MĪṆĀ, meaning hypocritical, secretive, mean-natured, deceitful, is an epithet applied in the Sikh tradition to Prithī Chand (1558-1618), the eldest son of Gurū Rām Dās and such of his descendants as had not joined the main body of the Sikhs. There is also a community confined mainly to Alvar, Jaipur and Jodhpur districts of Rājasthān and Nārnaul and Guṛgāoṅ districts of Haryānā which is known by this name and which is generally given to the profession of thieving. Prithī Chand, despite his high caste, had the epithet of Mīṇā attached to his name because of his envious nature. He was ambitious of securing for himself the office of Gurū which, being the eldest son of his father, he claimed as his natural right. When Gurū Rām Dās named his youngest son, Arjan Dev, to be his spiritual successor, Prithī Chand was deeply embittered and turned hostile towards the new Gurū whom he tried to harm in several ways. Devioussly he tried to wean away his followers and divert the offerings meant for him to his own enrichment. He then set up a rival seat at Hehar in the district of Lahore, declaring himself to be the rightful successor to his father. He had appropriated from the family's collection the traditional emblem of succession and enlisted the support of the Mughal authority in behalf of his claims. He had his son, Manohar Dās popularly known as Miharbān, compose hymns in imitation of Gurū Nānak and his successors. He tried to have Gurū Arjan's infant son, Hargobind, poisoned. It was because of these malevolent designs that Bhāī Gurdās, poet and scholar, fastened on Prithī Chand the epithet mīṇā. He called him "the black-faced mīṇā" (Vārāṅ, XXXVI. 1). The followers of the accurst pretender were called "the shameless sect of carrioneaters" (Vārāṅ, XXXVI. 3). With the help of the Mughal officials the Mīṇās acquired control of the Harimandar, the Golden Temple of modern day, after Gurū Hargobind had left Amritsar in AD 1629. They retained charge of the shrine until 1699 when Gurū Gobind Siṅgh sent Bhāī Mānī Siṅgh from Anandpur to take over the management after the death of Soḍhī Harījī, grandson of Prithī Chand. Once dislodged from the Harimandar Sāhib, the mīṇās left Amritsar for the Mālvā region where they settled in scattered villages to live in oblivion and ultimately to get absorbed into the Sikh mainstream.
Gurū Gobind Siṅgh had forbidden his Khālsā to have anything to do with the Mīṇās.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)