Gian Sampradaiis one of three major schools of sikhs theologians and expositors of the sikh scripture, the other two being Udasis and the Nirmalas. giani, the Punjabi form of Sanskrit jnani from the root jna (to know), originally meant a scholar of high learning. In Sikh tradition, a giani is a learned man of pious character, competent to recite faultlessly, interpret and expound the Guru Granth Sahib and other Sikh religious texts. Sampradai denotes a sectarian system or school of thought of accredited standing.
It is claimed that the school of gianis originated with Bhai Mani Singh who had the privilege of receiving instructions from Guru Tegh bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh . Towards the close of the seventeenth century he was sent by Guru Gobind Singh to Amritsar to take charge of Sri Harimandar Sahib. At Amritsar, Bhai Mani singh made a practice of performing katha, i.e. discoursing on the Sikh teaching expounding a give sabda with illustration form the lives of the Gurus and their disciples. This style became in course of time, established form for clerical interpretatin of sacred text.
Bhai Manii Singh was survived by three exceptionally brilliant pupils, namely, bhai Divan Singh, Bhai Gurdial Singh and Bhai Gurbaksh Singh, who carried on the scholarly traditin he had established. They had their own pupils who in turn trained their own disciples. Through this chain of pupils, the sampradai has lasted to this day.
Guru Gobind Singh (1666 - 1708) | | Bhai Mani Singh Baba Deep Singh ji Shahid | Bhai Divan Singh | Bhai Gurdial Singh | Bhai Gurbaksh Singh | | Bhai Amar Singh Bhai Surat Singh | Bhai Jassa Singh | Bhai Ram Singh | Bhai Chanda Singh Giani Hazara Singh(1828-1908) Bhai Daya Singh | | Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957) Bhai Bhagvan Singh | | | Giani Amar Singh Bhai Fateh Chand Sant Harnam Singh | | Giani Kirpal singh Sant Sangat Singh | Sant Kartar Singh Bhai Surat Singh (from above - established Damdami Taksal) | Bhai Gurdas Singh | Bhai Sant Singh | | Bhai Gurmukh Singh Bhai Santokh Singh | Giani Gian Singh | Giani Sardul Singh | Sant Harnam Singh | Giani Bishan Singh | Sant Sundar Singh of Bhinder Kalan | Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa (1903-1969) | | Sant Mohan Singh Sant Kartar Singh Khalsa (died 1977 at Mehta) | Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrenwale (1947-1984)
The charts of giani lineage prepared by scholars as giani chanda Singh, Giani Hazara Singh and Sant Kartar Singh Khalsa ji Bhindrenwale mutually differ on certain points of detail. The above tables have been worked out by collating the information contained in these sources and resolving the contradictions.
Originally, members of Giani Sampradai were known by the common Sikh honoric of Bhai or Sant, Bhai Gurmukh Singh, son of Bhai Sant Singh, earned the "Giani" appellation for the first time from the sardars in Sikh times. The titte persisted and the family came to be known as Giani family, and the house in which they resided at Amritsar became famous as Bunga Gianian.
Gianis successively served as head priests of the Harimandar at Amritsar. Bhai Surat Singh was followed successively by Bhai Gurdas Singh, Bhai Sant Singh, Bhai Gurmukh Singh, and Giani Parduman Singh. The others had their own deras or seats at different places. At present, Sant Makhan Singh runs the Dera at Mai Satto Vali Gali, who has links to Damdami Taksal, and the place is run a bit like Taksal, with lots of young boys learning paath and kirtan. Giani Kirpal Singh runs his own Dera at Amritsar, whereas Sant Kartar Singh of Kamaha had his seat in Patiala until his death in 1989. Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa, with his headquarters at village of Bhindar Kalan in Faridkot district, travelled around a great deal with a caravan of his pupils preaching and expounding the holy Scripture. After his death, Sant Kartar Singh Khalsa and a parallel group led by Sant Mohan Singh, carried on his work. With Kartar Singh Khalsa's death in 1977 the responsibility passed on to Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrenwale, who died during the army's attack on Darbar Sahib complex in June 1984.
The distinctive characteristic of the members of Giani Sampradai has been their strict adherence to the tenets of the faith and to the discipline made incumbent upon the Sikhs by Gurus.
At initiation, they receive the vows of thc Khalsa as prescribed by Guru Gobind Singh and they preach neither celibacy nor asceticism, as do the Udasis and Nirmalas. On the doctrinal level, the Udasis are inclined in their interpretation of the Sikh belief towards the classical Hindu view, taking inspiration from the Rama and the Krisna cults. The Nirmalas, leaning on Sanskrit learning, follow the Vedantic line. The Gianis have kept their own course, relying solely on the teachings of the Gurus and the Sikh tradition as it had autonomously evolved. For them the Vedas were not authority for gurbani, as it was for the Nirmalas, nor the Guru's word accepted as an extension of, or interpretation of the Vedas. Likewise, the Guru for them was not an avatar of Visnu. Nor did they believe in the Hindu system of var, nasrama.
The major centres of the Giani Sampradai preserve assiduously their original classical aura. Almost all the recognized serving granthts today, including those at the Harimandar, are the product of either the Amritsar or Damdami Taksal.
The Gianis have been the most proficient exponents of the philosophy and thought of the Guru Granth Sahib. Very valuable contribution in the written form came in early days from Bhai Mani Singh (Gian Ratnavali and Sikhan di Bhagat Mala)
Bhai Chanda Singh (Guru Granth Sahib), Bhai Hazara Singh ( Sri Guru Granth Kos) and Bhai Bhagvan Singh (MS. Tika Japu and Gurbant Vyakaran). in comparatively recent times, Giani Badan Singh (d. 1924) and his colleagues of the Faridkot synod, Bhai Bishan Singh Giani (d. 1936), Pandit Narain Singh Giani (d. 1940), Akali Nihal Singh (d. 1938), Bhai Vir Singh (d. 1957) and Bhai Kirpal Singh, all basically in the Giani line, have produced complete or partially complete commentaries of the Gura Granth Sahib. Dr Earnest Trumpp and Mr M.A. Macauliffe, in translathlg into English portions of the Gura Granth Sahib were guided and helped by the scholars of this school.