Karminder Singh, PhD (Boston)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Part 2: The Udasis.
Sikhi as it is practiced today, is no longer the Sikhi that was taught to us by our Gurus. It is a spirituality that stands distorted, corrupted and tainted. Its scripture – Gurbani – has been distorted through vedic and puranic slants in interpretations and translations; its history muddled in unbelievable tales of miracles called Sakhis, and its religious practices consist of those smuggled in from rejected and discarded rituals of pre-1469 faiths. It’s a faith that has been hijacked from its unique path and equally distinct goals. How, when and why did this happen?
Read this FIVE-part series for the story of a spirituality hijacked
Read Part ONE: The Hijacking Explained:
WHO ARE THE UDASIS?
The Udasi sect was started by Baba Sri Chand – the eldest son of Guru Nanak ji.
Five basic facts regarding Sri Chand must be brought to the attention of the Sikh reader.
FIRST, the maneuvering of Sri Chand to break away from Guru Nanak’s Sikhi was, in essence, rooted in the Bippar Brahmin’s devious plot to undermine Guru Nanak. The roots of the plot go back to the day Guru Nanak REFUSED to adorn the Janeyu.
The Brahmin saw Guruji’s refusal to wear the Janeyu as the planting, by Guru Nanak, of the seed of a thought that threatened the Bhramin’s position as the sole spiritual leader of the people. One can imagine that the Bippar did not sleep well that particular night.
The Brahmin could not take on Guru Nanak directly, so he targeted Guruji’s two children. The result was the hijacking of the faith of his TWO children who were besieged mostly while Guruji was on his long travels.
The conversion of Sri Chand into the wandering yogi branch of Shiv panth was ultimate revenge and success on the part of the Brahmin. He managed to cultivate a destructive mole right in the heart of Sikhi, inside Guru Nanak’s household and right within the psyche of Gurmat. This mole would serve the Bippar objective for centuries to come.
SECOND, on the part of Sri Chand himself, the Udasi sect was started in OPPOSITION to the Sikhi of Guru Nanak. Its objective was to challenge Sikhi, REJECT Guru Nanak’s Gurmat and if possible, to REPLACE it.
THIRD, the sect was propagated with a vengeance; the revenge being rooted in Guru Nanak’s decision to NOT pass the Guru-ship to Sri Chand. Guruji acted such because he found Sri Chand unfit for the responsibility. Instead, Guru Nanak found Bhai Lehna ji spiritually qualified to be the successor Guru.
FOURTH, Guru Nanak DID NOT approve of the Udasi sect. Sikhs of Guru Nanak abided by such disapproval and did NOT associate themselves with Sri Chand in their spiritual endeavours.
FIFTH, Guru Nanak’s COMMAND to Sikhs was to accept Guru Angad as his successor Guru and reject Sri Chand (and Lakhmee Daas – the younger son who colluded with his elder brother).
Bhai Gurdas ji says the following about the issue of succession and Sri Chand in Vaar 1, Pauree 38.
ਉਲਟੀ ਗੰਗ ਵਹਾਈਓਨ ਗੁਰ ਅੰਗਦ ਸਿਰ ਉਪਰ ਧਾਰਾ॥ ਪੁਤੀਂ ਕੌਲ ਨ ਪਾਲਿਆ ਮਨ ਖੋਟੇ ਆਕੀ ਨਸਿਆਰਾ॥ Ultee Gang Vahayean, Gur Angad Serr Uppar Dhaara. Putee(n) Kaul Na Paleyeo Munn Khotey Akee Nasiara.
Meaning: Guru Nanak performed an extraordinary practice in installing Angad as his successor Guru. His sons defied his spirituality on account of their malice, and rose to rebellion and desertion.
Bhais Satta and Balwand, in Ramkli Vaar, SGGS 967 say:
ਸਿਖਾਂ ਪੁਤ੍ਰਾਂ ਘੋਖਿ ਕੈ ਸਭ ਉਮਤਿ ਵੇਖਹੁ ਜਿ ਕਿਓਨੁ ॥ ਜਾਂ ਸੁਧੋਸੁ ਤਾਂ ਲਹਣਾ ਟਿਕਿਓਨੁ ॥ ੪ ॥ Sikhan Putran Ghokh Key Sabh Ummat Vekho Jay Kion. Ja Sushosh Ta Lehna Tikion.
Meaning: Guru Nanak evaluated the entire congregation of Sikhs and his offspring. Upon due assessment, Lehna was deemed worthy of succeeding Him.
The Vaar goes on to explain the decision; particularly relating to why Guru Nanak did NOT pass the Gurgadee to his sons.
ਸਚੁ ਜਿ ਗੁਰਿ ਫੁਰਮਾਇਆ ਕਿਉ ਏਦੂ ਬੋਲਹੁ ਹਟੀਐ ॥ ਪੁਤ੍ਰੀ ਕਉਲੁ ਨ ਪਾਲਿਓ ਕਰਿ ਪੀਰਹੁ ਕੰਨ ਮੁਰਟੀਐ ॥ ਦਿਲਿ
ਖੋਟੈ ਆਕੀ ਫਿਰਨਿ ਬੰਨ ਭਾਰੁ ਉਚਾਇਨਿ ਛਟੀਐ ॥ Sach Je Gur Furmayea Kio Edu Bolho Hateay. Putreen Kaol Na Paleyo Kar Perho Kanh Murateay. Dil Khotey Akee Firn Bunh Bhar Uchayean Chateay.
Meaning: Guru Angad accepted the Godly (Sach) spirituality as advocated by Guru Nanak. The sons rejected it, disobeyed and defied Guru Nanak. They were malicious and deviant; turned their backs on Guru Nanak, and lived under the burden of worldliness.
From the above verses of Gurbani in the SGGS ji and the writings of Bhai Gurdas ji we can deduce the following five observations:
FIRST, that Sri Chand REJECTED the Sikhi of Guru Nanak while acting under the influence of the Bippar conspiracy.
SECOND, he showed defiance to Guru Nanak.
THIRD, he was malicious and deviant.
FOURTH, that in doing so, he would live under the burden of spiritual worldliness. By which it was meant that he would be in fruitless search of spirituality but never obtain it.
FIFTH, Sri Chand did not accept Guru Angad as the succeeding Guru. He defied Guru Nanak’s decision and choice.
Taken as a whole, all the above verses from Gurbani and Bhai Gurdas ji make it crystal clear, therefore that Sikhs ought to have NOTHING to do with Sri Chand; especially if we wish to abide by the command of Guru Nanak.
THE SEED OF HIJACKING IS PLANTED.
We know that upon installation of Guru Angad as the second Guru, Guru Nanak sent him to Khadoor Sahib, which would become the next center of Sikhi after Kartarpur. We further know that Kartarpur was the established Ashram where Guru Nanak spent the final 12 years of his life preaching Sikhi. Kartarpur was recognized, famous and well attended by big crowds of Sikhs.
Yet Guru Angad was sent to Khadoor – a totally new place that had to be built from scratch. Guru Angad was instructed to relocate to Khadoor by Guru Nanak because of the intensity and ugliness of the conflict that was incited and caused by Sri Chand at Kartarpur. Sri Chand kicked up a storm over his failed bid to be appointed as successor to Guru. He staked his claim over the Ashram at Kartarpur – which he intended to use to LAY CLAIM to being Guru Nanak’s successor.
Kartarpur would thus become his home and the center for the establishment of his deviant Udasi sect.
Guru Nanak sent Guru Angad to Khadoor because he expected and wanted authentic Sikhs to BREAK AWAY from Sri Chand-occupied Kartarpur and go to Khadoor instead.
Guru Nanak himself stayed back at Kartarpur till his last. It was only natural that Sikhs would still come to Kartarpur to pay obeisance to Guru Nanak ji. Guru ji continued to direct all Sikhs who did so to go to Khadoor instead – telling them that “the REAL Guru was in Khadoor.” It was clear that Guru Nanak wanted Sikhs to continue their journey in Sikhi with Guru Angad ji at Khadoor and NOT associate with Sri Chand at Kartarpur.
Guru Nanak’s decision to send Guru Angad to Khadoor and hand over the Ashram and its assets to Sri Chand resolved the dispute over the succession issue.
But it also gave Sri Chand a ready built headquarters, ready crowds of Sikhs, and an opportunity to rival Guru Angad even if authentic Sikhs accepted Guru Angad and moved to Khadoor.
Sri Chand would continue living at Kartarpur. He asserted he was Guru Nanak’s “real” successor, and he announced that he had the ashes of Guru Nanak as the Guru’s rightful heir.
At Kartarpur he built a distinct following consisting of disciples who had a personal loyalty to him. New recruits from a variety of Vedic sects began to join him. He was actively supported by the Bippar Brahmin Clergy and their institutions. He especially attracted classes of people who were anti Guru Nanak; people who wanted Guru Nanak to discontinue his enlightening ways. In the minds of such people, Sri Chand’s Udasi sect provided the perfect opportunity to “erase” Guru Nanak’s from the psyche of Indian spirituality.
The defining character of Sri Chand was that his Udasi sect was based on principles that were in total contradiction to the Sikhi of Guru Nanak.
For example, the Udasis shunned the householder`s life and practiced austerities. Sri Chand adopted kundalni yoga, occult (ridhi sidhis) and the practice of supernatural powers – all of which were rejected by Guru Nanak.
The Udasi sect would thus remain out of the domain of Sikhi, authentic Sikhs and the remaining nine Gurus. None of our Gurus came into contact with any of the Udasis even if Sri Chand did flaunt his biological relationship with Guru Nanak openly.
The Udasis, however, never gave up their claim that Sri Chand was the true successor to Guru Nanak and that they were the true custodians of Sikhi. This belief became the genesis of their attempt to hijack Sikhi when the opportunity arose.
THE HIJACKING UNFOLDS
Eight years after the demise of Guru Gobind Singh, and months after the defeat of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur in 1718, the Udasis would finally get their break. The opening was created by a vacuum that resulted from the brutal hunting and killing of authentic Sikhs by the regime of the day.
Throughout the Shaheede Era (60 years after 1718) while the authentic Sikhs were being massacred as individuals, groups or in holocaust methods; and while Sikhs were being hunted with a price of up to 80 rupees on their heads; the Udasis moved in to occupy one Sikh Gurdwara after another that was left vacant. Anandpur Sahib, Hazoor Sahib, Darbar Sahib were taken over followed by virtually all Gurdwaras of importance.
The regime did not arrest, persecute of harass them because they were considered as non-Sikhs. The Udasis visited Hardowar during Kumbh Mela, practiced kundalni yoga, stayed celibate and adorned their own (non Sikh / Khalsa symbols). There was thus no confusion that they were non-Sikhs.
But yet, they occupied Sikh Gurdwaras with impunity.
The authentic Sikhs, who in love of their Gurus and institutions, came out of their hideouts in small groups on occasion to pay homage to Darbar Sahib and other historical Gurdwaras were simply glad that someone took take care of their Gurdwaras and kept them operating. The spouses and children of the authentic Sikhs who took the risk to not live in hiding would share this sentiment too – even though they were aware that the Udasis were corrupting Sikh practices.
The Udasis would be in exclusive control of Sikh Gurdwaras for about 60 years, before they would have to share control with the other deviant groups (Nirmalas, Mahants and Dera Sants) for a total of 207 years till 1925.
ESTABLISHING CONTROL ON SIKH PSYCHE.
Although the Udasis faced no physical resistance in their control of Sikh Gurdwaras and in introducing Udasi practices, rituals and beliefs into the Gurdwaras, they still felt a need to establish themselves firmly and deceptively within the parameters of Sikhi. They needed to do so as they knew authentic Sikhs were well grounded in the Gurbani of the SGGS.
The objective was simple – they needed to anchor their legitimacy amongst authentic Sikhs and thus gain trust and acceptability. To do such, they built a version of Sikh spirituality that was parallel to the Sikhi of Guru Nanak and could be interwoven into authentic Sikh philosophy as and when necessary. – while retaining the “superiority” of their Udasi beliefs.
They could NOT alter, rewrite or add to the SGGS – the CORE of Sikhi from 1708 onwards. It was too mammoth and too risky a task. They were perhaps not up to the task as well.
They thus resorted to the creation of narrations of concocted tales relating to the LIVES of our Gurus. This was essentially a cunning attempt to RECREATE and rewrite Sikhi from the PERIPHERY (Sakhis) while leaving the Core (SGGS) intact. The belief being that the CORE would become irrelevant once the PERIPHERY had been sufficiently corrupted and distorted.
One concocted narration relates to a purported visit to Sri Chand by Guru Ramdas ji who “needed the blessings of Guru Nanak through his son Sri Chand.” Sri Chand is said to have asked Guruji “why is your beard so long?” and Guru ji is said to have replied “to dust your feet with.”
Another fake tale relates to Guru Arjun ji. Guru ji is said to have had a writer’s block when composing Sukhmani Bani. Guru ji is said to have “got stuck” at the 16th Salok and “became anxious.” When asked by Sikhs such as Bhai Gurdas and Baba Budha ji, Guru ji told them “the truth of his anxiety.” The Sikhs then suggested that Guru Arjun seek the blessings of Guru Nanak’s son Sri Chand.
Upon visiting Sri Chand, Guru Arjun ji was “told to use” the first salok of Jup Banee – Aad Sach Jugaad Sach as the the 16th Salok and that “Banee would flow like water” after that. That is how the 16th Salok of Sukhmani “became similar” to the first Salok of Jup Banee.
Another concocted story relates to Emperor Jehangir asking Mian Mir, “Who is the greatest Saint alive today?” And Mian Mir replied, “At this time the elder son of Guru Nanak is the king of the Saints.”
Another has Jehangir sending his elephant to pick up Sri Chand. But the elephant could not even lift Sri Chand’s blanket. So he walked over to Jehangir’s court.
Yet another tall tale has it that after Sri Chand passed away in 1629, Guru Hargobind ji sent his son, Baba Gurditta to become the successor as head of the Udasis.
The Udasis exempted themselves from Khande Da Pahul and the wearing of the Sikhi roop. This was necessary to keep their position as non-Sikhs in the eyes of the government of the day.
But for the purpose of the authentic Sikh masses, they claimed that the tenth Guru gave them the exemption because it was their duty to preach Sikhi to the Hindu masses who would be more amenable and accepting of Udasis that “looked like Hindus-” than they would be of Sikhs with Khalsa roop.
The sinister objectives of these concocted tales are clear. Five can be outlined as follows:
FIRST, they attempt to establish the lie that Sikh Gurus not only kept in touch with the out- casted Sri Chand, but that our Gurus visited him regularly to “obtain spiritual guidance.”
This lie conveniently leaves out mention of the fact that Guru Nanak disowned Sri Chand, Guru Angad had to be SENT AWAY from Sri Chand, Guru Nanak himself stayed back at Kartarpur to direct Sikhs to Guru Angad at Khadoor and that Guru Arjun recorded the deviancy of Sri Chand in the Pothi Sahib. Why then would Sikh Gurus “go to him for spiritual guidance”?
SECOND, these tales attempt to put Sri Chand on par with the luminary Sikh Baba Budha Ji who lived through the physical existence of six Gurus. Sri Chand too is said to have “lived through 6 Gurus.”
We know that Sri Chand was born in 1494 and Baba Gurditta ji in 1613. If indeed the story of Guru Hargobind sending his son Baba Gurditta ji to take over from Sri Chand upon his death in 1629 is accepted; then it would mean that Sri Chand lived to 135 years of age. And that Baba Gurditta ji took over at age 16 even if he had no exposure to Udasi life.
Further, Baba Gurditta ji was married –putting to lie the claim of him being a leader of the Udasi sect. Udasi leaders had to be celibate, sanyiasis practicing ghar baar da tyaag (renunciation of family life) as opposed to Baba Gurditta ji’s Ghristi (married householder) life.
The 135-year life span tale is congruent to fake kundalini yoga claims that their practices had the “power to extend human life expectancy”.
THIRD, the concocted stories attempt to give a foothold to Sri Chand in the composition of Gurbani. The claim is that had Sri Chand not given the solution to Guru Arjun ji, Sukhmani would never have been completed. An incomplete Sukhmani would have meant an incomplete Pothi Sahib first and then an incomplete SGGS. So this story makes Sri Chand the credit and responsibility for SGGS ji. No Sri Chand would have meant no SGGS ji !
FOURTH, there is an attempt to suggest that Sri Chand’s spiritual prowess were known outside of the Sikh world too. Mian Mir and Jahangir too were aware of it.
FIFTH, these tales attempt to link the Udasis all the way to the ninth Guru. Baba Gurditta ji was the elder brother of Guru Teg Bahadur ji. Guru ji’s son would create the Khalsa and his brother would be head of the Udasi sect. What better way to establish their legitimacy amongst Sikhs – all the way to the tenth Guru?
SIXTH and most importantly, the Udasis KNEW that the SGGS contained not just mention about the deviance, defiance and rejection of Sri Chand – it also removed the Udasi sect squarely from the parameters of Sikhi.
The Udasis who took control of our Gurdwaras from 1716 onwards were aware that Guru Arjun ji allowed the verses about Sri Chand’s deviancy to be included in the Pothi Sahib and that Guru Gobind Singh ji allowed them to remain in the SGGS. This meant that the messages of the verses were ETERNAL truths for Sikhs.
It was thus crucial for the Udasis to negate the value and believability of these verses if they wanted to take charge of Sikh Gurdwaras and Sikh psyche. So they created a plethora of concocted Sakhis about our Gurus going to Sri Chand and “patching up” the relationship.
A number of Sikh preachers are heard saying that “the actions of the fourth, fifth and sixth Gurus in going to Sri Chand” mean that “Sri Chand was accepted back into the fold of Sikhi.”
These preachers have no answer when asked “Why then did Guru Arjun ji NOT remove the verses on page 967 of the SGGS? Why didn’t Guru Gobind Singh ji do the same when he re-compiled the Pothi Sahib and installed it as Guru in 1708? Why would TWO Gurus leave intact the verses on page 967 of the SGGS if they were “no longer true” given that “Sri Chand had been readmitted into the Sikhi fold”?
The truth is that the verses on page 967 of the SGGS are eternal truths while the sakhis of our Gurus going to Sri Chand are all concocted.
THE DISTORTION OF SIKHI BY THE UDASIS.
The Udasi control over our Gurdwaras (and by extension Sikh psyche) corrupted and distorted Sikhi to the core and in more ways that can be imagined. Some of the distortions are as follows:
- They altered the maryada, practices and ceremonies at Gurdwaras. The standard philosophy of the Udasis came from the Upnishads and Simritis. The Udasi yoga practices were rooted in Shiv Puran which was an offshoot of the Vedas. The practices of the Udasi sect were thus derived from Vedic thought. A great variety of practices at the Darbar Sahib today – the ban on women from performing spiritual acts in the Darbar, the washing of the floors with milk and the non-stop burning of lamps and incense are examples of practices that have their origins in deviant Udasi beliefs.
- They introduced Udasi rituals and practices into Sikhi. The ritual of reciting mantras repeatedly, the linking of vegetarianism to Sikh philosophy, the exalted position of celibacy for spiritual persons, bathing as acts of spirituality, the making of offerings to the Gods and performance of penance have their origins in Udasi beliefs. These rituals and practices will be consolidated, expanded and rooted deeper into Sikhi by the other groups who will control Sikh Gurdwaras subsequent to the Udasis – namely the Nirmalas, Mahants and Dera Sants.
- They conspired with the Benares based Vedic clergy to alter Guru Nanak’s birth date from the month of Vesakh to Katakh. In reality, Katakh was the birth month of Sri Chand himself. The reason behind the switch was sinister – to replace the primacy of Guru Nanak by that of Sri Chand. Sikhs would celebrate Katakh Dee Pooranmashi thinking it was the birth date of their founder Guru; while the Udasis celebrated the same day as the birth of Sri Chand. Practiced over decades, the two persons would fuse into one entity, and Sri Chand would become the prime individual figure of Sikhi in the mind of the ordinary Sikh.
The Vedic Clergy had their own sinister reasons to push Guru Nanak’s birthday from Vesakh (which is considered an auspicious month for celebrations linked to Brahmins only) to Katakh which is considered an unclean month reserved for celebrations linked to the lower castes (Diwali for the Bania caste and Holi for the untouchable Shudars). A child born on the puranmashi of Katakh was considered most inauspicious amongst Vedic believers. It thus served the sinister Bippar Clergy to push this day as the birthdate of Guru Nanak ji.
The objective of the Udasis was equally sinister. They wanted Sri Chand to replace Guru Nanak as the prime spiritual guide for the Sikhs.
THE REVIVAL OF UDASI SECT TODAY
The Udasis gradually took a back seat when the other superior groups (Nirmalas and Dera Sants) stepped successively into the shoes of the Udasis to take control of Sikhi. But the 20 Century has seen attempts to revive the Udasi position in Sikhi.
Two groups of non-main stream Sikhs are linking up with and promoting Sri Chand today. The first is the Yogi Bhajan group which considers kundalni yoga to be at the core of its practices. Large portraits of Sri Chand are found in Yogi Bhajan Ashrams and Sri Chand’s birthday is celebrated regularly with the aim of reviving his anti-Sikhi messages. Sri Chand’s life stories and tales of his miraculous powers are often narrated in their Ashrams and literature.
The second group which are attempting to revive the Sri Chand legacy consist of the Dera based Sant groups.
While the kundalini groups may be legitimately connecting to Sri Chand – after all he was a practitioner of their version of yoga; the aims of the Dera based Sant groups are more sinister. They are part of the continuing and long running Bhramanic / Bippar conspiracy to fragment the Sikhs.
The ultimate goal of such a conspiracy is to rob Sikhi of its distinctiveness; to assimilate Sikhi into the larger fold of an antiquated and rejected system; to cut the philosophical roots of Sikhi and to undo the 239 of work that had been painstakingly undertaken by our Gurus.
It appears that the Brahmin Bippar conspiracy that was conceived on the day that Guru Nanak refused to wear his Janeyu has come to fruition with help from Sri Chand.
The dera based sant groups have begun celebrating the birthday of Sri Chand on a large scale with Kirtan and Katha diwans.
The dera based sant groups have begun large scale propaganda to get Sri Chand cunningly accepted into mainstream Sikhi. Currently the biggest collusion with the Sri Chandees (and the Nirmalas too) is led by the Sant Samaj (a pressure group of “sant”). The current leadership of Sant Samaj is located in Dera Chownk Mehta (renamed Dumdumee Taksal in the 1970s) – a dera that has considerable influence in Sikh institutions such as the Akaal Takhat and SGPC. AT Jathedars and SGPC leaders have lent their support to events such as large scale celebrations of Sri Chand birthdays organized by the Sant Samaj.
A detailed analysis of this Udase–Nirmala–Dera complicity will be conducted in the Part Four of this series of essays. This connivance appears adequately supported by the right wing Hindu supremacy touting BJP led government of India today- through its instruments of mass media as well as funding.