Recently, Nirankari Mission was all over the news channels as head of Nirankari Mission, Nirankari Baba Sant Hardev Singh jee met with an accident and left this mortal world. For many, this was the first time that they heard the word ‘Nirankari’. Yesterday, while I was conducting my regular workshop, an elderly gentleman walked up to me and asked: ‘What is the difference between Namdhari and Nirankari?’. This made me think, how less we know about brothers and sisters.
Few months back, I wrote about Kuka Movement, which culminated into Namdhari Sect. Today, let me throw some light on Nirankari sect. ‘Nir.an.kaar’ simply means ‘one without a form or shape’. God is said to be the one. Nirankari is the follower of this formless all-mighty.
With the beginning of 19th century, a devoted Sikh named Baba Dyal (Not to be confused with Soamiji Maharaj, Shiv Dayal Seth, founder of Radha Soami faith) took upon the mission of spreading the message of Sikhism. He was a Sahajdhari Sikh. Sahajdhari is a person who is not born to Sikh parents and may not embrace the 5 symbols of Sikhism (like not shaving hair or wearing a weapon), but follow the teachings of Sikh Gurus. Baba Dyal felt that his contemporary Sikhs have become lax in their practices of Sikhism. He then started the moment of spreading god’s true name and rejects the false practices of Hindu priests. Baba Dyal jee spread the word of Guru Nanak and his commandments, which Nirankari’s consider as Hukm-Nama is strictly Nanakpanthi (It focusses completely on Guru Nanak and does not mention of Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh). As Guru Nanak preached, most of the followers of Baba Dyal were taught to remember god while they are doing their daily chores.
All this was happening in Rawalpindi until partition, when the Nirankari community moved out of area that is now Pakistan and settled in areas around Chandigarh. However, during the times of Baba Dyal, one of his students took upon the mission of spreading God’s message beyond the boundaries of Rawalpindi. Baba Darbar Singh (or Baba Darbar Singh) became his successor and established centres outside Rawalpindi. He also established the practice of Anand Karaj (Sikh Marriage) as we follow in modern times and Nirankari’s were instrumental in formalizing the Sikh Marriage Act.
Later, as the Singh Sabha movement gained momentum, the Nirankari’s were side-lined. However, they kept growing, though at a very slow pace. The only reason that nirankari’s did not face major opposition with the mainstream Sikhs is that despite of their belief in living guru tradition, they never attached their Gurus to the Sikh Guru lineage. They acknowledged the Sikh Gurus and traditions and also added their own traditions to it. The do not call them ‘Sikhs’, but the followers of Nirankar.
Based on these teachings, Baba Buta Singh jee founded Sant Nirankari Mission and is regarded as the first Satguru of this mission. He was succeeded by Baba Avtar Singh jee, who gave the primary text of mission, which is known as Avtar Bani, after its author. May 25th, 1929 is the date when Baba Avtar jee received divine knowledge from Baba Buta jee. This date is considered as the foundation day of Sant Nirankari Mission. Baba Avtar Singh was succeeded by his son Baba Gurbachan Singh, who also bought major reforms in the community. However, by this time, clashes between Nirankari’s and mainstream Sikhs were on their peak. Sikhs considered Nirankri’s blasphemous because of their belief in living guru. Clashes became lethal for many and in April 1980, Ranjit Singh, a member from the Akhand Kirtani Jatha assassinated Baba Gurbachan Singh. Ranjit Singh, in 1983, surrendered and was put in Tihar Jail. In 1990, he was named as the Jathedar (head) of Akal Takht, while still imprisoned. He took over the post when he was released in 1996.
After demise of Baba Gurbachan Singh, his son Baba Hardev Singh was established as Head of Sant Nirankari Mission. On 13th May, 2016, Baba Hardev , commonly referred as Nirankari Baba met with an accident in Canada. After his demise, on 17th May, 2016, his wife Mata Savinder Kaur was chosen to be the next Guru of the mission. She not only became the first lady to head Nirankari Mission, but also the first lady to head any sect that is an off-shoot of mainstream Sikhism or adheres to the principles of Sikh Gurus.