GHARIBDAS IAS, followers of` Sant Gharibdas (1717-78), also known as Satsahibias for their peculiar form of greeting which is `Sat Sahib,` i.e. eternally existent (satya) is the Lord (sahib). The founder of the sect, Gharib Das was born in 1717 in the small village Chhudani, in Rohtak district. He got married, had six children four sons and two daughters, and lived a normal worldly life until he came under the influence of Dadupanthis. His sincere and persistent devotion won him many followers who sought initiation from him.
Though unlettered, he composed religious verse in the form of dohiras and chaupais and sakhis or narratives of saints from Indian piety. Upon his death, Gharib Das was succeeded by one of his sons who retained his seat in his ancestral village. For decennial census returns Gharibdasias described themselves neither as Sikhs nor as Hindus, and were classified in the reports in the category of `other religions.` In the 1931 census, only six of them, i.e. one family of two male and four female members, are recorded as Sikhs.
However, adjuring of idol worship in favour of reverence for the Book and worship of the Impersonal God, the institution of bhandara, i.e. serving free meals on special occasions, and denunciation of caste are some of the features of this sect which indicate a strong Sikh influence. Among the adherents of the sect are both ascetics and laymen. The former are celibates, completely abstaining from flesh and wine.
They engage neither in farming nor in trade, and live by begging. They shave their heads and faces, and wear necklaces and white round caps to which is attached a piece of cloth that hangs back. They worship the Book, which contains compositions of Gharibdas and some other saints, and build no temples. Numerically, the Gharibdasias now form an extremely insignificant group, though they have centres, known as the khambas, lit. pillars, including one very impressive dera at Haridvar.
1. Crooke, W., The Tribes and Castes of the North Western, India. Delhi, 1974
2. Ibbetson, Denzil, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Patiala, 1970