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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Marlin C. Bates

First Committee Member

Paul Turpin

Second Committee Member

Alan Ray


The Khalsa is a militant sect of the Sikh religion officially created by Guru Gobind on Baisakhi Day in 1699. Sikhism, as a religion and culture, existed within the overarching structure of lndian society during the reign of the Muslim Mughal Empire. Over the course of its history, Sikhism sought to evolve and adapt to internal and external pressures, and the creation of the Khalsa was a momentous and transformational step in that evolutionary process.

Using Kenneth Burke's guilt-redemption cycle as a model, this study analyses the events that created the Khalsa. The study found that historical and social pressures provided the rhetorical exigence for the creation of the Khalsa. Guru Gobind isolated and used the guilt of the Sikhs people, the guilt of being passive observers in the face of external pressures, the guilt of living in caste-organized society, the guilt of living in a bureaucratic system wherein the priests had seized power and control, and the guilt of living without external markers of the faith. These sources of guilt were brought to the forefront by Guru Gobind, and resolved through the symbolic sacrifice of five men, after which Guru Gobind created the Khalsa as an answer. Through the Khalsa, its symbols and rituals, the Sikhs were provided with a way to escape the flaws and guilt of the old order.

The creation of the Khalsa was an important milestone in the evolution of the Sikh culture and religion. Through this study, the processes and methods of this identity transformation were isolated. Guru Gobind activated social and collective levels of identity through the medium of performance in order to transform his audience of Sikhs into the Khalsa.



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