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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Udasis Mahants

Updated: Jan 4

The Udasis were founded by Baba Shri Chand ( 1494-1629 ), the eldest son of Guru Nanak. Udasi means detachment, withdrawal from worldly life, solitary, sadness and grief, and so refers to one who renounces traditionally. Shri Chand apposed his father’s appointment of Guru Angad as the second Guru, and so he started his own Order. He believed a celibate life of renunciation and asceticism. During the seventeenth century the Udasis grew in number and well respected by the early Sikh Panth. There were a dozen Orders at the end of the Sikh rule in 1849. The number of establishments rose dramatically from the 1790s to 1840s. They had more than 250 Centures ( Akharas ) spread across the Punjab and even beyond. In the 1891 Census 10,518 Hindu and 1,165 Sikhs returned themselves as Udasis. There were four Udasi Centres each containing certain preaching areas. These were at Nanakmata, Western Punjab, Kashmir, Melba and Doaba.

Udasis believe in the Adhi Granth and have great respect, they do not believe in the household of the Gurus, nor the doctrine of the Guru Panth and, nor the accumulation of wealth and property. Furthermore Guru Nanak’s definition as Udas was to make use of things in the world and not deem them one’s own, but only God’s property, and ever posses a desire to meet him in Udas. Udasi usually celebrate and renounce worldly cares, but still regard themselves as Sikhs. They believe in many Brahmanical-cum-Hindu ideas that the Sikh Gurus did not advocate. These include the theory of the incarnation of God, Brahmanical rituals and practices and the believe in the necessity of renunciation, the practice of austerities, asceticism and celibacy.

During eighteen century the Udasis escaped the persecution of the Mughal Rulers. Since they considered themselves as Sikhs, this naturally led them to look after the Sikh Shrines in the absence of Khalsa Sikhs/ Nihangs. They performed a key role in keeping Sikh teachings alive. The Mahants of nineteenth and early twentieth centuries claimed Udasis descendent, though their lifestyle had considerably changed. The crucial juncture in Udasi history came in 1921 when Narain Das, a Mahant of Nankana Gurudwaras, claiming to be an Udasi Orchestrated the massacre of a large group of Akalis who were seeking a nonviolently to claim the Nankana Sahib Gurdwara. Today Udasis are seen as Sahajdhari Sikh or Sanatan Sikh.

The major sect of Udasian belonged to Sikh religion. They were excommunicated by the successors of Guru Nanak and gradually turned to Hinduism. Udasis recitated the bani of Gurus, but they retained their identity. Baba Shri Chand occasionally visited Sikh Gurus who treated him with respect for being a saintly personage as well as for being a son of Guru Nanak Ji. Udasi Mahant Kirpal Singh took part in the battle of Bhangani ( 1689 ) under Guru Gobind Singh Ji. After the abolition of the Massands by Guru Gobind Singh Udasi took control of the Sikh places of worship up to 1921.

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