NANAKPANTHI, lit. the follower of the panth or way of Guru Nanak. The term Ndnakpantht was perhaps used for the first time for Sikhs in Mobid Zulfiqar Ardistani`s Dabistdni Mazdhib, a seventeenth century work on comparative religion, which has a chapter entitled Nanak Panthidn describing the Sikhs, their Gurus and their beliefs. It has also been used by some eighteenth and nineteenth century writers in a more restricted sense to indicate that special group among the Sikhs which follows the teachings of Guru Nanak and his successors but does not strictly adhere to the injunctions of Guru Gobind Singh, especially about keeping the hair unshorn.

Other appellations used for this sect are Nanakshahi and Sahijdhari.Sometimes even Kabirpanthis are also referred to as Nanakpanthis. Persian chronicles such as TdnkhiMuzaffan and ImddusS`ddat mention two divisions of the “followers of Nanakshahl,” the Khalsah or those who do not trim their hair and the Khuldsah or those who trim their hair. Another early nineteenth century writer, Francis Buchanan (1762-1829), a doctor in the service of the East India Company and once a surgeon to Lord Wellesley, also mentions these two groups in Bihar and other places and characterizes the former as those “who are of the church militant” and took the title of Singh, and the latter as those “who confine themselves entirely to [things] spiritual” and “are commonly called Sikhs.”

H.A. Rose, author of A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, also divides the Sikhs into these two categories the Nanakpanthis and the Singhs or Khalsa. The 1891 Census Report of the Punjab defines Nanakpanthis as Sikhs who are not Singhs, who follow the teachings of the earlier Gurus, but not the “ceremonial and social observances” inculcated by Guru Gobind Singh. Among the various sections and groups mentioned in the Census Report of the Punjab (1891) under the common designation Nanakpanthis are the Udasis, the Gulabdasis and the Suthrashahis, besides a number of other smaller groups.

The Nanakpanthis revere Guru Nanak, and have faith in the Guru Granth Sahib, and are scattered in small numbers throughout India, especially in states such as Assam, Bihar, Tripura, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana. They were either converted by Udasi preachers or they happened to settle in the respective areas migrating from the Punjab. At places Udasis themselves came to be called Nanakpanthis. But in the Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh, the common designation used is Sahijdhari.

Rohtak has the maximum concentration of them and there are several Sahijdhari seats there, the most prominent being Gurdwara Gurdarshan Singh which is a branch of the former seat atJharigMaghiana (now in Pakistan) .The head of the Bandai derd inJammu and Kashmir also lives there and there are in the area many Bandais, mostly Sahijdhari, claiming to be the followers of the eighteenth century Sikh hero and martyr, Banda Singh Bahadur. There are some Bandai villages in Hissar district, too. A large number of refugees from Multan who resettled in Haryana after the partition of India in 1947 are mostly Sahijdharis or Nanakpanthis.

Charig brotherhood, also known as Ghirat or Bahari, in the Nurpur, Baijnath and Chamba areas of Himachal Pradesh are all Nanakpanthis, about 10 per cent of them being the Khalsa Sikhs. The potters in the Karigra hills are also mostly Nanakpanthis. Some villages in this area such as Mariguval, Parijral, Javarival and Badani Tika are predominently Nanakpanthi villages.At Badani Tika live the descendants of Bhai Gola, an attendant of Guru Tegh Bahadur. The largest centre of Nanakpanthis in Uttar Pradesh is Nanak Mata, in Pilibhit district, which is a pilgrim centre for Nanakpanthis of Nainital, Pilibhit, Gorakhpur and other neighbouring districts.

A Sikh mission at Hapur, established by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, preaches Sikh tenets among Nanakpanthis in these parts. The vanjdrds in the Roorkee tahsil of Saharanpur district (U.P.), in about 150 villages in Khardokh district and in about forty village in Bhikhan Gariv area, Indore region, Barvani area, Gwalior district and Burhanpur district are counted among the Nanakpanthis.In Rajasthan the Nanakpanthi Vanjaras have their principal centre at Kishangarh where the Delhi Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee runs a preaching centre. At one time the Udasis, who had 360 gaddis or seats in Bihar, had converted half of the local population to the Nanakpanthi faith.

The work began with a sannydsl, Devagiri, of Bodh Gaya, who had along with 360 of his disciples embraced Sikhism at the hands of Guru Har Rai (1630-1661). He was renamed Bhagat Bhagvan and granted a bakhshish or preaching seatthe fourth Udasi Bakhshishand appointed to head Sikhs in Bihar. Patna, Sasaram and Lakshmipur, near Kala Gola railway station on the Assam line, have remnants of Nanakpanthi population.The ruling family of the erstwhile Purnia state has also been Nanakpanthi and still has a gurudwara in their palace. Nanakpanthis ofSindh (now in Pakistan) are scattered all over the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

There are some Nanakpanthis in Assam (a village near Dhubri has descendants of Sikh migrants from Tarn Taran in the Punjab); Badgola, about seventy miles from Shillong, has some Sikh families; so have the villages of Chhappar, Lanka Station and Lamdig, Tripura and West Bengal. The Nanakpanthis in Tripura, who comprise about 150 families, are said to be the descendants of the seventy Sikh soldiers brought here by Raja Ratan Rai from the Punjab when he went to visit Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur with presents, including the famous Prasadi elephant. Ganesha Singh, Bharat Mat Darpan. Amritsar, 1926

References :

1. Ganda Singh, tr., “Nanak Panthis” (translation from Dabistan-i-Mazahib by Zulfikar Ardistani), The Punjab Past and Present, vol.1. Patiala, April 1967
2. Ved Parkash, The Sikhs in Bihar. Patna, 1981
3. Archer, John Clark, The Sikhs in Relation to Hindus, Moslems, Christians and Ahmadiyyas. Princeton, 1946
4. Banerjee, Indu Bhusan, Evolution of the Khalsa. Calcutta, 1936
5. Buchanan, Francis, Patna-Gaya Repoil, vol.1 (1811-12). Patna, 1925
6. Latif, Syad Muhammad, History of the Punjab. Calcutta, 1891
7. Braharnanand, Pandit, Guru Udasm Mat Darpan. Sakhar, 1980
8. Gian Singh, Giani, Nirmal Panth Pradipika. Sialkot 1949 Bk
9. Randhir Singh, Bhai, Udasi Sikhan di Vithia. Amritsar, 2016 Bk