Who are Nihangs?


    In News

    • The Nihangs (Sikh warriors) were in the news after a man was found murdered, allegedly for desecration of a Sikh holy book (Sarbloh Granth).

    Who is a Nihang?

    • About:
      • Nihangs or Nihang Singhs, originally known as Akalis or Akali Nihangs, are designated the Guru’s knights or the Guru’s beloved.
      • The word Nihang has been used in the Guru Granth Sahib as well as other Sikh texts, it is translated as “one being fearless and unrestrained”.
    • Origin:
      • Their origin is associated with the founding of the ‘Khalsa Panth’ by the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, around 1699.
      • The armed sect is believed to have emerged from the Akaal Sena, a band of soldiers of Guru Hargobind, the sixth guru. Later, the Akaal Sena metamorphosed into the ‘Khalsa Fauj’ of the 10th guru.
    • Their Role in Sikh History:
      • They played a major role in defending the Sikhs during the repeated attacks of Afghan invader Ahmed Shah Abdali in the mid-18th century.
      • They also occupied the prime position in the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
      • Nihangs also took control of the religious affairs of the Sikhs at Akal Bunga (now known as Akal Takht) in Amritsar.
    • Attire:
      • They constitute a distinctive order among Sikhs and are readily recognised by their dark blue loose apparel and their ample, peaked turbans festooned with quoits, insignia of the Khalsa and rosaries, all made of steel. 
      • They are always armed and are usually seen mounted heavily laden with weapons such as swords, daggers, spears, rifles, shotguns and pistols.

    Image Courtesy: BBC

    • Differentiate from other Sikhs:
      • Nihangs observe the Khalsa code of conduct in its strictest sense. They do not profess any allegiance to an earthly master. Instead of saffron, they hoist a blue Nishan Sahib (flag) atop their shrines.
    • Their current status
      • They are today divided into several groups, each with its own “chhaoni” (cantonment) but are loosely organised into two “dals” (forces) — Buddha Dal and Taruna Dal, names initially given to the two sections into which the ‘Khalsa’ army was divided in 1733. 
      • Anandpur Sahib, the birthplace of the Khalsa, remains the main centre of Nihang gatherings. They assemble there in the thousands in March every year to celebrate Hola Mahalla, a Sikh festival introduced by Guru Gobind Singh. 

    Source: TH