BĀBĀ, a Persian word meaning 'father' or 'grandfather', is used among Sikhs as a title of affection and reverence. In its original Persian context, Bābā is a title used for superiors of the Qalandar order of the Sūfīs, but as transferred to India its meaning extends to cover the old as well as any faqīr or sannyāsī of recognized piety. This was also one of Gurū Nānak's honorific titles during his lifetime. It assumed a hereditary character and all the physical descendants of the Gurūs were generally addressed by this title. Apart from them, the title was also applied to one who combined piety with the exercise of a secular authority. The founder of the Paṭiālā city and the progenitor of its royal house is commonly known as Bābā Ālā Siṅgh. One most revered name in Sikh history is that of the long-lived Bābā Buḍḍhā (1506-1631), a Sikh of Gurū Nānak's time, who anointed with his hands five succeeding Gurūs. Beyond the orthodox ranks of the Panth, the title is also applied to the leaders of sects which claim to exist within the community or to have strong links with it.
W. H. McLeod