Nihang: the warrior Sikhs

Origin, beliefs and practices of this Sikh sect


June 22, 2018

/ By and / Anandpur Sahib

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The Nihang sect of Sikhs was initially established to preserve peace and to guard the Sikh Gurudwaras. Today, even after more than 300 years, their descendants continue to live spiritual lives, train in martial arts and help their community.

As we approach towards the lanes of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, men in bright orange and blue clothes celebrating the Sikh festival of Hola Mohalla crowd the roads.

This traditional Nihang dress with a blend of blue and orange is known as ‘Khalsa Swarupa’ (nature of the army of fully initiated Sikhs). The Nihang Sikh sect is believed to have been founded by Guru Gobind Singh (the tenth Sikh Guru) over 300 years ago, to preserve peace and protect their community.

This armed Sikh order is known as the immortal army of akaal (god), who live spiritual lives with little material wealth and possessions. The Nihangs dedicate their lives to prayer, training in martial arts, helping their communities and defending their faith.

They are known for their martial arts and military expertise with a fighting style formally called ‘shastra vidya’ (knowledge of sacred scriptures). Amongst the many forms of martial arts, Gatka is one of the primaries, performed to music during spiritual ceremonies.

Gatka is traditionally a style of stick fighting performed with wooden sticks and intended to simulate swords. This style of martial art is taught at both government and as well as some private Sikh schools, where it is an official subject.

The Nihangs are also known for their artistic displays of weaponry, archery, wrestling and performing tricks while horse riding.

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