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Vishav Namdhari Sangat
FormationApril 1812
FounderBalak Singh
Founded atBank of the Haron river
TypeSect of Sikhism
HeadquartersBhaini Sahib, Ludhiana, Punjab, India
Claim to number between 5 and 10 lakhs (500,000-1 million), consisting primarily of Jat, Ramgarhia, Arora, and Mazhabi castes.[1]
Official language
Current Guru
Uday Singh
Key people
H.S. Hanspal (president of Namdhari Darbar)
Main organ
Sri Bhaini Sahib
SecessionsInternational Namdhari Sangat

The Namdharis (Gurmukhi: ਨਾਮਧਾਰੀ; Devanagari: नामधारी; nāmadhārī, meaning "bearers of the name"), also known as Kuka and Kukaism[2] (Gurmukhi: ਕੂਕਾ; kūkā [sg]; ਕੂਕੇ; kūkē [pl]: from Punjabi kuk, “scream” or “cry”),[3] 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 (1666–1708), as they recognize Balak Singh (1797–1862) 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.[4] The 12th Guru was Ram Singh (1816–1885), 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.[5]


The most common names for the sect are Namdhari or Kuka.[2][3] Some texts refer to them as Jagiasi or Abhiasi.[6]


Namdhari Sikhs believes that the lineage of Sikh gurus did not end with Guru Gobind Singh and that he did not die at Nanded, instead he was able to escape.[7][unreliable source][8][9][unreliable source] They recognize Balak Singh (1797–1862) 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.[10] Each member of the Namdhari community is given Amrit at a young age,[11][unreliable source] they do not consume meat, alcohol or drugs. The 12th Guru was Ram Singh (1816–1885), 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.[5]

Painting of a Namdhari Sikh or Kuka Sikh, by Kapur Singh, Amritsar, ca.1860–65

The Namdhari's are advocates for Guru Nanak Dev 's message and philosophy of sharing your wealth and food with the needy, earn an honest living and to unifying with the creator by appreciating and reciting the lords Naam.[citation needed]

They did not believe in any religious ritual other than the repetition of their god's name (or nam, for which reason members of the sect are called Namdharis),[12] rejecting the worship of idols, graves, tombs, gods, or goddesses.[13] 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,[14] as well as their clashes with the British colonial authority. They call their houses of worship dharamsalas, though they freely attend other gurdwaras, maintaining family and friendship ties across sect lines.[15]

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.[6][16]

Namdhari Rehatnama[edit]

Issued by Guru Ram Singh during their time of exile, it has become the foundation of the Namdhari Sikh belief system.[17] It was specifically addressed to the community of Sikhs living in Bhaini. In promotes waking up early before sunrise, hygiene and cleanliness as well as brushing teeth and showering from head to toe daily.

Guru Ram Singh encouraged memorising Gurbani and to contemplate on the almighty 24 hours a day.[18][unreliable source] He promoted peace and non violence against oppression, forgiveness, humility and tolerance. The Namdhari Rehatnama promotes singing of hymns daily and also sets out a conduct which should be followed if a Havan is to be performed, listing out which texts should be read and how the area should be prepared. The rehatnama outlines how a Sikh should change his or her kacherra (one leg should remain in the kacherra whilst the other has been taken out). It banned child weddings and banned taking money from sisters or daughters along with outlaw of gambling (page 129).[19][20]


Painting of a Namdhari or Kuka (Sikh sect) congregation of Guru Ram Singh Kuka performing katha (Sikh religious discourse lecture) with an opened scripture of Guru Granth Sahib
Namdhari Sikh singer and musicians

The Namdharis wear homespun white turbans, which they wrap around their heads (sidhi pagri).[21][16] Around their necks they wear a white woolen cord (mala), woven as a series of 108 knots and serving as a rosary.[22]

They are called Kuka, which means "crier, shouter", for their ecstatic religious practices during devotional singing. They also meditate, using mala (rosary).[16]

Namdharis follow a strict lacto-vegetarian diet and also advocate for cow protection.[23] They abstain from the use of alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.[24][25]

The Namdhari community also perform Hom (Havan) in which a team of 7 people who are observing Sodh maryada recite Gurbani from the Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth for the wellbeing of humanity. According to Namdharis, the modern form of performing Havan's within the Sikh community originates back to Guru Ram Singh and Guru Gobind Singh (page 2).[26] During the wedding ceremony (Anand Karaj) a Namdhari couple will circumvent the Hom once the Hom ceremony has finished.[27]

Interfaith harmony[edit]

Purna Swaraj[edit]

Attended by Guru Partap Singh on 31 December 1929. Thousands of Namdhari Sikhs participated in the procession. A 100 horses were sent for the procession, free langar was organised by the Namdhari Sikhs and Mata Jeewan Kaur played a vital role.[28]

Guru Nanak Sarv Sampradaya[edit]

The “Guru Nanak Sarv Sampradaya” conference was organised by Guru Partap Singh in 1934 with the sole intention to unite anyone who believed in or followed the teachings of Guru Nanak. In doing so they were able to strengthen the bond between Sikh factions by eradicating the ideological differences between different communities.[29][unreliable source]

Hindu-Muslim-Sikh unity conference[edit]

In 1943, Guru Partap Singh organised a Hindu-Muslim-Sikh unity conference[30][unreliable source] in Bhaini Sahib, stressing the importance of unity amongst not only Indians but amongst humanity also.

Sarab Dharam Samelan[edit]

Under the guidance of Guru Uday Singh, Bhaini Sahib became host of a religious unity convention dedicated to world peace and communal harmony on the 9th of March 2023 in which guests from various religious and cultural backgrounds came and gave sermons on topics including religious harmony, love and unity.[31][unreliable source]

Interfaith Harmony for World Peace[edit]

On 23 April 2023 the Namdhari Sikh community hosted an interfaith harmony for world peace conference in Melbourne, Australia.[32]



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 die in Nanded but escaped and lived in secret,[21] and secretly helped the Khalsa in the coming decades under the guise of a man named Ajaypal Singh.[33][34] and that he nominated Balak Das Udasi to be the 11th Guru, a tradition that was continued through the Namdhari leaders.[35][36] According to their beliefs, Guru Gobind Singh passed guruship to Balak Das of Hazro, Punjab in the year 1812 on Baisakh Sudi 10.[37] before passing on Jeth Sudi 5, Vikrami Samvat 1869 (1812 A.D.), at the claimed age of 146.

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.[38] He was strictly vegetarian and a strong opponent of cow slaughter, and retaliated against Muslims for killing cows in 1872.[6][16] Ram Singh Kuka 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.[6]

Role in Indian freedom movement[edit]

Some Namdharis are recognized as freedom fighters due to their attacks on cow slaughters, inflicting many deaths 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.[39] Four Namdhari Sikhs — Bhai Lehna Singh, Bhai Fateh Singh, Bhai Hakam Singh Patwari, Bhai Beehla Singh took it upon themselves to kill Muslims in retaliation for the slaughtering of cows.[40] 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.[41][42] They had tried to blame the Nihang Panth for the action by placing a Blue Dummala and Chakrams outside the site of action. Afterwards many Sikhs and Nihangs killed Namdharis and 180 Namdharis and 12 Nihangs died in the clashes.[43][44]

A group of 66 Namdhari Sikhs were executed by cannons on 17–18 January 1872 after a group of 125 attacked a slaughterhouse in Malerkotla.[15] 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.[45] On 10 March 1872, Ram Singh was shifted to Calcutta. On 11 March 1872 he was sent to Rangoon in British Burma.[46][47] Ram Singh was kept there until 18 September 1880, and then shifted to Megui in Burma, in an attempt to make contact with him more difficult.[48][49]

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 expel 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.

Ram Singh died in 1885 according to British records, though many Namdharis maintain a belief that he is alive and will reappear.[15]

Succession crisis[edit]

In 2012, after the death of the fifth guru of the Namdharis, Guru Jagjit Singh, there was controversy surrounding who would succeed him as the next Guru. This was further complicated by the fact that Jagjit had not made it clear who would succeed him. Eventually, Uday Singh (nephew of Guru Jagjit Singh) was announced as the successor but this attracted criticism and controversy within the sectoral community, with other factions vying for Dalip Singh (excommunicated elder brother of Uday Singh) or Chand Kaur (widow of late Guru Jagjit Singh) as the next Guru, others are awaiting for Guru Ram Singh's prophesied return. Chand Kaur, one of the supported claimants to the Guruship, was assassinated in April 2016. There have been violent clashes relating to the crisis between different cliques.[50][51][52][53]

Gurus recognized by Namdharis[edit]

The 12 Sadhgurus in Namdhari Sikhism

A Guru is Sanskrit term for "mentor, guide, expert or master" in a certain field or of certain knowledge.[54] The Namdhari's recognize the following as spiritual teachers (Guru). Below are the names of the Gurus followed by Namdhari Sikhs succeeding the mainstream Sikh Gurus:[55][56]

No. Name


Portrait Guruship Term Reference(s)
Succeeding Guru Gobind Singh:[note 1]
1. Guru Balak Singh
1812–1841 [57][58]
2. Guru Ram Singh
(1816–1885, he is still alive according to Namdhari belief)
1841–1872 [59][60][61][62]
3. Guru Hari Singh


1872–1906 [63][64]
4. Guru Partap Singh


1906–1959 [65][66]
5. Guru Jagjit Singh


1959–2012 [67][68][69]
6. Guru Uday Singh 2012–present [70]


  1. ^ The Namdharis believe in the same lineage of gurus that mainstream Sikhs do, differing in that they believe Balak Singh succeeded Guru Gobind Singh as an 11th guru, a belief which is not shared by mainstream Sikhs. The Namdhari guruship lineage continues til the present-day.


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External links[edit]