Alcohol, drugs and intoxicants for Sikhs – Bhai Desa Singh’s Rehitnama

Recently we have been sifting through some ancient documents of Sikh literature to try to shed some light and direction on the issue of intoxicants and alcohol use and wether it is permitted or not.

Our first subject matter is Bhai Desa Singhs Rehitnama. Bhai Desa Singh lived in the late 1700’s and lived in one of the Bungas (towers) of Amritsar where Jassa Singh Alhuwalia  used to live. You have probably heard quotes from this Prominent rehitnama such as

PRITHAM REHT YEH JAAN KHANDE KI PAHUL SHAKEY – Sikhs must consider khande ki pahul as the primary injunction (baptism via water sugar crystals mixed with double edged sword)

and

REHNI REHAI SOY SIKH MERAA, OH THAKUR MAI US KA CHERA
those who remain within the code of discipline Are the Guru’s Sikhs, The Guru considers them as masters and himself as their disciple
REHAT BINA NAH SIKH KAHAVAI, REHIT BINA DAR CHOTA KHAVAI
Without practicing the code of conduct, one cannot call himself a Sikh, without the rehat one will wander and suffer

If we look to this rehitnama which helped to form the basis of the main Akaal Takht Maryada of the Sikh Panth, what does it say about Intoxicants;

PAR NARI, JOOA, AST, CHORI, MADIRA JAAN
anothers woman,  gambling, lies, stealing and alcohol

PANCH AIB YAI JAGAT MEH TAJAI SO SINGH SUJAAN
know these 5 vices in the world, a Singh who forsakes these is wise

RANN MEH CHALEY TE MADRA SEVE, AVAR DIVAS KHU NAAM NA LEVAI
when in battle alcohol can be used as medicine, but any other time its name must never be mentioned

So here we can see that even in the late 1700’s ( before Singh Sabha movement) when this Rehitnama was written by Bhai Desa Singh, we can see that Sikhs were meant to stay away from  the 5 VICES which include sex outside marriage(Par Nari) and Alcohol(MADIRA).

In battle situations where the Sikhs were suffering with grave wounds and painful treatments such as amputations were necessary, it makes sense to use alcohol as an antisceptic and anesthetic, But at any other situation or time it must be avoided at all costs.

This is the same as morphine or nitrous oxide used in modern medicine.
“A wide variety of drugs are used in modern anesthetic practice. Many are rarely used outside of anesthesia”
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anesthetic

Nidar singh will only quote half a verse saying “RANN MEH CHALEY TE MADRA SEVE” which makes it sound like warriors must go to battle and drink alcohol as it will make them better warriors. But if we look to the sentence before and after the whole story becomes evident.

Alcohol must be refrained from as it is one of the 5 AIB(vices), in times of battle its use as medicine or anasthetic is ok but at any other time its name must not even be mentioned.

If theres still any doubt in anyones mind here is another part of the rehitnama

KUTHA, HUKA, CHARAS, TAMAKU
halal meat, smoking pipe, hashish, tobacco
GANJA, TOPI, TARI, KHAKU
cannabis resin, snuff, distilled alcohol or ashes
INKI AUR NA KABHOO DEKHEY
those who never look towards these
REHATVANT SO SINGH VESEKHEY
is a singh who stays in absolute discipline

We hope that our young brothers and sisters will take heed of this message and refrain from alcohol and intoxicants as it is not befitting a Khalsa Sikh. We already have a high level of alcohol related illness within the punjabi population, an effort should be made to help our punjabi families rid themselves of the disease of alcoholism and not to encourage it in any way.

Of course during the 1700’s and 1800’s there probably were some Sikhs that drank alcohol, just as there are today, but in 200 years will our descendants say that in the 1980’s Sikhs in the UK used to have alcohol at all their wedding parties so it must be OK. Just because some people did it doesn’t mean that it was right. We should take example from the Chardi Klaa gursikhs and not the amlis from our history.

2 thoughts on “Alcohol, drugs and intoxicants for Sikhs – Bhai Desa Singh’s Rehitnama”

  1. Vahiguroo Jee Kaa Khalsa Vahiguroo Jee Kee Fateh Singh Jee!!

    Khalsa Jee, your doing an amazing seva for the panth! I found out about nidar nang through a bunch of my friends who attended his Ontario debut. Dass is a Singh from Canada, and it disgusts me that people like giddar nang have hijacked Shastar Vidiya, and are promoting its RSS’d version to the unknowing public(the west). Dass has seated many times with Nihang Singhs from Tarna Dal, who speak against the very kind of “belief” giddar nang’s practices. Dass has learnt Shastar Vidiya from Singhs of Damdami Taksaal and Tarna Dal. Keep up your seva Singh, we need more people like you in the Khalsa panth!!!

    Vahiguroo Jee Kaa Khalsa Vahiguroo Jee Kee Fateh!!!

  2. Also if you have information about Baba Giana Singh Jee’s book Shastar Vidiya, please contact dass at his email.

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