Doctrines Nirmala teachings incorporated Sikh teachings and doctrines within a largely Hindu/Vedantic framework. Like the Udasis (see entry) they were celibates, and did not believe in holding private funds. The Nirmalas, with the Udasis, form part of the Sanatan Sikh world-view and share many of its beliefs; along with belief in yogic/meditative and scriptural recitation and study, they reflected, in addition to the Adi Granth, on the Vedas, Shastras, Puranas and Epic literature. It is not surprising therefore that their Sanatan position does pitch them against the Tat Khalsa on certain beliefs. (See entries of Sanatan and Tat Khalsa Singh Sabhas).

History Nirmalas (spotless, pure ones) by tradition are believed to have been sent by Guru Gobind Singh to Banaras to learn Sanskrit and basic Hindu religious philosophy. However this is highly improbable since there is scarcely any mention of them in the Sikh literature before the 19th century. However, as wandering ascetic preachers, they promulgated Sikh teachings in and beyond the Panjab. They were thus the first itinerant movement to teach the ideas of the Gurus. The most famous Nirmala was Pandit Tara Singh Narotam (1822-91), who devoted his entire life to the explication of Sikh theology/philosophy. He wrote over ten books and reference materials. The deeply influential Giani Gain Singh (1822-1921) was taught by him. Sant Attar Singh (1867-1927) one of the most influential Sikh Sants (saint), also had his formal training at a Nirmala establishment. Today they form a well respected and highly disciplined organisation with many establishments. As a legitimate part of Sikh History they are accepted as a part of the Sikh Panth (but are obviously not Khalsa Singhs), more so than the Udasis.

Symbols They wore saffron robes (symbolising saintliness and renunciation), and all were Keshdharis (bearded).

Adherents The number of establishments expanded rapidly from the late 18th century to the mid 19th century. In the 1891 census 2,828 Hindus and 1,952 Sikhs returned themselves as 'Nirmalas'.(Census of India, 1891, Vol.XX, The Punjab and its Feudatories, by E.D. Maclagan, Part II and III, Calcutta, 1892, pp.826-9 and pp.572-3.) However, there are no official, contemporary numbers, (see also the note at the end of the Explanatory Introduction).

Main Centre
 The Nirmalas have been particularly focused in the Malwa region in the 19th century. This was due to state patronage of the Sikh Rulers of Patiala, Jind and Nabha. However their principle centre, other than Patiala, is at Hardwar, though they do have sizeable centres at Amritsar, Prayag, Ujjain, Triambak and Kurukshetra.