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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Kachoo Katieh

Time of origin: approximately 1879

‘Kachoo’ literally means ‘knife’ and to ‘Katieh’ is ‘to cut’. This was a short lived Sikh sect that existed in the mid to late 1800s.

By 1871, a Nirmala ‘Sant’ (holy man) named Niranjan Singh had become a great Sanskrit Pundit in Kashi. Later, around 1879, he decided to visit the ‘Kumbh’ festival at the Ganges so as to gain benefit of the holy wisdom of ‘Sadhus’ (holy men) there.

Ghats at Kashi (also known as Varanasi), circa early 20th century

Mahant Ganesha Singh states that whilst at the festival, Niranjan Singh fell into the company of a learned Sanatan Hindu Pundit named Bhai Synassi. He daily visited the Pundit at his Ashram and discussed knowledge of the profound - contained in the ancient texts, known to be very hard to master. False rumours began to spread that Niranjan Singh had forsaken his Sikh Nirmala faith and had become a disciple of the Pundit.

As Niranjan Singh’s Nirmala Guru arrived at the Kumbh festival, other Sadhus told him that his disciple had forsaken his Nirmala Sikh faith. When Niranjan Singh came to pay homage to his Guru, his Guru severely (and unjustly) reprimanded and demeaned him in front of all. Feeling hurt, Niranjan Singh turned back from his Guru then returned in anger. In uncontrollable rage, taking a knife, he cut his hair and placed it in front of his Guru and said:

‘Is this all your Sikhi or is there some thing else.’
‘Bharat Mat Darpan’, by Pandit Ganesha Singh Nirmala, 1926, Pa. 99

A Nirmala Sikh in the company of Hindu Sadhus at Varanasi, circa early 20th century

On seeing this, many students who studied under Niranjan Singh, Nirmalas and Udasis gathered behind him in protest. Thus, out of a moment of madness came into being the Sikh sect of ‘Kachoo Katia’. This sect, if it can be called that, was composed of learned Nirmalas and Udasis and lasted till death of Niranjan Singh. Once Niranjan Singh had gone, the sect merged back into the Nirmala and Udhasi orders.

Sriman 108 Pandit Sucha Singh Ji Nirmala
A Nirmala scholar

Kachho Katia did not believe in having any ‘Guru’ - living or otherwise. They believed one may do as one wishes. They believed in individualistic spiritual pursuit. Wearing clean, well kept and beautifully scented saffron colored clothes, they where men of exceptional character, but had become disenchanted with the holy orders of their time.

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