Nihang, literally, is an alligator, who is all
supreme in the waters, just as the lion is the supreme king amongst
the fauna of the forest. Nihang, in Sikh terminology, is a synonym for
an Akali, just equivalent to a staunch Sikh. The Nihangs trace their
origin from a son of Guru Gobind Singh whom Guru Gobind Singh robed
with a blue battle-dress with his own hands and a Nihang is, therefore,
invariably in blue clothes.
These Nihangs, and Akalis were identical till
the middle of the 19th century when the Sikh political supremacy was
extinguished in the Punjab and ever since two bands of Nihangs have
continued to exist under license from the Government of the day with
the right to roam about in military formations, in free possession
of their customary steel weapons of the 19th century, including the
right to possess and retain a few old cannons, which are more symbolic
than battle-worthy. These Nihangs have their headquarters at Damdama
Sahib, a holy Sikh shrine in the Bhatinda District of the present
Punjab and they claim that they are keeping themselves alert and ready
for the day when the Khalsa will regain its political power and glory.
During the last 25 years, in a free India an irate bureaucracy have
proceeded to annihilate small bands of Nihangs by mowing them down
with rifle and machine gun, at the slightest pretexts, presumably
to communicate unmistakably to the Sikhs, the omnipotent character
of the new power in a free India.
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