Gulabdasia: Punjab’s Atheistic Religious Tradition

They do exactly as suits their pleasure.

Shardha Ram—a Punjabi author and a missionary—wrote this in 1866 as part of his History of Sikh Rule:

“In this country, amongst the disciples of Nanak, there has arisen, from a short time back, a sect called the Gulabdasis, and their circumstances are as follows: They do not regard God as the creator of the world; these people are atheists and very wicked; they say that all this world was formed of itself from the effects of five elements, and that the account given in Shastras, of hell and heaven, and punishment and salvation, is false; when a man dies, his body remains here, and, afterwards having fallen into pieces, joins with its own elements, and no one ever goes to heaven or hell. Vedanras hold that the soul is separate from the body, whilst these people think that there is nothing but the body; rather they say that from the influence of the five elements, something or other has become the impeller of the body, and there is no soul. Although these people, from the fear of the world, have customs like other Hindus and regard caste but in their inward hearts, they have no respect for caste. These people do not acknowledge the Vedas, Purans or other books, and fearlessly commit every evil deed, and do exactly as suits their pleasure. This is their custom, that they regard the pleasure derived from eating food and dressing as the very highest profit (in life); and although they are very wicked and abominable, they still call themselves saints.

“Baba Gulabdas, who was formerly an Udasi fakir, founded their sect and he himself was a very depraved man and an atheist, and had no fear of this world or the next, and lived in a village called Chattha in the district of Kasur. From associating with him, the minds of thousands of men have been perverted, and they have become atheists; he too, for the sake of teaching his disciples, composed many Granths of his own faith. Their customs at births and deaths are not fixed according to any book, but at those times they perform whatever ceremony may suit the occasion. In short, these people, by their counsels, have made the inhabitants of this country very depraved and other Sikhs of this country, if they know that any one belongs to this sect, will not allow him to enter their line for eating and drinking; and all other people also are very loath to associate with them, and do not care to drink water from them.”

~Shardha Ram, Sikhan De Raj di Vithia, 1866. Translated as History of the Sikhs in 1888. Page 111.

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