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Namdharis/Kookeh The sect was founded in 1857, eight years after the demise of the Sikh Kingdom of Punjab, Between 1867-1881, the Kuka Sect won a large number of converts, in the Punjab.
This Small minority sect included, majority of them were, Ramgarhia, Arora, and Jatts etc. and also included many Hindus. Their main center was Bhaini Sahib, in Ludhiana District of Punjab. other Center's being Amritsar, Ludhiana, Hisar, Sialkot. The Sect was born, started during the British Rule, during the period of Modern India, year 1857. It is only about 155 years old. The British left in 1947, for 90 years they struggled against the British to survive, to fight for Freedom, as Hundreds of them were killed or exiled from the Punjab, to Burma, Singapore, etc. As the British try to put them down, but the remaining Kookeh's in the Punjab continued to fight, until 1947. Many Jatts mainly of Sialkot, Gujranwala, districts converted to Kookeh.
the Kookeh's intermarry, with each other, The Ramgarhia, Arora, Jatts etc, intermarry with each other, as long as the husband, and wife are Namdhari, Caste dies not matter, this marriage takes place at Bhaini Sahib, but also still keep their Clan names, the first intermarriage of the Namdhari's took place in year 1863.
Some famous known Kookeh of the late 19th century in History were as below
- Baba Balak Singh (1785-1862), From a Arora family of village Hazro, in Attock District of Punjab. mentor of Baba Ram Singh, acknowledged to be the forerunner of the Namdhari movement, founded in 1857, eight years after the fall of the Sikh Empire.
- Baba Ram Singh (1816-1885), the founder of the Sect, in 1857, was from a Ramgarhia Sikh family, and belonged to the village of Bhaini Sahib, in Ludhiana district of Punjab.
- Baba Hari Singh (1819-1906), the younger brother of Baba Ram Singh, who joined the Sect founded by his brother. and became the leader of the Namdhari's after the death of his brother.
- Kuka Gurcharan Singh Virk (1806-1886), The preacher of his sect, who joined the Kuka Sect in 1867, he was from a Virk Jatt family of village Chak Pirana, in Sialkot District of Punjab.
- Mahant Kuka Jota Singh Gill, a Gill Jatt, from the village of Qila Sobha Singh, in Sialkot District of Punjab, who became the Mahant in his Sialkot area, and initiated the famous Kuka Gurcharan Singh Virk in 1867.
Time of origin:
This famous Sikh movement was started by Baba Balak Singh (1799-1862) in the early 1800s. In accordance with Sanatan Sikh Shastar Vidiya Gurdev Akali Nihang Baba Mohinder Singh’s view, Baba Balak was initiated into the Sikh faith by a ‘Sehajdhari’ Udasi Sikh named Bhagat Jwahar Mal of Rawalpindi. Dr Gopal Singh in his ‘History of the Sikhs’ also mentions Balak Singh as being a follower of Jwahar Mal.
Nihang Niddar Singh recently verified Balak Singh’s Udasis connection with a Namdhari Sikh named Kuldeep Singh, the present secretary of Namdhari Gurdwara in Birmingham. Kuldeep Singh stated that he heard the same fact from elderly Namdharis. A British text written early last century also claims Balak Singh was an Udasi:
‘Kuka, a fanatical sect of Sikhs. To the peaceful order of the Udhasis belonged one Balak Singh, an Arora by caste of ‘Hazro’ in Attock, who about 1846 inaugurated among the Sikhs a movement which, was directed against, the participation of Brahmins in weddings and, generally, against their influence over the community. He formed adherents in the Sikh garrison of the fort, and they became known as Sagrasi or Habiasi. On Balak Singhs death in 1863 his nephew Kahn Singh succeeded him, retaining in the locality a certain number of followers, whose doctrines are never divulged. Balak Singhs teaching was, however, taken up by Ram Singh, a carpenter of Bhaini Ala in Ludihana---.’
‘A Glossary Of The Tribes And Castes Of The Punjab And North-West Frontier Province, Vol. II, by Horace A. Rose, 1911, Pa. 560
This adopting of non-Khalsa Udasis, Sevapanthi or Nirmala spiritual guides termed as ‘Guru’ (said in context of teacher) by Khalsa
Sikhs such as Balak Singh in the Sanatan Sikh world was and still is quite common.
Balak Singh gave arise to two offshoots of within Sikhism. The first was through his nephew, Kahn Singh, which emphasized meditation through particular form of ‘Sagrasi’ meaning ‘Sas Grasi’ (breathing) ‘Habias’ (‘Abias’ meaning ‘training’). This school of thought is almost extinct today. The followers of Kahn Singh are known as ‘Neeldhari’ because they wear deep blue ‘Patka’ (small bandana-like head covering).
The Neeldharis only acknowledge the spiritual authority of Baba Balak Singh, and do not give any credence to Baba Ram Singh (1816-1885) who would later give arise to the main offshoot of Baba Balak Singh’s thought.
Ram Singh was another disciple of Balak Singh and it was he who kept Balak Singh’s teachings alive. Extra dynamism was given to Ram Singh’s cause when his followers began to claim that Ram Singh was in fact the actual incarnation of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh.
Namdharis today substantiate the fact that their Guru, Ram Singh, is incarnation of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh through three main written sources - 'Sau Sakhis', 'Siri Gurind Nama', and 'Naveen Panth Prakash'.
1. Sau Sakhi
These are mainly a collection of anecdotes taken from the lives of Sikh Gurus in particular Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh. Amongst these stories are dispersed a number of tales depicting future events such as establishment of Khalsa Raj.
These ‘prediction’ Sau Sakhis first appeared during the years of life and death struggle of the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa in the 18th century. According to the martial tradition held within the Akali Nihang Baba Darbara Singh Akhara, these predictions were only a means of propaganda to keep the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa morale alive in these desperate times when the Khalsa was facing extinction while facing a constant state of war. In time as Khalsa Raj lost out to the British, new prediction Sakhis surfaced forecasting the end of British Raj and establishment of Maharaj Duleep Singh’s Raj.
In same manner the Akali Nihangs and Nirmala Khalsa created new Sakhis in order to prop their anti-British Raj cause. The Namdharis also created their own tales to boost their cause and no doubt there surfaced a new series of prediction Sakhis. It has to be appreciated the British also propagated their own ‘Sau Sakhi’ predictions to counter Nihang and Namdhari anti-British propaganda. If all the predictions in Sau Sakhis are to be accepted literally (as some Namdharis suggest), then logic would imply that all predictions in the Sau Sakhis should have now come to pass. However, this is not the case. The significance of Sau Sakhi predictions can only be appreciated as a tool for propaganda, serving a particular purpose at a particular juncture in Sikh history - and not as literal truth. Therefore, one can conclude that the Sau Sakhis which speak of Ram Singh as an incarnation of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh, have no credibility.
Ironically, the Sau Sakhis also contain tales that praise ‘Neela Baana’ (blue Nihang uniform) and recommend the consuming of meat by Sikhs, yet these are rejected by present-day Namdhari Sikhs. Even the Namdharis must concede that the credibility of the Sau Sakhis is not irrefutable as they claim.
2. Siri Gurind Nama
This is an obscure text, found only amongst Namdharis themselves and is attributed to Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh. It claims to be a text of future predictions from Chapter 12 of an ancient Hindu text named the ‘Bhogal Puran’. This ‘Bhogal Puran’ appears to be those predictions that Viyas and Sukhdev related to the demigods during ‘Sat Yuga’ (Indian mythological term for the Golden Age).
Then, Sukhdev related these predictions to Prishat Raja. In the initial pages of the Gurind Nama it is stated that these same predictions, with regards to the coming of 12th Avatar in ‘Kal Yuga’ (the Age of Technology), were related to the Sikhs by Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh. The 12th Avtar in this case refers to Ram Singh.
It has to be noted that this text is not heard of amongst the Sanatan Sikhs including the masters of Sanskrit, the Nirmalas, nor the well-traveled Udhasis. Judging by the style of writing, the 'Gurind Nama' can be dated to the late 19th century, and appears to be concocted by Namdharis themselves.
This is an historical text written by the Nirmala scholar Giani Gian Singh in 1889, approximately 32 years after the establishment of Namdhari movement. Giani Ji basically built upon the original 'Pracheen Panth Prakash' by Nihang Rattan Singh Bhangu. Namdharis are very fond of quoting Giani Gian Singh’s 28 verses which refer to them in great detail. Indeed, some Namdharis such as Dr Harbhajan Singh even claim with pride that although Giani Ji writes of the glory of Nirmalas and Nihangs, it is the Namdharis he really praises. No doubt this has been said to increase the popularity of his own works amongst the Namdhari contingent.
What Dr Harbhajan Singh and other Namdharis of similar thought state is not true at all. Giani Gian Singh, being a Nirmala himself praises the Nirmala most, and in general gives other Sikh denominations a fair say. This author bias is to be expected. For instance, in one of the concluding lines with which Giani Gian ends his 28 verses on Namdharis, he concedes that the three forms of Guru Khalsa are thus:
‘Nirmala, Nihang and Kookeh three are great in virtues I have spoken of their distinctions they are known as Singhs.’ ‘Naveen Panth Parkash’, by Giani Gian Singh Nirmala, edited by Giani Kirpal Singh The line in Giani Gian Singh’s work, which the Namdharis like to emphasize, is the line that speaks of Baba Ram Singh as incarnation of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh:
‘The spiritual message that Balak Singh delivered was if immense benefit to men and women. It helped them swim across the vast Sea of Existence, and, the Creator himself had revealed His word and charged him to spread it for the purification of human life. Nevertheless, the Tenth Master appeared in person and informed him: “Ram Singh is my incarnation partaking of an element of mine. I have, therefore, entrusted him, and none else, with my authority.” The masters message was clear and firm.’ ‘Namdhari Sikhs A Brief Account’, as narrated by Giani Gian Singh, English Version: Dr Harbhajan Singh, Pa. 43
The account given, which Giani Gian Singh reiterated, is clearly from the Namdhari source itself. We know from the 28 verses that Giani Gian Singh visited the Namdharis himself so as to ascertain whether the accusations being made against them by some Sanatan Sikhs were true or not. At the time, some Sanatan Sikhs and Sanatan Sikh temple priests had accused Namdharis of reading ‘Kalam’ (Muslim incantations) during their religious services. These accusations turned out to be false.
It has to be noted that in the account given by Giani Gian Singh, like other historical texts such as the Sau Sakhis, there is no mention of Baba Ajpal Singh. It has to be appreciated that Namdhari Sikhs and another faction of Radhasoamis at present contend that Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh did not die at Nander in 1704, as believed by all other Sikhs. The Namdharis claim that the Guru went into hiding as Baba Ajpal Singh who later helped the Sikhs during the Missal period. In time, Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh (as Ajpal Singh) passed on the Guruship to Udasi Baba Balak Singh, who in turn initiated Baba Ram Singh as Guru
Within the Budha Dal annals of oral tradition, Baba Ajpal Singh is spoken of as being a regular Akali Nihang ‘Nigarchi’ (drummer) within the Guru’s Akali army. To collaborate this, the present-day custodians of Baba Ajpal Singh’s shrine at the village of Nabha also speak of him as a 'Nigarchi' in the Khalsa army.
In addition, Baba Ajpal Singh lived in Nabha and passed away in 1812, while Baba Balak Singh lived far away in the village of Shohi, district of Attock. If one does some basic calculations, then on Akali Nihang Baba Ajpal Singh’s death, Baba Balak Singh would have been only 13 years of age. The idea that Baba Ajpal ever met Baba Balak, let alone bestow Guruship upon him is very unlikely. However, even if we do accept that Baba Ajpal Singh was indeed Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh Ji, then on his death this would have made him 146 years of age.
Even according Yogic system of ‘Pranayam’, and rejuvenation methods within ‘Ayurveda’, this would be virtually impossible.
Akali Nihang tradition also states that Ram Singh was a former Nihang before he became a ‘Namdhari’. This same belief was also held by the eminent Sikh historian, Dr. Ganda Singh, whom Namdharis like to hate.
Akali Nihang oral tradition speaks of Baba Ram Singh as a great holy Sikh man, but not a ‘Sat Guru' as seen by is Namdhari followers. Mainstream Sikh academics such as Dr. Gopal Singh, the late Piara Singh Padam etc. point out that within Ram Singh’s letters from jail, he acknowledges Adi Guru Durbar as the true Guru for the Sikhs, and refutes any claims that he is Guru.
Irrespective of all reliable historical evidence, the Namdharis still believe the contrary that their Gurus are the true direct successors to the ten Sikh Gurus, and not the Adi Guru Durbar. They further contend that before the Singh Sabhia movement in 1880s there is no reference in history to Adi Guru Durbar as Guru. This not true. One of the oldest texts to clearly state that Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh gave his 'Gurgadi' (seat of Guruship) to Adi Guru Durbar (also known as Siri Guru Granth), is of Patt Vaihi, the bard of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh.
In his edited version of Bansavalinama’s introduction on Pa. 24, Piara Singh Padam quotes Patt Vaihi thus:
‘Guru Gobind Singh the tenth master, son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, residing at Nanded near edge of river Godavri, in the southern country in 1765 [1708 AD] in ‘Kartack’ (October-November) on Wednesday a command was given to Bhai Daya Singh: “Bring Siri Granth Sahib. ” Taking the command, Daya Singh brought Siri Granth Sahib. Guru Ji placing five ‘Paisa’ (coins) and one coconut in front bowed to it. To all the Sikh congregation, he said: “My command is, in my place the Guru consider Siri Guru Granth Sahib. That Sikh who accepts this, his devotion will be successful, the Guru will take his arm, consider this the Truth.’ ‘Patt Vahi Talond, Pargan Jind In, ‘Bansavalinama Dasa Patshia Ka’, written in 1769, almost a century before the Singh Sabhias, it is clearly stated that not only is the 'Guru Granth' to be considered as Guru, but it also states that which Granth is Guru. Some more arrogant Namdharis ridiculously retort “which Granth for Granth just means book” when presented with factual evidence that the Granth is Guru. Bhai Kesar Singh explains clearly which Granth is Guru:
‘Listen oh brother Sikhs consider such Baba Nanak as the truth. Recognize the ten ‘Mahal’ (Sikh Gurus) as Guru Nanak. Today our actual Guru is Guru Granth Sahib…. . … Other than Granth recognize no other [as Guru]…. . …. Sambat 1688 . Then was born Adi Granth. In the house of Guru Arjan Dev was born Granth Sahib. The midwife was Bhai Gurdas, the writer and child’s playmate’ ‘Bansavalinama’, edited by Piara Singh Padam, Pa. 244-245
Once again, even Akali Nihang oral tradition, which traces its origins to the times of the Sikh Gurus, also clearly states Adi Guru Durbar is highest Guru of Sikhs after Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh.
(Please note, Dasam Guru Durbar and Sarbloh Guru Durbar were given status as 'Guru' by the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa out of respect for Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh Ji for they are his works). The Namdhari contention that there is no reference to Guru Granth being Guru prior to Singh Sabhias is absolutely false.
Turning to historical facts, Baba Ram Singh was a soldier in Nau Nihal Singh’s army from 1837-1845. Nau Nihal was Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s grandson. Baba Ram Singh was well known for his piety within the Sikh regiments.
On the eve of the first Sikh battle at Mudki, Ram Singh deserted the Sikh army, disillusioned with a small group of Sikhs. Mrs Beant Kaur Namdhari wrote:
‘The first battle was fought between the Sikhs and army of the East India Company at Mudaki on 18th of December, 1845. Before departure, the Sikhs of the regiment requested Sri Satgur Ram Singh Ji to pray for their victory in the battle. Satgur Ram Singh Ji stood for some time facing the sun and then declared, “They cannot be victorious how hard efforts they may put in as they had forgotten the teachings of the Guru”. Saying this, he threw his gun into the river Sutlej at Harike and left the army for good. On being asked by the Sardars, Satgur Ram Singh Ji replied, “I am throwing my gun today, you will throw it tomorrow. You are bound to be defeated due to the treachery of your own Sardars.’ ‘The Namdhari Sikhs’, Mrs Beant Kaur Namdhari, Pa. 20
Baba Ram Singh returned to home in the village of Bhaini and engrossed himself in deep meditation on Va-eh Guru. After the battle of Mudki, his friend (and first disciple according to Namdharis), an Akali Nihang named Baba Kanh Singh came and served Ram Singh at Bhaini.
On 12th April 1857, Baba Ram Singh, who now was known as ‘Sat Guru’ by his followers, reenacted the Khalsa initiation ceremony which Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh had performed at Anandpur in 1699. In Ram Singh’s mind, the Khalsa of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh had become morally corrupt and had degenerated. As he saw it, by creating new ‘Panj Piyarey’ (5 Beloved Ones), he would be able to ‘restore’ the Khalsa back to the way it once was. The Namdhari Panj Piyarey were:
a) Akali Nihang Kahn Singh (the first to be initiated) b) Labh Singh c) Atma Singh d) Naina Singh e) Sudh Singh
The Panj Piyarey were named ‘Sant Khalsa’ (saintly/holy Khalsa) or ‘Namdhari’, meaning ‘the ones who adopt Naam (the name of the Almighty)’. It is to be noted the Sant Khalsa designation was originally of the Akali Nihangs who were opposing the British since establishment of British Raj.
As proof, one must read, ‘Raj Nama’, a ancient Sikh prophecy attributed to Akali Guru Nanak prophecising Khalsa Raj. ‘Raj Nama’ is very popular text read even today amongst Akali Nihangs. Many Nihangs commit it to memory as this text speaks of the blue dressed ‘Sant Khalsa’. Ironically, blue is a color of dress which the Namdharis abjure.
Apart from being referred to as ‘Sant Khalsa’, the Namdharis in time also came to be known as ‘Kookeh’ (or ‘Kuka’ for a single individual), for as they did ‘Naam Simran’ (recitation of Mantra) by twirling their heads in ecstasy and produced ‘Kookaa’ (high shrieks).
History also speaks of Ram Singh, considering the Khalsa traditions being corrupt sent one of his followers, Rai Singh, to Sach Khand Hazoor Sahib to bring back the true Khalsa traditions once he had created the Namdhari Panj Piyarey.
‘The Sikhs in Punjab had miserably deviated from the principles of Sikhism framed by Satgur Gobind Singh Ji. The original tenets were being twisted by the Sikhs to suite to their requirements. The Gurdwaras were also under the control of the selfish priests who were bothered about their own bread and butter rather than propagating Sikh religion. Thus, Satgur Ram Singh Ji decided to send his disciple Bhai Rai Singh to Hazoor Sahib in Nanded to note down the religious customs and daily routine being followed there. Bhai Rai Singh remained there for three and a half months and brought back the Marayada, which was then promulgated by Ram Singh Ji amongst the Namdhari Sikhs.’ ‘The Namdhari Sikhs’, by Mrs. Beant Kaur Namdhari, Pa. 21
Question that immediately springs to mind
If Ram Singh considered himself to be an incarnation of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh, why did he need to send Rai Singh to bring back Khalsa traditions?
Furthermore, it has to be noted the Khalsa ‘Maryada’ (codes of conduct) at Hazoor Sahib to this day are those of Akali Nihang Singhs. Within this Maryada, there is no room for ‘Dehdhari Gurus’ (living Gurus), and only Adi Guru Durbar is seen as guru and Dasam Guru Durbar, and Sarbloh Guru Durbar are given no less respect. In addition, and contrary to the vegetarian Namdharis, the Maryada of Sach Khand Hazoor Sahib observes the traditions of Chatka.
The Namdhari accusation of Sikhs of the past in Punjab contorting Khalsa code of conduct to suite themselves should also be leveled against the Namdharis themselves.
Baba Ram Singh was however a great social reformer and carried out may changes:
1. Banned female infanticide. 2. For first time in Sikh history he initiated women into the Khalsa alongside men. 3. Prohibited child marriage. The minimum age fixed for marriage was 16 years for girls and 18 for boys. 4. Allowed inter-caste marriage amongst Namdharis. 5. Stopped castration of Bulls and looked after welfare of animals. 6. Namdharis were commanded to look out for the welfare of the poor and needy. 7. Though ‘Sukha Degh’ in none intoxicating ‘Shirdai’ form was not prohibited, he put a ban on all drug taking and consumption of alcohol. 8. He made wedding ceremony simple and inexpensive. Though the wedding ceremony Ram Singh inaugurated at Khotey village on 4th June 1863 employed verses from Sikh scripture Adi Guru Durbar, the circumvolution was done around a ‘Havan’ (sacred fire). The circumventing was also done in an anti-clockwise manner like Akali Nihangs, and not clockwise as is the common mainstream Nirmala-influenced Sikh practice today
Original Namdharis were considered Militant
Many of the original Namdharis, unlike their counterparts today, were very militant in character and were not content with merely preaching their message of Sikh reformation.
Between 1865-66 Namdhari fanatics began to demolish tombs, mausoleums and village shrines of Guga, Mata, Pir Khana etc.These zealots believed that Sikhs should only worship at Sikh shrines. Their actions angered many Sanatan Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims who complained to the local authorities. For their fanatical actions, a good number of Namdharis went to prison yet they carried on singing: ‘Demolishing tombs and ‘Maseet’ (Muslim shrines) make the field flat. First kill Pir Bnoi then Sultana. In Bhaini the true Satgur has awakened rest of the world is false.’ ‘Sikh Sampardavali’, by Piara Singh Padam, Pa. 147
As a consequence of their disruptive actions in the Sanatan Sikh villages the ‘Pujaries’ (Sikh priests) at Kesgarh Sahib did not accept Baba Ram Singh’s offerings at festival of Hola Mohalla on 19th March 1867. Later that same year, as Baba Ram Singh and his followers went to pay homage at the Golden temple, where the Udasi Pujaries at the Golden Temple gave him a scarf of honor.
The Akali Nihangs at the Akal Takht refused to let Ram Singh enter Akal Takht even though they considered him a former Nihang. He would only be granted access if he dressed in the traditional Khalsa dress of deep dark blue. Due to the hostility between the Namdharis and the Neeladharis, some Namdharis spoke of the Akali Nihang sacred blue uniform as being ‘Malesh’ (Muslim) colour. The Namdharis returned to Bhaini Sahib disgusted
A highly political institution
The Namdhari movement was not only a Sikh religious and spiritual movement, but a highly political institution. The Namdharis, like the Nihangs of the time also believed in overthrowing the British in the Punjab.
With this goal in mind, Baba Ram Singh commanded his followers to:
1. Boycott all government services. 2. Boycott all government institutions 3. Boycott of courts of law, and advocated settlement of disputes in village councils - the ‘Panchyats’ (a ruling body of five selected individuals). 3. Boycott of foreign goods, and call to people to use indigenous goods and clothing only. 4. Boycott British postal services and other means of British introduced communication. 5. Boycott of railways.
The British began to note the anti-Raj activities of the Namdharis. On 3rd July 1863, the British ordered the confinement of Ram Singh to Bhaini Sahib. Ram Singh then inaugurated five ‘Subas’ (lieutenants) to spread the Namdhari message.
The inevitable Namdhari conflict with the British came in 1871. In India, the cow has always been considered a sacred animal. During the times of the Sikh Raj, the killing of cows was punishable by death.
The British ‘Divide and conquer’ policy
To this day, all Chatka-eating Sikhs do not eat beef. In the USA however, some Sikhs, attempting to make concessions to American culture have begun to consume beef. As the British came to power in Punjab during 1849, they decided to apply a ‘divide and conquer’ policy and utilized the medium of cow slaughter to split the Muslims from the Hindus and Sikhs.
In Amritsar itself, a slaughterhouse was opened adjacent to the clock tower near the Golden Temple where Muslim butchers began to slaughter cows. As beef began to be sold in Punjab for the first time for over half a century, conflict arose between the Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.
Birds of prey began to carry carrion and bones away from the slaughterhouses and this would occasionally drop within the holy precincts of the Golden Temple and other nearby Hindu temples. The Sikh and Hindu priests were infuriated at this, and began to protest to the authorities. The British Governor of Punjab ignored these protests.
Attack on the slaughterhouse in Amritsar
The Namdharis, fired up by the zeal of a new reformist movement decided to take matters into their own hands, and on 14th July 1871, a handful of Namdhari fanatics attacked a slaughterhouse in Amritsar known to be killing cows. Four Muslim butchers were killed, and three others injured. The cows were set free. The governors of Punjab were caught completely unaware of this dramatic act of violence and the superintendent of police in Jullandar, Mr Christie, was entrusted to investigate this incident. Mrs Beant Kaur, a noted Namdhari historian states:
‘…. . the police suspecting the band of local people in these killings arrested some of the Nihangs of the Golden Temple and the local Hindus. They were tortured and made to confess their guilt, though they were innocent. After a simple trial, the Session judge convicted the innocent people to death sentence.’ ‘The Namdhari Sikhs’, by Beant Kaur, Pa. 25
Capital punishment of some
The Namdharis who had carried out the raid returned to Bhaini Sahib where Baba Ram Singh persuaded them to have themselves to the authorities in order to prevent the British from targeting innocent individuals. The Namdharis obeyed their "Satguru" and of the six that handed themselves in, four - Lehna Singh, son of Musadha Singh of Amritsar, Fateh Singh, Hakam Singh and Beehla Singh were hanged to death on 15th September 1871 in Ram Bagh in Amritsar. The remaining two of the six Namdharis, Lehna Singh, son of Bullacka Singh, and Lal Singh Sepahi were exiled to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Another Jhanda Singh was hanged in connection with same incident a year later. Approximately a month after the above incident took place, another similar incident occurred in near the village of Raikot.
A group of Namdharis were passing a Gurdwara in Raikot, on their way to Bhaini Sahib when they were summoned by the local priests. The priests took the Namdharis to temple precincts where crows were seen to be dropping carrion. The Namdharis decided to spend the night there, and in the morning they attacked the local slaughterhouse and killed four Muslim butchers and seriously wounded seven others. These Namdharis were arrested and brought before the magistrate at the village of Bassin. On 5th August 1871, three Namdharis - Mastan Singh, Gurmukh Singh and Mangal Singh were hanged to death at Raikot. On 26th November 1871, two more Namdharis - Giani Rattan Singh of Mandi and Rattan Singh of Naiwala, who were innocent, but were considered associates of above hanged Namdharis, were also hanged to death in Ludihana.
Such incidents of violence brought the Namdharis to the full notice of the British rulers. Mr Macnab, in his government report against the Namdharis, advised the British rulers to deport Baba Ram Singh from the Punjab. Meanwhile, the British continued to encourage Muslim butchers to open slaughterhouses in the Punjab and increase the selling of beef. In January 1872, the Namdharis had gathered at Bhaini Sahib to celebrate Maghi.
A Gurmukh Singh of Farwahi village narrated to Sirdar Heera Singh a tale of how an ox had been deliberately slaughtered in his presence in Malerkotla, and how the police on this occasion used abusive language towards him.
Kookas disobey their leader "Guru"
Against the wishes of their Guru Ram Singh, the hot-headed militant Namdharis decided to attack the butchers at Malerkotla. On 13th January 1872, approximately 100 Namdhari fanatics, lead by Sirdar Heera Singh and Lehna Singh started from Bhaini Sahib for Malerkotla. Two Namdhari Sikh women, Bibi Ind Kaur and Bibi Khem Kaur, were also amongst them. Meanwhile Ram Singh sent his close companion, Lakha Singh, to warn the British commissioner of Ludihana about the impending action of his renegade followers.
On the way to Malerkotla, the Namdharis tried to steal horses and firearms from the local Sikh feudal chief of Malaudh, Sirdar Badan Singh. The Sikh chief, who according to some sources was initially willing to assist the Namdharis, opposed them, resulting in a fight that caused the death of two Namdharis. Four additional Namdharis were seriously injured. Unable to get any firearms from Malaudh, the Namdharis continued their journey which was now a further nine miles.
On 15th January 1872, the bloodthirsty Namdharis reached Malerkotla. At 7 am, the Namdharis attacked, and a bloody fight ensued between the forewarned police, and the Kooka. The police, who received eight causalities, was lead by an officer named Ahmed Khan. Seven Namdharis were killed, and as more police reinforcements arrived on the scene at midday, the remaining Kookas fled to the village of Rar.
Arrest of Kookas
As Kookas began to flee to their villages, the police pursued them and arrested 68 Kookas who were brought to the police station of Sherpur. On the evening of 15th January, the British deputy commissioner of Ludhiana, Mr. Cowen, also reached Malerkotla. On 16th of January, he summoned Baba Ram Singh from Bhaini Sahib to Malerkotla and released the 68 Kookas.
The two Namdhari women were amongst the arrested Kookas that Cowen had set free. From the remaining 66, 22 were seriously wounded. On 17th January 1872, the harsh Cowen, without any judicial process, ordered the barbaric execution of 49 Kookas by having them blown away by cannons.
Some sources state that one young Namdhari lad named Bishan Singh attempted to choke Mr Cowen but was pulled off and cut down with a sword. In this way, Cowen murdered 50 Kookas in all. Namdhari tradition records of how one Viriyam Singh, being too short, elevated himself by placing bricks under his feet so as he could be executed by cannon fire more efficiently. On 18th January 1872, in the presence of Mr Forsyth, another 16 Kookas were blown away by cannons as they sang hymns from Sikh scriptures.
During these killings, Baba Ram Singh was in the nearby village of Siar. On the night of 17th January, he and four companions - Sahib Singh, Lakha Singh, Jwahar Singh and Nanoo Singh, were arrested. They were sent under Gurkha guard, headed by Mr Jackson, to Allahabad prison where they were detained under the Bengal Regulation III act of 1818.
Soon after, seven more leading Namdharis were arrested and sent to Allahabad. On 10th March 1872, Baba Ram Singh, along with his personal attendant, Nanoo Singh, were sent by train from Allahabad to Calcutta. From there, at 7 pm. on 11th March 1872, they were shipped to Rangoon. Baba Ram Singh was interned in Rangoon till 18th Sept 1880. From there, he was shifted from prison to prison till he reached Murghuiat, a remote village in Burma. Baba Ram Singh died of diarrhea in prison on 29th November 1885. However, Namdhari Sikhs to this day vehemently believe he did not die there.
Disappearance of their leader
‘The British Government shifted Satguru Ram Singh Ji to Mergui on 21-9-1880, Satgur Ji made miraculous disappearance from the captivity of the British at Mergui on 21-11-1885. The Government could not trace him thereafter. The only escape left for the Government was to declare Satguru Ram Singh Ji dead. In this way, the prophecy of Satguru Ram Singh Ji made by him years before his banishment from Bhaini Sahib “The Government will falsely declare me dead. The fire cannot burn me, and water cannot drown me, I will come back in the same form. Do not believe that I am dead”, came out to be true. Satguru Gobind Singh Ji had prophesized in ‘Sau Sakhi’ that Satguru Ram Singh Ji would live for 250 years………The Namdhari Sikhs firmly believe that Satguru Ram Singh Ji is alive even today and as promised by him would re-appear again.’ ‘The Namdhari Sikhs’, by Beant Kaur, Pa. 32&33
Namdharis in Birmingham, UK speak of recent sightings of Baba Ram Singh in Germany by certain Germans. In accordance with above Kookah belief, Baba Ram Singh is alive. His successors - Baba Hari Singh, Baba Partap Singh and Baba Jagjit Singh, though addressed as and treated as Namdhari ‘Gurus’, are only just ‘custodians’ of Baba Ram Singh’s ‘Gurgadi’ (Guru’s throne).
According to Namdhari prophecies, Baba Ram Singh, born 1816, is to live for 250 years then he must appear before 2066 to bring about the ‘Golden Age’. The present ‘Satguru’ of Namdharis is the accomplished musician and Sikh holy man, Baba Jagjit Singh.
Though the Namdhari Sikhs do not believe in the Adi Guru Durbar as Guru, this does not imply that they do not respect or revere the sacred scripture. The manner in which Namdharis relate to Adi Guru Durbar is analogous to how mainstream Sikhs view Dasam Guru Durbar. They look upon the teachings as ‘Gurbani’ (Guru’s holy words), but not as ‘Guru’. Namdharis in no way disrespect Adi Guru Durbar, or for that matter Dasam Guru Durbar. Indeed, from experience, they show more respect towards Adi Guru Durbar than the vast majority of Sikhs who claim it to be their Guru. The elderly Namdharis in particular are firm in their ‘Rehit’ (code of conduct) as they understand it.
Namdharis excel nearly all Sikhs in one particular skill, that of ‘Gurmat Sangeet’ (singing of sacred scriptures). As a community, they are are the forefront of the correct singing of Sikh sacred scriptures according to ‘Raag’ (musical meters stipulated within Adi Guru Durbar, Dasam Guru Durbar and Sarbloh Guru Durbar). This tradition of 'Raags' amongst the Namdharis began early last century in the 1930s where Baba Partap Singh employed Hindu, Sikh and Muslim Indian classical music masters to teach his son (and eventual successor), Baba Jagjit Singh
Namdharis are absolute theists, believing in ‘Nirankar’ (formless) God alone. They do a particular form of ‘Naam Simran’ (contemplation), a forerunner to Akhand Kirtani ‘Sas Gras’. In dietary habits they are vegetarians.
Like Nihangs, Namdharis circumvallate anticlockwise, rather than clockwise. The dress of Namdharis, emphasizing their ‘Sato Guna’ (virtue of purity), is white. Their style of turban is a unique with distinct flat pleats going across forehead.
* Kukian di Vithya Vol.1 - Dr.Ganda Singh
* Guru Granth tey Panth - Gyani Sher Singh
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