Sanatan Singh Sabha

Doctrines This entry should be read in parallel with the Tat Khalsa entry. This is because each Singh Sabha represents a different world-view. A brief description is given here of each. The Sanatan world-view is basically oral, personal, popular, diverse, reliant on past traditions and ahistorical in nature. The Tat Khalsa world-view is textual, impersonal, elite, homogenous, historical, progressive and modern in nature. In the former there is an acceptance of the Indian tradition and its value over Western tradition and colonialism. In the latter there is a conflation and interaction between Western colonialism and Indian inherited traditions. The basic belief of Sanatan Sikhism is inclusively, i.e., religious diversity is natural and Sikhism can be composed of a variety of different forms and practices, since boundaries are inherently fluid. The point of contention (with Tat Khalsa Sikhism) is that these practices are often inseparable from the practices evident in the Hindu and Muslim traditions. Another point of departure is when Sanatan Sikhs see Sikhism as an offshoot of Hinduism. This is offensive and misguided in the Tat Khalsa's point of view. Thus Sanatan doctrines are deeply embedded in the Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas, Puranas, Shastras, popular poetic epics, myths and legends, aswell as in the practices of idol worship, worship of tombs, temples and other sacred sites. There are also some Sufi, yogic and ascetic practices too. A key point of contention is the Hindu doctrine of the avataras (divine incarnations) where God is believed to incarnate in different forms at times when righteousness is about to be overcome by the forces of darkness.
Sanatan Sikhs would include the Udasis and Nirmalas and believe that the Amritdhari, Keshdhari and Sahajdhari are all Sikhs. Sanatan Sikhs also hold the Adi Granth and the Dasam Granth in equal esteem.

History The first Singh Sabha was founded at Amritsar in 1873. It was essentially conservative and Sanatan ('eternal', almost synonymous with Hinduism). It arose because of a perceived dissolution of the Sikh faith, i.e., Sikhs were believed to be falling into the folds of Hindu thought and practice. This was exacerbated and compounded by the conversions of some Sikhs to Christianity - due to the expansion of English-speaking education and Christian missionary camps in the 1880s. This caused a public uproar. The Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all interpreted these colonial times as a threat to their traditions and started reformist movements. The Sikhs thus inaugurated the Singh Sabha to recover a distinctive Sikhism. With the advent of the print media the task of discovering, defining (and to some extent creating) real Sikhism was worked out in print, journals and tracts, religious assemblies, preaching and public discussion. This movement rapidly expanded and Sabhas were being formed all over the Panjab. However the main other Singh Sabha was founded in Lahore, and was more progressive and radical, and which eventually formed the essential traits of the Tat Khalsa orthodoxy. The Sanatan Sikhs (Udasis, Nirmalas and the Namdharis) were for the first time challenged and eventually marginalised.
Bhai Mani Singh (1673-1738) was a devout follower of Guru Gobind Singh who is traditionally thought to have wrote down the Adi Granth as Gobind Singh dictated it to him. He also believed to have collected Guru Gobind's work to form the Dasam Granth. The Dasam Granth has been understood as reflecting the Sanatan Sikh's world-view and the Adi Granth the Tat Khalsa's since the Dasam Granth contains many of the Hindu myths and goddesses, and incarnations of Siva, Vishnu and the Goddess.
It is important to note that after the advent of the Tat Khalsa orthodoxy Sahajdhari Sikhs, Nanak-panthis and Sanatan Sikhs were equated, such that their non-Khalsa qualities were highlighted.

Symbols None in particular but see Udasis, Nirmalas and Namdhari entries.

Adherents No official numbers, their identity confusing many census organisers. (See note at the end of the Explanatory Introduction).

Main Centre
 None in particular but see Udasis, Nirmalas and Namdhari entries.