«AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION O thou that buttest the high mountain, seeking to dislodge it with thy horns, take pity, not on the mountain but on thy head ...»
When Sikh Sardars, Rai Singh, Sher Singh, Maharaja of Patiala came to know about it they rushed to the spot. The Udasis who had been killed were cremated. The flag was hoisted and the recitation of Guru Granth Sahib completed under armed protection. The Udasi leaders had requested the Sardars not to harm any pilgrim and not to take any action till the holy festival was over. So on 10th April when he pilgrims melted away and the Naga Sadhus and Gosains were counting their collections, the Sikh Sardars atacked them with blind fury and killed everyone of these Naga killers and exploiters that come their way. From that year onward the Nirmala and Udasis saints were never 193 taxed but were given special facilities for preaching the teachings of Guru Granth in Hardwar and Kurukshetra melas.2 It is only after the annexation that the British en-couraged the Udasi mahants of historical shrines of Nankana to become independent, and treat these histori-cal shrines as their property, that, there was a clash and a movement started against them, to save the historical shrines from sacrilege and base corruption.
But the Udasi saints and mahants outside Punjab were not touched. Their deras flourish till this day undisturbed. In the face of destructive and spiritually dead Akali Dal politics of Punjab they continued to spread the authentic message of theGuru Granth to the non-Sikh in the regions in which they live even to this day.
SEWA PANTHISBhai Kanhiya a disciple of Guru Tegh Bahadur took a vow to serve people in peace and war at a humanitarian level.
While he tended the wounds of the Sikhs soldiers and carried water to the dying in the battle-field, he served even the wounded soldiers of the enemies with deep compassion and human concern. His two devotees, Bhai Sewa Ram and Adan Shah set in motion a powerful movement which still exists and is respected by the Sikhs.
Adan Shah was a Persian scholar who translated AlGhazali’s Kimiya-Sa-adat and called it Paras-Bhag. He belonged to a rich family and had his early education in Sikh Scriptures and history from an Udasi saint Baba Gurdas, who also trained him in Calligraphic excellence, after acquiring which Adan Shah prepared excellent copies of Guru Granth. The ink prepared according to the formula of Adan Shah was considered the best and was known as Adan-Shahi ink. Adan Shahi or Sewa Panthis were Sikh saints who earned their personal livelihood by doing small craft work and selling their products, but they devoted all their time and energy to prayer, worship, writing and preparing copies of scriptures and historical works.
194 They built hospices for wayfarers in the remote areas of eastern Punjab on highways where ninety per cent of the travellers were Muslims. Whatever money was offered by people was scrupulously spent on the sick, the needy and for charitable purposes. Adan Shah was living when Ruler of Lahore had set a price on each head of a Sikh. Once when the Emperor visited his Pir a Sufi Saint he found Adan Shah sitting by his side, who appeared to be a Sikh and yet not a militant Sikh. He asked his Pir in Persian, “Is he the disciple of that dangerous Rebel Guru Gobind Singh?” The Pir in order to protect his life and person from the Emperor’s wrath said “He is a saint who has renounced the world and is disciple of Pir Nanak Shah who went to Mecca and Medina”. Bhai Adan Shah calmly but firmly replied, “Padshah Salamat I am the disciple of that Rebel Guru Gobind Singh, who was ninth successor of Baba Nanak and am proud of being one.” The Em-peror was stunned by the reply, and giving a formal bow to his Pir and Adan Shah went away. Such had been the moral courage and commitment to Guru Gobind Singh of Sewa Panthi Saints most of whom were Khalsa Sikhs, but kept away from militant activities. Baba Sham Singh and the eminent theologian Sant Amir Singh were Sewa Panthi Saints and great scholars.
For over a century the first offering of Karaprashad, (sacramental food) at 2 A.M. in the Golden Temple inner Sanctum and Santorium is prepared at the dera of Sant Baba Sham Singh who died at the age of 123 in 1923. His teacher Bhai Ram Singh was son of the personal attendant of Guru Gobind Singh.3
NIRMALA MISSIONARY WINGGuru Gobind Singh trained 52 disciplined missionar-ies and explained to them Guru Granth, the final version of which was prepared at Damdama in Anandpur. The fifty-two scholars thus trained, were called the Adi Damdami Taksal of Anandpur. Out of these five scholars who were taught Sanskrit were sent to Benaras namely Ram Singh, Karam Singh, Ganda Singh, Vir 195 Singh, Sobha Singh and later more were sent to other centres like Hardwar and Allahabad. In all these places they still have their headquarters. Such great luminaries as Sant Nihal Singh, the first to translate Japji into Sanskrit, Sant Gulab Singh, Giani Gian Singh, Pundit Tara Singh Nirotam and others have contributed monumental works which are indispensible for all serious students of Sikhism.
Some Sant-Cults and even historians belonging to some sampardaya have tried to distort Sikh history. Giani Gian Singh has shifted the Martyr Bhai Mani Singh’s place of birth to his own village Longowal although the Mani Singh of this village was a Dulat-jat and not Shahid Bhai Mani Singh a Kshatriya.
Giani Gian Singh also shifted the Damdama (of Anandpur) where the first authentic copies of Gum Granth were prepared to Damdama in Bathinda district where later on Baba Dip Singh set up his missionary centre. To carry the distortion further the Bhindrawale Sants now claim to be the spiritual descendents of Damdami Taksal (spiritual lineage of interpreters of Guru Granth) of Baba Dip Singh, although all the followers of Baba Dip Singh and Baba Gurbakhsh Singh died fighting to the last man for the sanctity of the Golden Temple. They letf no successor. Sant Sunder Singh, founder of Bhindra-walas was student of Nirmala saint, Sant Gulab Singh and actually belonged to the Amritsari Taksal. I had the opportunity to meet Sant Inder Singh brother of Sant Sunder Singh many times and got first hand material about the Saint’s life from Sant Giani Gurbachan Singh. Sant Inder Singh died a few years ago at the age of 104.4
The moral degradation and political as well as cul-tural chaos created by the voluptuous life in Ranjit Singh’s court and the Brahmanical control of Durbar affairs by Dogras, followed by annexation created a pitiable situa-tion. There was political revolt and religious revival by Bhai Maharaj Singh and the saintly Baba Ram Singh Namdhari and social and cultural reforms by Nirankari leader Baba Dayal ji. Baba Ram Singh died in British prison in Burma, while Bhai Maharaj Singh was tortured to death in Singapore prison. The families of Baba Ram Singh and Baba Dayal kept the movement instituted by them alive during the early twentieth century but they ceased to be a perceptible force after the partition.
Hindu religious reformists encouraged Guru-Cult, as in Hinduism no sooner a holyman is accepted as a ‘Sant’ he begins to be addressed as “Guru” and “Bhagwan”. As Brahminism dominated the religious field in urban and rural areas the passion to raise the status of Namdhari and Nirankari leaders Baba Ram Singh and Baba Dayal ji to the status of Guru was also propagated within these cult groups and some ridiculous and unhistorical reasons were found. This unfortunate practice not only weakened these remarkable movements, and lowered the prestige of the great religious Sikh leaders of nineteenth century but has reduced their followers to narrow and limited areas of petty deras, which do not have a hopeful future until they give up their Guru-cult and play a constructive role in the collective future of the Sikh Panth.
In the twentieth century, more so in the last five decades, Sants and Babas have sprung up like mushrooms, and they are worried more about expanding their mate-rial wealth than spiritual interests of their followers.
EROSION OF SIKH RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS BY BRITISH
IMPERLALISM DURING RAJ AND BY DOMINANT MAJORITYIMPERIALISM AFTER 1947 Briefly stated, British Imperialism adopted some methods 197 of bringing religious and cultural ruin to Sikh society, religion and all that was precious to it. Hindu Imperialist have done the same thing after 1947. The only difference is that the British government exploited the greed and avarice of the Udasi Mahants who controlled historical Gurdwaras, while the Delhi Rulers after 1946 have ex-ploited the corrupt Akali and proCongress leadership in the name of secularism to promote the new Hindu civilization they were ushering in place of the western civiliza-tion propagated by the British.
The British encouraged the Udasis to become own-ers of property of historical Gurdwaras and even made their property free of revenue taxes. The British went to the extent of some repression leading to Gurdwara Reforms movement, but did not go beyond a certain point for fear of losing their hold on the Sikhs completely. No military or para-military rule was instituted except Marshal law for a short period. But the Delhi Rulers backing Hindu Imperialism and Hindu hegemony over the language, culture and religious practices of the Sikhs have carried their nefarious designs to Blue Star Operation which involved savage destruction of Golden Temple com-plex and 57 other historical shrines. As if this was not enough they organized the most barbaric Delhi riots against Sikhs in November 1984.
The British patronized corrupt Udasi Mahants and progovt. individuals, who could speak against their own people.
The Delhi Rulers patronized corrupt and characterless leaders and hired equally corrupt Sants and Babas but more so the Sant Nirankaris who promote lecherous and hedonist life in the name of free thinking and free indulgence in everything religious function of their deras. The Sant Nirankaris have been used by the Delhi Rulers as the real Sikhs, the government recognize and has helped them and similar cults with money and weapons for armed confrontation with the Sikh people.
These government backed Sant Nirankari attacks on Sikhs are the beginning of two decades of repression and military 198 and para-military continuing attacks on Sikh youth, which has led to the complete alienation of the Sikhs in the country. God knows where it will end.
A WORD ABOUT THE SANT NLRANKARISAs the Nirankaris of Baba Dayal’s ideals were pious and puritan of the highest order, they expelled Boota Singh in 1929 who performed good Kirtan, but like many Bhajan Singers and Kirtan Singers, had an uncontrollable craze for wine, woman and money. In Rawalpindi he formed his own group of Sant Nirankaris in which everyone who followed his principles of enjoying wine, women, money and becoming religious by shouting Dhan Nirankar, became a “Sant” and the group was known as Sant Nirankaris. For a glimpse into their origin and practices I am quoting the official biography of Nirankari Babas by the eminent Punjabi writer Balwant Gargi. Describing Boota Singh’s death Gargi writes “At 2.00 p.m. they (Nirankaris about thirty) filed past their guru, touching his feet offering money. As he received each offering he rubbed it against his chest and then laid it by his side. His aged mother, sitting by his side, asked, “Even now so much love for money, dear son.” He chose Avtar Singh owner of a Hindu Bakery for bread for Hindus in Peshwar. Mter partition Avtar Singh set up his Sant Nirankari hedonist dera in Delhi and was atonce patronized by Delhi Rulers as their best bid against the Sikhs. Not only Congress but even Akali ministers and Jathedars wrote letters to the Sant Nirankari-guru addressing him as “Sri Satguru ji”. In Akali government of Parkash Singh Badal in 1979, nearly twenty leading LA.S. and P.C.S. officers were Sant Nirankari chelas. Balwant Gargi in his biography of Nirankari Baba Gurbachan Singh gives an eye-witness account of Financial Commissioner, Hardev Singh Chhina and his wife Naresh drinking the footwash of Nirankari Baba Gurbachan Singh for spiritual enlightenment immediately after gulping down many glasses of whisky which was freely served and enjoyed,” writes Balwant Gargi in his official Biography.
199 “Naresh had emptied her glass and fixed herself an-other.
She took a short gulp and said dreamily “I am happy.” Chhina said strongly, “Babaji is the tangible form of the Formless.” “Naresh served Baba mutton and chicken on a small table before his divan and he removed his garland... We looked through the beaded string partition and saw Naresh kneel down and wash Baba’s feet, and Chhina receiving this water in the crystal bowl. She dried his feet and kissed them, then kissed the towel. Chhina stood up with the bowl and brought it before a white-bearded man sitting next to Baba. The man held the bowl, brought it carefully to his lips, and took a sip. The bowl was carried on around the room. Each drank and then it was set down on a sidetable.” Mter this drinking of footwash which the Sant Nirankaris called’ Amrit’, everyone drank whisky to his fill.5 Historical facts have been given about these religious groups, Udasis, Nirmalas, Nirankaris (original pietists) because Hew McLeod has, throughout his books, misrep-resented them and has given very clumsy and contemptu-ous views about them and other Sant Babas. Apart from Nineteenth century reform movements, the future of these groups depends exclusively on their ability to maintain the moral and spiritual idealism of their leaders. The Udasis, the Nirmalas and Sewa Panthis have considerable resources and idealism which can help in their renewal. Akali Jathedars who tried to capture some of the deras of these saints, have become as corrupt as Masands and I have no doubt that they will be eliminated completely from the religious and political field in the near future. Their sinking boats will be swept away by the rising tides of revolt against hypocrisy, duplicity and treachery in the religious and political fields in this country.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
1. On Organization and Dissolution of Masand Missionary System 200 see (i) Guru Gobind Singh : Thirty-three Swaiyas (ii) Letters of Guru Gobind Singh (iii) Kavi Senapati : Gur-Sobha Granth (iv) Koer Singh’s Gurbilas Patshahi Das (v) Sarup Das Bhalla Mehma Prakash (vi) Kavi Santokh Singh : Suraj Prakash
2. On Udasi Missionary Movement see (i) Mahant Ganesha