SATNĀMĪ. The word satnāmī is derived from satnām, lit. the True Name, a term used in some religious traditions including Sikhism to denote the Supreme Being. Literally, a Satnāmī is one who believes in and worships only the True Being and as such every Sikh is a Satnāmī. However, the term has been adopted by at least three religious bodies as a title of their respective sects. The Sādhs, a unitarian sect of northern India founded in 1543 by Bīrbhān and which is also said to be an offshoot of the Rāidāsīs, employ this term among themselves. Probably, it was this sect of the Sādhs which was responsible for the Satnāmī revolt against Auraṅgzīb in 1672. The next sect calling itself Satnāmī was founded by Jagjīvan Dās (b.1682) of Sardāhā in the Bārābaṅkī district in Bihār. He began his religious career as a Kabīrpanthī and, according to some authorities, these Satnāmīs are merely a branch of that faith. Another sect called Satnāmī, believed to be a later offshoot of the Rāidāsīs, is found in the Chhattīsgaṛh area and was founded between 1820-30 by Ghāsī Rām, a chamār by caste. These Satnāmīs profess to adore the True Name alone whom they consider the cause and creator of everything in this world. He is said to be formless, without a beginning and without an end. Although they profess to worship but one God, yet they also pay reverence to his manifestation revealed in incarnations, particularly those of Rāma and Kṛṣṇā. Their moral code enjoins upon them indifference to the world; devotion to the gurū ; clemencys and gentleness; rigid adherence to truth; honest discharge of all social and religious obligations; and the hope of final absorption into the Supreme. Fasts are kept, at least to a partial extent, on Tuesday (the day of Hanumān) and on Sunday (the day of Sun). Their distinctive mark is a black and white twisted thread, usually of silk, worn on the right wrist. On the forehead is worn a tilak, consisting of one perpendicular streak. They bury their dead. Consumption of flesh and alcohol are taboo. They were nicknamed by the people as Mundiyas (Shavelings) because of their habit of shaving the body clean of all hair.


  1. Farquhar, J.N., Modern Religious Movements in India. London, 1924
  2. Narang, Kirpal Siṅgh History of the Punjab. Delhi, 1953
  3. Sarkar, Sir Jadunath, A Short History of Aurangzib. Calcutta, 1962
  4. Majumdar, R.C., ed., The History and Culture of the Indian People, vol. VIII. Bombay, 1974

Syad Hasan Askarī