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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Akali Nihangs

Time of origin: Mythological beginnings (via ‘Chandi di Vaar’) can be traced to ‘Sat Yuga’ (Age of Truth) as soldiers of Chandi. According to Nihang oral tradition, Akali Nihangs were informally known as ‘Baba Budha Budha Dal’ during the establishment of the Akal Takht (circa 1606). Renamed ‘Akali Nihang’, circa 1680s. Formally known as ‘Budha Dal’ and ‘Tarna Dal’ in 1735 making Akali Nihangs the oldest orthodox Khalsa institution within Sikhism.

Before British Raj made its way into Punjab, it is a historically undisputed fact that all main Sikh shrines of Sikhism within Punjab and beyond were controlled by Budha Dal Akali Nihangs. Bhai Khan Singh Nabha, the eminent Tat Khalsa Singh Sabhia scholar in ‘Mahan Kosh’ (1930) speaking of Sikh temple management says:

‘In the times of the Sikh Gurus and Budha Dal special care was taken of Sikh temples ----. ’
(See under the word Gurdwara)
‘Mahan Kosh’, by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, 1930

Akali Nihang Baba Phoola Singh Ji

An enamel miniature depicting Akali Nihang Baba Phoola Singh Ji, the
mighty warrior and head of the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa and Akal Takht Sahib

The former Dam Dami Taksal-educated, and ex-S.G.P.C. Akal Takht Jathedar wrote in a book published after his death:

At the Akal Takht, Takht Sahib Siri Kesgarh Sahib and Takht Dam Dama Sahib the priests dressed in the Nihang manner. From this it is known that the it was the Budha Dal Jathedar that used to control the organisation of the Takhts. Because it was Budha Dal which looked after all the religious traditions of historical Gurdwaras in the Punjab. Initiating Khalsa and preaching Dharma it did also.’
‘Siri Akal Takht Sahib Ateh Jathedar Sahiban’, by Giani Kirpal Singh, 1999, Pa. 57

Akali Nihang Baba Hukam Singh Ji Shaheed

Fresco from the walls of Baba Atal Gurdwara, Amritsar of Baba Hukam Singh
Shaheed of the Budha Dal dressed in full 'Baana' (uniform), circa late 19th century

To this day, Sach Khand Hazoor Sahib, Nanded, Maharastra, observes Budha Dal traditions. Sant Baba Jaginder Singh, one time head Jathedar of Hazoor Sahib wrote:

‘Oh holy congregation, Oh doubters, is there a Guru’s Sikh greater than Nihang Singhs and is there any one more firm in Khalsa code then them? Anyone who keeps the Khalsa code like Nihangs is very rare…. . The Nihang Singhs of Budha Dal observe the same traditions as Hazoor Sahib. The Budha Dal Nihang Singhs only give ‘Farra’ to them or make Nihangs who have been initiated in Hazoor Sahib or Budha Dal.
‘Siri Hazoori Maryada Parbodh’, by Sant Baba Jaginder Singh, Pa. 120

Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh Ji

An early painting of the tenth Sikh Guru with his attendants, including an Akali Nihang Singh (left) dressed in traditional 'Baana' (uniform), circa early 19th century

In fact Sach Khand Hazoor Sahib was founded by Nihangs. A prominent Sikh scholar and historian commented:

‘The founding of Hazoor Sahib was by Nihangs. It is the gift of Nihang Singhs. It was they who were with the tenth master when his light merged into the divine. ’
Piara Singh Padam, transcript of interview, 03-03-2001


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