http://www.tracypress.com/ourTown/2005-07-16-neighbor.php Sikh sects differ just like Christian denominations Published July 16, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press. “I am a Methodist.” “I go to our local Baptist Church.” “I am a Catholic.” I belong to the Church of England.” These are all familiar words to most Christians, but have you ever heard “He is a Nihang Sikh,” “They are Nirankari Sikhs,” or “They go to the Namdharis Gurdwara, but I am a Radha Swami?” Just as Christian denominations all have the same basic beliefs but differ in their interpretation of some doctrines of Christianity, there are different Sikh sects. Not only do Sikh sects differ in some of the traditional practices of the religion, but they also have distinct differences in their symbolic apparel. Over the years, many sects have come out of other sects, some more recently than others, including many I have not even heard of. While visiting the U.K., I came across a Namdhari Gurdwara in Little India, a nickname for the town of Southall. After learning about the difference from the traditional Sikh Gurdwara, I thought I would like to share with you two types of Sikhs that have a historical beginning. Niether of these sects has a large following, but surprisingly seem to have survived more than 100 years. Nihangs One can recognize a Nihang Singh by the dark royal-blue cone-shaped turban wrapped around his head, sometimes rising to a tall point and decorated with quoits (steel rings), a steel Khalsa insignia and steel rosaries. They also wear long blue shirts and carry weapons, such as swords and daggers, like fierce-looking warriors from the past. When you see a Nihang Singh, it is like stepping back in time, for they represent fighting Sikhs from the days of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru (1666-1708). Nihangs are best known for their mastery of a martial arts form known as gatka, which was originally used as a defense for the preservation of Sikhism. Today, the Nihangs in Punjab live a nomadic life and travel as small armies. They are still skilled horsemen and swordsmen capable of defending themselves and any Sikh Gurdwara. The most famous display of their skill in gatka is when hundreds of Nihangs gather at the annual Hola Mohalla fair held in Anandphur Sahib in March. It was in the city of Anandphur Sahib that Guru Gobind first organized his followers in the order of Nihangs, or warriors, and it is still an important city for the Nihangs of today. In the U.S., Canada and England, the tradition of gatka is often displayed in parks during religious celebrations such as Vaisaki. Men dress up as Nihang warriors to show their skills with swords and daggers and act out fighting. Namdhari Sikhs Originally, the Namdhari movement started as a revival of Sikhism. The religion was discriminated against and lost ground during British rule and the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was at that time, in 1857, that the Namdhari sect was started by Baba Balak Singh. He encouraged people to lead simple lives, like puritans, and learn from the writings of the gurus and the Granth Sahib. They are also easily recognized by their style of dress: a white turban worn horizontally across the forehead and white clothing, as well as an unusual rosary made of a white woolen or cotton cord with 108 knots tied in it and hung around the neck. Namdharis are known for their contribution to Indian classical music and raghas, which they have composed for the Sikh hymns written in the Granth Sahib. However, there is one fundamental difference between the traditional Sikh and the Namdhari Sikh — the Namdharis believe in the living Guru. They reject Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s proclamation that after him there will be no Gurus and all Sikhs will refer only to the Granth Sahib (Holy Sikh Scriptures) for guidance. Namdharis believe that Guru Nanak Ji, the founder of the Sikh religion, started the succession of gurus and it has not ended. Namdhari Gurus after the 10th are Baba Balak Singh Ji, Guru Ram Singh Ji, Guru Hari Singh Ji, Sat Guru Pratan Singh Ji, and the current Guru Jagjit Singh Ji, who will in turn name a successor. The group also deviates from traditional Sikhs in the wedding ceremony, by having a Havan, or central fire, during the wedding ceremony. The lighting of the Havan is a Hindu tradition that has been preserved by the Namdhari Sikhs. They are also strict vegetarians and believe in the saving of cows and are very sincere to the words in the Granth Sahib. Still, many traditional Sikhs who clearly see the deviations do not recognize them as true Sikhs. ======================================================================= To contact Manjit Sidhu about this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. “Thy Neighbor, Thy Self” is a reflection of the rich tapestry that makes up Tracy’s spiritual community. Spiritual leaders, clergy and youth are especially encouraged to contribute to this. To do so, contact Jack Elliott at 832-4230 or email@example.com.