The Prahilad Rai Rahit-Nama


The Prahilad Rai Rahit-Nama

Was the author’s name Prahilad Rai or was it Prahilad Singh? It is tempting to think that his original name must have been Prahilad Rai. The fact that he was the author of an influential rahit-nama would then have meant that he took initiation and so came to be called Prahilad Singh. Can this be drawn as a firm conclusion?

There is an earlier text of the Prahilad Rai Rahit-nama and a more modern one, both of which call him Prahilad Singh. The earlier text is provided by Lala Maghi Ram Sant Ram of Bazaar Mai Sevan, Amritsar, and by Shamsher Singh Ashok in his Guru Khalse de Rahit-name (Ashok 56-8). The translations of Leech, Cunningham, and Attar Singh generally follow the earlier version and Trumpp evidently used it for his paraphrase (Trumpp 1877, cxiii-cxvi). The later version is given in Piara Singh Padam’s Rahit-name (PSP 44-7). In the case of This rahit nama, however, differences distinguishing the two versions are rarely of any significance.

Attar Singh reverses the order of the translations from that indicated in the title of his booklet, and calls the second of his authors ‘Prahlad Rai’ or ‘Prahlad the Brahman’. All other versions, except for Trumpp, refer to him as Prahilad Singh. This seems to suggest that the early texts used by Attar Singh and Trumpp called him Prahilad Rai. Both Leech and Cunningham, however, give his name as Prahilad Singh and they produced their translations before either Attar Singh’s version or Trumpp’s paraphrase.

Beyond this it seems impossible to proceed and as a result we shall never know whether the author’s name was Prahilad Rai or Prahilad Singh, or whether it was originally Prahilad Rai but was changed with initiation to Prahilad Singh. The name Prahilad Rai has been used in this survey, but it should be understood that the name Prahilad Singh also has strong claims.

Features of the Rahit contained in the Prahilad Rai Rahit-nama may be listed as follows.

The Nature of the Khalsa

Accept the Khalsa as Guru, as the Guru’s visible body. The Sikh who wishes to find me should seek me in its midst. Have dealings only with the Khalsa. Honouring the gods of others is a sham. The [Khalsa] Panth was founded at the command of Akal Purakh. Do not speak highly of any panth other than the Khalsa. [22, 24, 28-30]

Doctrine and devotion

Put your trust in Akal Purakh and escape the net of transmigration. Do not forsake Akal Purakh and follow some other god or worship some stone. Every Sikh must accept the Granth as Guru. Meditate only on the mantra `Praise to the Guru’ (vahi guru). Sat Akal Sri Vahi Guru is the basic mantra. He who lives according to the Rahit is my Sikh. Do not abandon the Sikh faith and join some other panth. Do not eat before participating in [evening] Rahiras. Recite Rahiras with love in your heart. [7, 14, 16-17, 21, 27, 30-1, 34, 36-7]

Dress and outward appearance

Never wear a topi. Do not clothe yourself in red. [4, 12] Bathing and personal hygiene Do not use snuff (nasavar). [12]

Social relationships

Give help to other Sikhs. Massage them as a devotional gesture. Give them a share of the food which you have prepared. [8, 33]

Sexual Morality

Never visit a prostitute. [4]


Do not use the Guru’s charity-box for your own purposes, nor misappropriate pious offerings. Do not promise to make an offering and then hesitate to fulfil it. [9, 19]

Guru Granth Sahib

Sing only the True Guni’s songs. Sing them early in the morning. Singing the Guru’s songs is a precious gift. [14, 26, 32]


Imparting [Khalsa] initiation is the greatest of blessings. [32]

The preparation and consumption of food

Never remove your turban while eating. Recite , japuji and , jap before eating. [5, 13]

Crimes and misdemeanours

Never [gamble by] playing at dice. [4]

False teachers

Have no dealings with Minas, followers of the masands, those who cut their hair, or those who kill their daughters. Never accept food from a killer of daughters, a masand, or a Mina. Do not worship at cremation-grounds, tombs, or in temples containing idols. Do not ,]how to anyone wearing a topi. [6, 20, 22, 23]

Attitude towards Hindus

Never wear a sacred thread [as required by Brahmans]. Have no faith in a Kanphat yogi. Have no faith in the six darshans [of the Hindu tradition]. [4, 25, 27]

Attitude towards Muslims

Have no faith in a Turk. [25]

The Prahilad Rai Rahit-nama differs from the Tanakhah-nama in the following respects:

The Prahilad Rai Rahit-nama leaves the reader uncertain, whether the author is explicitly addressing the Khalsa or the wider area of belief which also embraces the non-Khalsa Sikh. References certainly are made to the nature of the Khalsa, but the author’s threatening promises are addressed to an indeterminate audience of Sikhs. This was not the case with the Tanakhah-nama where the injunctions were more specifically addressed to the Khalsa.

 It does, however, give a fuller description of the Khalsa than is found in the Tanakhah-nama.

The Prahilad Rai Rahit-nama is much fiercer with regard to the fate it holds out for any Sikh who fails to obey the injunctions which the author lists. Some of its injunctions are ridiculous, for example the instruction to recite both Japuji and the Jap before eating (PrahR 13).

The doctrinal section of the Prahilad Rai Rahit-nama is, lengthier than the Tanakhah-nama.

The Prahilad Rai Rahit-nama lacks the emphasis on weap ons and warfare that characterises the Tanakhah-nama. This suggests later, more settled circumstances.

The author is much gentler concerning the Muslims.

The Prahilad Rai Rahit-nama omits all reference to sangats,

 Although lie does not refer to the Five Reprobate Groups, the author does name four types of people with whom the Sikl ~ must never associate. These are the Minas, the masands, those who cut their hair, and killers of daughters. The hair-cutters are presumably persons who are meant to be Khalsa Sikhs.

Female infanticide is introduced for the first time. Khalsa Sikhs should have no dealings with those who practise it.

The two rahit-namas share the same failure to name the hookah as an artifact to be avoided, both reserving their condemnation for snuff.

Excerpts taken from : Sikhs of the Khalsa : History of Khalsa Rahit
W.H.Mcleod Oxford Press 2003




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