The Namdhari sect of Sikhism, including its practices and beliefs, and whether the Punjab police seeks in particular its male members [IND30341.E]

The Namdhari sect of Sikhism was founded in the early to mid-1800s by Balak Singh (1797?-1862?) of Hazro village in the northwest frontier region (Singh 1966, 127-28). Balak Singh protested against the "moral laxity in the Panth" (Contemporary Religions 1992, 245) and urged his followers to "live simply and practise no religious ritual other than repeating God's name" (Singh 1966, 128). His successor, Ram Singh (1816-1885) moved the Namdhari headquarters to Bhaini village in Ludhiana (ibid.). Ram Singh brought about changes in worship, appearance and form of address that clearly differentiated them from the rest of Sikhs. His followers chanted and worked themselves into a state of frenzy, letting out loud shrieks, which led them to be known as Kukas (ibid., 128-29; Contemporary Religions 1992, 245). Namdharis wore, and continue to wear, only white handspun cloth and bound their turbans flat across the forehead (instead of forming a triangle) (ibid.; Singh 1966, 129).

Khalsa Sikhs consider Namdharis (Kukas) to be heretics because they believe in a living guru (ibid.; Singh 1966, 134; The New Encyclopaedia Britannica 1989, 284), but they differ from Nirankari Sikhs because Namdharis "insist on a reformed and restored khalsa, rather than a return to the pristine teachings of Nanak" (Contemporary Religions 1992, 245).

In volume 2 of A History of the Sikhs (1966), Khushwant Singh states:

The Kukas [Namdharis] are a distinct sub-sect who maintain little intercourse with the parent community. They have their own gurdwaras and only on rare occasions deign to join Sikh religious processions. They do not intermarry with Sikhs unless the party concerned accepts their persuasion.

The Kukas, nevertheless, more strictly adhere to the puritanical faith of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind than other Sikhs. Their gurdwaras are not ostentatious, and their worship is devoid of the elements of idolatry (rich canopies and coverings over the Granth, waving of censers, etc.) which have become common practice in orthodox circles. And the Kukas themselves lead austere lives; they wear the simplest of clothes and observe a rigid code of conduct; they are punctilious in attending service in their gurdwaras and in observing the tabus of food, drink, and personal deportment (134-135).

Reliable figures on the size of Namdharis have not been compiled, although according to Khushwant Singh who interviewed (no date given), Guru Jagjit Singh, Namdharis claim to number between 5 and 10 lakhs (100,000), consisting primarily of Jats, Ramgarhias, Aroras and Mazhabi Sikhs. They are based primarily in the districts of Hissar, Amritsar and Ludhiana (Singh 1966, 134).

Singh also added in A History of the Sikhs, that the Namdharis had a centre at Bhaini and at Jiwan Nagar near Sirsa in the district of Hissar, and that they published four journals: a weekly in Gurmukhi called Satyug, a Gurmukhi daily published in New Delhi called Nawad Hindustan, a Hindi quarterly published in Delhi called Namdhari Samacar, and a Gurmukhi published in Samana called Saca Marg (Singh 1996, 134).

The Research Directorate was unable to find information on the treatment by the Punjab police of male Namdhari Sikhs, with the exception of a statement by the Executive Director of the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC) in Delhi, that the Punjab police does not have a policy on the harassment of Namdhari Sikhs (15 Oct. 1998). He added that he believed that Namdhari Sikhs are "molly coddled" by the Punjab police (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Contemporary Religions: A World Guide. 1992. Edited by Ian Harris et al. The High, Harlow and Essex: Longman Group UK.

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1989. Vol. 27. 15th ed.

Singh, Khushwant. 1966. A History of the Sikhs. Volume 2: 1839-1964. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC), Delhi. 15 October 1998. E-mail from Executive Director.

Additional Sources Consulted

The Encyclopaedia of Religion. Various dates.

International directory assistance, London, UK.
Mahmood, Cynthia Keppley. 1996.

Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh Militants.

Namdhari Sikh Internet Website.
Pettigrew, Joyce J.M. 1995.

The Sikhs of the Punjab: Unheard Voices of State and Guerrilla Violence.

Electronic sources: Internet, IRB Databases, LEXIS/NEXIS.

Non-documentary sources:

Unsuccessful attempts to contact three oral sources.