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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Nanaksaria cont'd

Eventually, in 1943, Baba Ishar Singh died, but no was was designated to become the next leader of this movement. Initially, a 10-member committee was elected to manage the ‘Kaleranwala Gurdwara’. This committee included 3 disciples of Baba Ishar Singh: Baba Niranjan Singh, Baba Sadhu Singh and Baba Kundan Singh.

Baba Ishar Singh
Upon his death the Nanaksar Movement was left without a head and split into factions

Baba Niranjan Singh filed a lawsuit to gain control of the Gurdwara, but then later withdrew it after a compromise was achieved. When he passed away, a fight to control the Gurdwara and its immense wealth broke out between Baba Sadhu Singh and Baba Kundan Singh. They both claimed to be the rightful custodians of the shrine. Being very old men, they deputized 2 younger men to present their case – Bhai Lakkha Singh represented Baba Sadhu Singh, and Bhai Harbhajan Singh represented Baba Kundan Singh. This ongoing struggle for power still dominates the Nanaksar movement to this day. As a consequence, the Nanaksar movement has splintered into several branches all over India, and abroad in the UK and Canada, each with its own leader.

Baba Kundan Singh

Claimed to be the successor of Baba Ishar Singh by many Nanaksaria-affiliated Sikhs

From their history it is evident that the ‘Nanaksarias’ have a heavy imprint of Nirmalas on them. They may consider themselves to be ‘Khalsa’ but are complete pacifists. Those that wear the ‘Sri Sahib’ (dagger/sword) consider it to be merely a religious symbol than a weapon to be used. Within Akali Nihang circles, the Nanaksar movement has been accused of de-masculating the warrior ‘Khalsa’ by killing its martial ardor. Nirmalas believe in ‘Dehdari Gurus’ (living guides). In a similar fashion, the Nanaksaria Sikhs, although claiming not to have such designations for their spiritual leaders, do pay similar reverence to them. Baba Narinder Singh, on a web site devoted to Baba Nand Singh comments:

‘Baba Ji my lord, my master, my overlord, my beloved has never let this dog go. Like this dog has never forgotten his master, lord my God Baba Nand Singh Ji. He is from beginning the dog of Baba Nand Singh Ji to the end will remain its master’s dog.'
Source: www.babanandsingh.org

The inner sanctum of the Nanaksar Gurdwara at Kaleran where Baba Nand Singh's 'Chola' (garment) is kept

However, this does not mean that the ‘Nanaksarias’ do not treat Adi Guru Durbar as ‘Guru’. The fact remains that the ‘Nanaksarias’ consider Adi Guru Durbar as living 'Guru', and Baba Nand Singh himself stated that the Adi Guru Durbar was the living form of Akali Guru Nanak Devji.

Adi Guru Durbar
The sacred Sikh scripture as kept at the Nanaksar Gurdwara at Kaleran with a photograph of Baba Nand Singh in front

In treating Adi Guru Durbar as ‘living Guru’, they even place extra coverings on Adi Guru Durbar during winter, and the ‘Manji Sahib’ (bedstead used to rest Adi Guru Durbar) us full-sized, as for a human being. The ‘Nanaksarias’ in many ways treat Adi Guru Durbar just as Hindus treat their idols.

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