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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Gulab Dasia

Time of origin: early 1800s

In 1809, amongst the clan of 'Ratol' Jats, in the village of Ratol, Gulab Singh was born in the household of Hamira Jat and his wife, Musnmat Desho. On reaching adulthood, Gulab Singh sought employment under the 'Sikh Sirdars' (chiefs) of Poho Vindi.

There he met one 'Sadhu' of the Sangat Sahib Udasi order of mendicants. He changed his name to Gulab Das became a disciple of the Sadhu. Smearing his body in ash, he went to the village of Donoleh in Malwa and studied 'Kosh Kavj' (prose), etc. with a learned sage named Dhian Das.

Photograph of an Udasi Sadhu in Nepal, circa late 19th century

A while later, Gulab Das fell in with a 'Rind' (alcohol drinking) Muslim Sufi fakir who sung romantic ballads of Buleh Shah and spoke 'Khalasi Charcha' (literally meaning 'words which encourage people to abandon all forms of religious trappings and dogma). Upon meeting the Sufi fakir, Gulab Das abandoned the use of ash, and adorned fine clothes. In accordance with the Sufi fakir's teachings, Gulab Das spoke out against formal religious rules and ritualistic practices of Hindus and Muslims.

Buleh Shah
A contemporary painting of Bulleh Shah (1680 - 1758), the great Sufi poet and storyteller

During his travels, Gulab Das met a Nirmala named Sant Deva Singh who later taught him the wisdom of the Vedas at Kurukshetra. Parting company with Sant Deva Singh, Gulab Das became a student of the famous Udasi Poet, Baba Hari Das Girdar. After this Gulab Das became itinerant.

In the holy city of Dwarka where Krishan once ruled as King, a wealthy prostitute fell in love with Gulab Das. She decided to travel back to Punjab with him, but died on the way. All the wealth he had acquired through her Gulab Das deposited at Kasoor. As this was the age of the Sikh Kingdoms, many Nirmala Sikhs such as Girdar Singh, Mal Singh, Ashra Singh, Sarbag Singh, etc., moved amongst the various Sikh regiments dispending spiritual knowledge.

Sikh Kingdoms
Painting of a Sikh Sirdar during the age of the Sikh Kingdoms, circa 1814

Seeing their work, Gulab Das adopted the Nirmala dress and also began to move amongst the Sikh regiments and religious gatherings passing on the wisdom he had gained. As he was a 'Khalasi' (a believer in no outward formal religious rules and codes of conduct), he began to compose hymns, prose and verses that reflected this unique philosophy. These works gained him great recognition in certain sections of the Sikh community. Their contributions added to Gulab Das' wealth.

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