Nanak panthi

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The Sikh sect founded by Nanak, a Khatri of Talwandi, in Lahore. 'Nanak', wrote Maclagan in 1892, was born in 1469 AD and died in 1538 or 1539, and of his life and miracles many wonderful stories are told. There is nothing in his doctrine to distinguish it in any marked way from that of the other saints, who taught the higher forms of Hinduism in Northern India. The unity of God, the absence of any real distinction between Hindu. and muslim, the uselessness of ceremonial, the vanity of earthly wishes, even the equality of castes, are topics common to Nanak and the Bhagats; and the Adi Granth, or sacred book, compiled by Nanak, is full of quotations from elder or contemporary teachers, who taught essentially the same doctrine as Nanak himself. Nor, in spite of the legends relating to him, does he appear to have had any very remarkable following during his lifetime. And yet the persons now returning themselves as his special adherents very largely outnumber the followers of any of the Bhagats or reformers of the same period. The particular success of Nanak's teachings, as compared with that of the other reforming preachers, had its foundation in a variety of circumstances, of which not the least important were the character of his successors and the nature of the people who listened to hint. Most of the other Bhagats were men of the southeast, teachers from Benares, Rajpu'ttana, or Delhi. Nanak alone had his origin in the Punjab Proper, removed equally from the centre of the empire and of Hinduism, and found his following among castes who possessed such sterling qualities us the Punjabi Khatris and Jats. But if Nanak had had no successors, or successors of no moment, his following would doubtless have remained a trifling one; and it must not be supposed that the large number of Nanak-panthis shown in our tables would have been so returned if Sikhism had not a subsequent political history.

The Nanak-panthis of the 16th and 17th centuries were a sect much as the Kabir-panthis and the Dadu-panthis are sects - a sect with certain wide opinions differing from ordinary Hindu orthodoxy and dis-tinguished from other sects more by the character of its Gurus and the organisation of their adherents than by any remarkable differences of doctrine. The Nanak-panthis of to-day are known roughly as Sikhs who are not Singhs, followers of the earlier gurus, who do not think it necessary to follow the ceremonial and social observances inculcated by Guru Gobind Singh. Their characteristics are, therefore, mainly negative; they do not forbid smoking; they do 'tot insist on long hair, or the other four kakka; they are not baptised with the pahul; they do not look on the Brahman as a superfluity, and so forth. The chief external difference between the Nanak-panthi Sikh and the followers of Guru Gobind Singh is the disposal of the hair; the former, like the Hindu, shaves all but the scalp-lock (bodi or choti), and hence is often known as a Mona (shaven) or Bodiwala Sikh, while the Sikh proper wears long hair. They are also known as Sahjdhari. The only form of baptism known among the Nanak-panthis is the ordinary Hindu practice of drinking the foot-nectar of the Gurus and even this is not very common. It will thus be seen that from one point of view there is very little difference between a Nanak-panthi and an ordinary lax Hindu. On the other hand, all Sikhs are followers of Nanak, and hence in a sense Nanak-panthis; and a very large number of the Sikhs of the Province have at the present Census returned themse1ves as Nanak-panthis by sect. This may mean nothing more than that the men were Sikhs, who being Sikhs reverenced Baba Nanak, and having no other definite sect returned themselves in the sect column as followers of Nanak. Or it may mean that many Mona Sikhs-men who smoke and cut their hair-have, in spite of the instructions issued to the supervising agency before the Census, returned themselves as Sikhs by religion, but modified this by giving their sect as Nanak-panthi'. The extreme uncertainty prevalent in the use of the term is well illustrated Shahpur district. "Of the Hindus," he writes, "12,539, or 20 per cent., and of the Sikhs 9,016, or 22 per cent., have returned them-selves as belonging to the Nanak-panthi sect, i.e., as followers of Baba Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. (With this may be taken the 405 returned as Hindu Sikh. There is no clear distinction between these two classes; nor, indeed, is the distinction between- Nanak-panthi Hindus and orthodox Hindus at all clear. The fact is that the Aroras and Khatris of this neighbourhood are, as a rule, very lax in their religious ceremonies and doctrines, and have been very much influenced by the liberal teachings of Guru Nanak and his followers. Those who are most under the influence of the Brahmans and most particular about carrying out the ceremonial observances of the Puranas call themselves Vaishnav Hindus. Those who have been most influenc-ed by the teaching of the Sikh Gurus and of their sacred book, the Granth, and especially those who have adopted the Sikh religion as taught by Guru Gobind Singh, call themselves Nanak-panthis, or pure Sikhs. But these latter are few in numbers. There are few men who maintain all the outward forms and rules of conduct of the recognised Sikh religion (Census report, 1881, ~ 284, 265) and who can be con-sidered true Sikhs of that type. But many keep the hair unshorn, abstain from tobacco, do not worship idols or revere Brahmans to any great extent, and follow the teachings of the Granth. These also call themselves Nanak-panthi Sikhs. Others, again, while they revere the Granth, yet revere Brahmans also, worship idols now and then, do not abstain from tobacco, and shave their heads. Some of these call them-selves Nanak-panthi Sikhs, and others Nanak-panthi Hindus; so that there is no clear line of distinction between them. Thus Nanak-panthi in this district means little more than a lax Hindu. Sikhism of this type is said to be spreading at the cost of orthodox Hinduism and it is probable that the spread of education, commerce and knowledge is tending to loosen the bands of caste, and encourage a laxity of opinion and of ceremonial observance, such as was taught by the Guru Nanak," The term being so uncertain in its application, there is little to be learnt from the figures which our tables supply as to the respective strength of the Nanak-panthis in various parts of the Province. These figures do not bear out the view generally held that this sect is especially prevalent on the frontier; at the same time there is no doubt that the Hindus on the frontier were, and probably still are, to some considerable extent, Nanak-panthis. There are well-known colonies of them in Tirah and its neighbourhood beyond the Kohat border, and they are found in all the frontier districts; The Aroras of Kohat are commonly divided into two classes-the Bhumi or autochthonous, who are mostly Hindus and worshippers at the Jogi shrine at Kohat; and the Lamochars, or immigrants from the south and west, who are mainly Nanak-panthis. The formers are known as Sewaks, and the latter as Sikhs. These Nanak-panthi Aroras keep their hair uncut, and though they touch and sell tobacco, will not smoke it. They do not, however, as a rule, take the pahul or observe the four remaining kakkas of Gobind Singh's ordinances. They eat the meat of animals whose throats have been cut after the Muhammadan fashion (kutha) and not that of animals whose necks have been cut by the Sikh method of jhatka. Except that they will go every morning to the dharamsala, or Sikh place of worship, to listen to recitations from the Adi-Granth, and that they use the Sikh forms of morning and evening prayers (Japji and Rehras), they are in all respects as other Hindus are on the frontier. It is not improbable that followers of Nanak are diminishing on the frontier as the fanaticism of their Muhammadan neighbour cools down'; for it is now possible for Hindus to worship idols openly in the towns, whereas in former days the Hindus of those parts were obliged for fear of their lives to profess some form of their faith which, like the doctrines of Nanak, dispensed with the worship of idols. The term Nanak-panthi, as well as those of Sikh and Hindu, are applied in common parlance in a very loose and confused way. The followers of Nanak returned themselves under various appellations; such as Nanak Shahi,, Nanak-dasi, Sikh Nanak-dasi, Sewak Guru Nanak, Nanak-math, Nanak-padri, Baba-panthi, etc. Possibly some of those returned as Ad panthls may really belong to the same sect; the term implying an adherence to the original' faith.

NANAKPANTHI, lit. the follower of the PANTH or way of GURU NANAK. The termNdnakpantht was perhaps used for the first time for SIKHS in Mobid Zulfiqar Ardistani`s DabistdniMazdhib, a seventeenthcentury work on comparative religion, which has a chapter entitled Nanak Panthidn describing the Sikhs, their Gurus and their beliefs. It has also been used by some eighteenth and nineteenth century writers in a more restricted sense to indicate that special group among the Sikhs which follows the teachings of Guru Nanak and his successors but does not strictly adhere to the injunctions of Guru Gobind SINGH, especially about keeping the hair unshorn. Other appellations used for this sect are Nanakshahi and Sahijdhari. Sometimes even Kabirpanthis are also referred to as Nanakpanthis. Persian chronicles such as TdnkhiMuzaffan and ImddusS`ddat mention two divisions of the "followers of Nanakshahl," the Khalsah or those who do not trim their hair and the Khuldsah or those who trim their hair. Another earlynineteenthcentury writer, Francis Buchanan (17621829), a doctor in the service of the East India Company and once a surgeon to Lord Wellesley, also mentions these two groups in Bihar and other places and characterizes the former as those "who are of the church militant" and took the title of Singh, and the latter as those "who confine themselves entirely to [things] spiritual" and "are commonly called Sikhs." H.A. Rose, author of A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and NorthWest Frontier Province, also divides the Sikhs into these two categories the Nanakpanthis and the Singhs or KHALSA. The 1891 Census Report of the Punjab defines Nanakpanthis as Sikhs who are not Singhs, who follow the teachings of the earlier Gurus, but not the "ceremonial and social observances" inculcated by Guru Gobind Singh. Among the various sections and groups mentioned in the Census Report of the Punjab (1891) under the common designation Nanakpanthis are the Udasis, the Gulabdasis and the Suthrashahis, besides a number of other smaller groups. The Nanakpanthis revere Guru Nanak, and have faith in the Guru GRANTH Sahib, and are scattered in small numbers throughout India, especially in states such as Assam, Bihar, Tripura, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana. They were either converted by Udasi preachers or they happened to settle in the respective areas migrating from the Punjab. At places Udasis themselves came to be called Nanakpanthis. But in the Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh, the common designation used is Sahijdhari. ROHTAK has the maximum concentration of them and there are several Sahijdhari seats there, the most prominent being Gurdwara Gurdarshan Singh which is a branch of the former seat atJharigMaghiana (now in Pakistan) . The head of the Bandai derd inJammu and Kashmir also lives there and there are in the area many Bandais, mostly Sahijdhari, claiming to be the followers of the eighteenthcentury SIKH hero and martyr, Banda Singh Bahadur. There are some Bandai villages in Hissar district, too. A large number of refugees from Multan who resettled in Haryana after the partition of India in 1947 are mostly Sahijdharis or Nanakpanthis. Charig brotherhood, also known as Ghirat or Bahari, in the Nurpur, Baijnath and Chamba areas of Himachal Pradesh are all Nanakpanthis, about 10 per cent of them being the Khalsa Sikhs. The potters in the Karigra hills are also mostly Nanakpanthis. Some villages in this area such as Mariguval, Parijral, Javarival and Badani Tika are predominently Nanakpanthi villages. At Badani Tika live the descendants of Bhai Gola, an attendant of Guru Tegh Bahadur. The largest centre of Nanakpanthis in Uttar Pradesh is Nanak Mata, in Pilibhit district, which is a pilgrim centre for Nanakpanthis of Nainital, Pilibhit, Gorakhpur and other neighbouring districts. A Sikh mission at Hapur, established by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, preaches Sikh tenets among Nanakpanthis in these parts. The vanjdrds in the Roorkee tahsil of Saharanpur district (U.P.), in about 150 villages in Khardokh district and in about forty village in BHIKHAN Gariv area, Indore region, Barvani area, Gwalior district and Burhanpur district are counted among the Nanakpanthis. In Rajasthan the Nanakpanthi Vanjaras have their principal centre at Kishangarh where the Delhi Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee runs a preaching centre. At one time the Udasis, who had 360 gaddis or seats in Bihar, had converted half of the local population to the Nanakpanthi faith. The work began with a sannydsl, Devagiri, of Bodh Gaya, who had along with 360 of his disciples embraced SIKHISM at the hands of Guru Har Rai (16301661). He was renamed Bhagat Bhagvan and granted a bakhshish or preaching seatthe fourth Udasi Bakhshishand appointed to head Sikhs in Bihar. PATNA, Sasaram and Lakshmipur, near Kala Gola railway station on the Assam line, have remnants of Nanakpanthi population. The ruling family of the erstwhile Purnia state has also been Nanakpanthi and still has a gurudwara in their palace. Nanakpanthis ofSindh (now in Pakistan) are scattered all over the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. There are some Nanakpanthis in Assam (a village near Dhubri has descendants of Sikh migrants from Tarn Taran in the Punjab); Badgola, about seventy miles from Shillong, has some Sikh families; so have the villages of Chhappar, Lanka Station and Lamdig, Tripura and West Bengal. The Nanakpanthis in Tripura, who comprise about 150 families, are said to be the descendants of the seventy Sikh soldiers brought here by Raja Ratan Rai from the Punjab when he went to visit Guru Gobind Singh at ANANDPUR with presents, including the famous Prasadi elephant. Ganesha Singh, Bharat Mat Darpan. AMRITSAR, 1926

References

1. Ganda Singh, tr., "Nanak Panthis" (translation from Dabistan-i-Mazahib by Zulfikar Ardistani), The Punjab Past and Present, vol.1. PATIALA, April 1967

2. Ved Parkash, The Sikhs in Bihar. Patna, 1981

3. Archer, John Clark, The Sikhs in Relation to Hindus, Moslems, Christians and Ahmadiyyas. Princeton, 1946

4. Banerjee, Indu Bhusan, Evolution of the Khalsa. Calcutta, 1936

5. Buchanan, Francis, Patna-Gaya Repoil, vol.1 (1811-12). Patna, 1925

6. Latif, Syad Muhammad, History of the Punjab. Calcutta, 1891

7. Braharnanand, Pandit, Guru Udasm Mat Darpan. Sakhar, 1980

8. Gian Singh, Giani, Nirmal Panth Pradipika. Sialkot 1949 Bk

9. Randhir Singh, Bhai, Udasi Sikhan di Vithia. Amritsar, 2016 Bk


Sects & Cults

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