Namdhari (Sikh sect) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia

Namdhari, also called Kuka ,  an austere sect within Sikhism, a religion of India. The Namdhari movement was founded by Balak Singh (1797–1862), who did not believe in any religious ritual other than the repetition of God’s name (or nam, for which reason members of the sect are called Namdharis). His successor, Ram Singh (1816–   ), introduced the sect’s distinctive style of wearing the turban (bound straight across the forehead rather than at an angle), of dressing only in clothing made from white handwoven cloth, and of frenzied chanting of hymns culminating in shrieks (kuks; hence the name Kuka). Under Ram Singh’s leadership, the Namdharis sought a resurgence of Sikh rule in the Punjab. In January 1872, British police apprehended and executed by cannon about 65 Namdharis. Ram Singh was exiled to Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myan.).

Namdharis stress their identity as members of the Khalsa (the order of initiated Sikhs) but differ from the mainstream Sikh community in their equal regard for the Adi Granth (“First Volume”), the sacred scripture of Sikhism, and the Dasam Granth (“Tenth Book”), a work compiled by the followers of the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh. They are also distinguished by their belief that the lineage of the living Gurus continued after Gobind Singh. The Namdharis maintain their own gurdwaras (houses of worship) and practice strict vegetarianism. They do not marry outside the sect, and they use fire in their marriage rituals.



Ancient Sikh Sounds

Namdhari Sikhs believe the only way to reach God is to sing in Raag, the mode of Classical Indian Music.

The Harmonium is a keyboard instrument with 42 black and white keys, but not used in the Namdhari tradition.
Music plays a fundamental part in Sikh worship. Singing shabads (holy songs) and reading from the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib is the most popular form of prayer. Prayers that are often accompanied by devotees playing the harmonium and the tabla.

For Namdhari Sikhs though, the instruments they play and the style they sing in is very particular. They place a firm emphasis on rare instruments dating back to the 16th century, the time of Guru Nanak, the first revered Sikh Guru. He continued the Vedic tradition of writing the holy scriptures in Raag, the scale or mode of Classical Indian music. 

East Londoners, Charanjeev, Gurbaksh and Uday are three young British Sikhs who've learnt to play these unique instruments. For them it's the only way to pray. Gurbaksh says it's a mystical experience. Gurbaksh Matharu:

Ramaa speaking to Gurbaksh

Ramaa speaking to Gurbaksh on Tarshenai

"(I'm transported) as soon as we hit the notes on the instrument... I feel I get such positive vibrations from the music."

What does it mean to be Namdhari?

Namdhari Sikhs are a relatively small but distinct community in the UK. Wearing white turbans, they too follow the teachings of the ten Sikh Gurus. But unlike the larger Sikh sect, they believe the Guru lineage continued after the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.

The current Namdhari Guru is Sat Guru Jagjit Singh, who lives in Panjab, India. 

Classical Indian Instruments





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