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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Gehr Ganbeehreh

Time of origin: 1887

In 1863, a child named Vishnu took birth in the village of Thana, Ludhiana. Born to a ‘Tarkhan’ (carpenter) named Kan Chand and his wife Sukhi, at the age of 11 he became a disciple of an Udasi, Sant Mehtab Das. He later changed his name to Vishnu Das.

In 1880, he joined the ‘Vada Akhara’ of Udasis (orthodox Udasis) and became itinerant. Then, in 1887, on becoming disillusioned with the multifarious forms of Sikhism, he started to propagate his own philosophy of ‘Gehr Ganbeehr Naam’ meaning ‘deep contemplation of Naam’. He settled in Ropar, in the district of Ambala.

Vada Akhara
Photograph of the Udasis belonging to the 'Vada Akhara', circa early 20th century

Vishnu Das believed that due to the fact there are so many distinct Sikh sects centered around individuals, there could never be true love of Sikhism. He taught that by transcending all outward religious forms, when one absorbs oneself in God’s name in state of deep meditation ‘Gehr Ganbeehr’ (a term which he substantiated by quoting Adi Guru Durbar), then there can be true love of God.

Adi Guru Durbar
Folio from Adi Guru Durbar done in the Kashmiri style, depicting
Vishnu (top), Brahma (middle), and Indra Lok (bottom), circa 1839

On meeting each other, the Gehr Ganbeehri Sikhs saluted each other with, ‘Gehr Ganbeehr’, and the response would be ‘Sat Gehr Ganbeehr’ (true Guru God is). These Sikhs believed in Adi Guru Durbar, and in general followed Udasi traditions. In time, they merged back with Udasis.

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