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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Hira Dasia

Time of origin: early 1800s

The origins of this Sikh sect can be traced to Hira Das, born in the house of Abdula, a shoemaker from Sur Singh in 1810.

Hira Das became a disciple of a local Udasi, Baba Sharn Das. He studied under his Guru who changed Hira Das’ name to 'Hari Das' (servant of God). Local villagers still still knew him as Hira Das. Hari Das was well-versed in the Vedantic philosophy, and began to visit the regiments of Sikh kingdoms where his religious discourses and teachings attracted a number of admirers.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Maharaja Ranjit Singh with his generals during the time of the great Sikh kingdoms, circa mid 19th century

As consequence of his preaching, Hari Das accumulated a great deal of wealth. With this wealth he established a base at Gandi Vind, district Tarna Tarn, which became a refuge for itinerant Sikh holy men. A ‘Langar’ (free kitchen to feed all) was established at the refuge with generosity of Hira Das and his followers. As the refuge prospered, Hari Das bought land around the refuge and planted an orchard. In time, the followers of Hari Das came to be known as ‘Hira Dasia’ (servants of Hira Das).

Durbar Sahib
Sri Durbar Sahib at Tarn Taran, built by Akali Guru Arjan Dev Ji Maharaj

Hira Das died in 1879 and was succeeded by Sant Singh, who in turn passed away in 1896. Sant Singh was succeeded by Mahant Nihal Singh who died a year later to leave Mahant Chanda Singh in charge of the Hira Dasia. Over the years, the Hira Dasia established a number of bases at Sukar Chak, Sur Singh, Bir Raja Teja Singh, Cheemeh Khurd, Rakh Bekunth, Amishah, Lehia and Amritsar.

Hira Dasia ‘Maryada’ (tradition) was adopted from Sahejdhari Udasis and non-martial Khalsa Nirmalas. Nirmala Ganesha Singh wrote:

‘They wore ochre colored clothes, on head kept uncut hair, both Sahejdhari and Amriteh [Khalsa] disciples were found. They gave Gur Mantra of Vaeh Guru, Guru’s Guru was considered Gur Granth all other traditions were of Nirmala and Udasis. Further alcohol, meat, cannabis, tobacco etc. intoxicants and material temptations they desisted from.’
‘Bharat Mat Darpan’, by Pandit Ganesha Singh Nirmala, 1926, Pa. 90-91

Nirmalas at Ujjain during a local festival, circa mid 20th century

In time the various Hira Dasia orders merged with the multitude of Nirmala and Udasi orders to loose their distinctive entity.

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