The Beloved forces of the Guru
By SJS. Pall, Published by B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh
The Nihangs pose a dilemma for mainstream Sikhs; they are seen as being the valiant army of Guru Gobind Singh but some of the practices do not conform to the Sikh Rehat Maryada. There are very few studies which have looked at the History of the Nihangs and the circumstances on how they became a formidable fighting force. With this in mind S.J.S Pall has brought out a simple to read history of the Nihangs. He does make it clear from the outset that this is not a complete history but mainly an introductory text on the Nihangs. He uses information from Rattan Singh Bhangu, Giani Gian Singh and Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha amongst oral history obtained from present day Nihangs.The book starts with the examination of the term Akal and hence proceeds with the beginnings of the Sikh faith. The text is interspersed with stock photos that we have seen before but the author has been able to employ the services of S. Ranjodh Singh who has a collection of numerous Nihang pictures which he has taken over the many years. This enhances the book greatly. The author has a two fold approach one to give the reader a basic history of the Nihangs and then secondly to look at the modern Nihangs. The history of the Nihangs is shown by their initial beginnings to Guru Arjun Dev’s time and the formation of the Akal Sena, (Immortal army of God|). This development is then shown by Guru Gobind Singh turning the Akal Sana into a vanguard to protect the Sikh faith in times of persecution. There are many key players that the author describes in the history including the role played by Baba Binod Singh, Baba Gurbaksh Singh and other 18th Century Sikh personalities.
The book moves onto the development of the Nihangs during the British period and the role of Akali Phula Singh whom the author considers the most influential Nihang. The interaction between the court of Ranjit Singh and the Nihangs is considered as well. The author correctly shows how the Nihangs were persecuted by the British as they were seen as a threat to the plans of the British. The massacre of Nihangs by the British is also discussed as is the role of Hazur Sahib in Nanden where a Chaaoini (cantonment) was always stationed there after the demise of the Tenth Guru. The book moves onto the modern period with a focus on the recent Jathedars of the Nihangs incluidng Baba Santa Singh. The Buddha Dal and Taruna Dal are looked at and the impact played by them within the 20th Century. The role of the Nihangs in 1984 is brushed over which to this day has not been explained fully. The book has correctly explained the educational activities of the Buddha Dal, including the Buddha Dal School which is one of the most important in the Punjab if not India. The level of knowledge at the school has helped them win international awards
The practices of the Nihangs are discussed including the role of the martial scriptures and practices of Shaheedi Deg. The author shows how the Sri Dasam Granth and Sri Sarbloh Granth are an integral part of the Nihang Maryada and prior to 1925 many Gurudwaras had the Sri Dasam Granth installed together with Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This practice continues today at the Takhts Hazur Sahib and Patna Sahib and Nihang Gurudwaras as well. The author looks at the practice of Jhatka (Killing of animals in one stroke), and the taking of Shahidi degh (intoxicant drink), the author feels that that these two practices does not fit in well with modern Sikh practices. The author actually starts of by explaining that these practices have always been with the Nihangs and then states that these are outdated and primitive features of Nihangs. The author here just disagrees with these practices with out making an attempt to get a better understanding of them.
The author had a great opportunity to explore the martial activities of the Nihangs namely Shastarvidyia and the role of the martial scriptures in battle. This is however overlooked and minor points on Gatka are made which does leave the reader asking for more. Interestingly the author quotes from http://www.Shastarvidyia.org and http://www.Sarbloh.com without acknowledging the sources. These two websites has started a big debate on the Nihangs and maybe this led to the author in developing this book.
The author has made an attempt on deciphering the history and practices of the Nihangs and will enrich peoples understanding of this colorful and valiant group of Sikhs. However we shall need to wait for another book on the Nihangs which will obtain from oral history and other sources an in-depth Nihang history. This book is currently being developed by Nihang Nidar Singh and Parmjit Singh.