GHARĪBDĀSĪĀS, followers of Sant Gharībdās (1717-78), also known as Satsāhibīās for their peculiar form of greeting which is 'Sat Sāhib,' i.e. eternally existent (satya) is the Lord (sāhib). The founder of the sect, Gharīb Dās was born in 1717 in the small village Chhuḍāṇī, in Rohtak district. He got married, had six children --- four sons and two daughters, and lived a normal worldly life until he came under the influence of Dādūpanthīs. His sincere and persistent devotion won him many followers who sought initiation from him. Though unlettered, he composed religious verse in the form of dohirās and chaupaīs and sākhīs or narratives of saints from Indian piety. Upon his death, Gharīb Dās was succeeded by one of his sons who retained his seat in his ancestral village.

         For decennial census returns Gharībdāsīās described themselves neither as Sikhs nor as Hindus, and were classified in the reports in the category of 'other religions.' In the 1931 census, only six of them, i.e. one family of two male and four female members, are recorded as Sikhs. However, adjuring of idol worship in favour of reverence for the Book and worship of the Impersonal God, the institution of bhāṇḍārā, i.e. serving free meals on special occasions, and denunciation of caste are some of the features of this sect which indicate a strong Sikh influence.

         Among the adherents of the sect are both ascetics and laymen. The former are celibates, completely abstaining from flesh and wine. They engage neither in farming nor in trade, and live by begging. They shave their heads and faces, and wear necklaces and white round caps to which is attached a piece of cloth that hangs back. They worship the Book, which contains compositions of Gharībdās and some other saints, and build no temples.

         Numerically, the Gharībdāsīās now form an extremely insignificant group, though they have centres, known as the khambās, lit. pillars, including one very impressive ḍerā at Haridvār.


  1. Crooke, W., The Tribes and Castes of the North Western India. Delhi, 1974
  2. Ibbetson, Denzil, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Patiala, 1970

Tāran Siṅgh