The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism
throughout Sikh History
Page 1 of 2
Time of origin: mid 1500s
Gangu was a poor Khatri who
came and assiduously served the third Sikh Guru,
Akali Guru Amardas. He desired
that the Guru set him some task, so as he may
spread the universal massage of Sanatan Sikhism.
One day, he went to ask the Guru to fulfill
Sri Guru Amar Das Ji
A watercolour depicting the third Sikh Guru
with companion, circa mid 19th century
At the Guru’s court he saw all the rich
offerings other Sikhs were making and felt embarrassed
having not much to offer himself. The Guru,
upon sensing the poor Sikh’s apprehension
called him over, and asked him who he was. Gangu,
offering his small gift told of his desire.
The Guru blessed him with a ‘Manji’
of Daoo village (NB. ‘Manji’ literally
referring to a bedstead, but also refers to
the Sikh name given to one of the 22 regions
put under charge of a ‘Masand’
(caretaker). The Masand was responsible for
spreading Sikhism in his particular region).
Gangu’s fame spread and his disciples
came to be known as the ‘Gangu
Shahieh’. On his death, Gangu’s
tomb was made in the village of Kago, in the
region of Doaba in the Punjab.
In the 18th century, as the Akali Nihang Singh
Khalsa fought a life and death struggle against
the Moghals, the Gangu Shahieh began to exploit
this time for their own ends. Rattan Singh Bhangu
in his ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’,
writes of how the Gangu Shahieh tried to wean
Sikhs away from the Khalsa cause. It is primarily
for this reason that the Akali Nihang Khalsa
of the period was extremely hostile to the Gangu
Shahieh. Rattan Singh records one incident concerning
Akali Nihangs and Gangu Shahieh thus:
‘Between Khalsa and
Gangu Shahian remained conflict.
Singh said Khalsa was winning [against Moghals],
Gangi said they were loosing.
How this argument arose.
Says Rattan Singh so listen.
Those who actually witnessed this.
They have told me so.
There was one Sikh of Guru complete [an
He was married into a house hold of Gangu’s
who were afar from Sikhism.
He had no shortage of wealth.
He had but one need, a son.
He was greatly prosperous.
He took ‘Dasvand’ (one tenth
of income out for Khalsa Sikhism).
The Sikh and Sikhni [his wife] made a decision.
Let’s invite Sikhs home and give them
Feed them and have them do ‘Ardas’
So we have a son.
Guru Gobind Singh has said so.
Whatever you desire ask of five Sikhs [Amritdhari
Considering a good day they made decision.
They sent a invitation to Sikhs.
They desired Sikhs to put their feet in
They also called their relatives.
A year passed so the in-laws got ready.
On the way they met their Guru, Kharak Singh
They persuaded him to come with them.
He [Kharak Singh] made them [in-laws] promise
to convert their son-in-law to a Gangu Shahi.
Ahead, Mehr Singh [a Nihang from Delhi]
had arrived at Singh’s house.
There were ten or so weapon-bearing Singhs
When the food was ready [at that Singh’s
Kharak Singh came and caused a commotion.
He insisted Singh take his ‘Charan
Phaul’ (initiation into Gangu Panth).
First he becomes my ‘Sikh’ [disciple]
then will I eat. In that house hold the
in-laws had great sway.
His [that Singh’s] wife [daughter
of Gangu Shahi] spoke up [in support of
Singh argued “I am a ‘Phaul
Khandadhari’ (Amritdhari Khalsa initiated
by Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh) from
the beginning. How can I turn back after
being forged [into a Khalsa warrior] by
His wife said: “My parents have brought
[their Guru to convert him]. I desire you
bow before him [Gangu Kharak Singh]. If
not I will die and haunt this house. I will
ruin all that you planned”.
The woman began to be stubborn as only women
The Sikh was greatly pained.
Like a snake catching hold of a ‘Chakoondar’
[mistaking it for a mouse]. (NB: In Indian
thinking eating a Chakoondar makes snakes
If he frees it, it is embarrassing if eaten
it makes him blind. (Meaning the Singh was
trapped in an impossible situation. One
hand was Guru Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa
on other wife and in-laws).
His father in-law also said likewise: “Take
‘Charan Phaul’ and we will stay
The Sikh was in a difficult position.
He had done a good deed [inviting Khalsa]
but it had turned sour.
Then the Khalsa [Akali Nihang’s] got
angry [they were waiting out side whilst
the arguments were going on in house].
Binding on weapons to waist they desired
Whoever lives [Nihang’s said] they
can make him their Sikh.
Who is dead how can he initiate disciples?
This will be our word.
We come you [Gangu Shahi’s] get ready.
Hearing this, the in-laws with Kharak Singh
[and his followers] tried to escape.
Mehr Singh stood in their way and said,
“Without a fight you can not go. ”
Taking swords Singh’s stood.
Kharak Singh was once more surrounded.
Singh’s said a decision will be made
one way or other today.
The fight will determine who lives and who
The in-laws faces went pale.
They began to plead through others [elderly
wise people of village].
Singh said: “We will now not just
go. We will see how he puts down his [Kharak
Singhs] bedstead [sits himself as Guru here].”
Then the wise men [of village] came and
pleaded [with Akali Nihang’s] make
In another place you can go and fight each
That Sikh [who had invited them] and other
Sikhs of village calmed down the situation.
Whoever gives him a son [villagers said]
he can make him his Sikh.
Gangian [Gangu Shahi] accepted this.
They desired to save their life. We will
[said Gangu’s] give him a son within
That day we will initiate him [in Gangu
These words the Singhs also accepted.
They had this written down.
Then the Singhs said thus: “Listen
to our words oh beloved of the Guru. This
Sikh has asked for a son. We would have
killed that son [born in year with blessing
of Gangu’s]. But he is a Sikh in love
with Sikhism but also in love with his wife.
They are like half gold mixed with half
Five Singh’s [‘Farladhari’
Akali Nihangs] gathered and said focusing
their minds on feet of Guru [Adi Guru Durbar/
Akali Guru Nanak Gobind Singh].
He will have a son born in the seventh month
Satgur knows all.
These words the Singhs had written.
That day will come and make him a Singh.
Let the Dasvand remain in his house we will
collect it day his son is born.
Who remains alive [Akali Nihangs were at
war those day’s with Moghals and Afghans]
out of us will come and collect Dasvand.
Both sides put every thing in writing.
Feeding both sides they were sent away.
When seven months passed a son was born
to that woman.
That Sikh was very happy he had a drum beaten
[to announce birth of a son].
On one hand he is happy that a son was born
to him and on other hand he was happy the
Guru had kept his honor.
The tenth master had kept his honor.
As the five Singhs had prayed so it came
Gangu Dasian words were cut to size and
the Khalsa was greatly happy.
Gained glory the Kumar [potter Sikh Akali
Nihang Mehr Singh] of Delhi that day he
came to collect Dasvand.’ ‘Pracheen
Panth Prakash’, Expunged by Bhai Vir
Singh, Pa. 179-181
Akali Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj
Painting done in the Pahari style, circa late
17th century, Mandi