By Swami Harshananda
The Udāṣīs are an ascetic sect of the Sikhs founded by Śrīcand, the elder son of Guru Nānak. The word udāsī is derived from the Sanskrit word udāsin, which means one who is indifferent towards the comforts and attachments of the world. Śrīcand was a devoted Sikh and a saintly person. His object in establishing the order of the Udāsīs was to propagate the mission of his father. Though he was not anointed as the next Guru by his father, he kept an amicable relationship with all the Gurus.
Lineage of Bābā Gurudittā
Bābā Gurudittā, the eldest son of Guru Hargobind, was sent by the Guru to assist and to succeed Śrīcand. Bābā Gurudittā appointed four head-preachers:
- Goind or Gonda
- Bālu Husnā
They were given his own dress which became the peculiar Udāṣī uniform and also the dhuni from Śrīcand’s dhuni. These four established four new seats of the Udāsī sect. The Udāṣīs proved to be zealous preachers of Sikhism and carried its message to all the corners of the country and beyond. They revered and recited the bāṇī of the Gurus, but retained their separate identity. They took control of the Sikh places of worship and protected them when needed.
Working of Udāsīs
- The Udāsīs recruit their followers from all the castes and professions.
- In their monasteries, the Guru Granthasāhib is recited.
- They do not subscribe to the Sikh rites and use the bell, conch and gong in religious services.
- They wear white or ochre or red clothes.
- There is also one group that goes naked.
- Having matted hair and smearing the body with ashes are also common.
- They have built buṅgas around the Harmandir complex in Amritsar.
- These are also prominent centers of learning, Ayurveda is one of the important subjects taught.
The most important centers of this sect in North India are:
- The Brahm Butā Akhāḍā and Saṅgalānvālā Akhāḍā at Amritsar
- Nirañjaniyā Akhāḍā at Patiala both in Punjab
- Pañcaitī Akhāḍā at Hardwar in Uttar Pradesh
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore