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Who are Nihangs?

Topics Covered: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Who are Nihangs?

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Their origin, how are they different from other sects and their contributions.

Why in News?

Recent Patiala incident in which a group of Nihangs attacked a Punjab police party and chopped off the hand of an assistant sub-inspector when stopped for a curfew pass, and the subsequent seizure of weapons and narcotics, has put the spotlight on the Nihangs.

Who is a Nihang?

Nihang is an order of Sikh warriors.

They are characterised by blue robes, antiquated arms such as swords and spears, and decorated turbans surmounted by steel quoits.

 What does the word ‘Nihang’ mean?

Etymologically the word nihang in Persian means an alligator, sword and pen but the characteristics of Nihangs seem to stem more from the Sanskrit word nihshank which means without fear, unblemished, pure, carefree and indifferent to worldly gains and comfort.


Sources trace their origin to Guru Gobind Singh’s younger son, Fateh Singh (1699-1705), who once appeared in the Guru’s presence dressed in a blue chola and blue turban with a dumala (piece of cloth forming a plume).

On seeing his son look so majestic, the Guru remarked that it shall be the dress of Nihangs, the reckless soldiers of the Khalsa

How were Nihangs different from other Sikhs, and other Sikh warriors?

  1. Nihangs observe the Khalsa code of conduct in its strictest sense. They do not profess any allegiance to an earthly master. Instead of saffron they hoist a blue Nishan Sahib (flag) atop their shrines.
  2. Nihangs use the slogans ‘chhardi kala’ (forever in high spirits) and ‘tiar bar tiar’ (state of ever preparedness) for unforeseen events.
  3. The Nihangs are fond of a popular drink called shardai or sharbati degh (sacrament drink) which contains grounded almonds, cardamom seeds, poppy seeds, black pepper, rose petals and melon seeds.
  4. When a small measure of cannabis is added to it, it is termed sukhnidhan (treasure of comfort).
  5. A higher dose of cannabis in it was known as shaheedi deg, sacrament of martyrdom. It was taken (while) battling enemies.

What is their role in Sikh history?

  • Nihangs had a major role in defending the Sikh panth after the fall of the first Sikh rule (1710-15) when Mughal governors were killing Sikhs, and during the onslaught of Afghan invader Ahmed Shah Durrani (1748-65).
  • Nihangs also took control of the religious affairs of the Sikhs at Akal Bunga (now known as Akal Takht) in Amritsar. They did not consider themselves subordinate to any Sikh chief and thus maintained their independent existence.
  • Their clout came to an end after the fall of Sikh Empire in 1849 when the British authorities of Punjab appointed a manager (sarbrah) for the administration of the Golden Temple in 1859.

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is Khalsa code of conduct?
  2. Who helped Ahmed Shah Durrani invade India?
  3. What is the difference between Shardai, Sukhnidhan and Shaheedi deg?
  4. Who was Guru Gobind Singh? His contributions to Sikh community?

Mains Link:

Who are Nihangs? How are they different from other Sikhs, and other Sikh warriors? Discuss.


Sources: Indian Express.