The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism
throughout Sikh History
Page 1 of 5
Time of origin: early 1800s
In 1809, amongst the clan of 'Ratol'
Jats, in the village of Ratol, Gulab
Singh was born in the household of
Hamira Jat and his wife, Musnmat
Desho. On reaching adulthood, Gulab
Singh sought employment under the 'Sikh
Sirdars' (chiefs) of Poho Vindi.
There he met one 'Sadhu' of
the Sangat Sahib Udasi order of mendicants.
He changed his name to Gulab Das became a disciple
of the Sadhu. Smearing his body in ash, he went
to the village of Donoleh in Malwa and studied
'Kosh Kavj' (prose), etc. with
a learned sage named Dhian Das.
Photograph of an Udasi Sadhu in Nepal, circa
late 19th century
A while later, Gulab Das fell in with a 'Rind'
(alcohol drinking) Muslim Sufi fakir who sung
romantic ballads of Buleh Shah
and spoke 'Khalasi Charcha'
(literally meaning 'words which encourage people
to abandon all forms of religious trappings
and dogma). Upon meeting the Sufi fakir, Gulab
Das abandoned the use of ash, and adorned fine
clothes. In accordance with the Sufi fakir's
teachings, Gulab Das spoke out against formal
religious rules and ritualistic practices of
Hindus and Muslims.
A contemporary painting of Bulleh Shah (1680
- 1758), the great Sufi poet and storyteller
During his travels, Gulab Das met a Nirmala
named Sant Deva Singh who later
taught him the wisdom of the Vedas at Kurukshetra.
Parting company with Sant Deva Singh, Gulab
Das became a student of the famous Udasi Poet,
Baba Hari Das Girdar. After this Gulab Das became
In the holy city of Dwarka where Krishan once
ruled as King, a wealthy prostitute fell in
love with Gulab Das. She decided to travel back
to Punjab with him, but died on the way. All
the wealth he had acquired through her Gulab
Das deposited at Kasoor. As this was the age
of the Sikh Kingdoms, many Nirmala Sikhs such
as Girdar Singh, Mal
Singh, Ashra Singh,
Sarbag Singh, etc., moved amongst
the various Sikh regiments dispending spiritual
Painting of a Sikh Sirdar during the age of
the Sikh Kingdoms, circa 1814
Seeing their work, Gulab Das adopted the Nirmala
dress and also began to move amongst the Sikh
regiments and religious gatherings passing on
the wisdom he had gained. As he was a 'Khalasi'
(a believer in no outward formal religious rules
and codes of conduct), he began to compose hymns,
prose and verses that reflected this unique
philosophy. These works gained him great recognition
in certain sections of the Sikh community. Their
contributions added to Gulab Das' wealth.