NĀNAKPANTHĪ, lit. the follower of the panth or way of Gurū Nānak. The term Nānakpanthī was perhaps used for the first time for Sikhs in Mobid Zulfiqār Ardistāni's Dabistān-i-Mazāhib, a seventeenth-century work on comparative religion, which has a chapter entitled Nānak Panthīāṅ describing the Sikhs, their Gurūs and their beliefs. It has also been used by some eighteenth and nineteenth-century writers in a more restricted sense to indicate that special group among the Sikhs which follows the teachings of Gurū Nānak and his successors but does not strictly adhere to the injunctions of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, especially about keeping the hair unshorn. Other appellations used for this sect are Nānakshāhī and Sahijdhārī. Sometimes even Kabīrpanthīs are also referred to as Nānakpanthīs. Persian chronicles such as Tārīkh-i-Muzaffarī and Imād-us-S'ādat mention two divisions of the "followers of Nānakshāhī," the Khālsah or those who do not trim their hair and the Khulāsah or those who trim their hair. Another early nineteenth-century writer, Francis Buchanān (1762-1829), a doctor in the service of the East India Company and once a surgeon to Lord Wellesley, also mentions these two groups in Bihār and other places and characterizes the former as those “who are of the church militant" and took the title of Siṅgh, and the latter as those "who confine themselves entirely to [things] spiritual" and "are commonly called Sikhs." H.A. Rose, author of A Glossary of the Tribes arid Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, also divides the Sikhs into these two categories the Nānakpanthīs and the Siṅghs or Khālsā. The 1891 Census Report of the Punjab defines Nānakpanthīs as Sikhs who are not Siṅghs, who follow the teachings of the earlier Gurūs, but not the "ceremonial and social observances" inculcated by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. Among the various sections and groups mentioned in the Census Report of the Punjab (1891) under the common designation Nānakpanthīs are the Udāsīs, the Gulābdāsīs and the Suthrāshāhīs, besides a number of other smaller groups.
The Nānakpanthīs revere Gurū Nānak, and have faith in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, and are scattered in small numbers throughout India, especially in states such as Assam, Bihār, Tripurā, West Bengal, Rājasthān, Mahārāshṭra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himāchal Pradesh, Delhi and Haryāṇā. They were either converted by Udāsī preachers or they happened to settle in the respective areas migrating from the Punjab. At places Udāsīs themselves came to be called Nānakpanthīs. But in the Punjab, Haryāṇā, Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh, the common designation used is Sahijdhārī. Rohtak has the maximum concentration of them and there are several Sahijdhārī seats there, the most prominent being Gurdwārā Gurdarshan Siṅgh which is a branch of the former seat at Jhaṅg-Māghiāṇā (now in Pakistan). The head of the Bandaī ḍerā in Jammū and Kashmīr also lives there and there are in the area many Bandaīs, mostly Sahijdhārī, claiming to be the followers of the eighteenth-century Sikh hero and martyr, Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur. There are some Bandaī villages in Hissār district, too. A large number of refugees from Multān who resettled in Haryāṇā after the partition of India in 1947 are mostly Sahijdhārīs or Nānakpanthīs. Chāṅg brotherhood, also known as Ghirat or Bāharī, in the Nūrpur, Baijnāth and Chambā areas of Himāchal Pradesh are all Nānakpanthīs, about 10 per cent of them being the Khālsā Sikhs. The potters in the Kāṅgṛā hills are also mostly Nānakpanthīs. Some villages in this area such as Maṅgūvāl, Pañjrāl, Javāṅvāl and Baḍānī Ṭīkā are predominantly Nānakpanthī villages. At Baḍāni Ṭīkā live the descendants of Bhāī Golā, an attendant of Gurū Tegh Bahādur. The largest centre of Nānakpanthīs in Uttar Pradesh is Nānak Matā, in Pīlībhīt district, which is a pilgrim centre for Nānakpanthīs of Naiṇītal, Pīlībhīt, Gorakhpur and other neighbouring districts. A Sikh mission at Hāpuṛ, established by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, preaches Sikh tenets among Nānakpanthīs in these parts. The vaṇjārās in the Roorkee tahsīl of Sahāranpur district (U.P.), in about 150 villages in Khardokh district and in about forty village in Bhīkhan Gāṅv area, Indore region, Baṛvānī area, Gwālīor district and Burhānpur district are counted among the Nānakpanthīs. In Rājasthān the Nānakpanthī Vaṇjārās have their principal centre at Kishangaṛh where the Delhi Gurdwārā Prabandhak Committee runs a preaching centre. At one time the Udāsīs, who had 360 gaddīs or seats in Bihār, had converted half of the local population to the Nānakpanthī faith. The work began with a saṅyāsī, Devagirī, of Bodh Gayā, who had along with 360 of his disciples embraced Sikhism at the hands of Gurū Har Rāi (1630-1661). He was renamed Bhagat Bhagvān and granted a Bakhshish or preaching seat-the fourth Udāsī Bakhshīsh-and appointed to head Sikhs in Bihār. Paṭnā, Sāsārām and Lakshmīpur, near Kālā Golā railway station on the Assam line, have remnants of Nānakpanthī population. The ruling family of the erstwhile Pūrṇīā state has also been Nānakpanthī and still has a gurdwārā in their palace. Nānakpanthīs of Sindh (now in Pakistan) are scattered all over the states of Mahārāshṭra, Gujarāt and Rājathan. There are some Nānakpanthīs in Assam (a village near Dhūbṛī has descendants of Sikh migrants from Tarn Tāran in the Puṅjāb); Baḍgolā, about seventy miles from Shillong, has some Sikh families; so have the villages of Chhappar, Laṅkā Station and Lāmḍig, Tripurā and West Bengal. The Nānakpanthīs in Tripurā, who comprise about 150 families, are said to be the descendants of the seventy Sikh soldiers brought here by Rājā Ratan Rāi from the Punjab when he went to visit Gurū Gobind Siṅgh at Anandpur with presents, including the famous Prasādī elephant.