following is a narration by a very prominent scholar of the 19th century, Giani
Gian Singh whose books on Sikh History have been a source of knowledge for the
historians. His very famous book "Panth Parkash" was translated by Giani
Kirpal Singh, ex-head Granthi of Darbar Sahib. We have pleasure in presenting
herewith an English translation of the Punjabi version of the 'Kuka History' as
revealed and witnessed by Giani Gian Singh and ably translated by Dr. Harbhajan
Singh, a renowned figure in scholarly circles. The foreword is by Maharaj Bir
Singh Ji. (Kanwal)
Gian Singh -A scholar of great fame
By Maharaja Bir Singh
The Sikhs have made a remarkable history,
but most of its writers have been less than fair in recording, let along evaluating,
its achievements. Driven by their peculiar interests and biases, for and against,
they have generally proved unequal to the requirements of the craft of history.
The Namdharis, of course, have suffered the most at the hands of such 'historians'.
The Namdharis, under the inspired guidance of Satguru Ram Singh Ji, were a powerful
voice against the alien rule. As harbingers of the Freedom Struggle, they considered
no cost too high to rid the country of the unjust foreigners' yoke.
ever so hard to bring about reformative and fundamental changes in the religious
and social practices of the Punjabi people. Very few historians have succeeded
in putting the accomplishments of this movement in perspective. Giani Gian Singh
belongs to this rare breed of historians
Giani Gian Singh belonged to the
Nirmal Sect of the Sikhs, whose members are especially known for their vast erudition,
intellectual depth and thorough knowledgeability in Sikh Scriptures. Notwithstanding
his unshakable allegiance to his Sect, he was, in his writings, happily free from
prejudices towards others. He was meticulously objective and just in evaluating
the Nihangs and the Namdharis, in his magnum opus, Sri Guru Panth Parkash. He
has drawn a fairly correct picture of the political nuances of the Kuka Movement,
particularly its endeavors towards the restoration of the Sikh Rule. And, he minced
no words to condemn the corrupt Sikh priests who obstructed the entry of Satguru
Ram Singh Ji and his dedicated followers to the various Sikh shrines.
no more than twenty-eight Kabits (Quatrains) to draw the salient features of the
eventful history of the Namdharis. He was both brief and authentic. Being himself
an eyewitness to some of the major events and incidents of the Movement, he was
in a position to make definitive and authoritative statements. His writings are
both commendable works of history as also its reliable source material. He was
particularly endowed with an uncanny perception of the Sikh ethos. No wonder,
he, while recording the martyrdoms of Banda Bahadur and his associates was able
to spontaneously link them to the Namdharis who, on the fateful days of the 17th-18th
January, 1872, inspired by an intense desire to throw off the alien yoke, had
rushed to the cannons as moths flying to the flames. Giani Ji took particular
note of the social and religious aspects of Satguru Ram Singh Ji's message and
designated that period of Sikh history as its Golden Age.
Based on reliable
facts and objective analysis, Giani Gian Singh's portrayal of Namdhari history
can help solve some of the enigmas created by the historians with scant regard
for objectivity. Unfortunately, contemporary Punjabi readers are being gradually
distanced from Braja Bhasha, which Giani Ji had adopted for his writings. This
is particularly true of those schooled in English. For their benefit, Dr. Harbhajan
Singh has prepared an English rendering of Giani Ji's twenty-eight Kabits bearing
on Namdhari history. I have gone through the whole typescript in one sitting and
have found it eminently readable.
Years back I happened to meet Dr. Harbhajan
Singh for the first time at a Music Festival at Delhi organised by Satguru Jagjit
Singh Ji, in commemoration of Satguru Pratap Singh Ji. During a brief conversation,
I found him a man or mild manners and scholarly bearing. He required both of these
in ample measure to prepare this version in which the beauty of Giani Gian Singb
Ji's original text came neatly through. With his vast knowledge of Sanskrit, Braja
Bhasba and Punjabi, Dr. Harbhajan Singh was well equipped to get the measure of
Giani Ji's greatness and render it into features acceptable to contemporary readers.
Words fail mc to express my gratitude towards him for taking up this arduous job
on my request.
I hope readers will find it useful and interesting.
of an Introduction
I came into contact with Giani Gian Singh's
writings, in the most formative years of my life. Those were the times when the
Sikhs were being aggressively conscious of the need to know and protect the salient
features of the identity their: forefathers had struggled over centuries to evolve
and give a definite shape to. I would eagerly lap up such facts and interpretations
of its medieval and modern history as would help me understand the meaning of
my being and belonging. Giani Gian Singh's Twarikh Khalsa and Sri Guru Panth Parkash
were the two books that, by some happy chance, I ran into and found to be immensely
relevant to the questionings that tormented me. The two books were the proud possession
of an old man two generations senior to me. He had the vision of a sage and would
repeatedly talk of a future moulded by historical consciousness generated by these
writings, themselves£ works of historic importance. The two persons he talked
of with particular veneration were Karam Singh Historian and Giani Gian Singh.
He would recite chapters from Sri Guru Panth Parkash to a dozen odd persons and
offer his own comments to facilitate the flow of communication. I was a regular,
though uninvited and uninitiated, member of his select audience. Later, I would
stealthily lay hands on this treasure of his library kept, of course, under lock
and key, and avidly glance through its pages. Its contents introduced me to the
glorious vistas of our heritage. I felt drawn towards it in spite of the not-so
familiar features of its diction and style. It seemed I had acquired an authentic
feel of the enormity or the stresses and strains our people had passed through
and the trails they had blazed. I felt like sharing, in full measure, the pride
that rightly belonged to the community of which I was but a small member.
When I was called upon, through the courtesy of Maharaja Bir Singh Ji, to translate
one of its chapters into English, I felt invited, as if, to a refresher course
on all earlier discipline of Sikh Identity. I readily accepted the charge made
on me .In fact, the affection accompanying the call had so overwhelmed me that
I dared not but respond positively. The chapter on the Kukas in Sri Guru Panth
Prakash is a balanced mix of objectivity and affectivity. I have, while preparing
an English version of this chapter, adopted Giani Ji's own model of history, I
have kept as close to the original text as was humanly possible. And, while engaged
in this exercise, I have been inspired in so small measure, by the ideas of piety
and selfless service practiced by my friends among the Kukas.
I hope those
who cherish the principles and practices of the Kuka brethrens and their gurus
will find this small endeavor of some use to them.
University of Delhi
The Kukas, a branch
of the Khalsa Panth.
have shot into prominence during the last thirty years*
In the ecstasy of the Sabad, they are rapturously forgetful of themselves,
oblivious of their headgears falling off.
They are precisely and eminently
designated as Namdharis, though because of their loud cries, they are commonly
known as Kukas, Except for their turbans falling off, they remain well within
the approved tradition.
*The 2nd edition of Sri Guru Panth Parkash or which
this version is based was published in 1946 Bikrami.
And now I narrate
how they came into being;
the Sikh rule in this land was yet whole.
the banks of the Attock, in the heavenly tract, Pothohar*,
there is a village
In that village, in Samvat 1856,
was born one Balak Singh,
the very incarnation of God.
Arora by caste,
an unshakable devotee,
he was ever absorbed in God,
discarding all worldly pleasures.
*Region between the two rivers Jhelum and Sind.
In name a child,
he was the very patron of prophets,
the master of heavens and the abjurer
of all things gaudy.
The only relation he recognised was that with the Creator.
Being one with God,
he was the destroyer of evil.
He led a life of renunciation.
Like a lamp burning within a pot
he did not display his greatness.
was praised by all for his love of God.
He was an ascetic without blemish.
An awakened soul,
to the best possible extent
ever in the
company of godly persons,
singing panegyrics and delivering
In 1885 Bikrami,
his elder brother moved to another
and set up a shop.
Balak Singh followed,
there and earned his living by simple labour.
His fame spread,
immeasurable blessing to Hajro.
The village prospered into another Ajodhya*.
Its adversity disappeared.
Exceedingly fortunate were the village folk.
Ever absorbed in the love of God,
they remained awake in the company of godly
They dedicated their lives to the service of saintly persons.
*Ajodhya, the capital city where Bhagwan Ram took birth.
The spiritual message that Balak Singh delivered was
Of immense benefit to
men and women.
It helped them swim across the vast Sea of Existence.
The Creator Himself has revealed His Word and charged HIM
To spread it for
the purification of human life.
The Tenth Master appeared
in person and informed HIM;
Ram Singh is my incarnation
Partaking of an
element of mine.
Entrusted HIM, and none else,
With my authority.
The Master's message was clear and firm.
inevitable occurred on Thursday morning, the fifth moon of Magha,
Very well known is the vilage Bhaini in Ludhiana district.
On this village
Ram Singh descended like a god,
Casting aside all the ills inhering in the
Charged with spreading the idea of God-hood,
effulgence came to the childless household,
His father Jassa, a carpenter
And Mother Sada (Kaur).
Even while a child, his mind was replete
with Divine presence.
Dedicated to uplift of mankind,
He, along with his
Was ever absorbed in Him.
He went to Lahore,
Entered service in the Army, which he thought was a noble
He would recite Gurbani
Seek solitude and share
his purse with the poor.
In 1898 Bikrami,
In his platoon,
Went to Hazro on official duty.
Saintly persons held a great attraction for
Whatever place he happened to visit,
He would love to call
Balak Singh was held in high reverence.
Like a cuckoo-fledgling
brought up by a mother duck,
Ram Singh listened to and joyfully absorbed
The divine eulogies.
The good deeds previously accumulated, bestirred themselves
and helped HIM absorb
All the spiritual hue.
Blessed by fortune and saturated
with love, he went all the
way to touch his feet in submission.
Singh recognised God's element in HIM.
Satisfied that he was deserving and
worthy to receive,
Of his own volition,
Offered HIM Nam.
The quintessence of the four Vedas,
and destroys painful failings.
Balak Singh implanted in HIM Waheguru,
The supreme mantra that helps accomplish all the missions.
None other is as
There were some who would say that he has received
Revealed word from a Sayyadani.
Such an assertion was found wholly
this is I say on personal testimony.
It is Waheguru.
mantra that annihilates the dangerous and the susceptive
Ways of the Iron
Age brushes aside illusion and the cycles of births.
Ram Singh was eagerly
drawn to it.
He would receive it repeatedly and attentively.
realised the utter futility of the world of affairs and left it alone.
led a life of positive conduct
and was ever absorbed in meditation.
was like the one intoxicated,
always in a state of undisturbed bliss.
he exuded joy and was free from desire.
He senses under
control and the mind properly disciplined,
he would look up, for meditation,
a clean place
beside a river or a pond.
The chant of the Nam was on his
his body practised austerity,
and his mind was completely submerged
in the Beloved.
He spent nearly twenty years of beatitude
austerity and meditation.
treasures and the supernatural powers,
were revealed to him as no more than
the maid-servants of
Such was the impact of his practice of Nam,
that whatever he uttered proved true.
The heavens themselves spoke to
this great man
charging him to spread Nam,
the giver of enlightenment
and the wherewithal's of life.
Spread the faith of the Tenth Master among
and make them realise that the Khalsa is singularly God's own.
Charged with this spectacular mission,
Ram Singh set about delivering
He made people give up smoking and keep unshorn hair.
fortunate were those who partook of the Nectar
and entered the Sikh fold.
His fame spread apace.
People in multitude became his disciples.
grew the Khalsa.
soaked in the bliss of Nam,
up opium, hashish, poppy,
liquor and various other intoxicants.
would not eat meat.
They would not steal.
They foreswore adultery and
They practised saintliness.
The Golden Age had returned.
Ram Singh had set up a hardware and drapery shop,
with income barely
to provide him with food and clothing.
He was visited by throngs
Huge were the gatherings at his doors.
all went to the free kitchen.
Those who received Nam from
him immediately went into ecstasy, forgetful of their turbans flying off their
They would divulge this secret of their soul to none other;
most of the people called it Kalam.*
*Kalam, Muslim Sermon.
'Nam' is not to be confused with the Muslim Kalam or Revelation. Nam is the Mantra
specifically related to Sikh doctrine.
Thus his holy fame spread far
and wide ;
those who came to weigh,
found him full and became his disciples.
He had a huge following of no less than three lacs of people
Doaba"*, Majha*** and Pothohar****.
Like Akbar ,
he appointed twenty-two Governors known as Subas
and blessed them with speech
as effective as his own.
Men and Women would form themselves into choirs,
play drums and melodiously chant the Supreme Word of the Guru.
comprising district of Ferozepur, Faridkot, Nabha,(Punjab) Jind and Sirsa (Haryana)
Patiala, Ludhiana (Punjab) ** Region falling between the rivers Sutlej and Beas.
*** Region comprising districts falling between the rivers Ravi and Beas.
**** Region comprising districts falling between tne rivers Jhelum and Sind (now
They would perform Havan* and continuously recite
the Guru Granth,
beginning to end,
in large congregations.
take a whole bath in the small hours
and engage in an unceasing chant of
Men and women, without exception,
would be clad in a spotless,
They would keep a woollen rosary and wear a Kachha (Shorts),
a Kara (Steel Bangle) and a Karad (small sword) as symbols.
They would not
accept food or drink from,
nor would they marry into a family, outside the
the nearest kin being no exception.
*Ceremonial fire kept burning
by pouring on it ghee and ,certain perfumes for evoking spiritual advancement,
prosperity, purification of mind, environment etc., and also for performing marriage
ceremonies by circumambulating four times around it.
They do not
owe allegiance to the temples,
the places of pilgrimage, the Puranas,
the Sadhus or the Brahmins.
They attach no importance to giving away
charities outside the fold.
Charities and marital proposals are affectionately
accepted within the fold.
All of them fondly cherish the desire
for political power.
They do not invite Brahmins to perform marriage ceremonies
or death rites.
They perform Anand*-a ritual discovered by them
conforming to the tradition of the House of the Gurus.
They regard Ram Singh
alone as their Satguru,
the divine incarnation and the spiritual guide,
His word is accepted, without demur, by all.
*The Sikh ritual for marriage
ceremony, first performed by Satguru Ram Singh on 3rd June, 1863. The couple is
required to circumambulate four times around the sacred ceremonial fire along
with recitation of related hymns from the Sikh Scripture.
of life caused immense unhappiness to the Brahmins.
The Hindus and the Muslims,
in large numbers, mouthed denunciation.
Whenever they visited Gurdwaras,
they would recite Sabads,
throwing off their turbans in ecstasy.
Such a sight caused resentment.
hurling abuse, would like
to thrust upon them (the Kukas)
their own notions,
and not accept those
of the Kukas.
The Kukas thus became the talk of the town.
They grew enormously
in numbers and were distinguished
from the Hindus as well as the Turks.
Whichever place Ram Singh visited,
thousands came into his fold.
They addressed him with deep humility and made handsome
offerings in cash.
Whenever, on the occasion of a festival,
he visited Gurdwaras at Damdama
Sahib "and Muktsar,
he was accompanied by a huge gathering of the-Kukas.
The spectacle of ascendancy and grandeur
achieved by Ram Singh made the administrators
clerics lose much of their peace.
He was escorted by the Deputy
and the City Chief of Police with his force in toe.
They offered due respects and made proper arrangements for
The people around,
in their wisdom, made all sorts of comment.
wished to offer prayers
conducive to a spirit of unity.
He, by his conduct,
wanted the prestige of the Panth to grow.
He went to the Gurdwara to
The clerics, in a body, confronted him with a clear injunction:
You shall build banks around the holy tank in concrete
as payment of a religious
Your followers shall not go into ecstasy
and their turbans must
not fall off.
*Cooked sacred food made of floor, ghee (clarified butter)
and sugar for offering to the Guru and distribution in the congregation.
Ram Singh said both these injunctions
were beyond his means to comply with.
He was only too ready to make an offering within his capacity.
Singh of Gurdwara Tamboo Sahib hit upon a
plan to test the genuineness of
his offer .
He was only too aware that no Kuka would ever wear
He brought a blue robe of honour for Ram Singh.
accepted the robe,
yet, the clerics were not reconciled.
was a similar uproar at Anandpur in 1922-23 Bikrami.
He was accorded a warm
welcome by the Government officials
when he visited Amritsar
the Diwali festival in 1924 Bikrami.
He camped outside Chativind Gate
with nearly twenty thousand Kukas in company.
He went to the Golden Temple
with abundant offering
of Prasad; but again,
the Pujaris (Clerics) acted
Some of them demanded thousands of rupees as bribe,
while others insisted on imposition of a religious fine as big as
five lakh of rupees.
There were some other conditions too:
No Kuka shall
take off his turban while in ecstasy,
nor shall he call himself your Sikh.
And, he shall wear a blue dress.
Replied Ram Singh: These conditions can be
none but the Guru himself.
It is beyond me to change the very
psyche of the people.
You have only to prove that I have committed anyone
Four Deadly Sins* and I would pay the religious fine without
*Four Deadly Sins (1) Killing a Brahmin. (2) Killing a cow.
(3) Killing one's daughter or giving away one's daughter for money, (4) Accepting
food from a corrupt or immoral person.
A lengthy wrangle ensued.
Realising that the situation could further aggravate,
Ram Singh said his
prayers in front of the Gurdwara
and distributed Prasad.
all of them circumambulated the Gurdwara and returned to
The 'Pujaris had behaved in a similar fashion
towards the Nirmalas.
meanly Pujaris, acting like Kanji*
that splits milk, would oppose all attempts
towards unity of the Panth.
* Kanji: A beverage prepared from black carrot
by mixing salt and
The Pujaris persisted in their hostility
Nevertheless, both the Kukas and the Nirmalas
how the Kukas sacrificed
their lives in the cause of Dharma
and found their place among the martyrs
In between the second and the third decades of the (19th Century)
cows came to be slaughtered
in larger numbers and
at various places.
The Hindus felt miserable and helpless.
They were not
powerful enough to seek remedy with the
the courageous Kukas were roused to action.
They put a number of slaughterhouse
butchers to sword.
Prominent Hindus at Amritsar and various other places were
arrested and persecuted by the English Government.
When they were about
to be executed,
on their own,
evidence to prove that they and none else,
had dealt the deadly blow.
they went to the gallows and,
from thereon, to the land of
there was yet another act of rare heroism at
There were about sixty Kukas
who, having resolved
to court certain death,
dispatched the butchers and protected the cows.
They were engaged by the armed forces of the Muslim State
but the Sikhs repulsed them.
The Patiala troops practised subterfuge,
took false oath,
persuaded them to their point of view
got them arrested.
Absorbed in the love of Sabad,
they gladly offered
themselves to be blown off by the cannon.
exceedingly fortunate to die for their faith.
The Kings and the Chiefs,
the Courtiers and the English officers were all awe-struck by
of a deed.
after deep deliberation, deported Ram Singh,
then found utterly free from blame,
The various Subas
were scattered in different directions and the ascendancy of the Panth was sought
to be curbed.
In the absence of Ram Singh,
is now regarded as the Master and leader of the Kukas.
* The lineage, to
this day, runs as follows: Baba Budh Singh (Baba Hari Singh), Baba Partap Singh
and Baba Jagjit Singh.
They worship Bhavani,
recite Bani and
chant Waheguru over and over again.
They are distinguished by their white
dress, white woollen
straight turban and flowing beard.
recite hymns from the Guru Granth.
They are the true followers
of Guru Gobind Singh,
and cannot be diverted from their resolve to establish
Government of their own.
Such are the impenetrable Kukas
for their worshipful ways.
Gian Singh has narrated as he has witnessed them.
Giani Gian Singh in his magnum opus. Panth Parkash, gives a fairly
detailed account of the continuous executions of the Sikh warriors who were taken
prisoners along with their leader, Banda Singh Bahadur. He says"
then, every day they were brought to Chandni Chowk.
Twenty-five of them would
gladly offer themselves to be killed. Every one of them would desire to be killed
earlier than the others. They, the fortunate ones, loved to be martyred. They
recited aloud the Word of the Guru over and over again and with gusto.
gave away their lives happily and generously.
Said: We are leaving for Baikunth,
the Heavenly Abode." And then, he departs from the narrative and tells us
that he has learnt it from the writings of Khafi Khan, Ram Jas of Jaipur and Hari
Charan of Meerut. Suddently, he turns to similar executions of the Kukas in his
own time. True to the great Sikh tradition, they had happily laid down their lives
espousing a noble cause. They, too, had embraced Death, reciting the Word of the
Guru. Each one of them was in a great hurry to be present in the heavenly Guru
Darbar. Giani Ji says :
The account of those Sikhs (the Dandais) has been
set out in a number of books. But, now, I would speak to you, in truthful details
of what I saw with my own eyes. During Nineteen Twenty-eight Bikrami I came into
contact with the Kukas. The butchers who had slaughtered cows were themselves
slain by these lion-hearted men of the Guru. Nearly sixty of them, pure souls,
were arrested and were brought to Malerkotla in custody. The English (Government)
issued orders that they be blown off by cannon.
They were delighted to hear
of this order they were indeed overwhelmed with joy. Their exuberance shot into
their miens They recited aloud the word of the Guru. As moths rushing towards
a lamp, unrestrained they made for the cannon. Their spirits in high transport,
they hurried forward without a thought for their dear lives. This I saw with my
own eyes, People had gathered in a large number. They saw and were filled with
wonder. Wedded to the Supreme life-style of the Sikhs, They were not afraid of
embracing death by arms. They could meet the enemy on the battlefield and be restrained
from neither laying down not taking life.