GIĀNĪ SAMPRADĀI is one of three major schools of Sikhs theologians and expositors of the Sikh scripture, the other two being the Udāsīs and the Nirmalās. Giānī, the Punjabi form of Sanskrit jñānī from the root jñā (to know), originally meant a scholar of high learning. In Sikh tradition, a giānī is a learned man of pious character, competent to recite faultlessly, interpret and expound the Gurū Granth Sāhib and other Sikh religious texts. Sampradāi denotes a sectarian system or school of thought of accredited standing.

         It is claimed that the school of Giānīs originated with Bhāī Manī Siṅgh (d. 1737) who had the privilege of receiving instruction from Gurū Tegh Bahādur and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. Towards the close of the seventeenth century he was sent by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh to Amritsar to take charge of Srī Harimandar Sāhib. At Amritsar, Bhāī Manī Siṅgh made a practice of performing kathā, i.e. discoursing on the Sikh teaching expounding a given śabda with illustration from the lives of the Gurūs and their disciples. This style became, in course of time, established form for clerical interpretation of sacred text.

         Bhāī Manī Siṅgh was survived by three exceptionally brilliant pupils, namely, Bhāī Dīvān Siṅgh, Bhāī Gurdiāl Siṅgh and Bhāī Gurbakhsh Siṅgh, who carried on the scholarly tradition he had established. They had their own pupils who in turn trained their own disciples. Through this chain of pupils, the sampradāi has lasted to this day. Listed in the following tables are the more prominent names in this line from Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's time downwards:

        Table 1


Gurū Gobind Siṅgh



Bhāī Manī Siṅgh

(d. 1737)


Bābā Dīp Siṅgh Shahid


Bhāī Dīvān Siṅgh

Bhāī Gurdiāl Siṅgh

Bhāī Gurba<u>kh</u>sh Siṅgh


Bhāī Amar Siṅgh

Bhāī Jassā Siṅgh


Bhāī Sūrat Singh

(see Table 2)

Bhāī Rām Siṅgh    

Bhāī Chandā Siṅgh



Giānī Hazārā Siṅgh


Bhāī Dayā Siṅgh  

Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh              


Bhāī Bhagvān Siṅgh  
Giānī Amīr Siṅgh

of Amritsar (1870-1954)

Bhāī Fateh Chand

of Shāh Jīvaṇā

Sant Harnām Siṅgh

(See Table 3)

Giānī Kirpāl Siṅgh

Sant Saṅgat Siṅgh

(1882-1950) of Kamālīā


Sant Kartār Siṅgh (son)

(1989) at Paṭiālā



Table 2

  Bhāī Sūrat Siṅgh  
  Bhāī Gurdās Siṅgh (son)  

Bhāī Sant Siṅgh (son)



Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh (son)



Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh


Bhāī Pardumān Siṅgh (son) 

(d 1875)

  Bhāī Megh Siṅgh
    Giānī Giān Siṅgh (d 1884)

Giānī Sardūl Siṅgh (son)

(d. 1913)

Table 3

  Sant Harnām Siṅgh  

Giānī Bishan Siṅgh

(of Murālā)


Sant Sundar Siṅgh

(d.1930) of Bhiṇḍar Kalāṅ

  Sant Gurbachan Siṅgh <u>Kh</u>ālsā (1903-69)  
Sant Mohan Siṅgh at Bhiṇḍar Kalāṅ   Sant Kartār Siṅgh <u>Kh</u>ālsā (d.1977) at Mehtā

Sant Jarnail Siṅgh


         The charts of giānī lineage prepared by scholars such as Giānī Chandā Siṅgh (Prayāi Ādi Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib), Giānī Hazārā Siṅgh (Srī Gurū Granth Koś) and Sant Kartār Siṅgh Khālsā Bhiṇḍrāṅvāle (Khālsā Jīvan ate Gurmat Rahit Maryādā), mutually differ on certain points of detail. The above tables have been worked out by collating the information contained in these sources and resolving the contradictions.

         Originally, members of the Giānī Sampradāi were known by the common Sikh honorific of bhāī or sant. Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh, son of Bhāī Sant Siṅgh, earned the "Giānī" appellation for the first time from the sardārs in Sikh times. The title persisted and the family came to be known as Giānī family, and the house in which they resided at Amritsar became famous as Buṅgā Giānīāṅ. Giānīs successively served as head priests of the Harimandar at Amritsar. Bhāī Sūrat Siṅgh was followed successively by Bhāī Gurdās Siṅgh, Bhāī Sant Siṅgh, Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh, and Giānī Parduman Siṅgh. The others had their own ḍerās or seats at different places. At present, Giānī Kirpāl Siṅgh runs his ḍerā in Māī Satto Vālī Galī at Amritsar, whereas Sant Kartār Siṅgh of Kamālīā had his seat in Paṭiālā until his death in 1989. Sant Gurbachan Siṅgh Khālsā, with his headquarters at the village of Bhiṇḍar Kālāṅ in Farīdkoṭ district, travelled around a great deal with a caravan of his pupils preaching and expounding the holy Scripture. After his death, Sant Kartār Siṅgh Khālsā and a parallel group led by Sant Mohan Siṅgh, carried on his work. With Kartār Siṅgh Khālsā's death in 1977 the responsibility passed on to Sant Jarnail Siṅgh, who died during the army's attack on Darbār Sāhib complex in June 1984.

         The distinctive characteristic of the members of Giānī Sampradāi has been their strict adherence to the tenets of the faith and to the discipline made incumbent upon the Sikhs by Gurūs.

         At initiation, they receive the vows of the Khālsā as prescribed by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh and they preach neither celibacy nor asceticism, as do the Udāsīs and Nirmalās. On the doctrinal level, the Udāsīs are inclined in their interpretation of the Sikh belief towards the classical Hindu view, taking inspiration from the Rāma and the Kṛṣṇa cults. The Nirmalās, leaning on Sanskrit learning, follow the Vedāntic line. The Giānīs have kept their own course, relying solely on the teachings of the Gurūs and the Sikh tradition as it had autonomously evolved. For them the Vedas were not authority for gurbāṇī, as it was for the Nirmalās, nor the Gurūs' word accepted as an extension of, or interpretation of the Vedas. Likewise, the Gurū for them was not an avatār of Viṣṇu. Nor did they believe in the Hindu system of varṇāśrama.

         The major centres of the Giānī Sampradāi preserve assiduously their original classical aura. Almost all the recognized serving granthīs today, including those at the Harimandar, are the product of either the Amritsar or Damdamī Taksāl.

         The Giānīs have been the most proficient exponents of the philosophy and thought of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Very valuable contribution in the written form came in early days from Bhāī Manī Siṅgh (Giān Ratnāvalī and Sikhāṅ dī Bhagat Mālā, Bhāī Chandā Siṅgh (Prayāi Gurū Granth Sāhib), Bhāī Hazārā Siṅgh (Srī Gurū Granth Koś) and Bhāī Bhagvān Siṅgh (MS. Ṭīkā Japu and Gurbāṇī Vyākaraṇ). In comparatively recent times, Giānī Badan Siṅgh (d. 1924) and his colleagues of the Farīdkoṭ synod, Bhāī Bishan Siṅgh Giānī (d. 1936), Paṇḍit Naraiṇ Siṅgh Giānī (d. 1940), Akālī Nihāl Siṅgh (d. 1938), Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh (d. 1957) and Bhāī Kirpāl Siṅgh, all basically in the Giānī line, have produced complete or partially complete commentaries of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Dr Earnest Trumpp and Mr M.A. Macauliffe, in translating into English portions of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, were guided and helped by the scholars of this school.


  1. Khālsā, Kartār Siṅgh, Khālsā Jīvan ate Gurmat Rahit Maryādā. Mehta, 1977
  2. Rūp, Harindar Siṅgh, Sikh te Sikhī. Lahore, 1947
  3. Tāran Siṅgh, Gurbāṇī dīāṅ Viākhiā Praṇālīān. Patiala, 1980

Tāran Siṅgh