The Namdharis also known as Kukas are an integral part of the Sikh community. Impeccably dressed in their white ensemble of Kurta and Churidaar Pyjama adorned with a traditional round white turban on top, they have their own unique identity. The Namdharis believe that Satguru Balak Singh Ji (1785-1862) whom Satguru Gobind Singh Ji blessed at Hazro (District Attock also known as Campbellpur, Western Punjab – Now in Pakistan) baptized Satguru Ram Singh Ji (1816-) and handed over the Spiritual mantle to Him during His army days itself.
Incarnated into the family of a hard working carpenter in village Raiyaan (Ludhiana-Punjab), Satguru Ram Singh Ji as a soldier of the Sikh Army during and post the Golden Age of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule (1837-1845), witnessed not only the treachery of the Dogras, the conspiracies for the throne, the divisive policies of the British but also the eroding values and tenets of Sikhism. Analyzing this situation closely, Satguru Ji resolved to restore the glory of the Sikh Khalsa and to gain independence from the British.
On 12 April, 1857, on the occasion of Baisakhi, Satguru Ram Singh Ji baptised the chosen five Sikhs, rejuvenating the Sikh Khalsa and ushered in a new era of – The Namdhari Sant Khalsa, unfurling the white triangular flag of freedom and setting into motion the fight for independence from the British. A movement that would become the first multi pronged freedom movement that would that would last till 15 August, 1947 and later inspire the likes of Mahatma Gandhi to tread the path of non violence and non cooperation. Satguru Ji brought back to the fold several lakhs of devotees who had moved away from the path of Satguru Nanak and Satguru Gobind Singh Ji, co-joining them to both the Scriptures and the code of conduct. Gurdwara’s hitherto defunct were reopened and the Sri Aad Granth Sahib Ji installed, the devotees were instructed to read the scriptures and follow the life style according to Gurbani. As the movement grew and gained momentum, people thronged Satguru Ji’s residence to be baptised and become a part of the Namdhari Sant Khalsa. Meditation, Hymn singing and service above self became the order of the day.
Various Subas (Single Point District Officers) were appointed, who in turn connected the people to the Kuka headquarters at Sri Bhaini Sahib. Drinking alcohol, eating meat, addiction to drugs and several other social evils were prohibited. With the call for social, economic and institutional boycott of British goods, services and institutions, a people’s movement was set into motion against the Imperial rule. Diplomatic connections were established with friendly neighboring countries as well as native rulers and an alliance was formed to fight the colonial rule. The Britishers established cow slaughter houses adjacent to the Golden Temple which created unrest amongst the Sikhs. The Namdharis confronted the butchers directly at Amritsar, Raikote and Malerkotla and rescued the cows from being slaughtered, resulting in several Kukas being hanged to death and blown by cannons. Several were imprisoned at various prisons across the country and Satguru Ram Singh Ji along with His prominent Subas was deported to Myanmar on 18 January, 1872. A gathering of more than 5 Kukas was banned. Their properties were attached and a police outpost was posted outside the gates of Sri Bhaini Sahib for the next 35 years. For several years only 5 Sikhs and later only 10 Sikhs were allowed to visit Sri Bhaini Sahib and seek the benevolence and audience of Sri Satguru Hari Singh Ji.
In a written edict sent from Myanmar in 1875 Satguru Ram Singh Ji anointed His younger brother Bhai Budh Singh as Satguru Hari Singh Ji (1819-1906), the spiritual supreme of the Namdhari Sikhs. Several hundred Kukas visited Satguru Ram Singh Ji at Rangoon, Mergui etc incognito and brought back edicts, illustrating the Kuka way of life. At the behest of Satguru Ram Singh Ji, Satguru Hari Singh Ji conducted several non stop as well as regular recitations of the Sri Aad Granth Sahibs at Sri Bhaini Sahib away from the prying eyes of the British. The community kitchen continued to serve several thousands despite the great famine of 1891-1899. An impressed Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana visited Sri Bhaini Sahib and said to Satguru Hari Singh Ji “You have done a very good job feeding so many people, I donate 2500 acres for the community kitchen… Should be enough” Satguru Hari Singh Ji replied back fearlessly “…By accepting the 2500 acres from you, we accede to the fact that the rest of India is yours? This is our country, when the time comes we will take the full country from you, if you still want to donate, donate us a part of your motherland ” For a limited period during the last decade of His reign, Satguru Hari Singh Ji was allowed to tour and meet Namdhari Sikhs across the region with the special permission of the government. With the passage of time – social, religious and political changes gained momentum and Satguru Ji continued to fight against the colonial rule.
The mantle of the Spiritual Supreme of the Namdhari Sikhs passed onto Satguru Pratap Singh Ji, when in 1906 the epitome of patience, dedication, humility and principles Satguru Hari Singh Ji passed away (1890-1959). During His 53 years of Guruship, Satguru Pratap Singh Ji toured both within India as well as abroad and gave the Namdhari Sikhs a new direction. Satguru Ji continued to support and lead the various parties and freedom fighters, whether it be the Indian National Congress, the Gadar Party, Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s Bharat Naujawan Sabha, the Babbar Akalis or Subhash Chandra Bose’s – Azad Hind Fauj from Thailand and Singapore. Satguru Ji not only provided them able leadership but also financial assistance to continue their individual efforts for attaining freedom. Sri Bhaini Sahib became a safe haven for freedom fighters being sought and pursued by the British Police. Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, Ratan Singh Babbar Akali and several other freedom fighters stayed incognito at Sri Bhaini Sahib under Satguru Ji’s benevolence. An ardent defendant of communal harmony, goodwill and cooperation, He was a great patron of both the Punjabi language as well as Indian Classical Music and was revered by the talented and learned. His doors were always open for the needy. In 1947 after the partition of India, Satguru ji rehabilitated Namdhari Sikhs from several villages together at Jivan Nagar (Dist Sirsa). 11,000 acres of land was purchased from the community fund and several more thousand displaced people were rehabilitated. Vacant land from the common pool was distributed to the poor, while a school, college and several other educational institutes were established. 1250 acres of land received as donation from the erstwhile Nabha royalty was also distributed amongst 110 Sikh families.In 1959 as the divine light become one with its creator, Sri Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji (1920-2012), the elder son of Sri Satguru Pratap Singh Ji took over as the Supreme Spiritual head of the Namdhari Sikhs.
Satguru Ram Singh would often remark to the Sikhs visiting Him in Myanmar that “if not for these restrictions, I would serve you with best dishes, provide you the best shelters; I wish to bestow all the comforts possible in the world upon all Sikhs”. This boon of His has been fulfilled benevolently by Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji. Satguru Ji toured across the world spreading the word of Guru Nanak, of peace and harmony and gave the Namdhari Community its unique and respectful identity in the new world order. Following in the footsteps of the earlier Satguru’s, Satguru Ji continued to propagate the tenets of service to humanity, meditation on the name of the Lord and the learning and recitation of the Holy Scriptures. Binding not only the common man but also several spiritual and political heads across the world in the gentle embrace of Universal love and brotherhood. Ground breaking achievements were made in the fields of Gurbani (Sikh Devotional) Music, Indian Classical Music, Cattle breeding, Sports, Namdhari literature and communication. Help was provided to the needy from all strata of society and profession. Sri Bhaini Sahib was redeveloped keeping its vibrant history and culture in tact. The governments of Punjab and India recognized the Kuka Movement as an integral part of the Indian Freedom Movement as well as the first stop on the Freedom trail. Several landmark monuments were constructed as a tribute to the sacrifices of the Namdhari Martyrs as well as Namdhari Satguru’s. Five decades and four months after He took over, Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji passed away on 13 December, 2012, ordaining His younger brother Mahraj Bir Singh Ji’s son, Satguru Uday Singh Ji (1958-) as the Spiritual Supreme of the Namdhari Sikhs, under whose leadership the culturally rich historic past of the Namdharis meets the modern ethos of the current day society and an amalgamated vibrant and soulful future beckons.
The Namdhari Sikhs who numbered about 300,000 as per the British records and about 700,000 as per Giani Gian Singh’s records (an important 19th century Sikh Historian) are today settled across the globe with several Sikhs joining the Namdhari fold during the times of Satguru Pratap Singh Ji and Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji, while several Namdhari families have continued to strengthen and flower the community well into their sixth generation.
The daily ritual of the Namdharis consists of reciting the Chandi Di Vaar, Jap Sahib, Jaap Sahib, Sabad Hazaray of both the Jap and the Jaap Sahib, Asa Di Vaar, the Rehras Sahib and Kirtan Sohila. Asa Di Vaar is sung in traditional form in Indian classical ragas on a daily basis. One hour of meditation on the Name of the Lord is compulsory for every individual Namdhari. One full recitation of the Aad Granth Sahib and / or Dasam Granth Sahib per family beseeching the divine darshan of Satguru Ram Singh Ji is also compulsory as per Satguru Ji’s edicts.
Namdharis are pure vegetarians, consuming of drugs, alcohol or any other addiction is strictly banned and enforced. Marriages are solemnized as community marriages; frugal in nature bereft of any expensive dowry, engagement rituals etc. Their central point of spiritual focus is their faith and trust in the existence of the physical human form of their Spiritual Master – Satguru. Their professional and economical beliefs are en-grained in earning an honest and honourable living. Speaking lies, deception and theft are taboo. A simple way of life, where spiritual awareness levitates one self is the Namdhari way of life.