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Sikh Reform Movements


The Nirankari movement was started by Baba Dyal (1783-1855). He was contemporary of Ranjit Singh.

A man of humble origin, he preached against the rites and rituals that were creeping into Sikhism. He saw that Sikhism was being assimilated into Hinduism. His main target was the worship of images against which he preached vigorously. He re-emphasized the Sikh belief in Nirankar, the Formless One. From this, the movement originating from his message came to be known as the Nirankari movement.


Like the Nirankari, this second reform movement known as the Namdhari, or Kuka, movement also had its origin in the north-west corner of the Sikh kingdom, away from the places of royal pomp and grandeur.

It harked back to a way of life more in keeping with the spiritual tradition of the community. Its principal object was to spread the true spirit of Sikhism shorn of tawdry customs and mannerism, which had been growing on it since the beginning of Sikh monarchy.

In the midst of national pride born of military glory and political power, this movement extolled the religious obligation for a pious and simple living. They were called “Kukas” because of their peculiar style to recite the Gurbani (Sayings of the Gurus). This style was in a high pitched voice, called Kook in punjabi, and thus Namdhari Khalsa’s were named Kukas.

Singh Sabha Movement

The Singh Sabha had a deep impact. It influenced the entire Sikh Community and reoriented its outlook and spirit.

The reason behind the success of the Singh sabha was the motivation to search for Sikh identity and Self-assertion that we are not just another sect of Hinduism. Earlier, Hindu philosophers had declared Sikhs as “another sect of Hinduism”. Singh Sabha recognized this and started their campaign of awakenings for rural Khalsa, which was under the direct threat of Christian Missionaries, Muslim Maulalivis and Arya Samajis. Everything that was against the Gurus’ teaching was rejected. Rites and customs considered consistent with Sikh doctrine and tradition were established.

Akali Movement

The Akali Movement also known as Gurdwara Reform Movement came into full swing from the early 1920’s. Its aim was to bring reform in the working and management of Sikh Gurdwaras.

The Akali Movement was created to free the Sikhs historic Gurdwaras from Mahants who were supported by the British rule.

Eventually the Gurdwara Reform Act was passed in July 1925 which placed all Gurdwaras in Punjab under Panthic control. This control was to be exercised through elected Panthic bodies viz, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandak Committee and local Gurdwara Committees.

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