Niddar Singh Nihang has written a book about how the real Akalis left Panjab and settled in Hazur Sahib and how the Singh Sabha movement distorted the real Sikhí of these real Akalis. Going by what happens these days in Hazur Sahib I am not impressed by his argument. I met many Nihangs, both in Panjab and other states, and not just the bhang lassi types, and most of them were not dedicated followers of the Guru Granth Sahib.
If I was a schoolmaster and the Sikhs were in my school, I would have all Sikhs repeat at least a thousand times : ‘The main source of Sikhí is the Guru Granth Sahib’. The Guru Granth records the words of Gurus and Bhagats who are the ‘mukhvak’ of The One. The other source of Sikhí is the way the Gurus practiced the teachings in their lives.
I am interested in the misl period. I am interested in how at the end of the 18th century Maharaja Ranjit Singh ended the meetings off the Sarbat Khalsa. I am interested in how after the 1857 mutiny the former Sikh freedom fighters became colonial troops in the British Indian Army.
But I do not want to follow a Nihang or a group of Nihangs. A good Nihang, a good Akali should be somebody who follows the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib and the example set by the Gurus. This type of Nihang is even rarer than puran gursikhs in the general population.
The above does not mean that the Singh Sabha was all wonderful. There were of course, in good Sikh tradition, at least two factions, partly based on different ideas about the way forward, partly based on being from ‘high’ or ‘low’ background.
The Singh Sabha did very good work in getting rid of Hindu practices that had come back into Sikhí, but some members in their misguided enthusiasm even wanted to remove the bhagat bani from the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Singh Sabha tried (with some success) to make Sikhí more like a western religion, which has resulted in granthis thinking that they are priests and some dodgy fellows in Amritsar thinking they are high priests. The fixed ‘order of service’ in the Gurdwara is also a result of the wrong direction the Singh Sabha took.
The Singh Sabha’s worst crime is that they have not emphasised the love between the Sikhs and the Teacher of Teachers, the All-Pervading, The All-Powerfull, The Giver without Limit. This loving relationship between the soul-brides and the God-Groom is together with the path of righteousness the central teaching of the Guru Granth. I prefer the Singh Sabha over Niddar Singh’s purattan Sikhí, but really I want neither of them. The Sikhí that I try to follow is Guru’s Sikhí, the Sikhí of the Guru Granth Sahib.