Jathebandi (singular) or Jathebandia (plural) is a term used to refer to Sikh communities which may be linked by a common area or common leader or profession, etc. The global Sikh community has always operated as a collection of many smaller locally communities. During the time of the third Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Das, 22 Sikh Sangat area or branches called Manjis was established. These manjis were locally based communities who answered to their local "Manji leader" who was chosen by the Sikh Guru.
The Sikhs have continued this tradition by way of Misls during the times after the last human Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh and now they have many hundreds of "Jathebandis" across the global. Each "community of Sikhs" called a "Jatha" operates autonomously adhering to and living by the rules and principles laid down by the Guru Granth Sahib but interpreted by the local jatha-group or "jathebandi".
Development of Jathebandis
Over time, and due to the relative isolation of these groups, some small differences in customs and practises have appeared and these can sometime lead to debate and disagreement. The advent of global communications is however, again bringing these communities or jathebandis together and many global understanding have been formed.
The tradition of these small locally based jathas has brought strength and support to the local groups and has resulted in a strong Sikh presence across the global. Many of these communities have excelled and produced outstanding personalties across the world despite the very low number of Sikhs in comparison to the total world population.
Types of Jathebandis
The group of jatha may be "Gurdwara" based, Nationally based communities, based on a spiritual leader or Sant or based on a locality in Punjab. Apart from Gurdwara based communities, Sant Jathebandis are most widespread in the global Sikh communities.
- Baba Nand Singh (1870 - 1943)- This is a jatha who are associated with the revered spiritual leader Baba Nand Singh who was born in the village of Sherpur, Ludhiana District, Punjab, India.
- Baba Puran Singh (1898 - 1983)- This jathebandi has headquarters in the UK and is known as Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha. It has several Gurdwaras across UK, Africa and India. Baba Puran Singh , also affectionately called "Kericho wala Babaji" or simply "Bapuji". "Kericho wala" because Bapuji lived most of his adult life in this rural Kenyan town, where now stands a very impressive Gurdwara. Baba ji influenced and changed the lives of many in the UK from 1974 until Babaji passed away on 5 June 1983.
- Baba Isher Singh (1913 - 1963) - This community is spread worldwide with smaller sub-communities predominately in the UK, USA, Canada and India. Baba Isher Singh (Born Inder Singh ) was born on the 26 March 1913 (13th Chet) at the Village of Jhoraran, District Ludhiana (Punjab, India) He died on the 7 October 1963 at the age of 50 years.
- Yogi Harbhajan Singh (1929 - 2004) - This is a community mainly based in the USA and Canada although members can be found throughout the world. This is probably the newest jatha of Sikhs and are either new converts to Sikhism or first/second generation Sikhs; they generally have a very good understanding of the basic Sikh principles as most of them have made an active decision to become Sikhs. Yogi Harbhajan Singh, (born Harbhajan Singh Puri) also known as "Yogi Bhajan" and "Sri Singh Sahib", was a charismatic and influential proponent of Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma. He is best known as the spiritual director of the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) Foundation, which today is one of the world's largest yoga-teaching bodies, and also for his outspoken defence of the holistic doctrine of Sikh teachings. He spent most of his final years as a strong promoter of Sikhi and gave many talks on the benefits of this path.