Shiromani Panth Akali Budha Dal, Panjva Takht
The lineage of the Budha Dal traces back to the creation of the Akal Sena at the time of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. Baba Budha Ji is considered one of the foremost Sikhs within the tradition, they were one of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s closest disciples and served the first six Sikh Guru’s. When Baba Budha Ji arrived at Gwallior fort, accompanied by Sikh warriors perched on horseback to greet the Sixth Guru, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib was greatly pleased and granted the following boon;
"Baba Budha Ji you have performed a great service in the Guru’s house. You shall forever be remembered in the world, in your name will run the supreme Khalsa army." (Nihang Baba Jarnail Singh Akali, Audio Recording July 2006)
When Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji sent the Khalsa Panth with Baba Banda Singh Bahadur to Punjab form Nander, Baba Binod Singh was elected as the Jathedar of the Dal Khalsa, Khalsa army. Baba Binod Singh was of the seventh generation of Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji’s family (second Sikh Guru), and had actively served Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. When differences arose between the Nihang Singhs loyal to Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji and those Sikhs loyal to Baba Banda Bahadur, the Nihang Singhs lead by Baba Binod Singh departed company with the others in order to keep alive the true traditions of the Khalsa. They became known as the Tat (true) Khalsa whereas the group loyal to Baba Banda Bahadur were known as the Bandai Khalsa. With the martyrdom of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, the Khalsa was soon united again. After Baba Binod Singh, the humble and wise Baba Darbara Singh lead the Khalsa Panth. It was when Nawab Kapoor Singh assumed leadership of the Khalsa that the lineage of the Sikhs who actively served the Guru’s were formally institutionalised as Budha Dal. Giani Slukhan Singh comments on this process which took place in 1773;
“The senior Singhs such as Baba Kapoor Singh, Baba Deep Singh and Baba Kahan Singh held a gurmatta (meeting) in which they decided that the Khalsa be split up into separate battalions. They considered the boon given by Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib and therefore decided naming the supreme body of the Khalsa Panth as Budha Dal, in name of Baba Budha Ji to be auspicious.” (Nihang Giani Slukhan Singh, Oral interview May 2008)
It is noteworthy that the Budha Dal still retains the original Nishan Sahib (battle standards) from some of these key historical events as a sign of their continuous Guru ordained lineage. These include a Nishan Sahib from Baba Budha Ji’s trip to Gwallior and the Budha Dal Nishan sahib from the period of Navab Kapur Singh.
Baba Prem Singh Hoti highlights the historic functions of the Budha Dal;
‘Budha Dal’s responsibilities were to look after and preserve all Gurdwara Sahibs, to spread the preaching of the Khalsa Dharam, to emphasise the importance of receiving the nectar of the sword (amrit) and to preserve the purity of the true traditions of the Guru, protecting them from perversion in maintaining their original form. When nead be they were to fight alongside the Tarna Dal’s and wave their swords in their swords in battle.’ (Navab Kapoor Singh, page 46)
The Budha Dal served as the fifth mobile throne (Panjvah Takht) of the Sikhs. Akaal Takht, Patna Sahib, Kesgarh Sahib and Hazoor Sahib are the four stationary Takht Sahibs. For their maintenance was the Chalda Vaheer – moving encampment who would spend all their time moving from one historical shrine to another ensuring that those appointed to do so were properly performing duties at their entrusted Gurdwara Sahibs. Even today Budha Dal consists of a stationary unit and a Chalda Vaheer who roam around India spreading the message of the Sikh faith and visiting the historic shrines of the Guru, many of which still remain under the supervision of the Budha Dal.
The supreme leadership of the Budha Dal was greater evident at the time of Akali Phula Singh who, even during the reign of Maharaj Runjeet Singh of the Sikh Kingdom, exercised complete authority in matters concerning the Sikh religion. His order to have the king of the land, the great Maharaja Runjeet Singh, whipped for his violation of Sikh tenants is a firm confirmation of this fact. Many European observers also commented on the supreme authority of the Nihang Singhs;
‘Their (the Sikhs) government is, in theory, a Theocracy. The General Council, which meets on public emergencies, is thought to be actuated by the immediate inspiration of the Deity. A class of devotees, called Acali, who are the priests of the nation, have, by their boldness and union, aided by the superstition of the people, acquired a great ascendancy in the government. These men summon the General Council.’ ( The Missionary Register for the year 1814, vol. 2, page 115)
It is because of its position of authority the term Shiromani (highest of all) is applied to the Budha Dal. In recent times this term has been widely associated with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandak Commmitte (SGPC) who were entrusted during the 1920s, during British rule in Punjab, to manage the responsibilities of various Gurdware. In their comparatively short history they have taken many efforts to remove the influence of Budha Dal and its historical legacy from the mainstream of Sikh religion. For decades they have been enlisting the help of courts to try and secure land, property and religious . Since their creation they have sought to bring Budha Dal under its wing by attempting to set up a parallel Budha Dal.
‘At the time Jathedar Baba Sahib Singh was appointed the eleventh Jatehdar of the Budha Dal by the Panth, SGPC was just a newly formed organisation. They proclaimed Baba Ram Singh to be Jathedar of Budha Dal and they set up their own new organisation. But how can anyone challenge Budha Dal? They failed because this is the Guru’s panth. During Baba Chet Singhs reign and while Baba Santa Singh was Jathedar they made several attempts appoint fake Jathedars of Budha Dal. During Baba Santa Singhs time the tried to set up man parallel Budha Dal’s such as that of Amrik Singh. Again, they have played this trick by claiming to appoint Balbir Singh as Jathedar and are trying to hijack Budha Dal. They are our children, they have no say in who our leader is. The Panth stands behind Baba Joginder Singh and Baba Surjeet Singh. Like every other attempt the SGPC has made, this deception of theirs won’t last long.’ (Baba Ranja Singh, Audio recording, August 2007)
Giani Kirpal Singh, an ex SGPC elected Jathedar of the Akaal Takht notes the historical position of the Nihangs with regards to the Takht Sahibs;
‘After the martyrdom of Baba Akali Phula Singh, Baba Hanuman Singh was sworn in Budha Dals next jathedar. After them, Baba Prehlada Singh, Baba Giana Singh served the position of Jathedar of Budha Dal. However, there is a shortage of historical information from their time period. The head priests at Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, Sri Kesgarh Sahib and at Takht Sri Damdama Sahib dressed in the Nihang manner. We are able to tel that the management and control of the Takhts was in the hands of the Jathedar of Budha Dal.Budha Dal looked after all the historic Gurdware in Punjab and paid attention to the preservation of religious traditions and customs. They were also responsible for performing initiation ceremonies and spreading the Sikh Dharam. As the remained always on the move, the general running of the Sikh Takht Sahibs and ensuring that Sikh teachings were properly followed was the responsible of the head priest there. (Sri Akaal Takht Sahib Ate Jathedar Sahiban, page 57)
There is also well decomented service that the senior priests at Takht Sri Hazoor Sahib and Takht Sri Patna Sahib were Nihang Singhs. The Sampradai, traditional orders in the Sikh faith whose instutitutions existed at the time of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, still recognise the superiority of the Budha Dal. Sant Nahar Singh Nirmala, a leading member of the Nirmal Samprada states;
‘Budha Dal is the original Khalsa. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji made Baba Binod Singh Ji the head of the Khalsa Panth, after him was Baba Darbara Singh and then Navab Kapoor Singh who named them Budha Dal. They are the Guru Khalsa Panth as ordained by the tenth Guru. Budha Dal is the Shiromani Panth, whenever any head of a Jatha (group) or sampradava was to be selected, it was onlyBudha Dal who had the power of appointment.’ (Audio Recording, May 2008)
Although only formally known as Budha Dal since the 1730s, the lineage of Jathedars began ad Baba Binod Singh Ji. Notably Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji had an instrumental role in the formation of Budha Dal and Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji themselves served as commander of the Khalsa armies. Baba Binod Singh is held as the first Jathedar of Budha Dal as it was he whom Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji had given the command of the Khalsa Panth to, making him head of the Guru Khalsa Panth. Known as Dal Khalsa to Tat Khalsa and then to Budha Dal in the 1730s, this movement with its unbroken lineage from the Sikh Gurus has been lead by many some of the most famous warrior saints to serve the Khalsa Panth. Baba Budha Ji is seen as the overarching list of. The Jathedars are known as 96Krori, meaning in charge 960 million Khalsa army which is believed will exist at the time of Khalsa Raj. The term 96 Krori in the Sikh faith is reserved exclusively for the Jathedars Budha Dal who in order have been;
Jathedar Baba Binod Singh Ji
Jathedar Baba Darbara Singh Ji
Jathedar Baba Navab Kapoor Singh Ji
Jathedar Baba Jussa Singh Ji Ahulwala (Sultan Ul Quam)
Jathedar Akali Baba Naina Singh Ji
Jathedar Akali Baba Phula Singh Ji
Jathedar Akali Baba Hanuman Singh Ji
Jathedar Baba Prehlada Singh Ji
Jathedar Baba Giana Singh Ji
Jathedar Baba Teja Singh Ji
Jathedar Baba Sahib Singh Ji Kaladhari
Jathedar Baba Chet Singh Ji
Jathedar Baba Santa Singh Ji
Jathedar Baba Surjeet Singh Ji / Jathedar Baba Joginder Singh Ji
Budha Dal continues today to preach the message of the Guru’s and instil martial spirit within the Sikh populace. Its members perform regular religious sermons across India and it is now an established international organisation. In 2008 Jathedar Baba Joginder Singh 96 Krori officially sent Budha Dal battle standards and battle drum to the UK and in recent years there have been several events organised by Buddha Dal in the UK. This has solidified the growth of the Nihang Singhs in the UK and has provided a collective insignia for those thriving to preserve the traditions and teachings of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj.