BARBARA SINGH, BABA (1814-1870), second in the hierarchy of the Nirankari sect, was the eldest of the three sons of Baba Dayal, the founder of the sect. He was born at Rawalpindi on 1 Baisakh 1871 Bk / 11 April 1814 and succeeded to his father`s seat on 30 January 1855. From among the creed of religious and social reform preached by his father, he gave his utmost attention to one item marriage by Anand ceremony. He summoned an assembly of his followers and admirers at the Nirankari Darbar at Rawalpindi on 13 March 1855, and married a Sikh couple in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, without inviting Brahman priests and dispensing with the rite of circumambulations around a fire.

This kind of simple ceremony had in fact been reintroduced by his father himself as far back as his (Baba Dayal`s) own marriage in 1808. Baba Darbara Singh aimed at demonstrating the Anand rite at a large gathering with a view to popularizing it. Baba Dayal`s marriage, it is said, was solemnized by reciting the Lavan and Anand hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib as the couple sat reverently in front of it and by sealing the union with ardas. Baba Darbara Singh had four circumambulations of the Guru Granth Sahib performed by the couple, each accompanied by melodious singing of a stanza from the fourpart hymn, Lavan, by Guru Ram Das.

He undertook an extensive tour of Dhanni Pothohar and Chhachh areas in northwestern Punjab promoting this Anand form of conjugal rite and making many converts to the Nirankari sect in the process. He is also said to have performed one such marriage at Amritsar on Monday, 15 April 1861, witnessed by a large congregation. In order to organize the expanding community he established several dioceses called biras, and appointed diocesan heads known as biredars. A significant contribution of Baba Darbara Singh to standardizing the form of Sikh ceremonies was the preparation in 1856 of a hukamnama, setting forth a code of social conduct and giving detailed description of the rites of passage.

To quote a few excerpts from the document; If a child is born, whether a son or a daughter, we sing the Guru`s hymns and offer the Guru`s karahprasad (the Sikh sacrament). Brother, there is no impurity (in child birth) as Guru Nanak cautions in Asa di Varin the sJoka: (the relevant sloka and the hymn follow) …. Then after forty days the mother comes to Darbar Sahib along with the child. We then offer karahprasad in the name of the Guru. The child is given a name from the Guru Granth Sahib …. When God brings the child to the age of understanding and when he is betrothed, we recite the following hymn of the Fifth Guru in the measure Ramkali: (the hymn follows)…. The Guru`s wedding hymns are chanted as the marriage ceremony is performed.

Sikh men and women recite the Anand by the Third Guru in the measure Ramkali…. Brother, we do not display the dowry as this is prohibited by the Guru. And when, by the grace of the Formless One, a Sikh has completed his life, and the call comes, and the Sikh departs, we cover the body with a white shroud and, singing hymns, carry it for cremation or for releasing it into a flowing stream. We do not mourn… when we cremate a Sikh, we recite Anand and Kirtan Sohila and then distribute karahprasad, if we can afford to do so.

After that we come before the Guru Granth Sahib, reciting hymns and inaugurate an end-to-end reading of the Guru Granth Sahib…. The hukamnama lays special emphasis upon cultivating the Divine Name, reciting the sacred hymns, and shunning of Brahmanical rites and rituals. For instance, it says, “We should not seek advice from the Brahmans who in their pride spread superstition…. The Brahman claims that it is disgraceful to eat at one`s daughter`s house, but he himself performs marriages for a fee…. Brother, all years, months and days created by the Guru are auspicious.

In the words of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Master, the Guru`s Sikh sets about his task remembering the Guru`s name, regardless of all ill omens… Moreover, brother, the opportunity for union (with God) comes only during this life. So let us repeat the Name now, no one will be able to do it later…” The various injunctions are supported by quotations from the Guru Granth Sahib. Baba Darbara Singh died at Rawalpindi on 13 February 1870. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Baba Ratan Chand, affectionately called Sahib RattaJi.

References :

1. Webster, John C.B., The Nirankari Sikhs. Batala, 1979
2. Jolly, Surjit Kaur, Sikh Revivalist Movements. Delhi, 1988
3. Farquhar, J.N., Modern Religious Movements in India. Delhi, 1977
4. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983