In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Nirañjanī Sampradāy

  • Introduction
  • Overviews
  • The Nirañjanī Tradition and the Bhakti Movement
  • History and Hagiography
  • Poets and Literature
  • Published Editions

Hinduism Nirañjanī Sampradāy
by
Tyler Williams
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 March 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0238

Introduction

Believed to have been founded by the saint-poet Svāmī Haridās (d. 1601?) in the late 16th or early 17th century, the Nirañjanī Sampradāy is one of the bhakti communities associated with the so-called nirguṇ sant movement that began in northern India sometime in the 15th century. The Sampradāy, which consists of both monastic initiates and lay followers, flourished during the 17th and 18th centuries in what is now Rajasthan, during which time it also established monastic outposts at locations as distant as Aurangabad and the Narmada River valley. Nirañjanī hagiographical traditions acknowledge the community’s early connections with the Nāth Sampradāya and with the Dādū Panth, another nirguṇ sant tradition that arose at roughly the same time as the Nirañjanī Sampradāy. These close connections are also reflected in the literature, theology, and practices of the sect, which combine Vaishnava bhakti with aspects of yoga as well as elements adapted from Sufi traditions. After the passing of Haridās, the monastic order expanded quickly in a decentralized fashion, with several of Haridās’s direct disciples founding monastic centers and lineages in different parts of Rajasthan (and eventually in Hyderabad as well). Among the later monastic disciples were several prominent saint-poets, including Santadās, Turasīdās, Manoharadās, Bhagavānadās, Dhyānadās, and Harirāmadās. Importantly, the Nirañjanīs also give prominence to Pannājī, an 18th-century female saint, and recognize several other female saints as being part of the tradition. Although the Nirañjanīs themselves were prolific writers, very little material by or about the Nirañjanīs is available in published form. This article lists the few original works of scholarship that have been produced on the Sampradāy in Hindi and in English along with any relevant primary sources that have been published.

Overviews

Nirañjanī tradition asserts that the community was founded by the robber-turned-saint Haridās sometime around the turn of the 17th century, but some modern scholars have argued for possibly earlier sectarian origins in medieval Orissa and Bengal. Haridās and subsequent Nirañjanī poets preach devotion to the formless, nirguṇ (“without qualities”), and ineffable Nirañjan (or Rām), prescribing both yogic practice and the cultivation of love (prem). The primary forms of ritual practice in the Sampradāy have historically been the singing of hymns, teaching through the use of epigrammatic poetry, yogic meditation, and the study of written texts. Although the first mention of the Sampradāy in a scholarly work appeared in 1930 (see Barthwal 1978, cited under Nirañjanī Tradition and the Bhakti Movement), the first attempt to give an overview of the tradition as a whole appeared in Caturvedī 1965 (originally 1951). The most detailed study of the Sampradāy is found in the introduction to Maṅgaladās 1962. Maṅgaladās, himself a monk of the Sampradāy, worked with the manuscript archives of both his own community and those of the closely related Dādū Panth to produce an impressive volume that is both an anthology of Nirañjanī writings and a spiritual genealogy of the Sampradāy’s many saints and monks. This volume remains the primary source for information about the Nirañjanī Sampradāy to this day. The lack of research on the tradition as a whole is striking given the importance accorded to it in surveys of late medieval and early modern Hinduism in North India (see Nirañjanī Tradition and the Bhakti Movement) and the publication of several monographs on individual Nirañjanī authors (see Poets and Literature and Published Editions). The only two studies of the Sampradāy published in the past half century are Miśra 1998 and Kasānā 2006.

  • Caturvedī, Puraśurām. Uttarī Bhārat Kī Sant-Paramparā. 2d ed. Allahabad, India: Bhāratī Bhaṇḍār, 1965.

    Originally published in 1951 and drawing heavily on hagiographical sources—particularly Rāghavadās 1965 (cited under History and Hagiography)— Caturvedī suggests that the Nirañjanī Sampradāy’s roots lie in the Nāth Sampradāy, spreading all the way to Orissa, and that the community became organized into a proper “sampradāy” only in the early 17th century. He also gives a synoptic overview of the tradition’s most prominent saints and addresses the disputed relationship between Haridās and the Dādū Panth.

  • Kasānā, Bhaṃvar. Nirañjanī Panth. Didvana, India: College Book House, 2006.

    Based on oral histories collected from members of the Sampradāy and on the author’s observation of contemporary practices, this brief monograph in Marwari—the language spoken in most areas where the Nirañjanīs are present—provides an introduction to the Sampradāy’s history and beliefs.

  • Maṅgaladās, Svāmī. Śrī Mahārāj Haridāsajī Kī Vāṇī. Jaipur, India: Nikhil Bhāratīya Nirañjanī Mahāsabhā, 1962.

    This large anthology includes the poetry of not only Haridās but of dozens of other Nirañjanī saints as well. It contains the entire text of Raghunāthadās’s hagiography of Haridās (see History and Hagiography) and excerpts from other hagiographical works. The introduction provides a detailed history of the community and genealogy of its various guru-disciple lineages.

  • Miśra, Ratanalāl. Nirañjanī Sampradāy: Sādhanā Evaṃ Sāhitya. Rajasthan, India: Mahāmāyā Mandir, 1998.

    In addition to synthesizing information on, and theories about, the early history of the Sampradāy as put forward by earlier scholars, Miśra offers interesting new information about the Nirañjanīs in Rajasthan collected from oral sources and inscriptions.

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