NIRMAL PANCHAITI AKHARA is a seminary of the Nirmala sect of the Sikhs established in 1862 at Patiala. Akhdrd, lit. arena, signifies a monastery or seminary with facilities for board, lodging and education of sadhus of a particular sect or cult. Sannyasi and Bairagi sadhus had their respective akhdrds, also known as derds at many prominent pilgrim centres. Udasi Sikhs, too, had established their Parichaiti Akhara in 1779, with headquarters at Prayag (Allahabad) and branches at Kashi and Kankhal. Individual Nirmala saints had their derds scattered all over Punjab, cisSutlej princely states and other parts of the country, but they had no central seat or authority.

It was in 1807 that some leading members of the sect first mooted the idea of a panchditt akhdrd of their own, but the proposal had been in contemplation for nearly half a century before it materialized. During the Kumbha fair at Haridvar in 1855, a general meeting of the sect unanimously elected Bhai Mahitab Singh (1812-71) their Sri Mahant or principal priest. Mahitab Singh enjoyed the esteem of the rulers of the Phulkiari states of Patiala, Nabha andJind. In 1861, the three chiefs, Maharaja Narinder Singh of Patiala, Raja Bharpur Singh of Nabha and Raja Sarup Singh of Jind, established the Nirmala akhdrdax Patiala, where a large house, Chanarthaliari di Haveli, was placed at its disposal.

Formal inauguration took place on 7 August 1862. An elaborate constitution called Dastur ul`Amal was drawn up. It was duly approved by the rulers of the three states, who also made cash and land grants for the maintenance of the Akhara. In the text of the constitution the institution is also referred to as Dharam Dhuja Akhara Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The Dastur ul`Amal lays down the strength of the permanent staff.

It also requires that all income from whatever sources shall be credited to the accounts of the Akhara and that no priest shall keep any part of the offerings and donations for his own use; assistance given in cash or kind to the needy must be properly recorded; proper accounts must be kept and inspected by the Sri Mahant at least once a year; new entrants to the seminary shall be made to swear by the Guru Granth Sahib that they offer all their belongings to the institution and that they would always abide by the rules and discipline of the Akhara. The inmates must wear one of their garments in the traditional ochre colour and they must remain celibate.

The three state governments by mutual consultation could remove any priest guilty of infringement of the provisions of the Dastur ul`Amal. Mahitab Singh on his death in 1871 was succeeded as Sri Mahant by Pandit Ram Singh Kuberia who remained in office until his death in 1896. During his stewardship Nirmal Parichaiti Akhara expanded considerably. He acquired three large houses at Kankhal near Haridvar in Uttar Pradesh which became headquarters of the Nirmala sect. Besides Kankhal, Haridvar, Paiiala and Allahabad, the Akhara today has branches in the form of pleaching centres at Uyain, Triyambak (Nasik), Kurukshetra, Patna and some other places.

References :

1. Pritam Singh, Nirmal Samparddi. Amritsar, 1981
2. Gian Singh, Giani, Nirmal Pradipakd. Kankhal, 1962
3. Mani, Arjan Singh, Itihas Nirmal Panchaiti Akhara. Kankhal, 1952