RAMRAIAS, originally a splinter sect of the Sikhs, now comprise an independent group more akin to the Udasis. The sect owes its origin to Baba Ram Rai, whose name it bears. Ram Rai, who was the elder son of Guru Har Rai (1630-61), the seventh Guru, and who had been anathematized for deliberately misreading in the court of Emperor Aurarigzib a line from one of Guru Nanak`s hymns in order to avoid his displeasure, had shifted to a sub Himalayan dun (valley) where he established his derd or abode in a.jdgiror fief granted to him by the feudatory chief of Garhval under the orders of the Mughal court.
The followers of Baba Ram Rai came to be known as Ramraias.Baba Ram Rai, shortly before his death in 1687, had met Guru Gobind Singh, Nanak X, who was then staying at Paonta, not far from Dehra Dun, while the latter visited Dehra Dun soon after to install Panjab Kaur, Ram Rai`s widow, as his successor. However, Ramraias remained outside the pale of the Khalsa the Guru had initiated. After the death of Panjab Kaur in 1741, the leadership and control of the Ramraia sect passed to Udasi sddhus who, besides the Guru Granth Sahib, paid obeisance to Baba Sri Chand and treated Baba Ram Rai as successor to the first seven Sikh Gurus.
Up to the time of the Akali agitation in the early 1920`s, Darbar Sahib orJhanda Sahib, the principal Ramraia shrine at Dehra Dun, had Guru Granth Sahib installed in it, although images of Baba Sri Chand as well as of some Hindu deities were also worshipped. Thereafter, apprehensive of losing to the Akalis the shrine and the vast estate attached to it, the sajjaddnashms, as the custodians were styled, discontinued the display of Guru Granth Sahib, thus converting the place into a nonSikh shrine.
At present Ramraias, estimated roughly to be a hundred thousand strong, have little in common with the Sikhs except in gurmantra, Vahiguru, and the institution of langar or community kitchen at Darbar Sahib, Dehra Dun. Their worship comprises arafi of Baba Sri Chand and recitation and kathd of Bhdgvata Purdna and of other Hindu texts.
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