RĀMRĀĪĀS, originally a splinter sect of the Sikhs, now comprise an independent group more akin to the Udāsīs. The sect owes its origin to Bābā Rām Rāi, whose name it bears. Rām Rāi, who was the elder son of Gurū Har Rāi (1630-61), the seventh Gurū, and who had been anathematized for deliberately misreading in the court of Emperor Auraṅgzīb a line from one of Gurū Nānak's hymns in order to avoid his displeasure, had shifted to a sub-Himalayan dūn (valley) where he established his ḍerā or abode in a jāgīr or fief granted to him by the feudatory chief of Gaṛhvāl under the orders of the Mughal court. The followers of Bābā Rām Rāi came to be known as Rāmrāīās. Bābā Rām Rāi, shortly before his death in 1687, had met Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, Nānak X, who was then staying at Pāoṇṭā, not far from Dehrā Dūn, while the latter visited Dehrā Dūn soon after to install Pañjāb Kaur, Rām Rāi's widow, as his successor. However, Rāmrāīās remained outside the pale of the Khālsā the Gurū had initiated.
After the death of Pañjāb Kaur in 1741, the leadership and control of the Rāmrāīā sect passed to Udāsī sādhūs who, besides the Gurū Granth Sāhib, paid obeisance to Bābā Srī Chand and treated Bābā Rām Rāi as successor to the first seven Sikh Gurūs. Up to the time of the Akālī agitation in the early 1920's, Darbār Sāhib or Jhaṇḍā Sāhib, the principal Rāmrāīās shrine at Dehrā Dūn, had Gurū Granth Sāhib installed in it, although images of Bābā Srī Chand as well as of some Hindu deities were also worshipped. Thereafter, apprehensive of losing to the Akālīs the shrine and the vast estate attached to it, the sajjadānashīns, as the custodians were styled, discontinued the display of Gurū Granth Sāhib, thus converting the place into a non-Sikh shrine. At present Rāmrāīās, estimated roughly to be a hundred thousand strong, have little in common with the Sikhs except in gur-mantra, Vāhigurū, and the institution of laṅgar or community kitchen at Darbār Sāhib Dehrā Dūn. Their worship comprises āratī of Bābā Srī Chand and recitation and kathā of Bhāgvata Purāṇa and of other Hindu texts.
Gurbachan Siṅgh Giānī