The following incident occurred in 2006 when I had the good fortune of visiting Punjab and this article was written back in May 2006.
I recently had a chance to visit a mini Nihung Chhauni. This Chhauni belonged to Harianvelaa wala Tarna Dal. We were visiting a village when we found out that a Nihung Dal was staying at the village school. There were about 25 of them with horses. My children insisted on having darshan of Singhs and their horses.
It was afternoon time when we arrived at their camp. They were sitting in small groups under the shade of different trees. We parked our car under a tree and came out. We shared fateh with Nihungs and asked for the jathedar of that dal. They referred us to an old Singh lying under a tree. We went there and said fateh. Right at that time a Singh came and told us that they are going to prepare shardhaayee. I asked him what would be included in the shardhaayee. He said Badaam, Kaali mirch, Khas Khas etc. Then he laughingly said that some Sukha (marijuana) too will be added.
I started talking to the Jathedar as follows:
Daas: It is great that you folks have preserved the Baana of Khalsa and the Sarblohi Rehit.
Jathedar: (with a sad expression on his face) It is all a bhekh (show off) now. Sarbloh is of no use if one does not have Sodh da pehra.
Sodh da pehra means Bibek da pehra i.e. not eating from the hands of non-amritdharis. We call dietary Bibek “Bibek da pehra” while the Nihungs call it “Sodh da pehra”.
Daas: You mean there are only a few Sodhis (Bibekis) in Nihung Singhs now?
Jathedar: I will be honest. In our Dal (Hariyaanvelaan wala Tarna Dal), there is not a single Sodhee Singh. All eat from wherever they like. If we tell these chhokras (referring to a teenager standing there) to keep Sodh da Pehra, they run away from here. Then who would take care of all these horses? So we don’t force anyone now. Only Vadde Jathedar jee (he was referring to Baba Nihaal Singh Harianvela walay) can bring this rehit back in our dal. He spends most of his time in Canada though.
Daas: (I was visibly disappointed hearing that Bibek was going down in Nihungs) But Jathedar jee, there still must be Singhs who keep Sodh da Pehra and Sarbloh Bibek.
Jathedar: There still are Singhs who keep these rehits but they are mostly in Budda Dal, Bidhi Chandee Dal and Baba Bakala walay Singhs.
Daas: Good to hear that this rehit has not totally disappeared from Nihung Singhs.
Jathedar: (with pride in his eyes), In Budda Dal and Baba Bakalay wala Dal, only Sodhee Singhs are allowed to do sewa in Langar. There is a fence around the Langar preparation area and only Sodhi (Bibeki) Singhs are allowed to enter there. No Kacha Pilla can enter.
I was pleased to hear this. We had some more chat and then I took aagiya (permission to go) from the Jathedar and left. My kids in the meantime had fun with the horses. As I was coming back, I saw an unpleasant sight. Couple of Nihung Singhs were listening to Bollywood music and the volume was quite loud. I could not restrain myself and loudly said, “Oye, Singh nahi gaanay sunnday hunday” (Singhs don’t listen to songs). This Be-sharam Nihung Singh felt no shame and replied back, “Kyoon, Singhaan de kann seetay hunday ne” (Why, do Singhs have their ears stitched that they can’t listen to songs). Saying this he and his friend continued to listen to songs.
I asked a Singh standing by me if these Nihung Singhs getup at amritvela and do abhyaas together. The Nihung Singh sadly said that doing abhyaas is a far fetched thing, they don’t even getup at amritvela. With heavy heart we left the Nihung Camp.