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Motto Khalsa Spirit
Formation 1790s
Official language English
Leader Nirankari

Nirankari (Punjabi: ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੀ, Hindi: निरंकारी) is a reformist movement in Sikhism.[1]


Nirankari is a reformist movement in Sikhism originating in Rawalpindi, a city situated northwest of the Punjab, a geographical region in South Asia comprising vast territories of eastern Pakistan and northern India, during the later years of the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The sect was founded by Baba Dyal Singh (1785-1855),[2] a Sahajdhari Sikh and bullion merchant.[citation needed] His successor, Baba Darbar Singh, established many centers beyond Rawalpindi and wrote about the essential teachings of Baba Dyal. By the time of the third leader, Sahib Rattaji (1870-1909), the population of Nirankaris was estimated to be in the thousands.[2] Some became involved in the Singh Sabha Movement under the fourth leader Baba Gurdit Singh. However, the emphasis of the movement was largely based on Guru Nanak Dev's message, and as Guru Gobind Singh's Khalsa dominated the belief of the time, the movement became marginalized. Under the British Raj, the Nirankaris were further sidelined. In 1929, an offshoot of the group formed, known as the Sant Nirankari Mission, which was defined by its belief in a living Guru after the Guru Granth Sahib. This group has since developed into its own distinct spiritual movement. At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Nirankaris abandoned their center in Rawalpindi and established themselves on the Indian side of the partition.

Baba Dyal Singh[edit]

Main article: Baba Dyal Singh

Nirankaris trace their origins to Baba Dyal Singh (1783-1855). Living during a period of Sikh dominance resulting from the victories of the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Baba Dyal preached against the assimilation of other religious traditions, particularly Hinduism, into Sikhism. He felt that the military success of the burgeoning Sikh Empire was distracting Sikhs from their duty to remember Akal Purakh through the practice of Naam Japo. Baba Dyal was particularly vociferous on the subject of idolatry, a facet of Hinduism that was creeping into Sikh practice. He thus emphasized the formless, or nirankar, quality of Akal Purakh, which gave the movement's its name.

Baba Dyal reportedly experienced enlightenment when he was 18 years old. He entered meditation and heard a voice saying:

Give up this ritualistic practice. You have been commissioned to expel the darkness of ignorance... You are a true Nirankari, as you are a believer of God as spirit, without bodily form.[3]

His original movement was confined to the Rawalpindi area, its followers being mainly Khatris and Aroras by caste. Baba Dyal was himself a Sahajdhari Sikh, as were most of his followers. This did not mean, however, that his followers were expected to give up their occupations and retreat into a life of renunciation. Nirankaris were typically traders and shopkeepers, and they were expected to continue working while they focused their attention on remembrance of the divine Name.

Baba Dyal left his Nirankaris with a brief manual of instruction called a hukamnama, although its form and contents are those of a rahitnama, or law code.[2] Its contents emphasize the teachings of Guru Nanak without mentioning the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh. The essence of the Nirankari hukamnama is contained in the words which every adherent is commanded to utter again and again: Dhan dhan nirankar "Glory be to Nirankar."


The main practice of the Nirankari movement is the mental repetition of the mantra: Dhan dhan Nirankar ("Glory, glory to the Formless One"). They reject idolatry and ritual in favor of personal religious practice. They do not subscribe to the orthodox Sikh view that Adi Granth was the last and only eternal Guru for all Sikhs.[4]

Nirankaris do not bury or cremate their dead. Instead, they throw the bodies into a river.[5] Alcohol consumption and smoking is prohibited.


There are no official numbers, but 23,747 Sikhs have declared themselves as Nirankaris. [6]


  1. ^ "Nirankari". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c McLeod, W.H. Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism Manchester University Press ND, 1984
  3. ^ Cole, William Owen; The Sikhs: their religious beliefs and practices Sussex Academic Press, 1995
  4. ^ "Untitled Document". Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Punjab Past & Present, April 1973, Ludhiana Mission report, quoted in Cole, 1995
  6. ^ (Census of India, 1891, Vol.XX, and vol.XXI, The Punjab and its Feudatories, by Sir Edward Douglas MacLagan, Part II and III, Calcutta, 1892, pp. & 826–9 and pp.& 572–3.)