|1830||Baba Ratta Ji Nirankari was born.|
==> NIRANKARI: a particular branch of GurSikh faith, established by Bhai Dayal Singh Ji. A Saehajdhari Sikh resident of Peshwar, GurSahai Ji, had a son named RamSahai Ji who married Ladhaki, daughter of Vasakha Singh (treasurer for the tenth Guru). Bhai Dayal Singh was born from this marriage on 15 Vaisakh sunmat 1840 (1783).
At the age of 30, Bhai Dayal Singh’s mother passed away. Since then he moved to live with his Mama ji (mother’s brother) Milkha Singh in Rawalpindi. Milkha Singh successfully instigated the drive for religious preaching in Bhai Dayal Singh Ji.
Bhai Dayal Singh married Mulladae and had three sons: Darbara Singh, Bhara Singh and Ratta Ji. Bhai Dayal Singh was continually absorbed in Nirankar Shabad Jaap and diligently preached against idol worship. For this reason, he and his following came to be known as "Nirankari". This group has actively and successfully lead reforms within GurPanth practices. However, it should be noted that this group is distinct in their beliefs and practices form another group who believes in human Guru and also calls themselves Nirankaris. Bhai Dyal Singh opposed idol worship and preached marriage reforms.
Bhai Dayal Singh Ji passed away on 18th Magh sunmat 1911. Rawalpindi has a beautiful Gurudwara of Nirankaris, where visitors are humbly served with GurSahab kirtan, Katha, Guru’s Langar.
CAUTION:- The SANT NIRANKARIS are a recent phenomenon and they have nothing in common with the Nirankari sect of the Sikhs, except for the name. They are not even a schism split from it, although the founder, Buta Singh (1883-1944), was once a member of the Nirankari Durbar at Rawalpindi. Upon being asked to quit the Durbar for a misdemeanour, he raised a group of his own. He was succeeded by Avtar Singh, who after the partition of India, 1947, migrated to Delhi and set up a centre there. Over the years, he recruited a considerable following from among Sikhs, Hindus and others. He was followed by his son, Gurbachan Singh. Gurbachan Singh’s son, Hardev Singh, is now the leader of the Nirankaris.
These Nirankaris have no affiliation with any of the known religious traditions. In any case, they have nothing in common with Sikh religion and own no connection with it. They welcome to their fold people from all religions. In this way, they form a freemasonry of faiths held together by the person of the leader, who is believed by the faithful to be the incarnation of God. As Gurbachan Singh once proclaimed : "The responsibilities assigned from time to time to prophets like Noah, Rama, Krishna, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, Kabir, Nanak, and Dayal have now been put on shoulders by my predecessor Baba Avtar Singh." In Nirankari writings, he was claimed to be the Deity, the creator of this entire universe, its sustainer and master.
It is not for anyone to controvert such claims. Least of all for Sikhs, who do not regard truth as the monopoly of any single group or faith. Their history and culture are witness to their liberal outlook. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-75), Nanak IX, laid down his life to secure the people the liberty of conscience. His martyrdom was for the protection of the right of everyone to practise his religion unhindered. He protested against the State’s interference with the individual’s duty towards his faith. It was a declaration that any attempt to create a unitary, monolithic society must be resisted. It was a reiteration of the Sikh belief in an open and ethical social order and of the Sikh principles of tolerance and acceptance of diversity of faith and practice. This lesson is part of the Sikh experience and teaching and no follower of the faith may contravene it.
The Sikhs would have no quarrel with the Sant Nirankaris about their beliefs or ways of worship, but there are certain aspects of their system which cause abrasion. Although the Sikhs form a small percentage of their following, the Nirankari leaders have always preached their faith through the vocabulary and symbols of Sikhism. But with their native bias, they never cease from attempting to disfigure and distort many of its cherished ideals and institutions. Imitation breeds obliquity. The word Nirankari itself is borrowed from the Sikh chroniclers. The Founder, Guru Nanak, was by them referred to as Nanak Nirankari – believer in God, the Formless. "Nirankari Baba" is the title the Nirankari leader has appropriated unto himself. He retains his Sikh form, as did his predecessors. In imitation of Guru Gobind Singh’s Panj Piare (the Five Beloved of Sikh history), he has created his Sat Sitare (Seven Stars). The names of venerable Sikh personages from history are assigned to members of the leader’s family and his followers. Among them : Mata Sulakkhani (Guru Nanak’s wife), Bibi Nanaki (Guru Nanak’s sister), and Bhai Buddha and Bhai Gurdas, two primal figures of Sikhism, both regarded highly in Sikh piety. Peculiarly Sikh terms, such as Satguru, Sangat and Sachcha Padshah, the title which the Sikh history came to be used for the Gurus, in contrast with Padshah and Badshah representing secular emperors, have been appropriated by the Nirankaris. Their religious book, a collection of Punjabi verse, incipient and elementary in character, by Avtar Singh, with little literary grace and spiritual content, is designated Avtar Bani in the manner of gurbani, i.e. the Sikh Gurus’ utterance. In Nirankari congregations gurbani is frequently and copiously quoted, but with a deliberate slant. The purpose invariably is disapprobation of the Sikh way of life. Sikh Scriptures are quoted and expounded openly to suit the Nirankari bias. In their monthly journal, Sant Nirankari, articles were published on gurbani and its interpretation. These articles appeared under title such as "Vichar Sri Sachche Patshah" (Thoughts of, or Interpretations by, the True Lord, i.e. the Nirankari leader), and "Gurbani ki Hai" (What really is gurbani?). Meanings contrary to Sikh understanding and tradition were propounded.
Sikhs have resented the continuing denigration by the Nirankaris of the their faith and of their belief in the Guru Granth as the Person Visible of the Gurus. They have protested against it. This is what they attempted to do – peacefully – at the time of the huge Nirankari congregation in Amritsar on April 13, 1978, coinciding with Baisakhi celebrations by the Sikhs. The Sikh group which went to the site had no violent intent. They were unarmed, except for their religiously sanctioned regalia. They were neither Nihangs nor Akalis, though most of the Sikhs are of Akali persuasion – politically. The bulk of the protesters in fact belonged to Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh’s jatha, whose primary concern is with kirtan or chanting of the holy hymns. Their other colleagues were from the jatha of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who devote themselves exclusively to the study and expounding of the bani of the Guru Granth.
The protesting Sikhs were met with a shower of bullets from the Nirankaris. Thirteen of them were killed, and many more wounded. The congregation, under the aegis of the Nirankari leader, Gurbachan Singh, continued for more than three hours after the gruesome tragedy. No one – none from among the Nirankaris who profess love and human fellowship to be the fundamental value in their creed – had a thought to spare for the dead bodies that lay scattered outside.
-Taken from "Retrospect" section, on page 26 of the June 1994, Volume 42:6, No. 486, issue of The Sikh Review.
SANT NIRANKARIS & AKALIS
The genesis of the real trouble between the Nirankaris and Akalis goes back to the years when Mrs. Gandhi headed the Union Government. She wanted to weaken the Shiromani Akali Dal but found that Akalis could not be brought to heel. She thought of an elaborate plan to strengthen the Nirankari sect not only in Punjab but throughout the country and abroad also. Official patronage was extended to the Nirankaris much to the chagin of Akalis who have always considered the Nirankaris as heretics. In pursuit of this policy of divide and rule, Mrs. Gandhi personally gave clearance for a diplomatic passport to be issued to the Nirankari chief, and the Indian High Commissioners and Ambassadors abroad were instructed to show him respect and regard. This was meant to help the sect to improve its image and increase its following abroad. During Mrs. Gandhi’s regime, the Nirankaris were known to be receiving financial help from secret Government funds, not open to audit or scrutiny by Parliament.
– Sat Pal Baghi of Ferozepore in Chandigarh Edition of Indian Express in the last week of April, 1978.
Baba Ratta Singh Ji (1830-1909) headed the original Nirankari movement, after the death of his brother, Darbara Singh. They were both sons of Baba Dayal Singh Ji who started the Nirankari movement in the early 20th century. It was a rivavalist movement in Sikhism, which was later on superseded by the Singh Sabha Movement in 1873.