TANKHAHNAMA, by Bhai Nand Lal, is a Sikh penal code laying down punishments and fines for those guilty of religious misconduct. Tankhah, a Persian word, actually means salary, reward or profit, and nama, also Persian denoting an epistle, a code or a catalogue. In Sikh usage, however, tankhah stands for the opposite of its original meaning and juxtaposed with nama it means a religious penal code. Any H Sikh, particularly one who received the pahul (nectar of the doubleedged sword) for initiation into the fold of the Brotherhood of the Khalsa, committing a breach of rahit (stipulated conduct) and guilty of kurahit (misconduct) is subject to be punished. One who is so punished is called tankhahia.

It is traditionally held that the term tankhah meaning fine for a religious lapse or infringement was first used in the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh who was once laid under a penal levy by his own Sikhs for saluting with his arrow the tomb of the saint Dadu (worship of sepulchre or cemetery being taboo according to the Guru`s injunction). Guru Gobind Singh willingly submitted to the verdict of the Khalsa. Bhai Nand Lal was a devotee of Guru Gobind Singh and a scholar of Persian in which language he wrote poetry of rare refinement. Answering his questions once, the Guru defined acts worthy of a Sikh and those not worthy of him. Bhai Nand Lal is said to have recorded the former in his Rahitnama and the latter in his Tankhahnama.

For him who becomes liable to punishment, he uses the word tankhahl, not tankhahia. In the Tankhahnama itself a positive and idealistic pattern of living has been charted too. A true Khalsa must, for instance, lead a life of nam (meditation on the Name, dan (charity) and isnan (purification). He should overcome the five lusts and be above superstition, pride and adultery ; and he should be constantly absorbed in nam; he should protect the weak and the needy, advance against the tyrannical and be armed always to fight evil (verses 2731). Negatively, a Sikh who does not join the company of the holy, does not bow to the sacred word being recited and does not treat with equality the poorer members in the fellowship invites retribution (verses 35).

So will a Sikh, who, when distributing karah prasad, communion food, resorts to greed or distributes unevenly or casts a wanton eye upon the womenfolk (verses 6,10) ; who bows to the Turks, tyrannical rulers, or dishonours the arms by touching them with his feet ; a Sikh who is rash, who gives away his daughter or sister in matrimony for money (verse 11); who carries not his sword and who by deception robs a wayfarer or a guest of his belongings (verse 12) ; who does not contribute dasvandh, the prescribed one-tenth of one`s income, to the community`s funds and who earns his livelihood by falsehood (verse 14) ; who indulges in backbiting and does not keep his word (verse 16) ; who eats kosher meat dressed in (he Muslim way (verse 17); and he who goes about with his head uncovered or eats or distributes food with his head uncovered (verse 24).Verses 78 describe the method of preparing karah prasad. In verses 32 to 36, Guru Gobind Singh tells Bhai Nand Lal that the Khalsa who inflicts not pain on the masses shall be supreme and rule over the land ; after defeating and vanquishing the Turks, the community shall bear all the symbols of royalty; the Khalsa shall ride horse and keep hawks ; all rebels shall be subdued ; there shall be perfect equality between man and man which will be the victory of the Supreme Lord, the Timeless Bemg, who alone will remain when all else perishes.

References :

1. Ganda Singh, ed., Bhai Nand Lal Granthavali. Malacca (Malaya), 1968
2. Padam, Piara Singh, Rahitnaine. Patiala, 1974
3. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990