Nihang Singhs belong to a martial tradition begun by the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh. Their way of life, style of dress, and weaponry has remained little changed since the Guru's lifetime, three hundred years ago. Today, some Punjabis see them as a relic of a time long past, but others recognize Nihangs as a colourful and important part of Punjabi heritage.
Nihangs are a semi-nomadic people. They are organized into "armies" and live in camps known
as "cantonments". Men and women both train in horsemanship, swordsmanship, and in the
Punjabi martial art known as gatka. During times of persecution in the past, the Nihangs
defended Sikh shrines and the Sikh way of life and become known for their bravery against all
odds. In times of peace they travel to festivals and fairs throughout India, staging displays of
horsemanship and martial skills. The annual Hola Mohalla fair held in Anandpur Sahib on the
festival of Vaisakhi is especially notable for the Nihangs' colourful displays of pageantry.
A Nihang Singh leading a procession at the annual fair held in Chamkaur Sahib on the festival of
Dussehra. He wields swords in both hands as drums beat in the foreground.
Another display at the Dussehra festival. A crowd of Nihangs look on.
A Nihang posing for a photograph during a pause between rides as his fellows perform
remarkable feats on horseback to the delight of thousands of spectators.
A procession of Nihangs. Baba Ji Santa Singh, jathedar (leader) of the Budha Dal (army), rides
the white stallion.
The anthropologist stands beside Nihang Singhs who made the journey to Hemkunt Sahib.