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History of the Guru’s Beloved Army

“jau qau pRym Kylx kw cwau ] isru Dir qlI glI myrI Awau ]
If you desire to play this game of love, then step onto my path with your
head in hand.

iequ mwrig pYru DrIjY ] isru dIjY kwix n kIjY ]


Once you’ve placed your feet on this path, give your head, and pay no
attention elsewhere.”

(Guru Nanak Dev Ji – Ang 1410 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji)

This game of love began in 1469 with the advent of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji and his predecessors strived to preach and practice
equality, brotherhood and love with all of mankind. In doing so they
underwent countless hardships, having to sacrifice their mind, body and soul
in protection of truth and honour. A monumental step on this path of love
was the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs; it was
this event in Sikh history which marked a significant change in the Sikh
psyche.

When Guru Hargobind Sahib took on the guru-ship he instructed Baba


Budha Ji to put the seli-topi (ceremonial turban) into the Guru’s treasury and
instead bring him a kalgi (diamond encrusted turban plume) and two swords
to inaugurate the guru-ship. Guru Ji established the Akal Takht (throne of
immorality), introduced the singing of dhadhi vara (heroic ballads) and
instructed all his Sikhs to bring horses and weaponry as gifts for the house of
the Guru instead of anything else. Baba Budha Ji trained Guru Ji in martial
arts and was also one of the main generals in the newly established Sikh
army alongside gursikhs such as Baba Bidhi Chand Ji, Baba Mathura Ji Bhat,
and Baba Jaita Ji. This fearless army of the Guru came to be known as the
Akal Sena (Army of the Immortal) and also was called the Baba Budha Dal,
which literally translates into the ‘Army of Baba Budha Ji’.

Bhai Vir Singh Ji writes,

“Akal Bunga was constructed by the sixth Sikh Guru, and at that time the
foundation of the Akalis was laid.”

Author: Sukha Singh Akali


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(Extract above is from the novel ‘Satwant Kaur’)

The army of Akalis (the Immortal Ones) established by Guru Hargobind


Sahib Ji served the house of Guru Nanak till the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
In this time the Akali army came to be known as the Guru Ki Ladli Fauja,
meaning the ‘beloved armies of the Guru’; a name which is still used to
describe the Nihang Singh armies to this day.

The martyrdom of Guru Tegh-Bahadur Ji inspired one of the most


revolutionary acts in the whole of Sikh history; the creation of the Khalsa
converted the Sikhs from their humble peasantry backgrounds into the
greatest and most noble warriors in the world. Guru Gobind Singh Ji heavily
fortified the city of Anandpur Sahib and he blessed his Sikhs with war-like
compositions such as Chandi di Var to inspire them and instil bravery into
their hearts. The sound of his Ranjit Nagara (battle drum of victory)
reverberated through the Shivalik hills striking fear into the hearts of the
Rajput Hill Kings.

Bhai Rattan Singh Ji Bhangu writes,

“KMfy pwhul icq mD TtI[iem hovygo Kwlsw hTI[

He [Guru Gobind Singh Ji] resolved to administer them the Khandey ki Pahul.
In order to make the Khalsa formidable and resolute.”

(Extract above is from the ‘Sri Gur Panth Parkash’)

The Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh was a group of people who were
determined, daring and willing to give up everything for the cause of truth
and justice. The Khalsa were defenders of religious freedom for all faiths at a
time when the Mughal rulers of India were engaging in forced and brutal
conversions.

“sUrw so pihcwnIAY ju lrY dIn ky hyq ]

He alone is a brave warrior, who fights for the downtrodden.”

(Extract above is from Ang 1105 of Guru Granth Sahib Ji)

The Guru instructed his beloved army to dress in blue martial dress
and wear conical turbans called dumalas, adorned with razor sharp steel
quoits and various daggers bound together with steel wire known as tora.
Those Singhs who had proved themselves with selfless service of the Guru’s

Author: Sukha Singh Akali


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house wore a farla, (a loose piece of blue cloth hanging from the top of the
turban representing the Guru’s battle standard). According to Nihang Singh
oral tradition the farla was worn for the first time by Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji
at the place where the Gurdwara Dumalgarh Sahib now stands (Sri Anandpur
Sahib). In time only those Singhs who adorned the farla came to be known as
Akalis, with the rest of the Khalsa army being known as Nihang Singhs. The
word Nihang literally means crocodile in Persian, however on a deeper level
a true Nihang is someone who is beyond hangta or egoistic pride,
attachment and desire.

Bhai Rattan Singh Ji Bhangu writes,

“inhMg khwvY so purS duK suK mMny n AMg[

That being is called a Nihang who is not affected by neither pain nor
pleasure.”

(Extract above is from the ‘Sri Gur Panth Parkash’)

The Guru’s beloved army followed him through the battles of


Anandpur, Chamkaur and Mukatsar till the Guru arrived in Nanded, presently
known as Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib. It was here that Guru Gobind
Singh Ji left for his heavenly abode and left the Guru Guru Khalsa Panth
under the guidance of the eternal Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Before doing so
Guru Ji sent Baba Banda Singh Bahadur accompanied by five singhs of whom
the Jathedar was Baba Binod Singh, (the first Jathedar of Budha Dal) to teach
a lesson to the Governor of Sirhind who bricked the younger Sahibzadas
alive. These great warriors fought alongside each other and with the grace of
Guru Ji they managed to establish the first Khalsa kingdom.

The time following the martyrdom of these Singhs was a testing time
for the Khalsa Panth. Zakariya Khan became the governor of Lahore in 1726
and he let loose a regin of terror upon the Sikhs. This was the time that great
Gursikhs such as Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Taru Singh, and Bhai Tara Singh
Vaan were all martyred. It was in these times that two Nihang Singhs, Baba
Bota Singh and Baba Garja Singh made a valiant stand against the Mughal
government. They took on the might of the whole Mughal army; standing
side by side, and fighting back to back. Two warriors fought against
thousands till their last breath and made the Mughal army pay a heavy price.
They showed the world that there was and are no power on earth which
could subdue the Khalsa.

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They repeated the following lines till their last breath...

“myrw isr jwey qw jwey, myrw is~KI isdk nw jwey[

If I must give my head then so be it, I will never give up my Sikh faith.”

(Extract above is an old saying of the Khalsa)

These were the times when these brave warriors slept on the saddles
of their horses, starved for months on end, gave up their homes and lived in
the jungles, mountains and deserts of India. When Nadir Shah invaded India
he was riding back from Delhi with horses loaded with looted treasure,
money and women. The Guru Khalsa Panth found out and attacked Nadir
from the hills; they looted him of his robbed wealth and took the women who
had been kidnapped back to their homes. When Nadir inquired about who
these people were from Zakariya Khan, Zakariya told Nadir Shah of how
these people were called Sikhs, and that he tried killing them, setting fire to
their homes and abducting their women and children however no matter how
much he tried to exterminate them they did not give up their faith at any
cost. Listening to this Nadir laughed and told Zakariya Khan that these Sikhs
would one day be the rulers of Punjab.

“If you cherish a desire of learning the art of war, face them [the Sikhs] in
battlefield. When they hold the mighty sword, they gallop from Hind to Sind.
Nobody, however strong and wealthy, dare oppose them. If their swords
strike a coat of mail, the coat itself becomes the enemy's shroud. Each one
of them looks like a rock. In grandeur each one of them excels fifty men."

(Extract above is from Jang Namah by Qazi Nur Mohammed)

During these hard times a leader emerged amongst the Khalsa, his
named was Nawab Kapur Singh from the village Kaloke in Sheikhupura; the
third Jathedar of the Budha Dal. When Aslam Khan the Governor of Lahore
offered a Nawabi (governorship) to the Khalsa, it was decided by the Guru
Khalsa Panth that Baba Kapur Singh should be blessed with this title. When
Bhai Subegh Singh the emissary of Aslam Khan approached Baba Kapur
Singh Ji with the robes of Nawabi, Baba Ji was doing the seva of fanning the
other Singhs. At first Baba Ji did not accept the title but when the other
Singhs ordered Baba Ji to accept he bowed his head but stated the following
conditions; the first being that the robes of Nawabi be placed upon the feet
of the Panj Pyare before he wore it, and the second being that he was

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allowed to carry on his seva of cleaning out the horse stables even after he
became a Nawab.

Nawab Kapur Singh proved to be a prudent leader and a brave warrior;


it was Nawab Kapur Singh Ji who historically divided up the Khalsa into
Budha Dal and Tarna Dals. Nawab Kapur Singh Ji made five small Tarna Dal
jathas, one of which was lead by the one of the most famous martyrs in Sikh
history Jathedar Baba Deep Singh Ji Shaheed who fought with their head in
their hand. This Tarna Dal carries on to the present day and is known as the
Baba Bakala Shaheedi Missal Tarna Dal. In 1764 the second Jathedar of the
Shaheedi Missal Tarna Dal Baba Gurbaksh Singh Shaheed along with a jatha
of 30 singhs heroically died fighting to protect the sanctity of Sri Harimandar
Sahib from a force of 30,000 mughals. There is a Gurdwara behind Sri Akal
Takht Sahib in Baba Gurbaksh Singh Ji’s honour.

Nawab Kapur Singh was followed by the highly charismatic Jathedar


Baba Jassa Singh Ji Ahluwalia. Baba Jassa Singh Ji grew up under the
guidance of Mata Sundari Ji, the wife of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj, and
from a young age he immersed himself into the seva of the Guru Khalsa
Panth. Under the leadership of Baba Jassa Singh Ji the Guru Khalsa Panth
faced and survived the onslaughts of the two holocausts, the Chota
Ghalughara and Vadda Ghalughara with dignity and bravery. In March 1761
the Guru Khalsa Panth famously rescued 2200 women captives from the
harem of the invader Ahmad Shah Abdali. In this same year Jathedar Jassa
Singh was crowned the King of Lahore, and minted a coin in the name of
Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Despite the never-ending
hardships the Sikh Panth was ever-growing and was larger than ever, so
Baba Jassa Singh decided to divide the Guru Khalsa Panth into 11 missals.

In the years that followed, the power of the Mughal state began to
crumble; however this lead to a period of infighting amongst the missals.
Baba Naina Singh Ji was the Jathedar of the Budha Dal at this point; he was
also the foster parent of Jathedar Baba Phula Singh Ji Akali. Soon Maharaja
Ranjit Singh rose to power amongst the missals, and the Maharaja took over
most of Punjab. During the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh the Guru Khalsa
Panth was under the guidance of Jathedar Baba Phula Singh Akali. Akali
Phula Singh was a valiant and fearless leader with no regard for anyone
apart from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji; Akali Ji even pronounced a tankhah
(religious punishment) of 50 lashes with a whip against Maharaja Ranjit
Singh for having immoral relations with a Muslim woman. Europeans first

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came into contact with the ferocious looking Nihang Singh warriors in the
times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Captain W.W.Hooper and Surgeon G.Western wrote,

“The Akalee is always armed to the teeth. His high conical turban like the
rest of his dress of a blue colour is encircled by rings of sharp steel quoits, in
the use of which he is very skilful... the Akalee is a truly grim and formidable
looking person...”

(Extract above is from the ‘The Costumes of the People of India’)

After the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh the British advanced into the
Punjab. Jathedar Baba Hanuman Singh Ji the predecessor of Akali Baba Phula
Singh Ji fought alongside Sardar Shaam Singh Attarivala against the British
army in many battles. However after the defeat of the Sikh armies in various
battles Baba Hanuman Singh Ji decided to re-group the Nihang Singh troops
at a chauni (Nihang encampment) in Patiala. However Raja Karam Singh the
ruler of Patiala was in alliance with the British and was under strict orders to
shoot any Nihang Singhs on sight. As soon as Baba Hanuman Singh arrived
in Patiala the Raja launched an attack with cannons on the Nihang Singhs, in
which 32,000 Nihang Singhs were killed. It was in a later confrontation with
the Patiala forces that Baba Hanuman Singh was mortally wounded; at this
point the Budha Dal Singhs decided that Baba Prehlada Singh should be the
next Jathedar of the Dal.

“They [Nihang Singhs] are without exception, the most insolent and
worthless race of people under the sun. They move about constantly armed
to the teeth, insulting everybody they meet, particularly Europeans… They
are quite uncontrollable and the only way to deal with them is to exterminate
them.”

(Extract above is by Lieut. Colonel Steinbach in 1846)

Due to the hostilities against the Nihang Singhs by the British and the
Kirpan Ban which was imposed in Punjab Baba Prehlada Singh Ji decided to
shift the Nihang Singh head quarters to Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib in
Maharashtra. Baba Prehlada Singh was followed by Jathedar Baba Gian Singh
who decided to head back to Punjab and establish the Budha Dal there
again. Baba Gian Singh along with four other Nihang Singhs made the long
arduous journey on foot from Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib to Punjab
carrying the nishans (holy flags) of Budha Dal in their hands. Slowly Baba Ji

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began the task of carrying out amrit sanchars and arming the Nihang Singh
armies to establish the Budha Dal in Punjab again.

One shinning diamond in Nihang Singh history is Brahamgiani Baba


Mitt Singh. From a young age Baba Ji was engrossed in seva and simran, and
he was renowned for his memorisation of Gurbani. Baba Ji along with Baba
Dharam Singh Ji took on the seva of looking after the Gurdwara dedicated to
Mata Sahib Deva Ji near Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib. Baba Ji personally
carried out any seva which needed doing, without regard for his own age or
physical health. Once when Baba Ji was elderly the Singhs who lived with
Baba Ji forgot to collect the sand in order to clean the iron utensils in the
langar. So Baba Ji himself went to the river Godavari, collected the sand into
a sack and carried it back to the Gurdwara. When the Singhs saw this they
asked Baba Ji to stop performing such heavy tasks however when Baba Ji
insisted, five singhs had to get together and give a hukam (command) to
Baba Ji. Great Mahapurakhs from the Nihang Singh samparda such as
Jathedar Baba Santa Singh Ji the current Jathedar of the Budha Dal and
Jathedar Baba Dya Singh Ji the current Jathedar of the Baba Bidhi Chand
Tarna Dal received gurbani santhiya (pronunciation) from Baba Mitt Singh Ji.
Baba Ji did the seva of writing out many gurbani pothis by hand, including
sarups of Aad Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Granth Sahib and Sarbloh Granth
Sahib.

Whilst the Budha Dal was being re-established in the Punjab, the Guru
Khalsa Panth went through times of extreme poverty. At one point the Budha
Dal did not even own instruments on which to sing the daily Asa-di-Var but
even then Jathedar Baba Teja Singh the predecessor of Baba Giana Singh
carried on the maryada (tradition) of singing Asa-di-Var by shaking his karras
(iron bangles). Baba Teja Singh was succeeded by Jathedar Baba Sahib Singh
Kaladhari who was a graduate of Lahore University and gave up his post as a
government official in order to serve the Budha Dal. Baba Ji received the title
‘kaladhari’ which means ‘one who is gifted with miraculous spiritual powers’.
It is to be noted that Jathedar Baba Anup Singh Ji who was the first Nihang
Singh with a farla to come to the U.K received the farla from Jathedar Baba
Sahib Ji Kaladhari. Jathedar Baba Harbhajan Singh the first Jathedar of the
Haria-vela Tarna Dal served under Baba Sahib Singh Ji Kaladhari for quite
some time. When Baba Chet Singh became the Jathedar of the Budha Dal,
Baba Harbhajan Singh Ji requested Baba Chet Singh Ji to bless them with a
separate nishan (spiritual flag) and nagara (battle drums) so that they could

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establish a Nihang Singh encampment in the Doaba region of Punjab. It was


Baba Harbhajan Singh Ji with a group of Nihang Singhs which included the
current Jathedar Baba Nihal Singh Ji who freed the historic Gurdwara Paunta
Sahib from the clutches of a corrupt Mahant in 1964. During this morcha 11
Nihang Singhs were martyred and current Jathedar Baba Nihal Singh was
seriously wounded.

Currently Jathedar Singh Sahib Baba Santa Singh Ji Akali is the leader
of the Budha Dal. Baba Ji joined the Budha Dal from the age of 10 and served
under mahapurakhs such as Baba Mitt Singh Ji. Baba Ji has translated texts
such as Sarbloh Granth Sahib and Panth Parkash by Rattan Singh Ji Bhangu
and Baba Ji also got the Khalsa Sundar Gutka which contains the daily
prayers for Nihang Singhs printed. Hundreds of Singhs have obtained
santhiya of Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Dasam Granth Sahib Ji, Sarbloh
Granth Sahib Ji and countless spiritual texts from Singh Sahib Baba Santa
Singh Ji.

Bhai Kahn Singh Ji Nabha describes Nihang Singhs in the following words...

“kml jXoN mwXw jl iv~c hY Alyp sdw,

He remains detached like a lotus flower,

sB dw snohI cwl sB qoN inrwlI hY[

Yet he loves all, his wondrous path is unique.

krky kmweI Kwvy mMgxw hrwm jwxy,

He earns by righteous means, and considers begging a sin,

pwdy iv~c ivpdw nMU mMno KuShwlI hY[

He has the utmost faith in the Guru; finding pleasure even in hard times.

svwrQ qoN ibnw gurdvwirAW dw cOkIdwr,

He guards the house of the Guru without regard for any material gain,

Drm dy jMg leI cVyH muK lwlI hY[

He prepares to fight for righteousness with a beauteous glow on his face.

pUjy nw Akwl ibnw hor koeI dyvI dyv,

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He worships no-one apart from the Immortal Lord,

is~K dSmyS dw so khIey AkwlI hY[

Such a beloved Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh is an Akali.

Dressed in stunning blue and saffron robes with high conical turbans
adorned with chakkars (iron quoits) and various razor sharp weapons the
Nihang Singhs embody the ideal of bir ras or the warrior essence within the
house of Guru Nanak.

“nwnk so sUrw vrIAwmu ijin ivchu dustu AhMkrxu mwirAw ]

O Nanak, he alone is a brave warrior, who conquers the vicious ego.”

(Extract from Ang 86 of Guru Granth Sahib Ji)

Nihang Singhs personify the concept of chardi kala or ever-rising high


spirits with their Khalsa code language which codes onions as silver pieces
and rupees as mere pebbles. Nihang Singhs see stale bread as sweet
dessert, their horse is their friend for life and one Nihang Singh is always an
army of 125,000. Their daily worship consists of worshipping their steel
weapons; because for the Nihang Singhs steel is an embodiment of Akal
Purakh himself.

“ਅਕਾਲ ਪੁਰਖ ਕੀ ਰਛਾ ਹਮਨੈ ॥ ਸਰਬ ਲੋਹ ਕੀ ਰਿਛਆ ਹਮਨੈ ॥

The Immortal Lord is my protector. The All-steel Lord is my protector.”

(Extract above from Akal Ustat by Guru Gobind Singh Ji)

Their whole lives are centred on this concept with rosaries, weapons
and even cooking utensils all being made out of steel; it would be true to say
steel runs through the veins of the Nihang Singhs. The Nihang Singhs lived
with death constantly on their minds and still do today, it was something
they saw face to face everyday. This philosophy has helped them to always
concentrate upon Waheguru since any breath could be their last. It also
brought home the importance of circumstance and placing in battle. A
Nihang Singh sees himself as a Khalsa, a completely free person, having true
sovereignty as his turban is his crown and his weapons are his army. He
relies on none but is responsible to all. He must save those that have no
saviour, give shelter and protection to those who have neither. All women,

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save his wife, are to be only sisters or mothers; he is to protect them as his
kin. His only loyalty is to the Word of the One Lord the Shabad Guru.

With the Guru’s blessings the sacrifices of his army have carried the
Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa tradition to the present day. The rahit of the Tenth
Guru of bana, and bani, seva and simran, and shastar and shastras,
continues on in the Khalsa. The Guru’s Beloved Army remains ever ready to
lay down their lives for their beloved Sache Patshah Eternal King, Guru
Gobind Singh Ji.

Author: Sukha Singh Akali