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MAHITAB SINGH, MAHANT (1811-1871), founder Sri Mahant (head) of Sri Nirmal Panchaiti Akhara, at Patiala, was born in 1811 in a Jatt Sikh family of the village of Lehal Kalan, now in Sangrur district in the Punjab. He learnt to read Punjabi in his village and gained fluency in reciting the Guru Granth Sahib. Losing both his parents within an year when he was scarcely sixteen, Mahitab Singh left home to visit places of pilgrimage. As he reached Varanasi, he was taken up with the idea of learning Sanskrit. 

He remained there for nearly 14 years studying philosophy, logic and grammar.He then resumed his travels and, vistiting Patna and Nanded, came to Haridvar where he became a disciple of Sant Dharam Singh, of Riskhikesh, engaging himself in the study of gurbani or the Sikh sacred writ. He served the sangat with humility and sat in solitary meditation. His learning and dedication were commonly acknowledged and when Nirmala Sikhs decided to establish their own central school, Sri Nirmal Panchaiti Akhara, separate from the Udasis, he was, at an open convention of the sect at Haridvar in 1855, by one voice elected Sri Mahant, i.e. principal abbot or head, in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib.

In 1856, the Nirmala gathering at Gaya, in Bihar, was attended by several of the Sikh chiefs, including Maharaja Narindar Singh of Patiala, Raja Sarup Singh of Jind and Sardar Lahina Singh of Kalsia.At the invitation of Maharaja Narindar Singh, Mahant Mahitab Singh vistited Patiala where he was received ceremonially by the ruler himself. Similar welcome awaited him at Nabha and Sarigrur. He went around preaching the word of Guru Nanak and administering the rites of Khalsa amrit to large numbers.

As the ruling chiefs of Patiala, Nabha and Jind jointly offered to provide a permanent seat for the Panchaiti Akhara at Patiala, Mahant Mahitab Singh was again invited to visit the city. Chanarthalian di Haveli, a large walled house, was placed at the disposal of the Nirmal Akhara.Formal inauguration took place as the akhand path, continuous unbroken reading the Guru Granth Sahib, begun as part of the ceremony, concluded on 7 August 1862. The Sikh rulers of Patiala, Nabha and Jind made endowments in cash and land for the maintenance of the Akhara, also called Dharam Dhuja (lit. standard or flag of dharma).

Mahitab Singh became its first Sri Mahant. He also held control of the dera at Kankhal, Haridvar, which remained the principal centre of the Nirmala sect. Mahant Mahitab Singh died at Kankhal on 12 April 1871.

References :

1. Ganesha Singh, Mahant, Nirmal Bhushan. Amritsar, n.d.
2. Dial Singh, Mahant, Nirmal Panth Darshan. Delhi, 1965
3. Gian Singh, Giam, Nirmal Panth Pradipka. Kankhal, 1962
4. Muni, Arjan Singh, Sri Nirmal Panchaiti Akhara. Kankhal. n.d.

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