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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Bandai Khalsa

Time of origin: circa 1712

In the year 1656, in the household of Ramdev Rajput was born Lachman Dev. Legend has it that as a teenager, Lachman went out hunting and killed a pregnant deer. Overcome by sadness of his action, he ran away from home and joined a Hindu religious order of ‘Viragi Sadhus’ (wandering ascetics). The Sadhus renamed him Madho Das. Madho Das spent many years wandering with these Sadhus accumulating a tremendous amount of knowledge - some accounts even state that he possessed miraculous powers. Eventually, he established his ‘Ashram’ (abode) near the river Godavari in Nanded, Maharastra. The Ashram was a refuge for all animal life.

The Godavari
Photograph of the Godavari river as it runs near Nanded, Maharastra

Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh had heard of the haughty Vairagi Madho Das who reveled in playing magic tricks on other holy men. In 1708, during the month of September, the Guru decided to pay a visit to Madho Das at his Ashram. Upon arrival at the Ashram, the Guru ordered his Khalsa warriors to ‘Chatka’ (kill with a single blow) and cook some goats that were wandering around within the Ashram.

Akali Nihang Baba Kharak Singh carries out Chatka at a festival in Punjab, circa mid 20th century

Madho Das, on hearing that an armed stranger had not only settled himself at his Ashram, but had also killed and cooked his beloved goats was enraged. Arriving at the Ashram, Madho Das attempted to utilize his miraculous powers to overturn the bedstead where the Guru was seated. He had succeeded in scaring away other holy men in the past, however, this time he failed to do so. Realizing that he had met his match, Madho Das humbled himself before the Guru and declared himself ‘Banda’ (slave) to the Guru. Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh titled him ‘Bahadur’ (brave) and made Banda the commander-in-chief of the Khalsa armies. He was given the mission of punishing the Moghal regime that had taken over Punjab.

Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh
A painting of the tenth Sikh Guru from Sach Khand Sri Hazoor Sahib at Nanded, Maharastra

It has to be noted that although Madho Das, who became to be known as Banda Bahadur was made commander-in-chief of the Khalsa armies, it was Akali Nihang Baba Binod Singh who was the first Jathedar of the Akal Takht and who had overall control of the Sikh nation.

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