BIHAṄGAM, from Sanskrit vihaṅg which means a bird, is a term applied to wandering ascetics who lead a life of complete detachment. A Bihaṅgam is a celibate who lives in poverty renouncing all worldly ties and follows the path of holiness. In the Hindu tradition, he, abjuring religious dogma, worships Śiva, Rāma and other incarnations. Bihaṅgams, among Sikhs, are likewise holy men who do not marry and who shun worldly ambition and temptation. The object of their devotion is the One Supreme Being. They recite gurbāṇī the Sikh canon, and devote themselves to nām and sevā. They do not form any separate sect; in fact, the most unworldly of the followers of different orders give themselves this name. For instance, several of the Nirmalā Sikhs take pride in calling themselves Bihaṅgams. They wear white and, instead of learned study of the holy texts which is customary with the Nirmalās, they occupy themselves with humbler deeds of service. Their most popular centre is at Mastūāṇā, near Saṅgrūr, in the Punjab. They interpret the word bihaṅgam as a construction from haṇgatā, Skt. aham = ahantā, meaning egoity or pride, a Bihaṅgam being one who discarding these takes to the path of humility.


  1. Rose, H. A. , A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Patiala, 1970
  2. The Census Reports.

B. S. Nijjar