Sahajdhari (literally "slow adopter") is a person who has chosen the path of Sikhism, but has not still become an Amritdhari (a baptized Sikh initiated into the Khalsa). A sahajdhari believes in all the tenets of Sikhism and the teachings of the Sikh Gurus, but may or may not adorn the five symbols of the Sikh faith. Sahajdharis are eager to join the military or the police, and have a fond of fighting against oppressive governments, in the same way as Keshdharis do, although Sahajdharis prefer not to, unless if necessary. However, amongst their baptized kin, the Khalsa, they are not called to be real Sikhs, although they consider many Keshdharis and some moderate Sahajdharis to be, even though they, too, are not baptized, like the Sahajdharis.
According to the Indian Government's Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act (1971) and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the word Sahajdhari refers to a person born into a non-Sikh family: a person born in a Sikh family or a baptized Sikh cannot claim to be a Sahajdhari Sikh by giving up the five articles of faith (such as trimming hair).
Sahajdhari Sikhs plan to get baptized sometime in their lives, and usually raise their children as full Sikhs, although many of them choose not to. The tribes that are mainly Sahajdharis include the Aroras ; whereas the Keshdharis mainly belong to the Jat tribes, who formed the majority of the Sikh population. The vast majority of non-Muslim Sindhis are Sahajdhari Sikhs who conversely also believe in tenets of Hinduism. The Sahajdharis are essentially a non-monastic version of a monastic Sikh group called, the Udasis, who are also members of the Arora tribe. Udasis are Sahajdharis who choose their paths to live their lives as monks.
A sahajdhari believes in all the tenets of Sikhism and the teaching of the Sikh Gurus but has not put all of them into practice.
The reasons can be many, including not being disciplined enough to maintain the Khalsa code of conduct or due to personal reasons of them not believing they have enough commitment to become a full Khalsa Sikh. In the Sikh community these reasons are considered valid, as to renege upon them or break the Khalsa code of conduct, once becoming a baptized Sikh Khalsa, is considered one of the greatest sins in Sikhism, so it is better not to commit (by not becoming a baptized Khalsa Sikh) rather than to fall short later. All Sikhs at one point in their lives are Sahajdhari Sikhs, all Khalsa Sikhs were Sahajdhari Sikhs at one point in their lives because no-one is born a baptized Sikh – a Khalsa. They may have aspirations of receiving the rites of Khalsa baptism one day and maintaining the Five Ks, nevertheless, the ultimate ideal which they must realize in their lifetime is to become a baptized Sikh – a Khalsa.
According to the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, the Sahajdharis are ones "who have expressed their desire to adopt Sikhism slowly and gradually, its doctrines, ethics and tenants (sic) with belief in Shri Guru Granth Sahib and the 10 Gurus". SGPC adds that "A Sahajdhari Sikh is a person who performs ceremonies according to the Sikh rites; who does not use tobacco, kutha (halal meat) in any form, who is not a patit and who can recite mulmantra." SGPC also clarifies: "Once a Sahajdhari becomes a Keshdhari Sikh, he, under no circumstances by cutting or trimming hair, beard, eyebrows in any manner, can claim to be a Sahajdhari Sikh.
The Five Ks, or panj kakaar/kakke, are five items of faith that all baptized Sikhs (Khalsa) are required to wear at all times (but does not apply to non-baptized Sikhs), at the command of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh who so ordered at the Baisakhi Amrit Sanskar in 1699. They are:
- Kesh (uncut hair)
- Kanga (wooden comb)
- Kacchera (specially-designed underwear)
- Kara (Iron bracelet)
- Kirpan (strapped sword).
They are for identification and representation of the ideals of Sikhism, such as honesty, equality, fidelity, meditating on God, and never bowing to tyranny.
Sahajdhari Sikhs do not necessarily keep the Five Ks because they have not been baptized – the five Ks only applies to baptized Sikhs. However, if a Sahajdhari wants to keep some or all of the five Ks they can. Indeed, most Sahajdhari keep at least one of the five Ks e.g. kara. Most Sahajdhari Sikhs keep the kara as one of their five Ks. Unlike most Sikhs, Sahajdhari Sikhs usually don`t arm themselves with swords, and prefer to be empty-handed, since that most of them reject the use of violence. They can however use it only if necessary. They also chose not to smoke or drink, although many of them choose to do so.
After Guru Gobind Singh inaugurated the Khalsa in 1699 AD, introducing the Amrit Sanskar (baptism), those who took Amrit Sanskar (baptism) received the title of the "Khalsa", and those who wanted to take baptism and become Khalsa but at a later time came to be known as "Sahajdharis". It was, in the first instance, not possible to have baptism administered all at once by the rites established by Guru Gobind Singh to Sikhs in far-flung sangats. However, Sahajdharis have been part of the larger Sikh body since the time of Guru Gobind Singh. Two of them in his own day Bhai Nand Lal and Bhai Kanhaiya enjoyed great esteem. Bhai Nand Lal, a great Persian scholar and poet, maintained at Anandpur a langar or refectory open to visitors all the twenty-four hours. Bhai Kanhaiya won the Guru's admiration and is remembered in the Sikh tradition to this day for the devotion with which he served the wounded in battle, making no distinction between friend and foe.
In the early part of the eighteenth century when Sikhs suffered fierce persecution and when to be a Keshdhari, that is to bear Kesh or long hair, was to invite sure death, the udasis looked after their places of worship and protected the households and the kith and kin of those driven to seek safety in hill and jungle. Some even defied the persecutors and courted martyrdom as did the teenaged Haqiqat Rai, who was beheaded in public for his refusal to disown his Sikh belief and accept Islam. A leading Sahajdhari Sikh of that time was Kaura Mall, a minister to the Mughal governor of Lahore, Mu'in ul-Mulk (1748–53), who helped the Sikhs in diverse ways in those days of severe trial. He had so endeared himself to them that they called him Mittha (sweet, in Punjabi) Mall instead of Kaura (which, in Punjabi, means "bitter") Mall. Sikh tradition also recalls another Sahajdhari, Des Raj, of this period who was entrusted by the Khalsa with the task of having reconstructed the Harimandar, demolished by the Afghan invader, Ahmad Shah Durrani, in 1762. Dina Nath was Maharaja Ranjit Singh's finance minister. Bhai Vasti Ram, a learned man well versed in Sikh scriptures, enjoyed considerable influence at the court.
Sahajdharis have continued to participate in Sikh life right up to modern times and have associated themselves with Sikh institutions and organizations such as the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Chief Khalsa Diwan, Shiromani Akali Dal, and the All-India Sikh Students Federation. The Singh Sabhas used to have seats on their executive committees reserved for the Sahajdharis. Among their own societies, confined prior to the migrations of 1947, mainly to north-western India, were the Sahajdhari Committee of Multan, Guru Nanak Sahajdhari Diwan of Panja Sahib and Sri Guru Nanak Sahajdhari Jatha of Campbellpore. The Sahajdhari Diwan of Panja Sahib attained the status of their central forum. They as well had their annual conference which met for its first session on 13 April 1929 under the chairmanship of Sir Jogendra Singh who passed on the office to the famous Sikh scholar and savant, Bhai Kahn Singh. A Sahajdharis' conference formed part of the annual proceedings of the Sikh Educational Conference.
The Sahajdharis share with the main body of the Sikhs all of their religious and social customs and ceremonies and join their congregations in the gurdwaras. The population in the Punjab of Sahajdhari Sikhs (another name used is Sikh Nanakpanthis) according to 1891 Census was 397,000 (20% of the total Sikh population); according to 1901 Census, 297,000 (13% of the total Sikhs); according to 1911 Census, 451,000 (14.9% of the total Sikhs); according to 1921 Census, 229,000 (7% of the total Sikhs); according to 1931 Census, 282,000 (6.5% of the total Sikhs). Outside of the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province and Sindh had considerable Sahajdhari populations. Consequent upon the partition of India in 1947, Sahajdharis became widely dispersed in the country. Their India-wide forum was the Sarab Hind (All-India) Sahajdharis Conference which rotated from town to town for its annual sessions. Three of its presidents: Mahant Karam Chand, Bhai Sant Ram and Bhai Ram Lal Rahi eventually took the vows of Khalsa baptism, receiving respectively the names Gur Darshan Singh, Sant Ram Singh and Ram Lal Singh Rahi. Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal,the founding Executive Vice President, of Sarab Hind (All-India) Sahajdharis Conference was recognized with "Nishan-e-Khalsa" award by Anadpur Foundatioon at the Tercentennial Celebration of Khalsa in 1999.
Notable Sahajdharis of today
- Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal- The founding Executive Vice President, of Sarab Hind (All-India) Sahajdharis Conference was recognized with "Nishan-e-Khalsa" award by Anadpur Foundation at the Tercentennial Celebration of Khalsa in 1999.
- Jinder Mahal- Indian Canadian pro-wrestler currently being employed by the WWE
- SGPC: Sahajdhari is one who gradually adopts doctrines of Sikhism
- Understanding Sikhism (The Gospel of the Gurus) - Who is a Sikh?
- Diane P. Mines; Sarah Lamb (2002). Everyday Life in South Asia. Indiana University Press. pp. 424–. ISBN 978-0-253-21521-5. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
- Opinderjit Kaur Takhar (2005). Sikh Identity: An Exploration Of Groups Among Sikhs. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 28–. ISBN 978-0-7546-5202-1. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
- Pashaura Singh and N. Gerald Barrier
- Sikh Review
- Understanding Sikhism (The Gospel of the Gurus) – Who is a Sikh?
- Eleanor Nesbitt, "Sikhism: a very short introduction", ISBN 0-19-280601-7, Oxford University Press, pp. 40–43
- Singh, Baldev. "A Critical Appraisal of Bhai Harbans Lal’s Writings on Sikhism".
- Kirpal Singh and Harbans Lal of Global Sikh Studies
- Concepts In Sikhism, Edited by Dr. Surinder Singh Sodhi
- SIKH IDENTITY: Continuity and Change, Eds. Pashaura Singh and N. Gerald Barrier, Manohar Publications, New Delhi