The Word ‘Nihang’ in ‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji’
(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)
The word ‘Nihang’ has been used in the Gurbani, as well as in other Sikh texts. In different texts, the word ‘Nihang’ has been used in different meanings.
We find this word in the ‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji’. On page 392, the fifth Guru, Sri Guru Arjun Dev Ji has used its form of ‘Nihanga’: –
Nirbhao Hoyeyo, Bhaya Nihanga.
It has been translated as “Being fearless, he becomes unrestrained”.
While translating this line, the ‘Faridkoti Teeka’ uses word ‘Nidharhak’ (fearless, bold) to explain the word ‘Nihanga’.
But, one should keep it in mind that the word ‘Nihanga’ has not been used here in this line of the Gurbani for a good person, ‘Gurmukh’, ‘Bhagat’ or ‘Sikh. To understand more clearly, we should read whole of the ‘Shabd’: –
Aasaa Mahla 5. Bhoopat Hoye Kai Raaj Kamaaya. Kar Kar Anarth Vihaajee Maayaa. Sanchat Sanchat Thailee Keenee. Parabh Us Tay Daar Avar Kau Deenee. 1. Kaach Gagreeya Ambh Majhreeya. Garab Garab Uaahoo Meh Pareeya. 1. Rahaayo. Nirbhayo Hoyo Bhaya Nihangaa. Cheet Na Aayo Kartaa Sangaa. Laskar Jorhay Keeya Sambaahaa. Niksiya Phook Ta Hoye Gyo Suaahaa. 2. Oochay Mandar Mahal Ar Raanee. Hasat Ghorhay Jorhay Man Bhaanee. Vad Parvaar Poot Ar Dheeya. Mohi Pachay Pach Andhaa Mooya. 3. Jineh Upaahaa Tineh Binaahaa. Rang Rasaa Jaisay Supnaahaa. Soye Muktaa Tis Raaj Maal. Naanak Daas Jis Khasam Dyaal. 4. 35. 86.
(Aasaa Mahla 5. Becoming a king, the mortal wields his royal authority; oppressing the people, he gathers wealth. Gathering it and collecting it, he fills his bags. But God takes it away from him, and gives it to another. 1. The mortal is like an unbaked clay pot in water; indulging in pride and egotism, he crumbles down and dissolves. 1. Pause. Being fearless, he becomes unrestrained. He does not think of the Creator, who is ever with him. He raises armies, and collects arms. But when the breath leaves him, he turns to ashes. 2. He has lofty palaces, mansions and queens, elephants and pairs of horses, delighting the mind; he is blessed with a great family of sons and daughters. But, engrossed in attachment, the blind fool wastes away to death. 3. The One who created him destroys him. Enjoyments and pleasures are like just a dream. He alone is liberated, and possesses regal power and wealth, O Nanak, whom the Lord Master blesses with His Mercy. 4. 35. 86.).
Thus, here in this line of the Gurbani, Guru Ji is talking about a person, who became ‘Nihangaa’ or unrestrained or fearless, and has forgotten God.
At the same time, we should not think that ‘Nihangaa’ or ‘Nihang’ can be used only for a bad person. In the same line of the Gurbani, the word ‘Nirbhao’ has also been used, which as we know is also used for God in the Gurbani. Thus, a word is neither bad, nor good on its own, as the same word can be used for bad person, as well as for good person. Here in this line of Gurbani, the word ‘Nihanga’ has been used for a person, who has forgotten the God, who has opressed the people, who is indulging in pride and egotism.