Guru Gobind Singh Ji was not in blue attire, because �Nirbaan� saints did not wear blue attires.

In fact, the poet Sainapati states that Guru Gobind Singh Ji changed into many dresses (‘Roop Anek’): –

Roop Anek Prabh Im Dhaare.

However, nowhere does he states that Guru Ji was in blue attire. Similarly, he did not mention that Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave a strand of blue cloth to Bhai Maan Singh Ji.

The ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Kuyer Singh is another important text concerning the history of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Kuyer Singh indicates that Guru Ji disguised himself as ‘Uch Da Peer’ and donned a ‘Surmayee’ (light blue/grayish) dress and then went to village of ‘Maachhivarha’. Kuyer Singh did not however write anything indicating Guru Gobind Singh Ji to have bestowed a strand of blue cloth to Bhai Maan Singh Ji.

This ‘Sakhi’ has also been rendered by Giani Gian Singh in his ‘Panth Prakash’. The only issue with it is that we have at least two variations of this story. The edition of ‘Panth Prakaash’ published by ‘the language department’ of Punjab says that the colour of Guru Ji’s dress, which was ripped by him, was blue (‘Neel’). On the other hand, the edition published by Manmohan Singh Brar and edited by Giani Kirpal Singh Ji states that the colour was black. Giani Kirpal Singh’s edition concludes that since then, Nihangs wear black (‘Shyaam’/’Kaare’) clothing.

Here are the original lines from both the editions: –

Dhillon Naam Graam Jab Neel Basan Gur Phaarh.
(The language departement’s edition).

Maachhivaarhe Gur Jab Shyaam Chail Dhaare Hain


Dhaarat Nihang Tab Hee Te Chail Kaare Hain.
(Giani Kirpal Singh Ji’s edition).

Reading such variations can leave one confused as to which account to rely upon, which is further clouded when we consider that Giani Gian also made changes in various editions of his texts � perhaps he himself is responsible for these variations, although of this we cannot be sure.

In any event, writers who have indicated that Guru Gobind Singh Ji donned blue or black clothing during his time in the village ‘Machhivarha’, all agree that Guru Ji did this only for the purposes of disguise. Later Guru Ji removed the blue (or black) items of clothing upon reaching a safe location.

In his ‘Twareekh Guru Khalsa’, Giani Gian Singh writes that when Sodhhi Kaul saw Guru Ji in blue attire, he brought a white dress and said to Guru Ji, “These blue robes, which are an Islamic dress, do not look graceful on you, please wear these white robes�. Guru Ji then changed into the white clothing. These accounts suggest that the blue attire was not the usual dress of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

The following stanza from ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Kuyer Singh is very often used to support the view that Guru Gobind Singh dressed in blue:-

Joojhat Bhyo Dar Daar Tabai, Jab Yaa Bidh Sahib Nain Nihaare.
Neelan Chol Biraajat Hain, Ar Baaj Suhela Jiga Kal Dhaare.
Neel Jiga Man Neel Lasai Pat, Neel Mani Man Bhookhan Bhaare.
Meghan Ke Jan Jaal Bikhai, Dut Bijj Chhata Sut Shaah Nihaare.

{He started to fight, removing all his fears, upon seeing the ‘Sahib’ (Guru Gobind Singh Ji). He (Guru Gobind Singh Ji) is present dressed in a blue ‘chola’, with a hawk, and a plume in his turban. (He wears) a blue plume. Blue jewel and blue dress is shining. (He is wearing) many ornaments. The son of ‘Shaah’ (Bahadur Shah) is looking. (Guru Ji looks like) a streak of lightening among many clouds}.

When using this stanza of ‘Gur Bilaas’, such people hide a fact from their readers/audience. This fact is crucial in order to appreciate the meanings of this stanza and to draw any conclusions from it. Kuyer Singh here is not saying that Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself appeared in the battlefield. The text actually relays that Bahadur Shah had closed his eyes and meditated on Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He saw Guru Ji in blue attire and other ornaments in his imagination and not in reality. Thus, it is inappropriate to conclude from this isolated stanza that Guru Gobind Singh Ji went to the battlefield (where Bahadur Shah was fighting) in blue attire.

Similarly, according to the ‘Gur Bilas Patshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Sukha Singh, King Aurangzeb saw the Khalsa Army in ‘Neelambar’ (blue robes): –

Neelaambar Kutka Kar Dhaare.
It Ut Moh Khalsa Maare.

Here again, it is just an imagination of King Aurangzeb that he sees the Khalsa in blue dress only in his thoughts. In reality, he did not see any Sikh in blue dress until such mental visualisation.

‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’ is a text, which came into prominence during the 20th century, though it is claimed that it was written in 1790 AD and that Swaroop Singh Kaushish was the original author. There are many references in this book, where it is said that Guru Ji and the Sikhs wore blue clothing. The ‘Keski’ is particularly mentioned as always being blue, which, according to this text is in fact one of five ‘Kakaars’. A few modern Nihangs and Sikh Groups who choose to emulate them for their own purposes, use this as a reference to prove that blue clothing and the turban is mandatory for all Sikhs. It must however be disappointing for those seeking such a conclusion that in this text, the word ‘Nihang’ has not been used for a Sikh.

Whilst the ‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’ mentions the blue attire of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and other Sikhs many times, it also mentions the saffron ‘Chola’ of Guru Ji as well. In 101st ‘Saakhee’, Guru Gobind Singh Ji gives his saffron ‘Chola’, a sword and a shield to Rai Dalla Singh.

Furthermore, when Guru Gobind Singh Ji left for his heavenly abode, he was also in saffron (‘Kesree’) attire. ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Kuyer Singh clearly mentions the colour of Guru Ji’s clothing, when he left for the ‘Sachkhand’: –

Aap Snaan Karyo Sah Kesan, Kesree Khyom Patam Pahraaye.

From the foregoing analysis of various texts, we can conclude that Guru Gobind Singh Ji wore clothing of various colours and that to assert that he wore only blue attire after the inauguration of the Khalsa in 1699 is wholly incorrect.