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Bairagi (बैरागी) Vairagi (वैरागी) is a Gotra of Jats found in Punjab.


  • The descendants of Jats who themselves became Sadhus came to be known as Bairagi, meaning those who have renounced worldly affairs. [1]


Ram Sarup Joon[2] writes that Most of the Bairagis also have Jat gotras. There are several villages in which Jats and Bairagis are of the same gotra and possess landed property at par with each other. After the downfall of Buddhism and rise of Puranic Mat, a large number of Jats became followers of Sadhus. The descendants of Jats who themselves became Sadhus came to be known as Bairagi, meaning those who have renounced worldly affairs.

Ram Sarup Joon[3] writes that Aurangzeb died on 3 Mar 1707 and his three sons indulged in a war of succession. In Nov 1708, Guru Gobind Singh followed Bahadur Shah's forces marching towards Deccan. He met Banda Bairagi Madhodas at Nander. He found the Banda Bairagi capable of leading the Panth, and persuaded him to come to Punjab. While on his way to Punjab, Banda Bairagi broke his journey at Sehri - Khandaa a Jat village of Dahiya Gotra, 20 miles west of Delhi. From there he dispatched letters to all the Jathedars of the Panth to concentrate forthwith. He planned to attack and loot the Royal treasury by and by the Sikhs started arriving and the strength of the force rose to 14000. He attached Samana, overran Sadhora, Kunjpura etc and finally overpowered and killed the Ruler of Sirhind named Wazirkhan. The people who had taken active part in the conspiracy against Guru Govind Singh and his sons were searched for and sentenced one by one. By 1713, he succeeded in subjugating the whole of Punjab, North of Lahore. The internecine war for succession to the throne of Delhi proved a blessing for Banda Bairagi. By 1713, four successively ascended the throne in four years Farrukh Siyyar, and on ascending the throne pledged to suppress the Sikh revolt.

Baba Banda Bairagi had also by now transgressed his path Being a 'Sanyasi', indulged in plural marriage one in 1712 and the second in 1714. As a result of these marriages, he became engrossed in worldly affairs. Rather to wage guerrilla warfare. He constructed a fort at Garhi Nangla near Gurdaspur and assembled his force in it. The royal force besieged Garhi and cut off all communication and supplies. The occupants of the Garhi were reduced to skeletons due to lack of food. The royal forces entered the fort without resistance. Banda Bairagi was captured with his wife, 3 years old son Kanwar Ajit Singh and 700 other followers and all of them were chained and brought to Delhi, where they were mercilessly butchered in 1716. After that a royal firman was issued according to which any body wearing a beard would be killed without reasons. The Sikhs were scattered and their actions

History of the Jats, End of Page-181

were limited to defending themselves by 'Jatha' Bandit for 40 years. In the meantime the Mogul Government was confronting unfavorable developments.

Bairagi sect by H.A. Rose

H.A. Rose[4] has described Bairagi sect as under:

Bairagi (बैरागी). — The Bairagi (Vairagi, more correctly, from Sanskrit vairagya, 'devoid of passion,') is a devotee of Vishnu. The Bairgis probably represent a very old element in Indian religion, for those of the sect who wear a leopard-skin doubtless do so as personating Nar Singh, the leopard incarnation of Vishnu, just as the Bhagauti faqir imitates the dress,†† dance, etc., of Krishna. The priest who personates the god whom he worships is found in 'almost every rude religion : while in later cults the old rite survives at least in the religious use of animal masks,'§ a practice still to be found in Tibet. There is, moreover, an undoubted pun on the word bhrag, 'leopard ', and Bairagi, and this possibly acfounts for the wearing of the leopard skin. The feminine form of Bairagi, bairagan, is the term applied to the tau-shaped crutch on which a devotee leans either sitting or standing, to the small emblematic crutch about a foot long, and to the crutch hilt of a sword or dagger. In Jind the Bairagi is said to be also called Shami.

The orders devoted to the cults of Ram and Krishn are known generically as Bairagis, and their history commences with Ramanuja, who taught in Southern India in the ll-12th centuries, and from his name the designation Ramamuji may be derived. But it is not until the time of Ramanand, i.e., until the end of the 14th century, that the sect rose to power or importance in Northern India.

The Bairagis are divided into four main orders (sampardas , viz., Ramdnandi, Vishnuswami, Nimanandi and Madhavachari.

* -Fancifully derived from baid, a pbysician — who rescued a bride of the clan from robbers and was rewarded by their adopting his name.
† The Bains hold a barah or group of 12 (actuaily 15 or 16) villages near Mahilpur in this District.
†† - Trumpp's Adi-Granth. p. 98.
§ Robertson Smith : Religion of the Semites, p. 437.
‖ -See Ibbetson, § 521 : where the Ramanujis are said to worship Mahadeo and thus appear to be Shaivas. Further the Bairagis are there said to have been founded by SriAnand, the 12th disciple of Ramanand. The termination nandi appears to be connected with his name. It is only to the followers of Ramanand or his contemporaries that the term Bairagis properly applied.

The Bairagi caste

[Page-36]:Of these the first-named contains six of the 52 dwaras* (schools) of these Bairagi orders, viz., the Anbhimandi, Dundaram, Agarji, Telaji, Kubhaji, and Ramsaluji.

In the Punjab only two of the four sampardas are usually found. These are (i) the Ramanandis, who like the Vishnuswamis are devotees of Ramchandr, and accordingly celebrate his birthday, the Ramnaumi, study the Ramayana and make pilgrimages to Ajudhia : their insignia being the tar pundri or trident, marked on the forehead in white, with the central prong in red or white.

The only other group found in the Punjab is (ii) the Nimanandi, who, like the Madhavacharis, are devotees of Krishna. They too celebrate the 8th of Bhadon as the date of Krishna's incarnation, but they study the Sri Madh Bhagwat and the Gita, and regard Bindraban, Mathra and Dwarkanath as sacred places. On their foreheads they wear a two-pronged fork,††all in white.

In the Punjab proper, however, even the distinction between Rama and Nima-nandi is of no importance, and probably hardly known. In parts of the country the Bairagis form a veritable caste being allowed to marry, and [e.g.] in Sirsa they are hardly to be distinguished from ordinary peasants, while in Karnal many (excluding the sadhus or monks of the monasteries, asthal, whose property descends to their spiritual children§) marry and their hindu or natural children succeed them. This latter class is mainly recruited from the Jats, but the caste is also recruited from the three twice-born castes, the disciple being received into his guru's samparda and dwara. In some tracts, e.g. , in Jind, the Bairagis are mostly secular. They avoid in marriage their own samparda and their mother's dwara. In theory any Bairagi may take food from any other Bairagi, but in practice a Brahman Bairdgi will only eat from the hands of another Brahman, and it is only at the ghosti or place of religious assembly that recruits of all castes can eat together. The restrictions regarding food and drink are however lax throughout the order. Though the Bairagis, as a rule, abstain from flesh and spirits, the secular members of the caste certainly do not. In the southern Punjab the Bairagi is often addicted to bhang.

To return to the Bairagis as an order, it would appear that as a body they keep the jata or long hair, wear coarse loin-cloths and usually affect the suffix Das. As opposed to the Saniasis, or Lal-padris, they style themselves Sita-padris, as worshippers of Sita Ram.

*It may be conjectured that the Valabhacharis, Biganandis, and Nimi-Kharak-swamis are three of these dwaras : or the latter term may be equivalent to Nimanandi. Possibly the Sita-padris are really a modern dwara. The Radha-balabhi, who affect Krishna's wife Radha, can hardly be anything but a dwara.
The 9th of Bhadon.
†† Its shape is siid to be derived from the figure of the Nar Singh (man-lion) incarnation which tore Pralad to pieces.
§ Called nadi, is contradistinction to hindu children. Celibate Bairagis are called Nagas, the secular ghar-basi or ahirishi, i.e. , householders.
It is not clear how property descends, e.g. it is said that if a guru marry his property descends on his death to his disciples, in Jind (just as it, does in Karnal. But apparently property inherited from the natural family devolves on the natural children, while that inherited from the quru descends to the chela. In the Kaithal tahsil of Karnal the agricultural Bairaigis who own the village of Dig are purely secular.
But men of any caste may become Bairagis and the order appears, as a rule, to be recruited from the lower castes.

[Page-37]: As regards his tenets a Bairagi is sometimes said to be subject to five rules : —

  • (i) he must journey to Dwarka and there be branded with iron on the right arm :*
  • (ii) he must mark his forehead, as already described, with the gopi chandan clay :
  • (iii) he must invoke one of the incarnations of Krishna:
  • (iv) he must wear a rosary of tulsi : and
  • (v) he should know and repeat some mantra relating to one of Vishnu's incarnations.

Probably these tenets vary in details, though not in principle, for each samparda, and possibly for each dwara also.

The monastic communities of the Bairagis are powerful and exceedingly well conducted, often very wealthy, and exercise much hospitality. They are numerous in Hoshiarpur. Some of their mahants are well educated and even learned men, and a few possess a knowledge of Sanskrit.

Bairagi developments.

The intense vitality of the Bairagi teachings maybe gauged from the number of sub-sects tn which they have given birth. Among these may be noted the Hari-Dasis (in Rohtak), the Kesho-panthist (in Multan) the Tulsi-Dasis, Gujranwala, the Murar-panthis††, the Baba-Lalis.

The connection of the earliest form of Sikhism with the Bairagi doctrines is obscure, but it is clear that it was a close one. Kalladhari the ancestor of the Bedi family of Una, was also the predecessor of the Brahman Kalladhari mahants of Dharmsal in the Una tahsil, who are Bairagis, as well as followers of Nanak, whence they are called Vaishav-Nanak-panthi. This community was founded by one Nakodar Das who in his youth was absorbed in the deity while lying in the shade of a banyan tree instead of tending his cattle, and at last after a prolonged period of adoration, disappeared into the unknown. Another Bairagi, Ram Thamman, was a cousin of Nanak and is sometimes claimed as his follower. His tank near Lahore is the scene of a fair, held at the Baisakhi, and formerly notorious for disturbances and, it is said, immoralities. It is still a great meeting point for Bairagi ascetics. Further it will not be forgotten that Banda, the successor of the Sikh gurus, was, originally, a Bairagi, while two Bairagi sub-sects (the Sarndasi and Simrandasi§) arc sometimes classed as Udasis.

A modern offshoot of the Bairagis are the Charandasis, founded by one Charan Das who was born at Dehra in Alwar State in 1703. His father was a Dhusar who died when his so-j, then named Ranjit Singh, was only 5. Brought up by relations at Delhi the boy became a

* These brands include the conch shell (shankh) ,discus or Chakkar, club or gada, and lotus. Besides the iron brands (tapt mudara, lit. fire-marks) watermarks (sital mudra, lit. cold-marks) are also used. Further the initiatory rite, though often performed at Dwarka, may be performed anywhere especially in the guru's house. Some Bairagis even brand their women's arms before they will eat or drink anything touched by them.
probably worshippers of a local saint or of Krishna himself.
†† Possibly followers of a Baba Murar whose shrine is in Lahore District, or worshippers of Krishn Murari, i.e., the enemy of Mura demon.
§ Sometimes said to be one and the same. Simran Das was a Brahman, who lived two centuries ago, and his followers are Gosains who wear the tulsi necklace and worship their gurus bed.
Another account says he became Sukhdeo's disciple at the age of 10 in Sbt. 1708, 1651 A. D. For a full account of the sect see Wilson's quoted in Maclagan's, Punjab Census Report, 1891, p. 121.

[Page-38]: disciple of Sukhdeo Das, himself a spiritual descendant of Biasji, in Muzaffarnagar, and assumed the name of Charan Das. He taught the unity of God, preached abolition of caste and inculcated purity of life. His three principal disciples, Swami Ram-rup, Jagtan Gosain and a woman named Shahgoleai ench founded a monastery in Delhi, in which city there is also a temple dedicated to Charan Das where the impression of his foot (charan) is worshipped.* His initiates are celibate and worship Krishna and his favourite queen Radha above all gods and goddesses. They wear on the forehead the joti sarup or "body of flame," which consists of a single perpendicular line of white; and dress in saffron clothes with a tulsi necklace. The chief scripture of the sect is the Bhagat-sāgar, and the 11th day of each fortnight is kept as a fast. Charan Das is believed to have displayed miracles before Nadir Shah, on his conquest of Delhi, and however that may be, his disciples obtained grants of land from the Mughal emperors which they still hold.

* Clearly there is some connection here with the Vishnupad or foot-impression of Vishnu.
It is also called simply sarup, or "body" of Bhagwan.

Distribution in Punjab

Villages in Fazilka district


Notable persons

  • Balu-panthi (बालू-पंथी) was A small Bairagi sub-sect. Bala Thappa or Bala Sahib was a Bairagi sadhu of Jat birth who lived in the Daska tahsil of Sialkot.[5]
  • चौधरी हरिदास बैरागी- झूमियाँवाली के चौधरी हरिदास जी सार्वजनिक कामों में बड़ी दिलचस्पी लेते हैं। और लोगों में आपका बड़ा मान है। आप बैरागी जाट हैं। पवित्र रहन सहन और खयालात आप की विशेषता है। संगरिया विद्यालय की आपने समय-समय पर काफी मदद की है। [6]


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