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The Namdharis are a Sikh sect that differs from mainstream Sikhs chiefly in that it believes that the lineage of Sikh Gurus did not end with Guru Gobind Singh, as they recognize Balak Singh as the 11th Guru of the Sikh religion, thus continuing the succession of Sikh Gurus through the centuries from Guru Nanak Dev to the present day.[1] The 12th Guru is Satguru Ram Singh, who moved the sects centre to Bhaini Sahib (Ludhiana) and is regarded as the first Indian to use non-cooperation and non-violence boycott in order to combat the British Empire in India.[2]


Namdharis, also known as Kuka Sikhs, believe that the line of Sikh Gurus did not end with Guru Gobind Singh, as they claim that he did not not die in Nanded but escaped and lived in secret,[3] and secretly helped the Khalsa in the coming decades under the guise of Baba Ajaypal Singh.[4][5] and that he nominated Balak Singh to be the 11th Guru, a tradition that was continued through the Namdhari leaders.[6][7] According to their beliefs, Guru Gobind Singh passed guruship to Satguru Balak Singh of Hazro, Punjab in the year 1812 on Baisakh Sudi 10.[8] before passing on Jeth Sudi 5, Vikrami Samvat 1869 (1812 A.D.), at the apparent age of 146.

They did not believe in any religious ritual other than the repetition of God's name (or nam, for which reason members of the sect are called Namdharis),[9] including the worship of idols, graves, tombs, gods, or goddesses.[10] The Namdharis had more of a social impact than the Nirankaris at the time of its founding due to the fact that they emphasized Khalsa identity, seeking to reestablish it, and the authority of the Guru Granth Sahib,[11] as well as their clashes with the British colonial authority. They call their houses of worship dharamsalas.[12]

Their 12th guru was Ram Singh, who moved the sect’s center to Bhaini Sahib (Ludhiana). A Tarkhan or Ramgharia, his rural sect would be composed largely of Ramgharias and poorer Jat Sikhs.[13] Strictly vegetarian and a strong opponent of cattle slaughter, and retaliated against Muslims for killing cows in 1872.[14][15] Their leader Ram Singh was arrested by the British and he was exiled to Rangoon, Myanmar. Dozens of Namdharis were arrested by the British and executed without trial in Ludhiana and Ambala.[14] They consider Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth as equally important, and compositions from the Chandi di Var are a part of their daily Nitnem. They circumambulate the fire (havan) during their weddings, but they differ in that the hymns are those from the Adi Granth.[14][15]

The Namdharis wear homespun white turbans, which they wrap around their heads (sidhi pagri).[3][15] They are called Kuka, which means "crier, shouter", for their ecstatic religious practices during devotional singing. They also meditate, using mala (rosary).[15][16][page needed] Some texts refer to them as Jagiasi or Abhiasi.[14]

Role in Indian freedom movement[edit]

Some Namdharis are recognized as freedom fighters due to their attacks on cow slaughters, inflicting death on Muslims in Amritsar and Ludhiana in Vikrami Samvat 1928 at midnight on 15 July 1871. The British had instituted a slaughter house near the Golden Temple Amritsar on 5 May 1849.[17] 4 Namdhari Sikhs- Bhai Lehna Singh, Bhai Fateh Singh, Bhai Hakam Singh Patwari, Bhai Beehla Singh took this burden onto their shoulders and killed Muslims.[18] As a result, the mentioned Namdharis were sentenced to death by hanging at Ram Bagh, Amritsar, where at present, a Namdhari Shaheedi Samarak (memorial) is placed in their honor. [19][20]

A group of 66 Namdhari Sikhs were killed by cannons on 17-18 January 1872 for protesting against the British and one 12-year-old boy (Bishan Singh) was beheaded by sword on the same day in Maler Kotla. A memorial for them at Namdhari Shidi Smarg Malerkotla in Indian Punjab is present.[21]

After Malerkotla Sadhguru Ram Singh Kuka divided the Indian Subcontinent into 22 Subas (states) with capitals in Hyderabad, Lucknow, Kabul, Patna, Bombay etc. He developed a postal system and an army. He was going to initiate a revolt but the British easily crushed the Namdhari spirit by killing all of the chieftains and soldiers and later imprisoning the Sadhguru.

Satguru Ram Singh was sent to Allahabad with his servant (Nanu Singh) on 18 January 1872, in the morning hours from Ludhiana by a special train.[22] On 10 March 1872, Satguru Ram Singh was shifted to Calcutta. On 11 March 1872 he was sent to Rangoon in British Burma. [23] [24] Satguru Ram Singh was kept there until 18th September 1880, and then shifted to Megui in Burma, in an attempt to make contact with him more difficult. [25][26]

The White triangular flag symbolizing peace

Even in exile, Satguru Ram Singh worked endlessly to keep the freedom struggle alive even sending his Suba (Lieutenant) Bishan Singh to Moscow, in order to gain the support of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, in removing British rule in India. Suba Bishan had made contact with Maharaja Duleep Singh who was also in Moscow at the time looking to gain support of the Russian Czar in order to rid the British from India, and re-institute the once flourishing Sikh Empire. However, due to the Russian-Turkish War (1877-1878) the Russians were not keen on supporting any Indian nationalist in going to war against the British Empire. Afterwards many Sikhs and Nihangs killed Namdharis and 180 Namdharis and 12 Nihangs died in the clashes.[27] [28]

Sant Khalsa (Saint Khalsa)[edit]

He administered Khande di Pahul (Amrit Sanchar) to 5 Sikhs: Kahn Singh Nihang of village Chak, Labh Singh Ragi of Amritsar, Atma Singh of Alo Muhar village, Bhai Naina Singh Wariyah, and Sudh Singh of village Durgapur. Afterwards, several people from the congregation took amrit. [29] It is noted within the Kuka British Archives as well as Giani Gian Singh's Panth Parkash that within 10 years Satguru Ram Singh baptized over 1000 people with amrit.[30] The followers of Satguru Ram Singh and initiates into the Sant Khalsa were known as Namdharis or Kukas.

Criticism of Kukaism[edit]

Sadhguru Ram Singh said that Muslims are Devils and Ram Singh Kuka killed many in Malerkotla ( as they killed cows) and Muslim majority districts. He only killed Muslims and no one of other Faiths. He also raided and destroyed Masjids and Mosques. They also never offered langar to Pathans and Muslims of any sort.

Namdhari Sikhs' attire is white - the colour of Satjug, a colour which denotes purity and they are not allowed to wear blue and black, as black symbolise the kalyug and blue is prohibited as its made by adding cow blood for the neel color despite modern ways of coloring clothes which does not use cow blood. Earlier Sikh Gurus all wore these colors and had no restrictions and the Khalsa colors were Blue and Yellow not white.

Namdharis are strictly vegetarian although all Nihangs who were in the Budha Dal ate meat. The Nihangs who hunted boars and deer kept the trophies as 'Soor Das' (Boar's Tooth) and 'Barha Singha' (Deer Horns) and it is well known that Guru Angad ate Mahaprasad (Goat meat) in his Gurudwara. They also do not eat anything but food cooked by members of their sect although Guru Gobind Singh Ji ate food from Gangu Brahmin. They also only have rainwater and no other water meaning that they would not survive in deserts.

Namdharis call their Gurudwaras as Mandirs although Guru Hargobind changed it from Dharamshala to Gurudwara when the Adi Granth was prepared.

Namdharis believe that Baba Ram Singh lives to the age of 250 and that he exists in this world at this time. They believe his return is absolutely imminent although it is physically impossible. The Namdharis also created their own false prophecies in which Ram Singh would conquer Mecca and Medina but he did not and could only conquer a small, underdeveloped village called Bhaini Sahib. The Namdhari Guru stated that Ram Singh Kuka would return at 2012 while he did not.

It is known and practised by all Jathas in the Khalsa Panth that only Sarbloh can be used for amrit sanchar. Sri Guru Gobind Singh himself first used Sarbloh bata and khanda to prepare amrit. Namdharis were also strict in their observance of sarbloh in both amrit sinchaars and their langars.  With time however, the use of steel and brass has become common and Sarbloh is nowhere to be found in the Namdhari tradition.

Sikhs know that distortion of Gurbani is a serious error.  Baba Ram Rai distorted just one word in Sri Asa Ki Vaar in his conversation with Aurangzeb. Instead of reciting ਮਿਟੀ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨ ਕੀ ਪੇੜੈ ਪਈ ਕੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਿਆਰ ॥ he instead said “bayeman”.  As a result, Sri Guru Har Rai declared that he was bemukh and should not come before him again. Sadly, Namdharis make the grave mistake of distorting Sri Asa Ki Vaar. Instead of reciting ਨੀਲ ਬਸਤ੍ਰ ਲੇ ਕਪੜੇ ਪਹਿਰੇ ਤੁਰਕ ਪਠਾਣੀ ਅਮਲੁ ਕੀਆ ॥ they instead sing “Nil bastar le kapre phare; Turk Pathani amal gaya”. They claim this is because Sri Guru Gobind Singh changed the tuk while burning his blue clothes after leaving Machhiwara. The truth is that this distorted tuk does not appear in even one saroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.  None of the historical saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib have recorded such a change.  If indeed Sri Guru Gobind Singh did make this change, it would have appeared in some of the subsequent recensions, but it does not.

Namdharis carry a 4cm Kirpan in their Kangha. By reducing the kirpan to a mere symbol, the Namdhari samprada have abandoned an essential rehit. According to Joginder Singh’s book Namdhari Guru Ram Singh, “when the British Government imposed restrictions on carrying kirpan, he [Baba Ram Singh] advised his followers to keep a heavy lathi in place of kirpan.” After winning the “Kirpan Morcha” against the British and securing the right to freely wear the kirpan, the tradition of wearing the kirpan at all times continues in the mainstream Khalsa. It has however, ended for the Namdharis.

The Namdharis believe that the Sidhi Pagg is the original Sikh turban. This is not true as the Sidhi Pagg only originated at the time of Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, the Royal Indic Turban and Dastar Bunga are the original Sikh turbans. Namdharis also do not wear 'pharlas' although the Guruji said that all Khalsa Sikhs should wear 'pharlas' as they are the Nishan Sahib of a Sikh, the declaration of sovereignty.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji said that after his death the Khalsa would live on without a Guru. He created a self sustaining Religion. Earlier the Guru taught the Sikhs individually and were in their human form. When the line of Gurus ended the Guru's Shabad was his teachings and his bodily form in the Khalsa.

Differing Uniform[edit]

His Namdharis were trying to reform Guru Gobind Singh's Khalsa Army but were unable to do so as their perspective greatly differed-

The Sant Khalsa have a particular style of turban, being tied horizontally across the forehead, called Sidha Pag (straight turban). Above the Sidha Pagg was a Khanda and a turban around it. Above the last turban was a mala, the mala had one hundred and eight beads. They had White Kurtas and tight, white pajamas, they walked barefoot and not with any footwear. Some of them wore yellow Kamar-Kasas (cloth belts). They also did not carry Sarbloh weapons and only carried Tabars (Axes) and Salotars (Clubs). They also had plain, white Nishan Sahibs with no symbols.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji told his Khalsa to have a two foot tall, navy blue turban with 7-8 Chakrams (metal rings which protect the turban and are used to throw) and a Gajgah (symbols on the turban). They carried a meter long bright yellow Pharla (loose cloth) which represents the sovereignty and Nishan Sahib of the Khalsa. They had navy Sikh Cholas and only wore kacheras or cotton garments going till the knees. They had yellow hazoorias with yellow kamar kasas. They carried a bow, a quiver of arrows, a Khanda, two Kirpans, a Dhal (shield) and a jamdhardh. They had shoes with pointed tips to pierce the opponent. They carried Blue Nishan Sahibs with the Katar Dhal Kirpan and a Nagini Barcha on top. They wore Blue (The colour of the Hindu Shudras- opressed) and carried Sarbloh (All steel, Shudras were only allowed to wear this metal). He called this the Khalsa Swarupa.

Line of Gurus recognised by Namdharis[edit]

Below are the names of Gurus followed by Namdhari Sikhs as mentioned on the sect's official website:[31]

The 12 Sadhgurus, this does not have the entire list
  1. Guru Nanak
  2. Guru Angad
  3. Guru Amar Das
  4. Guru Ram Das
  5. Guru Arjan
  6. Guru Hargobind
  7. Guru Har Rai
  8. Guru Har Krishan
  9. Guru Tegh Bahadur
  10. Guru Gobind Singh
  11. Satguru Balak Singh
  12. Satguru Ram Singh Kuka
  13. Satguru Hari Singh Kuka
  14. Satguru Partap Singh Kuka
  15. Satguru Jagjit Singh Kuka
  16. Satguru Uday Singh


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  2. ^ "Ram Singh Philosopher". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. ^ a b Sects in Sikhism, Encyclopedia Britannica
  4. ^ Gill, Davinder Singh (1998). Naded Toun Baad Dasam Guru. Capco Printing. pp. 28–30.
  5. ^ Sects and other groups: Sikhism, Encyclopaedia Britannica
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  12. ^ Gerald Parsons (2012). The Growth of Religious Diversity - Vol 1: Britain from 1945 Volume 1: Traditions. Routledge. pp. 221–222. ISBN 978-1-135-08895-8.
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  17. ^ Sanehi, Swaran Singh. Foremost Freedom Fighters. Maden Head: Deportation Centenary Committee. p. 3.
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  23. ^ Removal of Ram Singh, Kuka leader from Allahabad to British Burma.: Judicial, A, March 1872, Nos 111-112
  24. ^ Removal of Ram Singh, the Kuka leader to British Burma.: Judicial A, May 1872, No. 122.
  25. ^ Joginder Singh (Professor of history) (2010). Namdhari Guru Ram Singh. National Book Trust. (1st ed.). New Delhi: National Book Trust, India. ISBN 978-81-237-5918-0. OCLC 696603673.
  26. ^ Kooka Chief Ram Singh in Rangoon: Judicial, A, May 1872, No.80
  27. ^ Singh, Jaswinder (1985). Kuka Movement Freedom Struggle in Punjab. Punjab: Atlantic Publishers & Distributions. ISBN 9788171560813.
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