Tag Archives: Nihang

Nihang

  • Proposed Links
    • History
    • Stories of Origin of Nihangs
    • The Historic ‘Budhha Dal’
      • Sikh ‘Misls’
      • The ‘Chhota Ghallughara’
      • Besiege of ‘Ram Raunee’
  • Conclusion
  • Present
  • Modern concept
  • 1980s, Violence and Nihangs
  • More
  • A Sect or the Original Form of Khalsa?
  • Nihangs In Pictures
  • ‘Chakra’ (quoit) on Dumala (in ‘Nihang Dress’ sub-section)
  • Installation of Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji
  • Installation of Sarbloh Granth
  • Reading list

Books

Reading List

  1. 41 Vaaraan Steek by Pandit Narain Singh Giani
  2. Sri Dasam Granth Sahib – Paathh Sampaadan Ate Vyaakhya
    Edited by Dr. Ratan Singh Jaggi and Dr. Gursharan Kaur Jaggi
  3. Sri Dasam Granth Sahib – text and translation by Dr. Jodh Singh and Dr. Dharam Singh
  4. Chritro Pakhyaan – translated by Pritpal Singh Bindra
  5. Shabdaarth Sri Dasam Granth by Bhai Randheer Singh
  6. Zafarnaama
    Translated by Giani Tralochan Singh Lamba
  7. Sri Gur Sobha written by Sainapati
  8. Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10 written by Kuyer Singh
  9. Bansaavalinaama Dasaan Paatshaaheeyaan Ka written by Kesar Singh Chhibar
  10. Mahma Prakash written by Saroop Das Bhalla
  11. Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10 written by Bhai Sukha Singh
  12. Pracheen Panth Prakash written by Ratan Singh Bhangu
  13. Twareekh Guru Khalsa written by Giani Gian Singh
  14. Mahan Kosh edited by Kahan Singh Nabha
  15. Panth Prakash by Giani Gian Singh, The Language Department edition
  16. Sri Gur Panth Prakash by Giani Gian Singh, edited by Giani Kirpal Singh Ji
  17. Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan written by Swaroop Singh Kaushish
  18. Sikh Sampardaavali written by Prof. Piara Singh ‘Padam’
  19. Bhindranwale: Myth and Reality by Chand Joshi
  20. White Paper on Punjab Agitation by Government of India
  21. Truth about Punjab – SGPC White Paper written by Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, published by the SGPC.
  22. Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle by Mark Tully and Satish Jacob
  23. Diary De Panne by Harbir Singh Bhanvar
  24. Operation Black Thunder: an eyewitness account of the terrorism in Punjab by Sarabjit Singh
  25. A History Of The Sikh Misals by Bhagat Singh, M.A., Ph.D.
  26. History of the Sikhs by Hari Ram Gupta
  27. History of the Punjab by Syad Muhammad Latif
  28. History of Medieval India by V. D. Mahajan

To my readers

To my readers

When I started to write on Nihangs for www.amritworld.com, I never thought that people would show such an interest in this section. I have worked hard studying Nihang tradition and history. I have been sharing many of my findings with all of you, the online family.

Though I have given information in my section very carefully, yet it is possible that a few of my brothers and sisters could not understand what exactly I want to say.

A few of my articles on Nihangs have perhaps caused misunderstanding. On a few online Sikh forums, many brothers have made comments on my work. I never mind criticism. I think that those, who criticize positively, are my good friends. Even those, who have tried to show disrespect for me on different forums, are not my enemies. In fact, no one is my enemy: –


Na Ko Bairee, Nahi Bigaana, Sagal Sang Ham Kau Ban Aayee.

(No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone). (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 1299).

When I started to write on these topics, I thought people knew many of points presented in my pages. So, I did not go in details, or say did not clarify some of points. It caused misunderstanding.

For example, when I wrote, “Modern Nihangs mostly wear blue dress, though a few Nihangs wear other colours, like white and saffron”, I did not mean at all that Nihangs wear only three colours, i.e. blue, white and saffron. In fact, Nihangs wear other colours as well.

I have not written anywhere that Nihangs wear only four colours: blue, saffron, white and black. I thought all the people knew that Nihangs wear other colours as well.

If there are other points, which you think need more clarifications, please do write to me. I will add more lines in my articles to make my points clearer.

A few more pages will be added in this section in future.

Thank you very much.

Student for ever,
Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’

Thursday, December 22, 2005.

Historic Nihangs

Historic Nihangs

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

After the martyrdom of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji in 1716 AD, a group of Amritdhari Singhs were working hard for the cause of the Khalsa Panth. This group was a religious body, but at the same time being warriors, they also served as a militia fighting force.

As a religious body, they made arrangements to prepare copies of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji for the Sikh people and Gurdwaras and organised means for the exegesis of Sikh religious scripture and traditions.

The members of this group were called ‘Shaheeds’, because they have dedicated their lives in the service of Guru and the ‘Panth Khalsa’. They also were known as ‘Nihangs’.

When the ‘Taruna Dal’ was divided in five ‘Jathas’ or groups in 1735 AD, one of these groups consisted only of only ‘Shaheeds’ or ‘Nihangs’. In his ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’, Ratan Singh Bhangu says that five flags were given to these five groups. First flag was given to ‘Shaheeds’ or ‘Nihangs’: –

Pratham Shaheedan Aau Nihangan Pharhaayo.
(The first flag was given to ‘Shaheeds’ or ‘Nihangs’).

Bhai Deep Singh and Bhai Karam Singh were the leaders of this ‘Jatha’ (group) of Nihangs. Bhai Gurbaksh Singh was a member of this group.

Later, this group was called ‘Shaheed Misl’ or ‘Nihang Misl’, when the ‘Dal Khalsa’ was divided in 11 ‘Misls’. Thus, Nihang group was one of five groups of the ‘Taruna Dal’.

As a part of the ‘Taruna Dal’ and later as part of the ‘Dal Khalsa’, Nihangs took part in many expeditions.

Baba Deep Singh Ji

Baba Deep Singh Ji was among the founders of a ‘Jatha’ (group) of Nihangs in the Taruna Dal. He used to live in the city of ‘Sabo Kee Talwandi’, presently in district Bathinda, Punjab.

During his fourth invasion in 1756-1757 AD, Ahmad Shah Abdali sent out a detachment against the Sikhs at Sri Amritsar Sahib Ji forbidding Sikhs from visiting this hallowed site.

When Baba Deep Singh, a leader of the Nihangs, heard this in the city of ‘Sabo Kee Talwandi’, he collected a group of Sikh warriors and advanced towards Sri Amritsar Sahib. As he passed from village to village, more common folk people joined him.

When Jahan Khan, the commander-in-chief of Ahamad Shah Abdali, heard in Lahore that a group of Sikhs were advancing towards Sri Amritsar Sahib, he accompanied by his troops also went to Sri Amritsar Sahib to battle with the Sikhs. Severe fighting broke out between the two sides and Sikhs suffered huge losses.

Baba Deep Singh Ji, along with other Sikhs, were martyred in this battle in 1757 AD.

Bhai Sudh Singh Ji

After the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh Ji, Bhai Sudh Singh Ji was appointed the next ‘Jathedar’ or head of the Nihang group, which was residing at ‘Saabo Kee Talwandi’.

We do not have sufficient information about Bhai Sudh Singh Ji to establish a fuller account of Bha Sahib other than that he was martyred in a battle in Samvat 1819 Bikrami (1762 AD) near village ‘Dakoha’ in ‘Jallandhar’ region.

Bhai Karam Singh

Bhai Karam Singh Ji succeeded Bhai Sudh Singh Ji.

In 1763/64 AD, Sikh groups occupied the province of ‘Sarhind’ and the surrounding territories. Bhai Karam Singh seized a numbers of villages in the ‘Paragnahs’ of Kesari, Majri and Shahzadpur in present ‘Ambala’ District of Haryana State. He received income of rupees one lakh annually from this territory.

Bhai Karam Singh used to live in ‘Kesari’, but after death of his brother Dharam Singh, he moved to Shahzadpur.

In 1768 AD, a Brahman complained that his daughter had been seized forcibly by Hasan Khan, the Nawab of Jalalabad Lohari. A group of Sikhs marched on Jalalabad under Bhai Karam Singh. The Nawab was burnt alive and the Brahman’s daughter was returned to her husband.

In 1779/80, Karam Singh along with a few other Sikh chiefs met Prince Abdul Ahad at Karnal. The Prince presented him with a ‘Khillat’, a ‘sarpech’ and a sword.

Bhai Karam Singh died in 1794 AD.

Gulab Singh

Gulab Singh was the eldest son of Karam Singh. After death of his father, Gulab Singh succeeded him.

On January 4, 1804 AD, Nihang Gulab Singh met Colonel Ochterlony of the East Indian Company at city of Karnal. Gulab Singh appealed to place him under their protection.

Ochterlony issued a recommendatory letter in favour of Gulab Singh, in which he wrote, “Sardar Gulab Singh of Kesari served the Company coming here and sought asylum. Whosoever follows me to command the Company’s forces, he must take Gulab Singh as a faithful follower of the British and watch his interests”. (See, ‘Twareekh Guru Khalsa’ by Giani Gian Singh).

Shiv Karpal Singh

Shiv Karpal Singh succeeded his father Gulab Singh in Samvat 1901 Bikrami (1844 AD).

Shiv Karpal Singh sided with the British in the Indian mutiny in 1857 AD assisting the Imperial Forces against the Indians.

Nihang Misl under Shiv Karpal Singh also helped the British forces against the Sikh army (of the Lahore Government) in the battle of ‘Satluj’ in Samvat 1936 Bikrami.

Jeevan Singh

Shiv Karpal Singh died in 1871 AD and left his son Jeevan Singh as his successor.

Jeevan Singh was married to Bachittar Kaur, who was daughter of Maharaja Mahendra Singh of Patiala. He received a large dowry from King of Patiala. 125 horses, 3 elephants, 41 camels were given as gifts on the day of engagement. On the day of marriage, he recieved, 50 horses, 81 camels, 5 elephants and a large sum of ornate jewelry.

Even after his marriage, he continued to receive great financial help from King of Patiala. On the other hand, Jeevan Singh’s personal annual income was only 48 thousand rupees.

He received the title of ‘Star of India’ from British Governor of Punjab on January 10, 1890 AD.

—–

References

  • Pracheen Panth Prakash written by Ratan Singh Bhangu
  • Twareekh Guru Khalsa written by Giani Gian Singh
  • A History Of The Sikh Misals written by Bhagat Singh, M.A., Ph.D.

Division in ‘Budhha Dal’

Division in ‘Budhha Dal’

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Following his controversial role in the so-called Kar Seva of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji, Jathedar
Santa Singh, the Budhha Dal chief, was excommunicated from the Khalsa
Panth
. Ordinarily under these circumstances, the individual concerned is obliged to present themselves in front of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib should they seek readmission into the Panth. Santa Singh however refused to appear before Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji.


Jathedar Santa Singh

The authority of Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji to summon the Budhha Dal
chief was questioned by Santa Singh’s group of Nihangs. Sikh scholars had to tackle these
points, which were although baseless, were well propagated well planned by the Budhha Dal of Santa Singh.

Not all Nihangs however, supported the actions of Jathedar Santa Singh. A few of Nihang chiefs in particular considered his actions to be extremely iniquitous. This resulted in confusion amongst the Nihang ranks however no one dared to publicly oppose Jathedar Santa Singh.

This was a tense time. A few of Nihangs organized a meeting
to resolve the issue, because some people had begun to degrade Nihangs. (As this
was a Gupt {secret} meeting, in which a few Nihangs took part. I shall not be discussing the details here).

When they could not reach a unanimous decision, Baba Balbir
Singh Akali, a young Nihang, revolted against Jathedar Santa Singh. The Budhha
Dal
was divided into two groups. Baba Balbir Singh Akali led the
separating faction.


Baba Balbir Singh Akali with others

The Budhha Dal under the command of Baba Balbir Singh Akali received
formal recognition from the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji and the SGPC.
Thereafter, on various religious functions and processions, Baba Balbir Singh
Akali would participate as the Budhha Dal Chief.

Meanwhile Jathedar Santa Singh was on the hit list of many Sikh militants.
The Central Reserve Police Force was deployed for his security. I have
personally witnessed on a number of occasions Santa Singh surrounded by non-Sikh
Police men. It was a satire of the time that a group, which styled itself as Guru Kee Laadlee Fauj (the beloved army of Guru), required the
protection of non-Sikh policemen.

The occupation of Gurdwaras belonging to the Budhha Dal by Baba
Balbir Singh�s faction of Nihangs incensed those who had continued to align
themselves with Jathedar Santa Singh, resulting in clashes between the two groups.

Property disputes between the two groups were taken to the judicial courts. The famous Gurdwara Guru Ka Baag in the historic city of Sri
Anandpur Sahib Ji
is one such example, which is now occupied by Baba Balbir
Singh Akali. The court gave its verdict in favour of Baba Balbir Singh Akali,
however an appeal in the High Court is still pending.

I personally believe that Baba Balbir Singh Akali won this court case, solely
because he was recognised by the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji. There is no
controversy over the ownership of Gurdwara. It is accepted that it belongs to
the Budhha Dal. The question is rather �who is the leader of Budhha
Dal
?� This is what the Judicial system needs to conclude with supporting
evidence.

Baba Balbir Singh Akali is known to have submitted both written and other
forms of evidence for him to be considered as the Budhha Dal chief.

Following this, Jathedar Santa Singh sought to appear before the Sri Akal
Takht Sahib
. The five head priests discussed his petition for apology. On
March 17, 2001, Jathedar Santa Singh presented himself before the Sri Akal
Takht Sahib
and accepted the Tankhah (punishment for religious
misconduct) pronounced by Giani Joginder Singh, Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht
Sahib
, from the rostrum of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji.


Giani Joginder Singh
Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji

After 17 years of his excommunication, Jathedar Santa Singh completed his Tankhah.

At present, the Budhha Dal is in Charhdi Kala (high spirits)
once again, under the leadership of Jathedar Santa Singh. The old glory of
Nihangs can be witnessed once more during the Hola Mahalla and other
festivals and processions. Whilst other Nihang organisations may have begun to
recognise Jathedar Santa Singh as the Chief of the Budhha Dal, Baba
Balbir Singh Akali and his group still do not.

Note: Recently, the Budhha Dal’s faction under Baba Balbir Singh has been merged with the Budhha Dal of Jathedar Santa Singh. Thus, Budhha Dal (Baba Balbir Singh) no longer exists as an independant faction.

The Kar Seva of Sri Akal Takht Sahib

The Kar Seva of Sri Akal Takht Sahib

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

In the month of June 1984, the Indian Army entered the Sri Darbar Sahib complex in the holy city of Sri Amritsar Sahib Ji to oust militants hiding within the complex. Several hundred people died in this army action. The building of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji was severely damaged.


Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji after Operation Blue Star

The Sri Darbar Sahib complex was still under Army control, when the Central Government started negotiations with Akali leaders on the issue of withdrawing the army and reconstructing the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji. All efforts to reach a solution ended on July 13, 1984 with no results.

Mark Tully writes in his book Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle: –


Mrs Gandhi refused to withdraw the army until the repairs were complete. She said she could not trust the Sikhs to repair their shrines because of the suggestion by some eminent Sikhs that the Akal Takht should be left in ruins as a permanent reminder of its desecration.

Thus, the government was actually not interested in repairs, but it wanted to remove the marks of the Operation Blue Star.


Such marks of bullets were removed during the Kar Seva

Government advisers sought to influence policy makers that the repair of Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji should be done by a non-SGPC or non-Akali Dal leader. Chand Joshi, a journalist, writes in his book Bhindranwale: Myth and Reality: –


“The next round started with yet another set of advisers, who gave the suggestion that the repair to the damage done by the army action should be initiated through a non-SGPC Akali Dal religious leader, who would be acceptable to all sections of the Sikhs. Union Minister Mr. Buta Singh, “a man for all Asiads”, was entrusted with the job in the belief that “if he could organize the Asiad he could organize everything”. This was the same principle on which the Member of Parliament from Rai Barelli, a political unknown and an executive head of a paint company, was allowed to be a fulcrum in decision-making processes in the country, “for surely if you can run a company and increase sales you can also run the country and boost the vote bank of the ruling party”.”

Mark Tully writes: –


She had appointed the only Sikh member of her Cabinet, Buta Singh, the Works Minister, to negotiate with the High Priests. It was not a happy choice. He was a Mazhabi Sikh regarded by most Jats as a Harijan, or Untouchable. He had also been a member of the Akali Dal; so he was regarded by Akali leaders as a traitor. Nevertheless Buta Singh did eventually succeed in reaching an agreement with the High Priests on repairing the Akal Takht. He annouced this in Amritsar, but within hours the agreement had been denied by the government in Delhi. A group of senior army officers also managed to reach an agreement with the High Priests. It satisfied their security concerns but it did not apparently satisfy Mrs Gandhi’s political aims. So the army officers were ordered to renege on their agreement.

Mrs Gandhi’s political considerations were far from clear. Many Sikhs agreed with Balwant Singh, the only senior member of the original Akali Dal negotiating team not under arrest, who said to me, ‘She wants to rub our noses in it.’ Many newspaper commentators thought Mrs Gandhi was humiliating the Sikhs because she calculated that Hindu voters wanted that humiliation. The truth seems to be that Mrs Gandhi believed she could use this opportunity to break the Akali Dal once and for all. She ordered her officials to draw up a plan for taking the management and money of the gurudwaras out of the hands of the SGPC, which was of course the Akali Dal’s financier.

Thus, it is clear that Indira Gandhi had a big plan in her mind to terminate the SGPC. She wanted to constitute a Gurdwara Management Board, in which she could nominate members of her own choice. It would help her to take control of Sikh shrines indirectly. Now, she needed a ‘Sikh leader’, who could work under her directions. Buta Singh was appointed to find such a ‘Sikh leader’.


Indira Priyadarshani Gandhi with Giani Zail Singh. Giani Zail Singh was the President of India.

Buta Singh contacted many Sikh leaders and saints in this pursuit, however no one was ready to accept the Government’s terms. Chand Joshi writes: –


“Buta Singh, himself a majhabhi Sikh, fathomed the Sikh sentiment and first turned to the acting SGPC President, Atma Singh. Atma Singh however refused point-blank to have anything to do the Kar Seva under army occupation and the given situation, where every single political leader as well as those of the SGPC was under detention.

Buta Singh then approached the most venerated non-agenarian Baba Kharak Singh, himself a self-confessed juvenile criminal who had devoted his later lifetime in the pursuit of faith and religion. An angry Baba Kharak Singh, also demanded the total exit of the army from the Golden Temple, a condition which was not acceptable to the Government.”

It was natural that no Sikh leader or saint was prepared to undertake any Kar Seva, in which the Government was directly involved. It was and still is the right of the Sikhs to build their religious places on their own terms. The Sri Darbar Sahib complex was under control of the Indian Army, which had dishonored its sanctity through their actions, notably by smoking cigarettes within its precincts. How can any Sikh worth his salt accept such a building, which is constructed by people, who have no respect for his religious sentiments? How can a Sikh accept such a building, which is constructed using funds of that Government, which is responsible not only for its destruction, but also for a carnage, in which hundreds of innocent people were killed?


Buta Singh was a minister in Indira Gandhi government

However, Buta Singh did not lose hope, he continued in his search. At last, he found Jathedar Santa Singh of the Budhha Dal, who was prepared to undertake the Kar Seva as proposed by the Government.

In Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle, Mark Tully writes: –


When it became clear that Mrs. Gandhi was not going to allow the SGPC and the High Priests to repair their shrines, Buta Singh turned to the leader of a sect of nihangs or Sikh warriors, Baba Santa Singh. He was an elderly and extremely portly Sikh whose followers were distinguished for their ruggedness rather than their piety. Many of them were fond of taking opium. Santa Singh had never supervised kar sewa under the auspices of the High Priests or the SGPC. They inevitably rejected his claim to be entitled to lead the kar sewa.

In Truth about Punjab – SGPC White Paper, Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon writes: –


Subsequently, the Government brought one Santa Singh on the sacred premises and associated him with the reconstruction of the demolished building which the Government sought hurriedly to do through a Government contractor Tejwant Singh. Santa Singh was a person of known anti-Sikh and anti-SGPC antecedents. President Zail Singh, when he was the Chief Minister of Punjab, had associated him in a public procession which he had organised on the Guru Gobind Singh Marg. Santa Singh’s associates were released from the prison and he was presented an imported car and an escort to move about. Acknowledging this honour, Santa Singh called him a ‘Param Sikh‘.

It was not easy either to start the re-construction of Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji amidst the strong Sikh opposition. The Government had imposed a curfew around the Sri Darbar Sahib complex. Even members of the lay Sikh community were not allowed to enter the Sri Darbar Sahib Ji. Sikh sentiments were already hurt by the army action and now the reconstruction of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji by forced means angered them further. Neither the Government, nor Jathedar Santa Singh were overly concerned by this. The new building upon the old foundation was thus built under the banner of the Budhha Dal.

Even neutral journalists and those who were strongly against the militants lost their respect for Jathedar Santa Singh. They believed that such a Kar Seva would hurt Sikh sentiments. For example, Chand Joshi, a journalist who on many occasions has spoken critically of the Sikh militants used the following words for Jathedar Santa Singh: –


“Finally like a lottery ticket, from Pandora’s box the Government got hold of a Nihang chief called Santa Singh who could neither claim the religious puritanism of Bhindranwale or the mass following of any of the political leaders, but called himself the leader of “86 crores”. *

Armed opium-smoking** followers of the newly discovered “saint” then began a much publicised Kar Seva which far from mollifying Sikh feeling only helped in accelerating the feeling of hurt. Baba Santa Singh became a new spokesman who vitiated the atmosphere, but a person nevertheless considered from deck-chairs in Delhi to be the central point in the “healing process” which Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had called for immediately after the action in the Golden Temple.”

(*AmritWorld.com notes that this is an error in the original text and should in fact read “96 crores”

**AmritWorld.com further acknowledges that the text in question is mistaken in this respect. Nihangs do not smoke).

Sarabjit Singh, who later became the deputy commissioner of Amritsar, accepts that it was a grave mistake to appoint Santa Singh for the Kar Seva. In his famous book ‘Operation Black Thunder: an eye witness account of terrorism in Punjab’, he writes: –


The melancholy situation soon came to a head. But in the euphoria in the aftermath of the Operation, two avoidable blunders were committed. The first was that Buta Singh, who should have known the Sikh ethos well, entrusted the reconstruction of the badly damaged Akal Takht to the Nihang leader, Baba Santa Singh. The task should have been left to the SGPC and the Sikh sangat. The second blunder, indeed an act of downright stupidity, was to remove very precious manuscripts, books and literature pertaining to Sikh history, from the Sikh library in the Temple to some secret place. There outrageous acts may not have alienated the Sikh community any further but they were seen as evidence of the malicious intentions of an overwhelming majority towards a small minority.

(Operation Black Thunder: an eyewitness account of the terrorism in Punjab by Sarabjit Singh, page 326).

Thus, we see that even people in Government service felt that it was wrong to entrust the reconstruction of Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji to Jathedar Santa Singh. Unfortunately, a few people have still not realised this fact and are trying to prove that Jathedar Santa Singh had taken the right decision.

The five head priests called for a World Sikh Convention at Gurdwara Shaheed Baba Deep Singh in the city of Sri Amritsar Sahib Ji. The Government made another mistake and imposed restrictions to prevent this convention.

However, Sikhs did not care for the Government’s orders and tuned out in millions from every corner of India to participate in this convention. They gave an ultimatum to the Government to hand over control of the Sri Darbar Sahib Complex to the Sikhs; otherwise millions of Sikhs would march towards Sri Darbar Sahib on October 1, 1984. Santa Singh was excommunicated.

The Government authorities became concerned noting the large numbers in which the Sikhs had attended the World Sikh Convention despite the imposition of strict restrictions. Control over the Sri Darbar Sahib complex was subsequently handed over to the SGPC on September 29, 1984.

Although the Sikhs had secured control over their sacred institution the newly built Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji constructed under Jathedar Santa Singh’s banner was not considered acceptable. The Government sponsored Kar Seva had hurt Sikh sentiments. The common Sikh populace began to call this act Sarkaar Seva (service to the Government), instead of Kar Seva, because labour and resources of Government departments were used for this purpose. Even Nihangs themselves did not do the Seva. A company called ‘Skipper Builders’, owned by one Tejwant Singh, had been assigned the contract to rebuild the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji. Within a record time of one and a half months, this contract based Kar Seva was completed. Thus, the government used only the banner of the Budhha Dal, not the labour or service of the Nihangs.

The Sikhs were not wrong to air such sentiments either. This was, no doubt a Sarkaar Seva. The Sikh Sangat was not allowed to do this Seva. Sikhs could not even have the holy Darshan (glimpse) of their sacred shrine, because this so-called Kar Seva was done under a curfew imposed around the Sri Darbar Sahib Complex. Moreover, the money spent on the reconstruction of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji had not from the Budhha Dal, but the Government. Sarabjit Singh writes in his book Operation Blue Star: an eye witness account of terrorism in Punjab: –


It may be recalled that Baba Santa Singh, the Chief of the Budha Dal of Nihangs had been specially selected by Buta Singh to repair the damaged Akal Takht. The fabulous sum of four crore rupees was placed at his disposal for the purpose in 1984.

Mark Tully writes in his book Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle: –


Santa Singh was well paid for his defiance. The senior engineer told Satish Jacob that the nihang was given 100,000 rupees (over � 6,500) every day to keep his 300 followers happy.

In Truth about Punjab – SGPC White Paper, Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon writes: –


Santa Singh defied the order of ex-communication and continued the job at the Golden Temple which was under the possession of the army and where free entry to the pilgrims, as noted above, was not allowed. In fact, the very question of a pilgrim going there could not arise since the place had become just a reminder of a continuing tragedy and desecration. Santa Singh was paid Rupees one lac a day to keep himself and his men doing the allotted task assigned to him by the Government.

Sikhs decided to demolish the Sri Akal Takht constructed by the Budhha Dal or Jathedar Santa Singh. Buta Singh expressed his consent for the building to be demolished. Sarabjit Singh writes: –

By November 1986, Buta Singh favoured its demolition and construction of a new Akal Takht, by supporting G. S. Tohra who had made such an announcement immediately after his release in March 1985.

As it has been said above, the overriding agenda of the Government was to remove the marks of Operation Blue Star. Since many such marks had already removed under the banner of the Budhha Dal-supported reconstruction of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji, the Government now presented no objection for the Sikhs to rebuild the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji as they saw fit.

The Sikhs started to demolish the building constructed by Budhha Dal or Santa Singh on January 26, 1986. Interestingly, it was Republic Day in India. Untill February 16, 1986 work commenced for the removal of the entire building. On same day, the Kar Seva to build a new Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji began.

For various reasons, it took years to complete the job. On April 13, 1997, the Maryada was reestablished in the Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji, when Bhai Ranjit Singh was the Jathedar of this holy shrine.

Present ‘Budhha Dal’

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

During the times of the British Raj (rule) in India, a group of a few Sikhs from Punjab had been residing in Gurdwara Mata Sahib Kaur Ji in the city of Nanded, where the holy Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib Ji is situated. Jathedar Prahlada Singh was their leader, who originally belonged to the Krorhiya Misl. When he passed away, Jathedar Giana Singh was selected as his successor.

These Punjabi Sikhs did not enjoy good relations with the local Sikhs. A few clashes had taken place between them, and the local Government, as would be expected, sided with the local Sikhs. Over time, this made it difficult for this group of Punjabi Sikhs to remain in Nanded.

The Punjabi Sikhs resolved to return to Punjab and approached the Nizaam (King) of Haidrabad state to seek permission to enter Punjab, who in turn approached the British Government, which refused them entry.

The Punjab Government had reservations over these Sikhs, as they suspected them to have anti-British sentiments which may lead them to raising a rebellion against the British Raj. In reality, these Sikhs had no such intentions, they realised that their weapons and armaments had caused the Governmental bodies to view them with suspicion. As a result, they offered their weaponry to the holy Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib Ji, taking only a Nishaan Sahib (flag or standard), a Nagaara (kettledrum) and the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji they returned to Punjab along with a handful of Sikhs under the leadership of Jathedar Giana Singh.

Upon their entry into Punjab, no one was there to welcome these Sikhs. They wandered like Nomads. During this time they met with Bhai Kooma Singh of SaTlaanee, who gave them a cart, two bulls and a ‘Manja‘ (cot). Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was installed on this ‘Manja‘ and the Sikhs would travel by this cart.

One could deem this to be the re-establishment of the Budhha Dal.

After the death of Jathedar Giana Singh, Jathedar Teja Singh became the next chief of Budhha Dal. When Jathedar Teja Singh died, Jathedar Sahib Singh became the next chief.

Jathedar Sahib Singh had served in the Patiala Royal army. He was an educated person. He joined the Budhha Dal and worked as a head Granthi. When he became the chief of Budhha Dal, he made efforts to purchase properties for the Budhha Dal. He met with many Sikh officers and inspired them to help the Budhha Dal. Thus, he succeeded to purchase properties, horses and other articles for the Budhha Dal‘s members. He was popularly known as ‘Kalaa-dhaaree‘. The Budhha Dal developed to a large organisation under his leadership. He passed away in 1942 in Sri AmriTsar Sahib Ji and was succeeded by Baba CheT Singh Ji. He passed away in 1968.

Jathedar SanTa Singh was declared the next chief of Budhha Dal. He hailed from Gujranwalan district, now in Pakistan. It is under his leadership that the present Budhha Dal touched the peaks of development. He begun to cultivate the land owned by the Budhha Dal and engaged many of his followers in Agriculture. New markets were established, which became a good source of income for the Dal. A few Gurdwaras were constructed and a few others were renovated. Educational institutions were established, namely the Budhha Dal Public School in the city of Patiala, which is now amongst the premier school league in Punjab.

Jathedar Santa Singh established a printing press and published religious literature. Sri Sarabloh Granth with translation was published in two volumes. When Bhag Singh Ambala wrote his controversial book on Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji, Jathedar SanTa Singh wrote the preface of the much appreciated response given in Sri Dasam Granth Darpan by Bhai Sahib Harbans Singh Ji. The Budhha Dal also publishes a monthly magazine.

If the Budhha Dal is the richest Nihang organisation today, it is primarily due to the efforts of Jathedar Santa Singh and his leadership. His controversial role in the Kar Seva of Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji during 1984 however, pushed the Budhha Dal back many years, but after he appeared before Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji and having served his Tankhah, the Budhha Dal is again shining in ‘Chardhi Kala‘ (High spirits).

Jathedar Santa Singh has appointed Jathedar Surjit Singh as his successor.

Note: Recently, Baba Balbir Singh has been appointed as the succerssor of Jathedar Santa Singh, though there is controvery over this issue. A full article will be written on this topic and will be added in this section. At present, there are two persons who claim to be ‘real’ successor of Jathedar Santa Singh. The first one is Baba Surjit Singh and the other is Baba Balbir Singh.

Pharla

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

A widespread fashion in the headgear of various communities in India, particularly the ‘Raajpoots’, Punjabis, Pathaans, and Afghans, was the keeping of a loose piece of cloth at the top of their turbans. The name for this loose cloth varies from region to region, although it is mostly known as a ‘Turla’. In the ‘Maharashtra’ state of India, it is called a ‘Tura’. When a Nihang keeps such a loose piece of cloth in his turban, it is called a ‘Pharla’.

The ‘Turla’

This was a very popular custom in older Punjab. Many Punjabis, whether they were Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims, used to tie turbans with a ‘Turla’. They would also keep a loose piece of turban hanging on their backs. This piece is called a ‘Shamla’.

As times change, so too does the fashion. In Punjab, most people now no longer keep a ‘Turla’ or a ‘Shamla’ in their turbans. New styles of turbans are in fashion. In fact, the vast majority of non-Sikhs and other clean-shaven or people with haircuts in Punjab have already discarded turbans and in the main, no longer cover their heads. The old style of turban (with Turla and/or shamla) is rarely seen nowadays amongst the common public, instead it can be seen amongst very particular groups or on particular occasions. For instance, one can see a Turla kept by ‘Bhangra’ dancers as part of their stage performance.


‘Bhangra’ dancers keep a ‘Turla’ in their turbans.

One can also see a ‘Turla’ kept by soldiers in their turbans, amongst some sections of the Indian and Pakistani paramilitary forces, such as the soldiers belonging to the ‘Rangers’ (Pakistan’s border security force) and the ‘Jawans’ of the ‘Border Security Force’ (an Indian security force).


Pakistani rangers (in blue) and a ‘Jawan’ of ‘Border Security Force’ (in ‘Khaki’) are seen wearing turbans with a ‘Turla’.

It is important to note that the ‘Turla’ and ‘Shamla’ are not only restricted to Punjabi styles of turban. In fact, even today, many People in Pakistan and Afghanistan keep a ‘Turla’ and a ‘Shamla’ in their turbans.

The ‘Turra’

This was an ornament worn over turbans by kings, adorning them with a collection of jewels and pearls, although it could equally be a plume or crest.

The other kind of Turra would simply be a piece of a turban, usually the end of a turban, which would hang loose down the back, thus, a kind of ‘Shamla’, which looks like a ‘Turla’.

One can see a ‘Turra’ hanging on top of Shivaji’s ‘Pheta’ (turban) in many pictures. Shivaji was a Maraathha warrior, who died in 1680 AD.


Chhatra-paTi Shivaji Maraathha,
wearing a turban with ‘Turra’.

The ‘Pharla’

Many Nihangs too keep a loose piece of turban hanging on top of their ‘Dumaalas’ (turbans). They call it ‘Pharla’ (also ‘Pharara’). In Nihang tradition, the ‘Pharla’ is always blue.


The ‘Pharla’

In his book ‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’, Swaroop Singh Kaushish gives a ‘Sakhi’, according to which, in Samvat 1760 Bikrami, King Ajmer Chand attacked Sri Anandpur Sahib Ji. Sikh warrior Bhai Maan Singh pitched the flag in the battlefield and fought with force. He was wounded during the ensuing battle during which the Sikh flag was broken by the enemies and fell down. A Sikh relayed this occurrence to Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Guru Ji immediately made a ‘Pharara’ from blue ‘keski’ (small turban) and said, “Henceforth, this Khalsa flag will never be broken”.

The ‘Sakhi’ given by ‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’ says that ‘Pharara’ was drawn from the small blue turbans of Bhai Uday Singh, Himmat Singh, Sahib Singh, Mohkam Singh and Aalam Singh Ji. Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji, who was six year old, also kept a ‘Pharara’. Guru Ji smiled and said, “Son! This ‘Akali Pharara’ will remain in the ‘Panth’ forever. This is the dress of Sri Maha-kaal. Respect it equally to the flag”.

Thus, the book ‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’ claims that the tradition of ‘Pharla’ was started by Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself. Though it is claimed that this book was written in 1790 AD, but we find no reference to this book in other old traditional texts. Additionally, this book is discovered only in 20th century. There are many visible changes, which are clearly made in this book at a later juncture.

Interestingly, the book ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ does not mention ‘Pharla’ anywhere. It is important to tell here that ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ was written in 1711 AD by Kavi Sainapati, who was a poet in the holy court of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He was an eyewitness of many of incidents, however he does not make any mention of Sikhs wearing blue small turbans (keski) or ‘Pharla’.

Another important history book is also silent on the ‘Pharla’ tradition. This book is ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’, which was written by Bhai Kuyer Singh in 1751 AD.

Why is it so that older texts (‘Sri Gur Sobha’ and ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’) do not mention the ‘Pharla’ tradition, but new book (‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’ written in 1790 AD) does?

Before reaching any conclusion, let us consider another text, – the new ‘Panth Prakaash’ written by Giani Gian Singh, who states that Nihang Naina Singh Ji tied a tall turban and recited the holy line from Sri Guru Granth Sahib, “Main Gur Mil Uch Dumaalrha”. Since then, his followers, the Nihangs, began to wear tall turbans, which were called ‘Naina Singheeye Dumaalas’.

Under the Dumala section , we noted the following:

“In Punjabi, the word ‘Mal’ means wrestler. It is a trend in traditional wrestling competitions that a cloth is attached over a long bamboo pole. This cloth is called ‘Maalee’ and usually the prize money is tied with it. When a wrestler wins a wrestling match, he lifts this bamboo to show the audience as a sign of his victory. Obviously the prize money tied in ‘Maalee’ is kept by him. Traditionally, if the ‘Maalee’ (prize money) was big, it was called ‘Dumaalee’ or ‘Dumaala’ (double ‘Maalee’).”

It seems that ‘Pharla’, which is like an adornment of Nihang turban, was an integral part of the ‘Nihang Dumaala’ in early days. Today one can commonly see ‘Nihang Dumaalas’ without a ‘Pharla’.


Two Nihangs wearing ‘Dumalas’ with ‘Pharla’

Referring back to our discussion under the Dumala section again, we also noted:

“Akali Phoola Singh Ji was disciple of Bhai Naina Singh Ji. According to the ‘Mahaan Kosh’, Akali Phoola Singh Ji was born around Samvat 1818 Bikrami (1761 AD). From this, we can reason that Bhai Naina Singh Ji introduced this style of tall turbans, known as ‘Naina Singheeye Dumaalas’ in second half of 18th century”.

With this in mind, if we consider the time when Swaroop Singh Kaushish would have written his book ‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’ in 1790 AD, he must have witnessed a section of his contemporary Sikhs adorning the blue ‘Pharla’ upon their dastaars. Obviously, he mentioned in his writings and concludes that Guru Gobind Singh Ji must have initiated this tradition. There is however the strong possibility that the description of the ‘Pharla’ was added at a later date in this text. The original text is unfortunately no longer available.

In contrast to this, ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ and ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ (Kuyer Singh) were written long before Bhai Naina Singh Ji. The tradition of ‘Dumaala’ and ‘Pharla’ was not in vogue at that time, hence we find no mention of it in their earlier texts.

It is common amongst the Nihangs to rename many things. For example, ‘bhang’ (cannabis) is renamed ‘Sukha’ or ‘Sukh-nidhaan’ (literally ‘treasure of bliss’). Similarly, the ‘Turla’ is renamed ‘Pharla’ amongst the Nihangs.

Grammatically, the word ‘Pharla’ originates from the Indian word ‘Phar-haraa’, which means ‘flag’. As it has been said, Bhai Naina Singh started the tradition of ‘Pharla’. The ‘Nishaanchi’ (flagman) would keep the ‘Pharla’ on his turban, so that he could use arms as well, while carrying the ‘Nishaan’ (flag) in battlefield. (See Nihang, in ‘Mahaan Kosh’).

Presently, in most Nihang organizations, the ‘Pharla’ is given only to senior Nihangs. The Nihang-chief himself ties the ‘Pharla’ onto the dumalla of the Nihang to whom it is presented. Other Nihang organizations may send their Nihangs to the ‘Budhha Dal’ chief to get the ‘Pharla’. It reinforces their respect for the ‘Budhha Dal’ and by doing so, indicate their acceptance of the Budhha Dal’s superiority.

This much said, it has to be noted that there is no compulsory ruling or custom that only the ‘Budhha Dal’ chief may bestow the ‘Pharla’ upon a Nihang as many who keep the ‘Pharla’ upon their ‘Dumaala’ have not received this from the Budhha Dal.

Just as with the Dumalla, which is today worn by many Sikhs, who are not Nihangs per se, the custom of wearing a Pharla with the Dumalla can also be noted amongst non-Nihang groups.

‘Dumala’

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

A turban peculiar to Nihangs is known as a ‘Dumaala’ (also ‘Damaala’) which, along with a long ‘Chola’, is the distinguishing mark of a Nihang.

A Nihang wearing the ‘Dumaala’

Before we give the background of Dumaala’s tradition, it is necessary to understand that there are other different meanings of word ‘Dumaala’ out side of the Nihang tradition. It is necessary to appreciate these meanings before discussing the Dumaala popular amongst Nihangs: –

(1). The word of Persian origin: – The word ‘Dumaala’ originates from the Persian word ‘Dumbaalah’, which means ‘tail’. (There is also another Persian word, ‘Dum’ meaning ‘tail’). Thus, ‘Dumaala’ is a loose piece of cloth, which is made from one end of the turban which hangs free behind like ‘Dumbaalah’ or ‘Dum’ (tail), so is called ‘Dumaala’. In Punjabi, this ‘Dumaala’ is known as ‘Shamla’.

(2). The gift to winning wrestler: – In Punjabi, the word ‘Mal’ means wrestler. It is a trend in traditional wrestling competitions that a cloth is attached over a long bamboo pole. This cloth is called ‘Maalee’ and usually the prize money is tied with it. When a wrestler wins a wrestling match, he lifts this bamboo to show the audience as a sign of his victory. Obviously the prize money tied in ‘Maalee’ is kept by him. Traditionally, if the ‘Maalee’ (prize money) was big, it was called ‘Dumaalee’ or ‘Dumaala’ (double ‘Maalee’).

During old times in Punjab, it was a trend amongst wrestlers to tie the ‘Maalee’ like turban, making a fan like adornment from one end of the ‘Maalee’. This too was known as a ‘Dumaala’.

In Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the word ‘Dumaala’ has been used only for this meaning: –

Haun Gosaanyee Da Paihalvaanrha. Main Gur Mil Uch Dumaalrha.

(I am a wrestler belonged to the Lord of the World. I met with the Guru and got a ‘D’umaala). (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 73).

(3). Double turban: –In some parts of India, a ‘storey’ or level of a building is called ‘Maala’. The word ‘Du’ means ‘double’. Thus, the word ‘Dumaala’ (Du + maala) refers to a ‘double-storey’ which if used as a term for a turban, shows the ‘Dumaala’ to be nothing more than a double turban. It is very common amongst Sikh people to tie a a small turban (keski) under their main (long) turban.

Nihang Dumaala

As mentioned earlier, a particular style of turban is also known as a ‘Dumaala’ in Nihang tradition.

In ‘Sri Gur Panth Prakash’, Giani Gian Singh has written that Bhai Naina Singh Ji tied a tall turban and recited the holy line from Sri Guru Granth Sahib, “Main Gur Mil Uch Dumaalrha“. Since then, his followers started to wear tall turbans, which were called ‘Naina Singheeye Dumaalas’.

It should be noted that in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the word ‘Dumaala’ has been used in a specific meaning (see above). Perhaps Nihang Naina Singh Ji was trying to indicate that he was the winner and received the prize from the Guru.

In ‘Mahaan Kosh’, ‘Sardaar Bahaadur’ Kahan Singh Nabha corroborates the story given by Giani Gian Singh that tall ‘Dumaalas’ were started by Bhai Naina Singh.

Akali Phoola Singh Ji was disciple of Bhai Naina Singh Ji. According to the ‘Mahaan Kosh’, Akali Phoola Singh Ji was born around Samvat 1818 Bikrami (1761 AD). From this, we can reason that Bhai Naina Singh Ji introduced this style of tall turbans, known as ‘Naina Singheeye Dumaalas’ in second half of 18th century.

In our times, the ‘Dumaalas’ have become popular among even non-Nihangs. Many Sikhs tie a ‘Dumaala’ occasionally, some even regularly tie a Dumaala’, whether Nihang or non-Nihang although they maybe dressed in western clothing (shirts and pants for instance).

It can be noted that many Nihangs try to wear as long ‘Dumaala’ as possible, such as Nihang Major Singh Ji who wears a ‘Dumaala’ over 400 meters long.

Nihang Major Singh Ji wears longest ‘Dumaala’

References in Sikh old texts

As mentioned above, Giani Gian Singh has written in ‘Panth Prakash’ that Bhai Naina Singh Ji tied a tall turban and recited the holy line from Sri Guru Granth Sahib, “Main Gur Mil Uch Dumaalrha“. Since then, his followers started to wear tall turbans, which were called ‘Naina Singheeye Dumaalas’.

The ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ (1711 AD), written by Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s court poet Sainapati (Saina Singh) does not use the word ‘Dumaala’. This is also the case for ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Kuyer Singh and texts written by other Sikh writers, like Kesar Singh Chhibbar and Bhai Sukha Singh, who also do not mention ‘Dumaala’.

It is interesting to note that even ‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’, which mentions ‘Pharara’ and blue dress/turban, does not use the word ‘Dumaala’.

Many Nihangs like ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’, because it uses the word ‘Nihang’ repeatedly. Interestingly, even ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’ does not make mention of the ‘Dumaala’ tradition and does not use the term ‘Dumaala’.

The ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’ has used the words ‘Dastaar’ and ‘Paag’ (‘Paage’, ‘Pargrhee’ or ‘Pagrhe’) for turban, for instance: –

Kes Sees Sir Baandhai Paagai;

Pagrhee Apnee Sees Savaaree

and

Tau Lau Singh Akaal Uchaara. Pagrhe Sane Su Chubbha Maara.

Bhai Gurbaksh Singh ‘Shaheed’ is a very famous name in Sikh history. Ratan Singh Bhangu in his ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’ referred to him as a ‘Nihang’. When Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Ji was getting ready for the battle, he tied turban around his head here, Ratan Singh Bhangoo has used the word ‘Pagg’ for turban, not ‘Dumaala’: –

Sees Pagg Lyee Khoob Chhikaaye.

Conclusion

Sikh texts written in 18th century do not mention the word ‘Dumaala’. ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ (1711 AD) written by Kavi Sainapati, ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ (1751 AD) written by Bhai Kuyer Singh, ‘Bansaavalinaama’ (1769 AD) written by Bhai Kesar Singh Chibber and ‘Gur Bilaas’ (1797 AD) written by Bhai Sukha Singh are included within such a category of texts.

Giani Gian Singh writes in his new ‘Panth Prakash’ that the ‘Dumaala’ style of turbans was started by Bhai Naina Singh Ji. If Giani Gian Singh’s views are acceptable, then we have to say that this style of turban was not popular among Sikh masses, otherwise Bhai Sukha Singh must have mentioned it in his famous book ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’, which was written after Bhai Naina Singh Ji. As mentioned above, ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’ does not use the word ‘Dumaala’.

All this indicates that the word ‘Dumaala’ was not used commonly among ordinary Sikhs of 18th century. The words ‘Dastaar’ and ‘Pagg’ have been used in old Sikh texts, which were in frequent use by Sikhs.

Chola

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

In essence, any shirt can be termed a ‘Chola’, however today this term is used almost exclusively for a type of long shirt or tunic, which was once very popular in India. Even today one can see Hindu, Sikh and Muslim ascetics and holy persons wearing a ‘Chola’.

It would not be inappropriate here to step outside of our main topic on Nihangs to consider some generic items relating to the ‘Chola’.

In India, many families perform a religious ceremony during which clothes are put on newborn baby. This ceremony also is called ‘Chola’ from which we can clearly see that originally every shirt, whether it is long or short, was regarded as ‘Chola’, although this word is used solely for long shirts/tunics nowadays.
There are many kinds of such long shirts. We shall look at some of them below: –

Punjabi Kurta

A simple Punjabi ‘Kurta’ is called ‘Chola’ if it is long enough. There is very famous song, in which the word ‘Chola’ has been used for long ‘Kurta’: –

Mera Rang De Basantee Chola Maaye, Rang De Basantee Chola.

Bengali Kurta

The Bengali Kurta is slightly different from Punjabi Kurta. It has a different type of collar than that of Punjabi Kurta. There is also another kind of Bengali Kurta, which is made without a collar.
A traditional Bengali Kurta does not have buttons on the arms, although these have now been added for purposes of convenience.

On bases of ‘Kali’ (a particular part of ‘Kurta’), there are two kinds of Bengali Kurtas. One is without of ‘Kalis’ and other with them. There can be many ‘Kalis’, from four to hundred, even more.

The ‘Chola’ worn by Sikh saints is originally a Bengali Kurta with ‘Kalis’.

‘Nihang Chola’

When the historic Budhha Dal and Taruna Dal were fighting against the rulers and Muslim invaders, most of their members used to wear only Kachhehra and turban. They would cover their bodies with blankets. Giani Gian Singh writes in his ‘Panth Prakash’: –

Khat Ras Ka Wah Swaad Na Jaanai.
Kaprha Aur Na Tan Par Thhaanai.
Kamar Jaangheeya, Ik Sir Patka.
Bhoore Giltee Baana Jatka.

(They [the Singhs] do not know taste of six flavors. They do not wear any other clothes. There is underwear around their waists and a turban on their heads. They wear blankets, a Jatt dress).

A painting, in which a Nihang is seen without ‘Chola’

Later, they started to wear shirts too. Foreigner painters have illustrated Nihangs in shirts, which are not as long as the cholas in which we see Nihangs today, as their underwear (‘Kachhehra’) is visible. Such shirts or ‘Cholas’ can be seen nowadays amongst a handful of the southern Sikhs in India.

A painting, in which a Nihang is seen in small ‘Chola’

Modern Nihangs wear long shirts, which cover their ‘Kachhehras’.

A Nihang in a long ‘Chola’

It is a kind of ‘Chola’, which was worn predominantly by Muslim rulers in India. The Hindu Kings too under India’s Muslim sultanate used to wear such ‘Cholas’ in Mogul courts. In some paintings, the Hindu sovereign King Chhatrapati Shivaji Maratha and his army men are shown in such attire.

Shivaji with his Hindu army men, who are in ‘Cholas’

A Nihang in skyblue ‘Chola’

An important facet to note about modern day Nihang Cholas is their structure. Similar to an ordinary shirt, the Chola will have buttons all along the front side as opposed to only a few as is the case with an ordinary kurta. This buttons stopped at the waist where the modern Chola has a �pati� (belt) for wrapping around the �Kamarkasa� (cumberband) in which Nihangs keep their weapons. The bottom section of the chola (below the �patti� for the �Kamarkasa�) is open and flowing like a tunic. Many now also have other conventional items similar to western shirts and military wear in terms of pockets and inclusion of �shoulder boards�.