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The Colors Worn by Modern Nihangs

The Colors Worn by Modern Nihangs

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Modern Nihangs wear mostly blue coloured clothing, although it is also common to see Nihangs in saffron, white or sky-blue clothes. I have seen the chief of the ‘Budhha Dal’, the biggest Nihang organisation, Jathedar Santa Singh in saffron ‘Chola’ (shirt).


Jathedar Santa Singh, the Budhha Dal chief, in saffron ‘Chola’


An old Nihang in saffron dress


Nihangs in white ‘Chola’

However, the majority of the modern Nihangs wear a blue ‘Dumala’, although again some make use of other colours, like saffron and white. A Nihang is supposed to wear blue ‘Keski’ (small turban) under his ‘Dumala’. The ‘Pharla’ is always blue, however only select Nihangs keep the ‘Pharla’ in their turbans.


A Nihang in saffron dress

White ‘Kachhehra’

Whilst Nihangs give preference for the colour blue, when they wear a ‘Chola’ or Dumala, they insist to wear only white ‘Kachhehras’ (Sikh underwear). Mainstream Sikhs also wear predominantly a white ‘Kachherhas’.

Conclusion

Modern Nihangs mostly wear blue dress, though a few Nihangs wear other colours, like white and saffron. Historically, Sikhs used to wear different colours during the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who himself used to wear white and saffron attire. In summary, historically there is no support for concluding that any one colour has an exclusive preference within the older Sikh tradition.

The Colors Worn by Sikhs

The Colors Worn by Sikhs

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Bhai Dya Singh Ji

History indicates that Guru Gobind Singh Ji sent Bhai Dya Singh Ji to deliver the ‘Zafarnama’ to the Emperor Aurangzeb. ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Sukha Singh gives a description of Bhai Dya Singh Ji appearing in the court of Emperor Aurangzeb. According to the ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’, Bhai Dya Singh Ji wore a blue dress. Here are the original lines: –

Sabhai Neel Cheerang Sajai Ang Aachhai.

To prove that the blue was the compulsory dress of Sikhs, a few people have made use of this quotation, however the truth is otherwise. At the time of this event, India was under Mogul rule. Guru Gobind Singh Ji ordered Bhai Dya Singh Ji to disguise himself as an ‘Ahdee’ (royal messenger). Therefore, Bhai Dya Singh Ji was in an Ahdee’s dress, which was naturally blue, given the customs of the Islamic rulers.

Other Sikh warriors

‘Gur Bilas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Sukha Singh makes it clear that Sikh warriors wore wear robes of different colours, when they joined Guru Ji at Sri Anandpur Sahib. Bhai Sukha Singh states:-

Ketak Aan Hazoor Majhaara.
Kare Kisareeya Cheer Su Dhaara.
Kisoo Tilona Aran Banaaye.
Saamuh Judh Joojhane Chaahe.

(Many wore saffron robes after coming to the holy presence. Many sesame-coloured and many wore red dress. They have desire to fight on forefront).

Thus, we can say easily that Guru Gobind Singh Ji, his sons and other Sikhs wore clothes of various colours.

Later Sikhs

As mentioned elsewhere in this section, when the historic Budhha Dal and Taruna Dal were fighting against the rulers and Muslim invaders, most of their members would only wear a Kachhehra and a 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 [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).

Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Ji was a Sikh warrior. He, along with other Sikhs, fought against invaders, who attacked Sri Darbar Sahib, Sri Amritsar Sahib Ji and become a martyr (‘shaheed’) in the battle. It happened in Samvat 1822 Bikrami (1765 AD).

Giani Gian Singh writes in ‘Panth Prakash’ that Bhai Gurbaksh Singh wore saffron clothing, when he went to fight: –

Tan Dhare Bastar Kesree, Dastaar Ooch Sajaaye.

(He wore saffron robes and tied a high turban).

In ‘Pracheen Panth Parkash’, Ratan Singh Bhangu speaks of the colours worn by other Sikh companions of Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Ji:

Kisai Pushaak Thee Neelee Sajaayee.
Kinai Set, Kisai Kesaree Rangvaayee.

(A few of them wore blue dress. A few [wore] white and a few dyed [their dress] saffron).

It is important to note that Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Ji is called a ‘Nihang’ in ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’, the same text also indicates that the Sikhs who joined Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Ji in this battle, wore blue, as well as white and saffron clothing.

The Colors Worn by the ‘Sahibzadas’

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Let us now consider the colours of the clothing worn by the ‘Sahibzadas’ (sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji): –

In ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’, Bhai Kuyer Singh relays the account of tells that the younger sons of Guru Ji (Baba Zorawar Singh Ji and Baba Fateh Singh Ji) being arrested by Mogul armymen. When they were presented in the court, both of the Sahibzadas were in ‘Neel’ shirts: –

Neel Jhaguria Tan Main Kaise.
Bijulee Syaam Abhra Main Jaise.

It is common to see “Neel” here being interpreted as ‘blue’ by many scholars, however in fact, it is used here to mean dirty or unclean. Both of the Sahibzadas were in same clothes for many days, so naturally their garments would not be clean. Undoubtedly, some scholars will not agree with our explanation of this account, however Bhai Kuyer Singh himself later reveals that the Sahibzadas were in fact in saffron (Kesaree) clothing: –

Kesaree Ang Paushaak Mahaabar, Moorat Pekh Kahai Eh Baanee.

The confusion caused here by the use of the word ‘Neel’ is nonetheless understandable as Bhai Kuyer Singh has used the word ‘Neel’ elsewhere for the colour blue as well. The Moguls offered lots of women to the Sahibzadas and asked them to wear a blue dress. When Kuyer Singh Ji writes about this incident, he has used the word ‘Neel’ for blue: –

Jetee Naar Chaah Ho Dehee.
Neel Patambar Dhaaro Ehee.

Now, let us consider another text, this time ‘Gur Bilaas Paat-shaahee 10’, written by Bhai Sukha Singh, who was a ‘Granthi’ (preist) of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib Ji, Sri Anandpur Sahib. This text was written in 1797 AD.

Bhai Sukha Singh speaks of Sahibzada Ajit Singh Ji, the eldest son of Guru Gobind Singh Ji being called into the holy court of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He comes to Guru Ji and Bhai Sukha Singh describes his attire as consisting of red (‘Arun’) shoes which were shining on Sahibzada Ajit Singh Ji’s feet, a red shawl, a red shirt and a red turban which graceful upon his head. The original lines read as follows: –

Arun Dipat Pag Mah Pag-Traana.
Arun Dusaalo Nirkhat Naana.
Arun Sees Rajit Sardaara.
Laalai Kurtee Dipat Didaara.

From these references, we can see that even the ‘Sahibzadas’, in addition to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, would wear various colours.

Colors worn by Guru Gobind Singh Ji

Colors worn by Guru Gobind Singh Ji

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

One of the stories describing the origins of the Nihangs indicates that following the evacuation of the city of Sri Anandpur Sahib Ji, Guru Ji reached the village ‘Dhillon’, there he is said to have ripped his blue dress into strands and burned them. He had however saved one strand and tied it to his sword, which he later presented to Bhai Maan Singh Ji with whose service he has been pleased. This account indicates that the ‘Panth’ of ‘Nihangs’, adorning blue vestments begun at this juncture.

The majority of historical texts indicate that Guru Gobind Singh Ji upon reaching the village ‘Maachhivarha’ after the battle of Sri Chamkaur Sahib, was presented with a white cloth by Bibi Gurdeyee Ji. Meanwhile the Mughal Army reached ‘Machhivarha’ searching for Guru Ji.

Guru Ji ordered for a ‘Chola’ (long shirt) to be made from the cloth provided by Bibi Gurdeyee Ji. This ‘Chola’ was dyed blue. Guru Ji disguised himself as a Muslim seer and escaped along with his devotees.

Such texts also mention that when Guru Ji reached the village ‘Dhillon’, he ripped his blue dress into shreds and burned them, saving only one shred which he tied to his sword. He then gave this shred to Bhai Maan Singh Ji, with whom he was pleased. The ‘Panth’ of ‘Nihangs’ was started from this point according to many interpretations.

If we go in deep to verify this story, we find some interesting points. For example, Sainapati, the court-poet of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, in his ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ states: –

Bhekh Nirbaan Ke Roop Aayo.

Therefore, according to the poet Sainapati, Guru Gobind Singh Ji disguised himself as a ‘Nirbaan’ saint. If it is true, then we have to accept that Guru Gobind Singh Ji was not in blue attire, because �Nirbaan� saints did not wear blue attires.

In fact, the poet Sainapati states that Guru Gobind Singh Ji changed into many dresses (‘Roop Anek’): –

Roop Anek Prabh Im Dhaare.

However, nowhere does he states that Guru Ji was in blue attire. Similarly, he did not mention that Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave a strand of blue cloth to Bhai Maan Singh Ji.

The ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Kuyer Singh is another important text concerning the history of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Kuyer Singh indicates that Guru Ji disguised himself as ‘Uch Da Peer’ and donned a ‘Surmayee’ (light blue/grayish) dress and then went to village of ‘Maachhivarha’. Kuyer Singh did not however write anything indicating Guru Gobind Singh Ji to have bestowed a strand of blue cloth to Bhai Maan Singh Ji.

This ‘Sakhi’ has also been rendered by Giani Gian Singh in his ‘Panth Prakash’. The only issue with it is that we have at least two variations of this story. The edition of ‘Panth Prakaash’ published by ‘the language department’ of Punjab says that the colour of Guru Ji’s dress, which was ripped by him, was blue (‘Neel’). On the other hand, the edition published by Manmohan Singh Brar and edited by Giani Kirpal Singh Ji states that the colour was black. Giani Kirpal Singh’s edition concludes that since then, Nihangs wear black (‘Shyaam’/’Kaare’) clothing.

Here are the original lines from both the editions: –

Dhillon Naam Graam Jab Neel Basan Gur Phaarh.
(The language departement’s edition).

Maachhivaarhe Gur Jab Shyaam Chail Dhaare Hain

and

Dhaarat Nihang Tab Hee Te Chail Kaare Hain.
(Giani Kirpal Singh Ji’s edition).

Reading such variations can leave one confused as to which account to rely upon, which is further clouded when we consider that Giani Gian also made changes in various editions of his texts � perhaps he himself is responsible for these variations, although of this we cannot be sure.

In any event, writers who have indicated that Guru Gobind Singh Ji donned blue or black clothing during his time in the village ‘Machhivarha’, all agree that Guru Ji did this only for the purposes of disguise. Later Guru Ji removed the blue (or black) items of clothing upon reaching a safe location.

In his ‘Twareekh Guru Khalsa’, Giani Gian Singh writes that when Sodhhi Kaul saw Guru Ji in blue attire, he brought a white dress and said to Guru Ji, “These blue robes, which are an Islamic dress, do not look graceful on you, please wear these white robes�. Guru Ji then changed into the white clothing. These accounts suggest that the blue attire was not the usual dress of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

The following stanza from ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Kuyer Singh is very often used to support the view that Guru Gobind Singh dressed in blue:-

Joojhat Bhyo Dar Daar Tabai, Jab Yaa Bidh Sahib Nain Nihaare.
Neelan Chol Biraajat Hain, Ar Baaj Suhela Jiga Kal Dhaare.
Neel Jiga Man Neel Lasai Pat, Neel Mani Man Bhookhan Bhaare.
Meghan Ke Jan Jaal Bikhai, Dut Bijj Chhata Sut Shaah Nihaare.

{He started to fight, removing all his fears, upon seeing the ‘Sahib’ (Guru Gobind Singh Ji). He (Guru Gobind Singh Ji) is present dressed in a blue ‘chola’, with a hawk, and a plume in his turban. (He wears) a blue plume. Blue jewel and blue dress is shining. (He is wearing) many ornaments. The son of ‘Shaah’ (Bahadur Shah) is looking. (Guru Ji looks like) a streak of lightening among many clouds}.

When using this stanza of ‘Gur Bilaas’, such people hide a fact from their readers/audience. This fact is crucial in order to appreciate the meanings of this stanza and to draw any conclusions from it. Kuyer Singh here is not saying that Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself appeared in the battlefield. The text actually relays that Bahadur Shah had closed his eyes and meditated on Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He saw Guru Ji in blue attire and other ornaments in his imagination and not in reality. Thus, it is inappropriate to conclude from this isolated stanza that Guru Gobind Singh Ji went to the battlefield (where Bahadur Shah was fighting) in blue attire.

Similarly, according to the ‘Gur Bilas Patshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Sukha Singh, King Aurangzeb saw the Khalsa Army in ‘Neelambar’ (blue robes): –

Neelaambar Kutka Kar Dhaare.
It Ut Moh Khalsa Maare.

Here again, it is just an imagination of King Aurangzeb that he sees the Khalsa in blue dress only in his thoughts. In reality, he did not see any Sikh in blue dress until such mental visualisation.

‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’ is a text, which came into prominence during the 20th century, though it is claimed that it was written in 1790 AD and that Swaroop Singh Kaushish was the original author. There are many references in this book, where it is said that Guru Ji and the Sikhs wore blue clothing. The ‘Keski’ is particularly mentioned as always being blue, which, according to this text is in fact one of five ‘Kakaars’. A few modern Nihangs and Sikh Groups who choose to emulate them for their own purposes, use this as a reference to prove that blue clothing and the turban is mandatory for all Sikhs. It must however be disappointing for those seeking such a conclusion that in this text, the word ‘Nihang’ has not been used for a Sikh.

Whilst the ‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’ mentions the blue attire of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and other Sikhs many times, it also mentions the saffron ‘Chola’ of Guru Ji as well. In 101st ‘Saakhee’, Guru Gobind Singh Ji gives his saffron ‘Chola’, a sword and a shield to Rai Dalla Singh.

Furthermore, when Guru Gobind Singh Ji left for his heavenly abode, he was also in saffron (‘Kesree’) attire. ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Kuyer Singh clearly mentions the colour of Guru Ji’s clothing, when he left for the ‘Sachkhand’: –

Aap Snaan Karyo Sah Kesan, Kesree Khyom Patam Pahraaye.

From the foregoing analysis of various texts, we can conclude that Guru Gobind Singh Ji wore clothing of various colours and that to assert that he wore only blue attire after the inauguration of the Khalsa in 1699 is wholly incorrect.

The Blue Dress

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)In Asa ki Var, Guru Nanak Dev Jee made mention of those Hindus of his time who had begun to wear blue clothing during the reign of the �Lodhi� and �Mogul� dynasties. Let us read the original words of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji: –

Neel Vastar Pahir Hovainh Parvaan.
Malechh Dhaan Le Poojainh Puraan.

(Wearing blue robes, they seek the approval {of the Muslim rulers}. Accepting bread from the ‘Malechh’ people, they worship the ‘Puraanas’).

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 472).

An individual colour by itself does not have a religion, however one can see that within certain religions, particular colours are given some special status. For instance, the colour saffron has particular significance within certain Hindu religious sects. Likewise, the colour blue was associated with Islam.

During Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s time, the foreigner Muslim rulers, as well as other common Muslims used to wear blue clothing.

History provides many accounts of the treatment meted out to Hindus at the hands of these Muslim rulers, at the same time it also indicates that certain Hindus received significant positions with the Muslim courts.

To be accepted in the eyes of the Muslim court, such Hindus began to adopt blue clothing. They wore the long shirts and tunics of the foreign Muslim classes as a means to please their new rulers. Guru Nanak Dev Ji says:-

Neel Bastar Le Kaprhe Pahire
Turk Pathhaanee Amal Keeyaa.

(People began to wear blue robes and garments; the life-style of Turks and Pathhaans was adopted).

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 470).

Although the Hindus working under the Muslim officers would receive their wages in kind (usually by way of food grain), service to the Muslim rulers fast became their only source of income. Despite working under the Muslim regime, these Hindus would still refer to the Muslims as �Malechh� amongst themselves.

In their own homes, they would follow their own religious beliefs and recite Holy Scriptures such as the �Puraanas� and spend money on their religious ceremonies, in which the �Vedas� and �Puraanas� would be recited. This money would of course be obtained from their Muslim employers, who they considered to be �Malechh�.

Money or articles obtained from �Malechh� patronage is termed �Malechh-Dhaan�. In short, this points to the double standards and parsimoniousness of such Hindus, who on one hand refer to the foreign Muslim rulers as �Malechh� and one the other, except their �Malechh Dhaan� for use in their livelihood and for the performance of their religious ceremonies.

It is in this settting that Guru Nanak Dev Ji made these comments: –

Neel Vastar Pahir Hovainh Parvaan.
Malechh Dhaan Le Poojainh Puraan.

(Wearing blue robes, they seek the approval {of the Muslim rulers}. Accepting bread from the ‘Malechh’ people, they worship the ‘Puraanas’).

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 472).

Accordingly, we can say that Syad Muhammad Latif was wrong, when he wrote the following about Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji in his book ‘History of the Punjab’: –

… he actually wished his followers to adopt a livery of his own invention, (in supersession of the blue dress which Nanak had ordered them to wear)….
(History of the Punjab by Syad Muhammad Latif, page 280).

Whilst it is true that Guru Nanak Dev Ji himself wore blue dress, when he went to ‘Makka’, the sacred city of Muslims. Bhai Gurdas Ji writes: –

Baba Phir Makke Gya, Neel Bastra Dhaare Banvaaree.

(Baba {Guru Nanak} then went to ‘Makka’ wearing blue robes).

However, this was clearly for purposes of disguise for it was not possible for a non-Muslim to enter the city of ‘Makka’, so Guru Ji donned the Muslim outfit. Not only he wore blue robes, he also took ‘Musalla’ (prayer mat) and other Muslim paraphernalia. Bhai Gurdas Ji writes: –

Aasa Hathth Kitaab Kachchh, Kooja Baang Musalla Dhaaree.

(He was carrying a stick in his hand, a book under his armpit; he was with ‘Kooja’ {water pot with handle} and ‘Musalla’ {prayer carpet used by Muslims}.)

From these references, we can see that blue robes were considered to be a Muslim dress. Hindus of the time (and many even to this day) would wear a white �dhoti� and would cover their heads with turbans. It was only Hindus in the employ of the Muslim rulers who would wear blue clothing.

In ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’, we find a reference to a Sikh, who was in the service of the Muslim rulers and would wear blue clothing. Ratan Singh Bhangu writes: –

Kahan Singh Kyee BanDeyon Judaayee.
Lyee Turkan Syon Baat Banaayee.
Rupyo Panj Sai NiT Lain Thhahraayo.
Asvaar Panj Sai Saath Rakhaayo.2.
Neel BasTree, Sir Chakra Sajaavai.
Rahit Bhujangee Reet Rakhaavai.
Parhai Baanee, ArDaaso Karai.
Dangyon Phangyon Nah So Tarai.3.

Thus, Kahan Singh left Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji and joined Muslim rulers. He got Rupees five hundred per day (as wages for him and his men). He had five hundred horsemen with him. He used to wear blue robes and put ‘Chakra’ (a discus) around his head.

The timeframe in consideration here is circa 1714-1715 AD. If it is true that Kahan Singh used to wear blue robes, then this is not something necessarily out of the ordinary. It was said that in ‘Kalyug’, the Atharva Veda would become prominent and people would began to wear blue robes. Guru Nanak Dev Ji says: –

Kal Maih Bed Atharban Hooyaa Naayaun Khudaayee Alhu Bhyaa.
Neel Bastar Le Kaprhe Pahire Turak Pathaanee Amal Keeyaa.

(In the Dark Age of Kali Yuga, the Atharva Veda has become prominent; Allah became the Name of God. Blue robes and garments are worn; the life-style of Turks and Pathhaans is adopted).

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 470).

Elsewhere in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib , Guru Nanak Dev Ji goes on to say: –

Kooja Baang Nivaaj Musalla Neel Roop Banvaaree.

(The Muslim devotional pots, calls to prayer, prayers and prayer mats are everywhere; the Lord appears in blue robes).

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 1191).

Blue clothing was not worn by the majority of Indians in the past, however under the influence of the Islamic regime under the Muslim government, it become popular even amongst non-Muslims. Many Indians embraced Islam whilst others, who did not convert, adopted parts of Islamic culture and lifestyle, one element of this being the blue attire.

In case of Kahan Singh, it was only natural that he would wear blue robes. He was in service of the Muslims, who had also given him a flag and kettledrum. Ratan Singh Bhangu writes in his ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’: –

Dyo Nigaaro Nishaan Ghalaaye.

([The King] sent a kettledrum and a flag [to those Sikhs]).

Obviously a flag sent by the Muslim ruler to Kahan Singh would not be a Sikh flag (Nishaan Sahib). Those Sikhs who had turned against Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and his army, fought under this flag.

Naturally, if the Muslim government provided them with money, a flag and kettledrum, it is also possible that Kahan Singh and the Sikhs who sided with him would have been provided with a particular colour of uniform, as it would have been necessary to differentiate them from the Sikhs fighting under the command of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.

On other occasions, we see that the blue dress was also used by the Sikhs to disguise themselves. Not only did they wear the blue dress, they once even carried a green ‘Haidari’ flag and recited ‘Allah Hoo Akbar’. Giani Gian Singh writes in his book ‘Panth Prakash’: –

Neelee Bardee Singhan Dhaaree.
Sajyo Ves Turkan Anuhaaree.
Du-Ik Hazaar Singh Tat Raavee.
Jaaye Tinai Eh Byot Banaavee.
Sabz Rang Kar Jhanda Aage.
Akbar Haq Bolne Laage.

(The ‘Singhs’ wore blue dress. They disguised themselves as Muslims. On the bank of river Raavee, there were one or two thousands Singhs. They made this plan. They carried a green (Muslim) flag in front of them and started to say ‘Akbar Haq’).

Thus, these Sikhs attacked the city of Lahore wearing Muslim dresses, which were blue.

It appear that in later times, it became very common to see blue attire amongst select Sikh militant groups. Otherwise, the majority of the Sikhs fighting under the command of the Budhha Dal and the Taruna Dal would only wear a Kachhehra and turban and 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 {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).

Conclusion

The blue dress has no exceptional significance in Sikh culture and tradition. There are select instances when Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Sikhs disguised themselves in Muslim attire which was blue, however it only became common to see a few Sikh groups dressed in blue much later.

The Word ‘Nihang’ in ‘Gur Bilas Paat-shaahee 10’

The Word ‘Nihang’ in ‘Gur Bilas Paat-shaahee 10’

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Bhai Kuyer Singh wrote his book in 1751 AD. The word ‘Nihang’ has been used in this book for several times.

Most of times, Kuyer Singh used this word for ‘warriors’ or as an adjective (‘brave’).

Here are a few examples: –

Satgur Sanmukh Jaat Bhyo, Mag Mai Milai Nihang.

and

Nihangan Naam Bataavahee, Meendee Kar Laghu Ang.

and

Eh Nihangan Kau At Kaam.

and

Naam Nihangan Jaano Tehee.

To elucidate further, let us consider another line written by Kuyer Singh, in which he has used the word ‘Nihang’. In the 20th chapter, Kuyer Singh gives description of a meeting between Guru Gobind Singh Ji and King Bahadur Shah. Bahadur Shah makes a request to Guru Ji to stay there for a few days and says: –

Alp Divas Bit Hai Sukh Sanga.
Taa Tai Charhai Su Beg Nihanga.

(A few days will be spent with pleasure. Then, ‘Nihangs‘ {warriors} will go further swiftly).

In the lines given above, the word ‘Nihanga’ has been used commonly for Mogul, as well as Sikh warriors.

Kuyer Singh has used the word ‘Nihang’ for ‘sword’ also. When giving description of Bhai Bachitra Singh Ji fighting against the mad elephant, Kuyer Singh uses the word ‘Nihangang’ for sword, which was tied with trunk of the elephant: –

Ite Aap Ke Rang Aaye Su Singhang.
Hane Soorbeerang Ute Vai Nihangang.

Thus, Kuyer Singh has used the word ‘Nihang’ for a variety of meanings, mainly for ‘warrior’, however he has not used this word for Sikhs as a proper noun.

Bhai Kuyer Singh wrote this book in 1751 AD. The word ‘Nihang’ has been used in this book for several times.

Most of times, Kuyer Singh used this word for ‘warriors’ or as an adjective (‘brave’).

Here are a few examples: –

Satgur Sanmukh Jaat Bhyo, Mag Mai Milai Nihang.

and

Nihangan Naam Bataavahee, Meendee Kar Laghu Ang.

and

Eh Nihangan Kau At Kaam.

and

Naam Nihangan Jaano Tehee.

To elucidate further, let us consider another line written by Kuyer Singh, in which he has used the word ‘Nihang’. In the 20th chapter, Kuyer Singh gives description of a meeting between Guru Gobind Singh Ji and King Bahadur Shah. Bahadur Shah makes a request to Guru Ji to stay there for a few days and says: –

Alp Divas Bit Hai Sukh Sanga.
Taa Tai Charhai Su Beg Nihanga.

(A few days will be spent with pleasure. Then, ‘Nihangs‘ {warriors} will go further swiftly).

In the lines given above, the word ‘Nihanga’ has been used commonly for Mogul, as well as Sikh warriors.

Kuyer Singh has used the word ‘Nihang’ for ‘sword’ also. When giving description of Bhai Bachitra Singh Ji fighting against the mad elephant, Kuyer Singh uses the word ‘Nihangang’ for sword, which was tied with trunk of the elephant: –

Ite Aap Ke Rang Aaye Su Singhang.
Hane Soorbeerang Ute Vai Nihangang.

Thus, Kuyer Singh has used the word ‘Nihang’ for a variety of meanings, mainly for ‘warrior’, however he has not used this word for Sikhs as a proper noun.

The Word ‘Nihang’ in ‘Sri Gur Sobha’

The Word ‘Nihang’ in ‘Sri Gur Sobha’

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

The ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ is an important book, which is written by a person, who was a poet in the holy court of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The poet, Sainapati (Saina Singh), completed this book in 1711 AD, just three years after Guru Ji left for his heavenly abode. There are only a few writers, who were contemporaries of Guru Ji and Sainapati (Saina Singh) is one of them. Being a court-poet, he must have talked to Guru Ji for many times. He is obviously an eyewitness to many events, which took place during his stay in Guru’s holy court.

It is vital to note that the poet Sainapati has not used the word ‘Nihang’ once in his book ‘Sri Gur Sobha’. He has not used the word ‘Akali’ either, which is considered today to be synonymous with ‘Nihang’.

Sainapati has used word ‘Khalsa’ many times and he has used the word ‘Singh’ synonymously with ‘Khalsa’. For example, in his account of the battle of ‘Sri Chamkaur Sahib’, he writes: –

Daur Daur Faujan Main Parheen.
Singh Sabai Aisee Bidh Karheen.

(They would run to {enemy’s} army {to attack}. All the ‘Singhs‘ would do like this).

In same chapter, Sainapati then uses the word ‘Khalsa’ for same meaning: –

Aaj Khaas Bhye Khalsa Satgur Ke Darbaar.

(Today the ‘Khalsa‘ became special in the court of the Guru).

He used the word ‘Sikh’ also for same meaning. Here is an example, where he used words ‘Singh’ and ‘Sikhan’ (plural form for ‘Sikh’): –

Saamaan Kooch Sahib Ne Keena.
Sikkhan Baant Khazaana Deena.
Saban Paanch Hathiyaar Bandhaaye.
Singh Soor Ban Ban Sabh Aaye.

(Guru Ji made preparations for departure. He distributed treasury to ‘Sikhs‘. All took five weapons. The ‘Singh‘ warriors came appearing beautifully).

When Sainapati uses the word ‘Sangat’ (congregation), he refers only to the ‘Khalsa’: –

Dilli Nikat Prabhoo Jab Aaye.
Sangat Khabar Sunee Sukh Paaye.
Anik Hulaas Jeev Mo Aayo.
Sarb Khalsa Lain Sidhaayo.

(When Guru Ji reached near Delhi, the ‘Sangat‘ felt happy hearing this news. They were very pleased. The ‘Khalsa‘ went forward to receive Guru Ji).

Here, Sainapati has used words ‘Sangat’ and ‘Khalsa’ for same meaning.

Thus, he used the words ‘Sangat’, ‘Sikh’, ‘Singh’ and ‘Khalsa’ for a same group of people and he used these words repeatedly.

This indicates that these words (‘Sangat’, ‘Sikh’, ‘Singh’ and ‘Khalsa’) were being used very frequently during his time. These words were being used for a particular group of people, who were disciples of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. There was no confusion over their meaning, so he used them frequently in his book.

However, surprisingly, Sainapati did not use the word ‘Nihang’ even once. This suggests that the word ‘Nihang’ was not used for Sikhs in his time, if it was, then surely Sainapati would have made use of it too. If he simply ignored this word, then one can conclude that it was not in frequent use as reference for a Sikh.

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.

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

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.