The Word ‘Nihang’ in ‘Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji’

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji is an important Sikh scripture. The celestial compositions of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru, are included in this ‘Granth’.

Whenever someone talks about the word ‘Nihang’, he or she wants to know if this word is used in ‘Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji’. If it is, then in which context it has been used? Does it bear the same meanings as it does today?

Let us consider this in the analysis below.

The word ‘Nihang’ has been used in Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji many times and has has different meanings in the numerous compositions contained within the Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji, although scholars are not unanimous over its meanings.

‘Vaar Sri Bhagautee Jee Kee’: –

The plural form of word ‘Nihang’ has been used in ‘Vaar Sri Bhagauti Jee Kee’ (Chandi Dee Vaar), which is very famous composition in Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji. In its 47th ‘Paurhi’ (stanza), the word ‘Nihangaan’ (plural form of word ‘Nihang’) has been as follows:

Paihlaan Dalaan Milandiyaan Bherh Pya Nihangaan.

(First, when armies approached each other, there was fighting of ‘Nihangs‘).

As mentioned above, scholars are not unanimous in their translation of the word ‘Nihangaan’ used in ‘Vaar Sri Bhagauti Jee Kee’. Giani Mahinder Singh ‘Ratan’ translates this word to ‘swords’. In ‘Mahaan Kosh’, Kahan Singh Nabha has quoted this line and translated this word to ‘brave’.

As if it was not enough, we have two variations of this line. The first is given above, and the second can be found in ‘Shabdaarh Dasam Granth Sahib’, wherein S. Randhir Singh Ji has written this line like this: –

Mildee Faujeen Sooreyaan, Bherh Pya Nihangaan.

Dr. Jodh Singh Ji and Dr. Dharam Singh Ji have used the latter Bhai Randheer Singh Ji version in their English translations of the Sri Dasam Granth Sahib render the meaning as follows:

“As soon as the armies approached each other, there was a fierce clash.”

In ‘Shabdaarh Dasam Granth Sahib’, Bhai Randheer Singh Ji has translated this word into ‘fearless’.

If we accept the text by Bhai Randheer Singh Ji, it would be good to translate word ‘Nihangaan’ to ‘swords’, because the word ‘Sooreyaan’ (brave men) has already been used in that line. On the other hand, one can easily translate word ‘Nihangaan’ to ‘brave’ or ‘fearless’, if he chooses the first variation, though same word can be translated to ‘swords’ as well.

Thus, we see that scholars have translated the word ‘Nihangaan’ in two meanings. First one is ‘sword’, which would appear to be appropriate, if we keep both of the variations in mind. The second meaning is ‘fearless’.

We should also note that ‘Vaar Sri Bhagauti Jee Kee’ (Chandi Di Vaar) describes the fight between Goddess Durga and demons. This battle, of mythological lore, would have been fought hundreds of years ago and considerably before the physical coming of Guru Nanak and the establishment of the Sikh religion. If someone comes in the battlefield and fights without fear, he/she must be brave. The warriors of both of sides were brave. If the word ‘Nihangaan’ has here been used for ‘brave’, then one must acknowledge that Goddess Durga, as well as demons are called ‘Nihangs’ in this line. It is understandable that the word ‘Nihangaan’ has not been used in this line of ‘Vaar Sri Bhagautee Jee Kee’ for a particular sect, let alone a Sikh of the Gurus.

‘Apani Katha’: –

The word ‘Nihang’ has also been used in ‘Apuni Katha’ (Bachitra Naatak), which is another famous composition in Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji. In 11th chapter of ‘Apuni Katha’, we find the following lines: –

Bajje Nisang. Gajje Nihang. Chhuttai Kripaan. Littai Juyaan.19. Tupak Tarhaak. Kaibar Karhaak. Saihathee Sarhaak. Chhohee Chharhaak.20. Gajje Subeer. Bajje Gaheer. Bichare Nihang. Jaise Palang.21. Hukke Kikaan. Dhukke Nisaan. Baahai Tarhaak. Jhallai Jharhaak.22. Jujjhe Nihang. Litte Malang. Khullai Kisaar. Jan Jata Dhaar.23.

Dr. Jodh Singh Ji and Dr. Dharam Singh Ji have translated these lines like this: –

In the battle the warriors are thundering without any fear. The swords are slipping from hands and the brave warriors are dying.19. Cracks and thunders of guns and cannon are heard, arrows are shooting and whistling sound of spears and cutters is echoing.20. Warriors are growling and the drums are beaten and the valiant warriors are moving in such a way as if lions are roaring in a desolate place.21. Horses are neighing and drums are beaten. On the one hand the warriors are plying their weapons and on the other the pouring of the arms is being tolerated.22. Warriors are fighting and are rolling on the ground like wrestlers. The hair of the warriors are loosened in such a way as if Shiva has released his matted knots.23.

Thus, we have seen that the original text of “Bichare Nihang” has been translated to “the valiant warriors are moving”. On the other hand, Bhai Randheer Singh Ji translates the word ‘Nihang’ in this line to ‘horses’.

Thus, the original line of ‘Bichare Nihang’ has been translated in two ways: –

1. “The warriors are moving”.

2. “Horses are moving”.

The most important point to note here is that the word ‘Nihang’ has not been used exclusively for Sikh warriors. In fact, the lines have been used for both the sides. If Sikhs are ‘Nihangs’ or brave, so are their opponents. This is what is being stated in these lines of ‘Apuni Katha’ (Bachitra Naatak).

‘Pakhiyaan Charitra’: –

The word ‘Nihang’ has been used in ‘Pakhiyaan Charitra’ also, which is the biggest part of Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji. In 217th ‘Charitra’, we see this line: –

Januk Lahar Dariyaav Te Niksyo Bado Nihang.

Pritpal Singh ‘Bindra’ translates this line like this: –

“As if a crocodile had emerged from the sea”.

Thus, here the word ‘Nihang’ means a ‘crocodile’. Kahan Singh Nabha, in his ‘Mahan Kosh’, agrees to this meaning.

‘Hakaayataan’: –

The ‘Hakaayataan’ is another composition in Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji, in which the word ‘Nihang’ has been used for several times. This is a Persian composition. The word ‘Nihang’ has been used in this composition in different meanings. Here are some excerpts:

Ham Aakhir Yke Raajahe Subhat Singh.
Pasand Aamdash Ham Chu Gurara Nihang.

Dr. Ratan Singh Jaggi and Dr. Gursharan Kaur Jaggi have traslated the word ‘Nihang’ in these lines to ‘crocodile’.

The word ‘Nihang’ has been translated to ‘warrior’ by Dr. Ratan Singh Jaggi and Dr. Gursharan Kaur Jaggi in these lines: –

Chuna Mauz Khezd Zi Dareeyaab Sang.
Barkhsh Andar Aamad Chu Tego Nihang.

No where in the ‘Hakaayataan’, has the word ‘Nihang’ been used for a Sikh.

1 thought on “The Word ‘Nihang’ in ‘Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji’

  1. Karanbir

    I am very much impressed by your knowledge vir ji. Please continue with your great effort to spread the message of gurmat.


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