I came across Niddar and his crew around 12 or so years ago, and he seemed like a harmless enough guy, had some crazy ideas and didn’t give it much thought. Many of my friends started learning what started off as Gatka, then became Hatka, then became, Jhatka Gatka, then became Shastar Vidiya, then became Hindu Sikh Snatam Shastar Vidiya. Things changed a lot, and as other martial artists started to attend, Niddar started to assimilate their techniques into what he claimed was an ancient complete martial art. “old words new meanings”. What we see today from shastarvidiya is a development over the last ten years. Being someone who has seen the transition in style, I can tell you that Niddar moves differently now and his techniques have changed and new ones have been introduced. Now there is nothing wrong with adaptation and evolution of a style, indeed it is needed for a style to remain current and relevant. However, for martial arts purists as Niddar claims to be, this is a problem. If he had learned and ancient and unadulterated style from the last master years ago, where is the new material coming from? Why the change in name and philosophy?
Well the proof came over time, for myself anyway. I am a pretty chilled out guy, and very open to diversity and oneness. But over time, I started to see altogether sinister change in the people who went to train with him. Dear friends of mine who had become Niddars students started to change in their behavior in their outlook and gradually I found it harder and harder to sit with them. Their practices continued to shock me and other people who approached me to discuss it. Being unable to defend the behavior and words of my old friends, I didn’t know what to say other than: “the Gurus Sikhs do not do this kind of thing”. It just didn’t seem right.
If a photographer constantly produces bad photos over and over again, everyone will accept that he is a bad photographer, if he produces great photos, he will be known as a great photographer. The same is true of a teacher. The teachers legacy is in his students. Their conduct is a reflection of the philosophies and thoughts that they are learning. The proof is in the sangat of Shastar vidiya as Niddar constantly produces students of the same nature and mentality. And what mentality is that?
They follow the same pattern of, removing kakars, disregarding gurbani and meditation, will start to eat meat from public places(even halal check link), will start to drink alcohol (public places and weddings included), consumption of marijuana on a regular basis, Become fanatical about unauthentic Nihang Rehit Maryada, ridiculing normal sangat who do not believe in their ways and ultimately shun spirituality, paath and simran.
I don’t have a problem with martial arts, in fact I encourage them. I don’t believe in closing our minds to different styles or claiming that all there is to learn is in one style and not another. There are many martial arts groups out there, but the difference is that most of them focus on teaching martial arts. With Niddars school however, something different is going on. His students start to dress like Nihangs so people think that they are baptised singhs, but their actions are not becoming of singhs and many unbaptized and sahjdhari sikhs have approached us at camps saying they are disgusted by their experience of his students. This is a problem, as to any independent observer and even to the young people in our own communities, the actions of these people reflect badly on all of us.
While I don’t really care what they do or claim in the capacity of martial artists, I do object to them claiming to be Akali Nihangs or “Hindu-Sikhs” (whatever they happen to be) but having no connection with the Guru and no ethical values.
What angers us most is how Niddar has hijacked the illustrious sacrifice and reputation of Sikh military history (including the Akali Nihangs) and claim it as his own legacy to legitimise his unproven martial art from a school that no one has heard of.
We have been helping out at camps for young Sikhs for many years. We try our best to help steer them onto a path of light towards the Guru, teaching them about Gurbani, meditation, to abstain from darkness, become closer to the Guru and find peace in their hearts. Stay away from alcohol and drugs, practice meditation and become shasterdhari(weapon clad) and baptized as Guru Gobind Singh ji wished for us and did so himself. We do not force or coerce people, we just share our experiences and allow them to experience the feeling of sikhi.
Recently meeting some of the young Sikhs who have since a young age been coming to gurdwara, growing up through our camps, learning tabla, vaja and being in the sangat most of their life, have started to display a similar pattern to what I have experienced before. We have started to see young people do complete u-turns, where we tried to get them to stay away from alcohol and drugs they are now wearing bigger turbans with spikes in them and turning to alcohol and drugs.
One such youngster who changed the style of his turban so it was over his ears (claiming that it was ideal if in a combat situation) started to ridicule us saying we were clueless, that we carried unbalanced kirpans and that we didn’t know how to use them. We were quite shocked with his sudden change and the needless animosity and hatred towards us, as we have always preached a message of calmness and against fanaticism. He seemed to have adopted a very fanatical Nihang approach to everything. He also proclaimed that everything we did wasn’t maryada and that we were created by the British. He went on to tell us that only those practises prescribed by ShastarVidiya version of Nihangs was the correct original way of the Sikhs.
Another youngster who we saw growing up at our camps has taken to calling himself a Hindu now and openly preaches that it is ok to drink alcohol. His cousin was telling us that he openly states to family members that its ok to drink, nothing wrong with it so carry on. We also spoke to parents of some of the youngsters who said that their sons, having joined Niddar, have stopped doing their nitnem or meditation anymore, and when asked about it, one even said “I am living a warriors life, and as a warrior I have no need for paath or meditation”
And that is not the end of it, I will not be mentioning any names (or putting peoples photos up on cowardly anonymous blogspots as that is just childish and stupid), but so many young people around me I have seen succumb to Niddars influences and left the path of Sikhi for alcohol, marijuana and a life where anything goes. As I said before, some of these people were once dear friends of mine, which is why I and others like me feel compelled to speak up.
While everybody has the right to free speech and my old friends were old enough to choose their path, I draw the line at impressionable youngsters who know little gurbani and are easily swayed by the bold claims and historical accounts that Niddars ideology is based on. The biggest pain is that It’s really sad to see people leave the Gurus path. I speak from experience when I say even talking to these people makes me incredibly sad as they do not speak of the Guru or spirituality favorably as they once did. They have become completely cynical making a joke out of everything, taking nothing seriously.
Many have questioned why I am doing this now. I just don’t want young people to fall into that downward spiral into darkness and ignorance. And so I exercise the freedom to share my views and give people the benefit of my experiences, and the experiences of those people who are trying to rebuild their lives and their spiritual strength having left Niddar and his “philosophies” behind.
Recently at a camp in Birmingham in a room packed with youngsters as one of the talks finished one of Niddars close students started an argument, when one young man talked about how drinking and parties in Gurdwara buildings was wrong, His student shouted that “We drink alcohol and we eat meat, this is our way, we are going to do this and we are not going to leave our traditions behind”, in front of a packed audience of young 14–18 year olds. Think about it. 14–18 year olds hearing this at a camp where they have gone to learn about Gurmat and living by the codes and conducts of Sikhism as prescribed by our Gurus through Guru Granth Sahib Ji Mahraj. What kind of damage could that do?
This is when we realized that this Niddar business is turning into a bit of a cult. This is a new form of “Nihang” commonly referred to as a ‘Nang’ in India, meaning someone who is naked meaning someone who dresses like a Nihang but is naked of any virtue or respect for sikhi.
We have spoken to many proper Nihangs and they also do not recognize this new group that claims to have splintered off from Buddha Dal. Looking at www.ShastarVidiya.org website it’s like an advert for the RSS(Rashtriya Sikh Sangat) who’s aim it is to “to unite and rejuvenate the Bharat nation on the sound foundation of Hindu Dharma”. The Rashtriya Sikh Sangat is also a part of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Wikipedia, a right-wing, paramilitary volunteer Hindu nationalist organization in India who has had many a run in with Sikh organisations in India. And guess what their main symbol is — the Trishul, a three pointed dagger that Niddar can be seen brandishing in his recent newspaper articles. The RSS is known to hold events called “Trishul Diksha” distribution of trishul like weapons to incite violence against minorities and stir up nationalism.
I have heard many people defend Niddar and countless times I have heard him say that “I don’t tell them to drink” or ” I don’t promote these things”, or his cheley(cult followers) like to say “It’s not Gurdev’s fault, what some of his students choose to do”. Yet isn’t it strange that so many of his students end up going down that path? The common factor in all of their lives is Niddar and his ideas and influence. While he may claim not to TELL people what to do, at the very least it can be said that through his influence, they get the idea that drink, drugs and meat is O.K. I have seen first hand how dangerous it can be to remove all the barriers, there remain no limits and people go too far. Also many people have gone to see Niddar personally to hold him accountable, which I think is a waste of time, as he seems sympathetic and will listen to your objections, but then just carries on regardless. His students are a result of his teachings, so either most of his students are idiots who don’t turn up to training, don’t listen to him and just waffle on about controversial stuff (because it makes them feel bigger/more knowledgeable) or he is a really BAD teacher who can’t handle his own students.
There is, of course a third possibility: That he knows exactly what he’s doing, and he is consistently getting the results that he wants. If he is calling himself GURDEV then he has a responsibility for his Cheley(students) to maintain some level of control and teach them balance. If he cannot control his students then he has no business teaching. He calls himself Gurdev, the Guru of the Shastarvidiya yet he poisons their minds with doubt and then abandons them, leaving them with no barriers and no sikhi.
So a lot of you know me and you know I’m not an extremist or religious nutter I am quite open minded and accepting of other peoples views. For a long time I was willing to accept Niddars different views, but when i saw the impact he was having on the lives of his students, I thought “this can’t be right”.
I’m not stupid enough to let a blatant misrepresentation of the Guru’s Philosophy or history go unanswered. And neither am I afraid of speaking out and making a stand on what I beleive. I have no hatred for Niddar, just the darkness he seems to be really good at spreading.
Many of his students are good people at heart, but they seem to have become brainwashed and misguided. Many have already left and many more are unhappy with their current predicament of suffering from lack of gurbani and spirituality, while they simultaneously fall prey to the pain of addiction to drink and drugs. All we need to do is educate our youth so they can answer the claims of Niddars Cult.
The truth is that his student numbers have been dwindling, many don’t even turn up to classes, many old students have turned away from him and people are getting bored of his “scripted kung-fu like” demonstrations and his lack of substance. His students have already shown their true colours through their actions. People are not buying his books which they desperately trying to flog to the very sikh population they have alienated. This is just a final push to make sure him and his books do not make their way into mainstream sikh sangat.
Every Time someone has spoken out about Niddar they are accused of being an extremist. So please don’t use anything you read here to justify acting in a way that can be labled extreme. We just hope that you will join us and present the Gurus bani with respect and composure and let people make their own choices. We don’t need to stop Niddar, we just need to stop our youth going to learn from him.
In the end no one wins in these kind of arguments. They have been going on for centuries. Even in Guru Gobind Singh jis time there were many fake Gurus, Warrior Kings and Peers and in time nothing became of them. All I aim to do is provide a counterbalance to the viewpoint that the Shastervidiya website presents, and hope that it will promote awareness and also serve as a warning to others. I hope a few young people will choose the light over the darkness. If we make just one young person reconsider going down that path, then all this will be worthwhile.
I will hopefully start posting some articles here on various subjects relating to Shaster Vidiya and back it up with Gurbani. There will also be guest writers contributing material that will be of benefit to readers. If anyone is interested in getting involved, please contact me, and if you have any good articles or comments to add then post them in the comments.
I know there are many old students who have since left Niddar Singh, after experiencing his version of “Spirituality”, I would request all of them to come forward and share their experiences, so that other young Sikhs can learn.
Trust me when I say I didn’t really want to do this, but my spirit compels me to speak out publicly, Many others feel the same and should also speak out publicly, and condemn this falsehood in a calm, respectful and peaceful way so that people can take on board what you are saying.
ਜੇ ਜੇ ਜਗ ਕੋ ਡਿੰਭ ਦਿਖਾਵੈ ॥ ਲੋਗਨ ਮੂੰਡ ਅਧਿਕ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਵੈ ॥
Those who exhibit different guises, find disciples and enjoy great comforts.
ਨਾਸਾਂ ਮੂੰਦ ਕਰੇ ਪ੍ਰਣਾਮੰ ॥ ਫੋਕਟ ਧਰਮ ਨ ਕਉਡੀ ਕਾਮੰ ॥੫੭॥
Those who pierce their nostrils and perform prostrations, their religious discipline is vain and useless.57.
ਫੋਕਟ ਧਰਮ ਜਿਤੇ ਜਗ ਕਰਹੀਂ ॥ ਨਰਕ ਕੁੰਡ ਭੀਤਰ ਤੇ ਪਰਹੀਂ ॥
All the followers of the futile path, fall into hell from within.
ਹਾਥ ਹਲਾਏ ਸੁਰਗਿ ਨ ਜਾਹੂ ॥ ਜੋ ਮਨੁ ਜੀਤ ਸਕਾ ਨਹਿ ਕਾਹੂ ॥੫੮॥
They cannot go to heavens with the movement of the hands, because they could not control their minds in any way. 58.
(Guru Gobind Singh Ji, 141 — Dasam Granth)