Satguru Jagjit Singh, the head of the Namdhari sect of Sikhs, passed away at 6.38pm on Thursday. He was 92.
Satguru was undergoing treatment at SPS Apollo Hospital here for the past three weeks following chest infection. He also had septicaemia and had been on ventilator ever since.
The last rites would be conducted at Bhaini Sahib, the sect headquarters near Ludhiana, at 2pm on Friday.
The Punjab government declared a public holiday in all educational institutions, offices, boards and corporations in Chandigarh as well as in the state on Friday as a mark of respect to the religious leader.
Sensing a war of succession between family members and followers of Satguru Jagjit Singh, police force was moved to Bhaini Sahib. Sources said that claimants to the "gaddi" of Satguru Jagjit Singh had been camping at the hospital with armed men for the past 10 days.
Asked about the declaration of the successor by Satguru Jagjit Singh, Harbhajan Singh, suba pradhan of the sect, said, "As of now nobody in the Namdhari community knows anything about his successor. His nephew, Uday Singh, or his son-in-law, Jagtar Singh, would be in a position to say something after his last rites."
Satguru Jagjit Singh was born in November 1920 at Bhaini Sahib, a township 35 km from Ludhiana.
He was the fifth spiritual guru of the Namdharis who assumed the throne from Satguru Partap Singh in 1959.
His wife, Chand Kaur, nephew Uday, son-in-law Jagtar Singh and his close associate Hanspal were at his side when he breathed his last.
An exponent of Indian classical music, Satguru Jagjit Singh was internationally acclaimed for his vocal recitals, especially for his unique style of 'gurbani' that he recited in ragas. He also played the dilruba, a string instrument.
Who are Namdharis?
Namdharis (also known as Kukas) are members of a sect of Sikhism. The difference between Namdhari Sikhs and mainstream Sikhs is their belief in Jagjit Singh as their living Guru (as opposed to Guru Granth Sahib, the present guru of Sikhs). The followers of the sect are strict vegetarians, give equal importance to Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth, the holy book written by the 10th Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh.
Namdharis are recognised through their white homespun clothing and by their method of tying the turban horizontally across the forehead. Around their necks, they wear a white woollen cord (mala), woven as a series of 108 knots and serving as a rosary. Namdhari Sikhs have equal faith in all Sikh gurus.
Balak Singh became the first Namdhari leader in 1812. The second Namdhari leader Ram Singh (1816-1885) was succeeded by Hari Singh (1819-1906), who passed on the leadership to Partap Singh (1890-1959).