The literal translation of 'Nirmala'
is 'the pure one without blemish'. Nirmalas are an old order of
Sikh intellectuals. Their origins lie with the
five Sikhs, Ganda Singh, Karm Singh,
Sena Singh, Vir Singh and Ram
Singh whom Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh sent from Paunta
Sahib to Benares to learn Sanskrit in 1688.
The Nirmala Order
A contemporary painting of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh ji given
commands to Ganda Singh,
Karm Singh, Sena Singh, Vir Singh and Ram Singh to visit the holy
city of Benaras and learn Sanskrit
It is said that once Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh
Ji asked his court Pundit Ragunath to teach his Sikhs Sanskrit,
but, the Brahmin refused saying he could not teach the Sikhs Sanskrit.
His reason was that Sanskrit was the sacred Sanatan Hindu language
of the Hindu demigods, and because there were amongst the Sikhs
individuals belonging to low castes, he could not teach them.
This reaction prompted the Guru to send the above-mentioned
Sikhs in guise of Sadhus to Banares. There, they learned all manner
of ancient Indian Sanskrit knowledge. When they came back they founded
the Nirmala order of Sikhs with the blessings of the Guru.
Nirmalas were the masters of Sanskrit and were the
intellectuals and scholars of Sikhism. Akali Nihang Guru Gobind
Singh gave them a duty to educate the illiterate Indian populace
and promote the philosophy of oneness of Nirankar
God and all mankind amongst the Hindu scholars (regardless of caste
Nirmala Harbhajan Hari
A photograph of a great learned man, Harbhajan Hari
who belongs to the Sanatan Sikh Nirmala (intellectual) order
The beauty of the Nirmalas is in fact that they are
not adverse to study any kind of spiritual knowledge. Pooriwala
Sant, a present day Nirmala holy man in Amritsar, commented:
‘Sikh scripture says, “Vedas and Ktebs
[Semitic religious texts Koran, Bible etc.] do not call false.
False is he who does not contemplate them.” Farid
[Sufi Saint] has said just find out from where you can attain
knowledge be it from tombs. If a Buddhist text gives you knowledge
take it, if a Jain gives you knowledge take it, if a Udasi text
gives you knowledge take it, if Nirmalas give you knowledge
take it, if Ramayan gives you knowledge, take it. Well what
else is in their but knowledge? Now if we say it is Hindu mythology.
They [Lord Raam and Ravan] just fought over a woman [as some
Tat Khalsa mentality Sikhs say]. Then that is not Guru’s
thinking for knowledge is knowledge. Take it from wherever you
can. A being should seek to gain virtues. A
being should have wisdom, which he can attain from anywhere.
Religious texts will give an individual great virtues. All
religious texts are worth worshipping of whatever religion they
( Pooriwala Sant. transcript of a recording, 12-02-2001)