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The Sanatan Sikhs - The Seva Panthis/Addan Shahis
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This is another of the great traditional Sikh orders. Udasi Baba Karm Prakash, speaking on behalf of the Seva Panthis at Guriana Mandi (in Punjab) in presence of Sant Baba Jagjir Singh, the Seva Panthi chief caretaker, spoke of the purpose of the Seva Panthis thus:

‘The chief work of the Seva Panthis is this: to serve the living spirit and not to worship stones, to provide food for all beings in free, the the communal kitchen as service, and to make havens for cows, cattle etc. To do all such religious deeds.’
(Baba Karm Das, transcript of recording, 06-03-2001)

Seva Panthi order was started by Bhai Kanhaiya. He was born in 1648 in a town called Sohadara now in Pakistan. In time, after searching for a spiritual guide amongst Hindus and Muslims he became a Sikh of the ninth Sikh Guru. Akali Guru Tegh Bahadur instructed Khanaiya to go out and serve humanity. Thus began the life time work of Bhai Khanaiya, ‘Seva’, self-abnegating service to all living things.

Bhai Kanhaiya Ji
A contemporary painting of Bhai Kanhaiya, the founder of
the Sanatan Sikh Seva Panthi/Addan Shahi philanthropist order

Bhai Khanaiya established a Dharmsala (Rest house and temple) in the Northwest frontier in the Attock district of Punjab on a hilly track near the village of Kawa. The Dharmsala was situated on the Grand Trunk Road between Lahore and Peshawar. There, Khanaiya served all indiscriminately. He preached all Muslims and Hindus to be brothers in the eyes of the one Nirankar God the father of all. In time Akali Guru Tegh Bahadur attained glorious martyrdom and his son Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh came to occupy Akali Guru Nanak’s spiritual seat.

Bhai Khanaiya was greatly saddened upon hearing of the martyrdom of his Guru. He in time resolved to see his great successor. The early years of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh were to be the preparation for the oncoming wars with the caste-bound Hindu Rajas and the bigoted imperial Moghal power of Aurangzeb.

Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh ordered all his able-bodied Sikhs to wear weapons and learn the arts of war. Bhai Khanaiya also obeyed the Guru's instructions and put on a sword but claimed his sword being a symbol of his Guru was for the use of his enemy. Thus, the Guru exempted Khanaiya and his followers from military duty and told him to carry on performing the duty allotted him by his reverend father Akali Guru Tegh Bahadur of serving all living beings.

In a latter battle in Anandpur Bhai Khanaiya served water indiscriminately to friend and foe alike. For this act, some angry Sikh warriors, the Nihangs accusing him of treason brought him before Guru Gobind Singh Ji. When Guru Ji asked him why he was helping the wounded enemy. Bhai Ji replied:

“I cannot distinguish between friend or foe I only see you the one true Guru Va-eh Guru in all

Friend or Foe?
Bhai Kanhaiya Ji seen here in a contemporary painting giving water to a Muslim soldier

The Guru was very pleased, and not only did he order Khanaiya to continue, but also gave him a medicine chest as a gift. He then blessed him saying after him shall be a Sikh order who will serve all mankind indiscriminately. Noor Shah was amongst those Afghan soldiers to whom Bhai Khanaiya had served water and attended. He went onto become a great disciple of Bhai Khanaiya setting up a Dharmsala of his own.

Blessing from the Guru
A contemporary painting depicting Akali Nihang Guru Gobind
Singh handing a bag of ointment to Bhai Kanhaiya Ji and blessing his work

After Bhai Khanaiya his Sikh order came to be known as ‘Seva Panthis’ (The path of servers). This name came through Bhai Khanaiya’s disciple Seva Ram. Seva Panthis are also known as 'Addan Shahia'. This name is derived from another of Bhai Khanaiya’s disciples Addan Shah.

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