The Namdharis are the Sikhs initiated by the living Sat guru (True Guru) with the most revered and sacred NAM known as “Gurmantar” — God’s holy word whispered into the ears secretly. The practice of Nam was originated by the first Guru Sri Satguru Nanak Dev Ji and is used for reciting in silent meditation for spiritual realisation under the direct guidance and grace of the living Satguru Ji. The term Namdhari literally means someone who adopts and practises God’s name in their heart.

History and Development 

The Namdharis are also known as Kukas 'criers', for their shrieks (kuks) given in ecstatic meditative trance. The Namdharis were founded by Guru Balak Singh (1797-1862) in north-west Panjab. He was a puritan and stressed the importance of the divine Name for salvation and drew most of his followers from the poorer lower castes, namely the Jats - whom naturally opposed the richer Sikhs and the British. However, in Ludhiana their second Guru, Ram Singh (1816-85), had the greatest impact. He was the first reformer to emphasise the Khalsa Singh identity under colonial rule, but did not exclude the Sahajdharis in his addresses.

Believing in the interiority of faith in 1866, the Namdharis set about destroying Sanatan Sikh-Hindu tombs, ancestral shrines, certain villages spots and other sacred sites. The British began to fear revolution and in 1863 ordered Ram Singh not to hold religious assemblies and not to leave his village. However the desecration continued and peaked about 1867 and some Namdharis were imprisoned. Ram Singh himself was imprisoned and eventually sent to Rangoon and then to Southern Burma where he remained imprisoned until his death in 1885.

The Namdhari's notorious zeal for the protection of the cow brought them into direct conflict with the British government. Four butchers were killed by zealous Namdharis. As a result eight of them were captured and sentenced to death. Such incidents increased and in 1872 forty-nine Namdharis were killed by the British and sixteen more later. Through such protests and campaigns the Namdharis initiated the fight for the collapse of the British government. However before the end of the 19th century the Namdharis discarded their militancy to return to simple piety. They consider themselves the initiators of India's struggle for freedom since they boycotted British education, law courts, railways and post office services.


All Namdhari Sikhs are Amritdhari (initiated) and adhere strictly to the teaching of all the Sikh Gurus and believe in principles envisaged in both the Holy Sikh scriptures of Sri Adi Granth Sahib and Sri Dasam Granth Sahib with equal reverence. They have implicit faith in the continuing succession of the living Gurus starting from the founder Sri Satguru Nanak Dev Ji.

It is their fundamental belief that the tenth Guru, Sri Satguru Gobind Singh Ji did not pass away at Nander (Maharastra) in 1708 as is generally believed by other Sikhs, but actually lived until 1812. The Namdharis further believe that the Guruship still continues with the successive living Gurus instead of conferring it on Sri Adi Granth Sahib. For Namdharis, there has been no change in the status of the Sri Adi Granth Sahib since the time of the 5th Guru Sri Satguru Arjan Dev Ji; the institutions of Scripture and Guruship continue side by side and do not coincide. Namdharis believe in the concept of a supreme spiritual authority forever present in a living Satguru Ji.

All Namdharis are at least Keshdharis (those with uncut hair). They wear only white home-spun clothing. Their turbans have a particular style, being tied horizontally across the forehead, called Sidha Pag (straight turban). Because the British, fearing revolution, banned the right to carry arms, Namdharis carried sticks to symbolise the sword of the Khalsa warrior. Many wore a knotted wolloen cord around their necks which served as a rosary.

Namdhari Sikhs are staunch vegetarians and total abstainers from all intoxicating drinks containing drugs, and any food that contains animal products. Namdharis can be easily recognised from their white turbans tied horizontally across their foreheads; they also wear a white woollen Rosary (108 knotted Mala), which is used in their meditation and prayer. They are also widely known for their very simple and inexpensive mass marriage ceremonies in the presence of Sri Satguru Ji Maharaj.

Namdhari Sikhs also have an intense love for devotional and Indian traditional classical music.

Namdharis Today

In the 1891 census 706 Hindus and 12,319 Sikhs returned themselves as 'Kuka'. (Census of India, 1891, Vol.XX and Vol.XXI, The Punjab and its Feudatories, by E.D. Maclagan, Part II and III, Calcutta, 1892, pp.826-9 and pp.572-3. (See also the note at the end of the Explanatory Introduction).
Originally, under Guru Balak Singh, Namdharis were focused in the north-west of Panjab. However the headquarters shifted to Bhaini Sahib in Ludhiana under the second leader Guru Ram Singh.
At present Namdhari Sikhs are spread out in many countries all over the world.
Their Headquarters are located at Sri Bhaini Sahib, District Ludhiana in the Punjab, India.
In the United Kingdom, their Gurdwaras are located in East London, Southall, Birmingham and Leeds. Presently there are 10,000 Namdhari Sikhs in the UK.



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