GIANI SAMPRADAI is one of three major schools of Sikhs theologians and expositors of the Sikh scripture, the other two being the Udasis and the Nirmalas. Giani, the Punjabi form of Sanskrit jndni from the rootjnd (to know), originally meant a scholar of high learning. In Sikh tradition, a gidmis a learned man of pious character, competent to recite faultlessly, interpret and expound the Guru Granth Sahib and other Sikh religious texts. Sampraddi denotes a sectarian system or school of thought of accredited standing. It is claimed that the school of Gianis originated with Bhai Mani Singh (d. 1737) who had the privilege of receiving instruction from Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh.
Towards the close of the seventeenth century he was sent by Guru Gobind Singh to Amritsar to take charge of Sri Harimandar Sahib. At Amritsar, Bhai Mani Singh made a practice of performing kathd, i.e. discoursing on the Sikh leaching ex pounding a given sabdawth illustration from the lives of the Gurus and their disciples. This style became, in course of time, established form for clerical interpretation of sacred text. Bhai ManiSingh was survived by three exceptionally brilliant pupils, namely, Bhai DivanSingh, Bhai GurdialSingh and Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh, who carried on the scholarly tradition he had established. They had their own pupils who in turn trained their own disciples.
Through this chain of pupils, the sampraddi has lasted to this day. Listed in the following tables are the more prominent names in this line from Guru GobindSingh`s time downwards: The charts of gidm lineage prepared by scholars such as Giani Chanda Singh (Praydi Adi Sn Guru Granth Sahib), Giani Hazara Singh (Sn Guru Granth Kos) and Sant Kartar Singh Khalsa Bhindrarivale (Khalsa Jivan ate Gurmal Rahit Marydda), mutually differ on certain points of detail. The above tables have been worked out by collating the information contained in these sources and resolving the contradictions.
Originally, members of the Giani Sampradai were known by the common Sikh honorific of bhdi or sant. Bhai Gurmukh Singh, son of Bhai Sant Singh, earned the “Giani” appellation for the first time from the sarddrs in Sikh times. The title persisted and the family came to be known as Giani family, and the house in which they resided at Amritsar became famous as Buriga Giantari. Giants successively served as head priests of the Harimandar at Amritsar. Bhai Surat Singh was followed successively by Bhai Gurdas Singh, Bhai Sant Singh, Bhai Gurmukh Singh, and Giani Parduman Singh. The others had their own derds or seats at different places.
At present, Giani Kirpal Singh runs his derd in Mat Satto Vali Gali at Amritsar, whereas Sant Kartar Singh of Kamalia had his seat in Patiala until his death in 1989. Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa, with his headquarters at the village of Bhindar Kalari in Faridkot district, travelled around a great deal with a caravan of his pupils preaching and expounding the holy Scripture. After his death, Sant Kartar Singh Khalsa and a parallel group led by Sant Mohan Singh, carried on his work. With Kartar Singh Khalsa`s death in 1977 the responsibility passed on to Sant Jarnail Singh, who died during the army`s attack on Darbar Sahib complex in June 1984.
The distinctive characteristic of the members of Giani Sampradai has been their strict adherence to the tenets of the faith and to the discipline made incumbent upon the Sikhs by Gurus. At initiation, they receive the vows of the Khalsa as prescribed by Guru Gobind Singh and they preach neither celibacy nor asceticism, as do the Udasis and Nirmalas. On the doctrinal level, the Udasis are inclined in their interpretation of the Sikh belief towards the classical Hindu view, taking inspiration from the Rama and the Krishna cults. The Nirmalas, leaning on Sanskrit learning, follow the Vedantic line. The Giants have kept their own course, relying solely on the teachings of the Gurus and the Sikh tradition as it had autonomously evolved.
For them the Vedas were not authority for gurbdni, as it was for the Nirmalas, nor the Gurus` word accepted as an extension of, or interpretation of the Vedas. Likewise, the Guru for them was not an avatar of Visnu. Nor did they believe in the Hindu system of vamdsrama. The major centres of the Giani Sampradai preserve assiduously their original classical aura. Almost all the recognized serving granthis today, including those at the Harimandar, are the product of either the Amritsar or Damdami Taksal. The Giants have been the most proficient exponents of the philosophy and thought of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Very valuable contribution in the written form came in early days from Bhai Mani Singh (Gidn RatndvaU and Sikhan di Bhagat Mala), Bhai Chanda Singh (Praydi Guru Granth Sahib), Bhai Hazara Singh (Sri Guru Granth Kos) and Bhai Bhagvan Singh (MS. TIkdJapu and Gurbdm Vydkaran). In comparatively recent times, Giani Badan Singh (d. 1924) and his colleagues of the Faridkot synod, Bhai Bishan Singh Giani (d. 1936), Pandit Narain Singh Giani (d. 1940), Akall Nihal Singh (d. 1938), Bhai Vir Singh (d. 1957) and Bhai Kirpal Singh, all basically in the Giani line, have produced complete or partially complete commentaries of the Guru Granth Sahib. Dr Earnest Trumpp and Mr M.A. Macauliffe, in translating into English portions of the Guru Granth Sahib, were guided and helped by the scholars of this school.
1. Khalsa, Kartar Singh, Khalsa fivan ale Cunnat Rahit Marydda. Mehta, 1977
2. Rup, Harindar Singh, Sikh te Sikhi. Lahore, 1947
3. Taran Singh, Gurbdni didn Vidkhid Prandlidn. Patiala, 1980