Divisions of the Order

Divisions of the Order 13.01.2018

(The chapter of "Gorakhnāth and Kānphaṭha Yogīs", G. W. Briggs)

The problem of the sub-sects of the Kanphatas and of the relation of their founders Gorakhnath is a difficult one to solve. Traditionally there are twelve sub-sects, each organized by a disciple of Gorakhnath. But, while some of these sub-sects were formed soon after the death of Gorakhnath, still others were later brought into line with the general scheme of the order. One, at least, of the sub-sects is often considered as but a half division and in some places is denied even such a place of respectability. But this sub-sect claims descent from Gorakhnath. The whole number of sub-sects named in the various lists far exceeds twelve; some names, however are not those of major divisions, but of schools, or of individual gurus with a following, but belonging to some more comprehensive group.

The author, after compiling the various lists, and collecting names of sub-sects from all available sources, visited Tilla and Amritsar in December, 1924, where he discussed the whole matter with the mahant, Pir Kalla Nath, of Tilla. This mahant, who is generally held to be at the head of all the Kanphatas, together with a few other Yogis, went over the list of names, making frequent reference to his records.

The results of this conference are included in the account of the sub-divisions of the Gorakhnaths.
Reference to the names arranged in the tables attached to this chapter will show that not all of the sub-sects of the order are traceable to Gorakhnath himself. Jalandharpa (Jalandharipa) was made by Adinath, while Kanipa and perhaps Bhartrihari were disciples of Jalandhar. Furthermore, Matsyendranath made some disciples, besides Gorakhnath, who in turn, made disciples and formed sub-sects; and Gorakhnath was associated with Matsyendranath in making others. The paramparas show, further, that either Gorakhnath and Matsyendranath were closely related in the formation of the sect of Kanphatas, or that Gorakhnath was greater than his teacher; for all the tradition bears the clearer impress of the former. In Chart D, at the end of this chapter, the order is traced back to Sakti. This would agree with the teaching of the Yogic doctrine of the sect and is, apparently, a matter of theory.

Before making a final analysis of the lists, it may be well to record a tradition, reminiscent of the earlier Saivite sects, which they relate at Tilla. There were formerly eighteen panths of Shiva and twelve of Gorakhnath. These two groups fought each other; and, as a result, twelve of the former and six of the latter were destroyed. The remaining twelve panths of the two sects constitute the order of the Kanphatas, or Gorakhnaths. Those which were derived from Shiva are:

(1) Kantharnath of Bhuj, in  Kutch; (2) Pagalnath of Peshawar and Rohtak; (3) Rawal of Afghanistan; (4) Pankh; (5) Ban of Marwar; (6) Gopal, or Ram ke.

Those of Gorakhnath which survived are: (1) Hethnath; (2) Cholinath of the Ai-panth of Devi Bimla (Bombay); (3) Chandnath, Kaplani; (4) Bairag, Ratadhonda Marwar, Ratannath; (5) Paonath, of Jaipur, of whom Jalandharpa, Kanipa and Gopichand; (6) Dhajjanath (Mahabir) whose members are all foreigners. This tradition most probably suggests a new alignment of Shaivite sects under the influence of the great Gorakhnath, in which many older Shaivite panths disappeared. The Yogi at Puri, with his club, is reminiscent of the Lakulishas and the tradition from Tilla holds that the Satnath is related to the Pahk, one of the older sects of Shiva.

The principal panths, or sub-sects of the order may be described as follows:

1. Satnath. This division is reported in nearly all of the lists. It is related to the Pank, the fourth of the sects surviving from the Shiva panths. They have a gaddi at Puri and other establishments at Bhewa, Thanesar and Karnal. According to the mahant at Puri the patch-work cap, coat and quilt are a mark of this sub-sect. From this line sprang the Dharamnathis; and Garibnath, who accompanied Dharamnath to  Kutch, was of this division. This panth is said to follow Brahma.

2. Ramnath (Ram ke), sometimes wrongly identified with Ramchandra. This sub-sect is related to the Shiva group called Gopal. It traces its origin to Santokhnath, who did not himself form a panth. Their chief gaddi is at Delhi. Das Gopalnaths are reported from Jodhpur.

3. Dharamnath. This sub-division traces its origin to Raja Dharam who became a Yogi of the line of Satnath. Their headquarters are on the Godavari; and they have a famous and important monastery at Dhinodhar in Kutch.
Dharamnath is also said to have been a disciple of Matsyendranath, and is counted as one of the nine Nathas. But the previous statement is in closer accord with traditions concerning him.

4. Lakshmannath. Lakshmannath succeeded Gorakhnath at Tilla. This panth has two divisions, or schools, Natesri and Darya. The distinctive characteristics of these two are that the former reside on the hill at Tilla, while the latter live on the plains. Darya is also considered as a separate panth having its origin at Tilla. The other sub-sect is known as Natesri in Amritsar, and as Darbari Tilla Bal Gondal in Hoshiarpur. This is the Heth, or Hethnath, panth of the original Gorakhnaths. To this division belong the Haith of the Ambala and Jhelum districts and Baljati of the Karnal. Ranjha belonged to Natesri. The Jafir Pirs (see below) follow Ranjha.

5. Daryanath. Although now a separate panth, this division belongs to the Heth panth of the original Gorakhnaths. Members of this panth are found all through North India and the Panjab. Many are found in Sind. Beyond the Indus this division has establishments at Makhad, Kohat and Quetta. Their sacred seat is at Uderolal in Sind, where is found the tomb of an infant who transformed himself into an armed horseman and emerged from the Indus to rebuke the Muslim Mahammad Yusuf of Tatta. He is known also as Uderolal, Dulanlal, Amarlal, Zinda Pir and Darya Shah. He is also called Shekh Tahir at Uderolal and Khwaja Khizr at Sukkur. At his temple in Uderolal a lamp is kept burning perpetually and at the new moon he is worshipped at the river, or at a canal or by water, with rice, sugar-candy, spices, fruit and lighted lamps. He left the world by disappearing into the ground. There was a dispute between Hindus and Muslims as to the disposal of his body by cremation or burial. He  reappeared and commanded them to use the two methods. Consequently, there are both a tomb and a temple at the place. About 50,000 attend the annual religious feast at Uderolal.

6. Ganganath. This sub-sect was founded by Ganganath, who followed Kapalmuni. From this division some trace the Kayanathis. There is some connection with the Ratannath sub-division, reported under the next number.

7. Bairag (Bhartrihari, Bairag Chatri). This is the fourth of the original panths of Gorakhnath. It traces its origin to
Bhartrihari who was initiated by Jalandharipa; but who is said to have been a disciple of Gorakhnath.

He is said to have abdicated the throne of Ujjain to become a Yogi. One tradition makes him the son of Raja Bhoj. Although he was initiated by Jalandharipa, he is said to have been a disciple of Gorakhnath; and the Aipanths of Haridwar say that he was initiated by Gorakhnath. His chief associates were of the Kaplani panth, also sprang from Jalandharipa’s sub-sect. Another tradition affirms that the panth is traced to Mainath, an orphan who was brought up by the Meos and who later became a disciple of Gorakhnath.

An important name in this division of the Gorakhnaths is that of Premnath, who is sometimes said to have founded a panth.
Another famous disciple of Bhartrhari was Ratannath of Peshawar. Beyond the frontier these followers of Ratannath do not wear the mudra. To account for this it is reported that once at Tilla when Ratannath was
taken to task for not having ear-rings he opened his breast and showed them in his heart. Once his rings were taken away from him as a punishment for some offence, and he showed them in his mouth. Musalmāns revere him. Ratannath is famous for having created a boy out of the dirt of his body. This boy was afterwards known as Kayanath, and as Qaim ud Din. When Kayanath died, both Musalmāns and Hindus claimed his body; but it disappeared, only the clothes remaining. Hindus built a samadh for him, and Musalmāns a tomb. Another group of Yogis related to Ratannath is the Mekhla Dhari. In Ambala they wear a taragi. In Nabha there are secular Yogis who trace their origin to Ratannath. They belong to the Puniya gotra (a Jat gotra). The founder of this group of householders was Mainath. After he had become a Yogi, the Jats compelled him to marry a girl of the juggler
Yogis. The Bharat in Dera Gazi Khan belong to this division.
Ratannathis are counted as Daryanathls as well. There are shrines connected with the name of Ratannath in Kabul and Jalalabad. Even Musalmāns believe in the powers of these Yogis.

8. Rawal or Nagnath. This is the third of the original Shiva group. The Rawals, who are the most important of the Musalman Yogis, are great wanderers. In the western districts of the Panjab “they are occultists and quacks”. There are two main groups of them: (1) the Madia, said to have been founded by Gorakhnath; and (2) the Gal who are referred to Shiva and who are known both as Pagalpanthls and as Rawal Galla. Those of the second division are found in Peshawar, and the Bohar monastery in Rohtak belongs to them. The chief seat of the Rawals is at Rawalpindi, and members of the panth are found in Hajaro and in Afghanistan. Not all recognize the Rawals as one of the twelve sects of the Gorakhnathis, although they are widely reported as such.

According to one account they form “half” of one of the twelve orders, the other half being the Parasnathis. Rawals are also Kaphlain. Rawals are found in the Nizam’s Dominions.

9. Jalandharipa. These belong to the Paonath panth, the fifth of the original Gorakhnathls. But the paramparas  agree that Jalandharipa belongs to an earlier branch of the sect. He was the founder of the “Pa” panths as over against the “Nath” panths. “Pa” is Tibetan for wala, and illustrates Eastern influence within the Kanphatas.
In some Gorakhnathi lists are included, within this division, Kanipa and Gopichand. The Papnath, also known as Panath, are said to be a sub-division of Jalandharipa and followers of Mahadeo (Shiva). Jalandharnath (and Kamphnath) are some times identified with the Aughar, while Gorakhnath and Matsyendranath are known as Kanphatas. The sphere of activity of the former was Bengal and Bihar, that of the latter two was the United Provinces and the Panjab. This panth has an establishment at Jaipur.

10. Aipanth. This panth is related to Cholinath of the original Gorakhnath group, and is connected with both
Bhushtai and Karkai, disciples of Gorakhnath. Karkainath is also known as Kanaknath and Kankhnath. The followers of the two Yogis last named are said to belong to schools of the Hethnath. The Aipanthis of Haridwar say that they were followers of Plr Parasnath, and that they separated from them through the worship of Aidevi. They trace their origin back to a female disciple of Gorakhnath, now known as Bimla Devi. They explain this by saying that “Ai” means Mai (Mother, Goddess). They used to use “ai” instead of “nath” in their names, but five generations after Narmaiji they resumed the name of “nath”. Mainaths probably sprang from this group. Five generations after Narmaiji, who himself lived several generations after Gorakhnath, came Mastnath, and from his time the members of this panth have been called “Nathas”. Narmaiji was born in Khot, now in Jind State. As a disciple of Gorakhnath, then, Mastanath can’t be considered as a contemporary of the Great Yogi. Followers of Mastnath are not very respectable, and only recently have they been recognized by the rest of the order. They carry a crooked stick which they use as an arm crutch.
The Bawas are of the Aipanth through Mastnath.
The Aipanth was included in the twelve when the order of Kanphatas was organized. This would suggest that the
order of Gorakhnaths was consolidated a considerable time after the death of Gorakhnath.

The story is told that once, when Mastnath was engaged in meditation (jog), one of his disciples who came before
him wearing only a loin-cloth, was cursed with the necessity of remaining naked forever. For this reason the followers of this unfortunate Yogi are called “Nagas”. There are two divisions of the followers of Mastnath: (1) the Bari Dargah, who avoid flesh and liquor and (2) the Chhoti Dargah, who indulge in both. The latter group was founded by a Chamar, a disciple of Mastnath. Menials of this panth are called Chamarwa. The chief monastery of this panth, at Bohar in Rohtak, was founded by Narmaiji. There are no idols at this place. The Aipanths have a large and important establishment at Haridwar. Other seats of the Ainathls are found at Ranpat, Madhata and Chamar, in the Panjab. The Aipanth is mentioned in the Dabistan.

11. Kaplani. This division, included in the Chandnath sub-sect of the old order of Gorakhnaths, traces its origin to
Kapalmuni, a disciple of Gorakhnath, and was founded by Ajaipal. This panth is also called Kapil, or Kapil Deo ke. A group belonging to this sub-sect is the Nimnathi, also called Gaphlani, or Khiskai. But see below. The headquarters of the panth are at Ganga Sagar.

12. Dhajjanath. This panth, the sixth of the old Gorakhnath list, is associated with the name of Mahabir (Hanuman). At Tilla, and in two of the lists, this is counted as one of the twelve sub-sects. The statements that the members of this sub-sect carry a flag, and that some of them are found at Peshawar and Ambala are not accepted at Tilla. It is asserted that they are to be found in Ceylon.

13. Kanipa. While Jalandharipa was confined in the well at Ujjain, from which he was finally rescued through
the help of Gorakhnath and Matsyendranath, his disciple, Kanipa occupied his teacher’s place as mahant. He afterwards founded a panth. From this line came Gopichand (Chandra) otherwise known as Siddh Sangari, who became one of the eighty-four Siddhas. Gopichand is sometimes given as the name of a panth; and Gopicand is considered also as a disciple both of Kanipa and of Jalandharipa. From Siddh Sangari is traced the Spadha of Bengal, keepers of snakes. One of this group initiated Ismael, founder of a panth. The Kalbeliyas are said to be his disciples. To this line belong, also, the Sepalas, who keep snakes. Some of this division wear the rings as do the Kanphatas, others wear them in the lobes of the ears. Strictly speaking, the Kanipa are not considered as one of the twelve panths, but as a half sub-sect. Even this statement is not universally accepted.

A tradition traces the Bamarg sect (the “Left-Hand” sect) to Kanipa. It is of interest at this point to note that the
development of erotic elements in Shakti worship was in Bengal and Assam. The list of names given by Sen 5 is:
Minanath, Gorakhnath, Hadipa, Kalupa. Hadipa was the teacher of the mother of Gopichand. Jalandharipa is also
known as Hadi or Hadipa. This list belongs to eastern Bengal. Another name apparently belonging to this cycle is
Kalepa (Karipa, or exactly Kanipa).

Both Jalandharipa and Kanipa are placed in the Paonath division brought down from the Gorakhnaths. Some identify the Jalandharipa and the Kanipa.

Two of the original panths of Shiva are not accounted for in the above enumeration, the Ban of Marwar and the Kantharnath of Bhuj. The latter is mentioned in a description of Yogi establishments, but the connection of the Kantharnaths with recognized sub-divisions is not clear.

A number of names remain to be considered; but they are not of wide enough significance to warrant their inclusion in the larger divisions of the Kanphatas. In all probability they represent minor divisions within the more important groups or the names of important personages or alternate names of some already recorded. They are as follows:

(1) The Handi Pharang (Bharang, Sharangnath, Handi Bhirang, Chand Bharang). The explanation of this name is given in the following legend. Shakkamath, disciple of the Gorakhnath, in his wanderings, came to a land ruled by a low-caste raja, who seized him and ordered him to cause a rain of sugar on pain of torture. Shakkarnath performed the miracle and then buried the raja alive. Twelve years later the Yogi returned and found the king a skeleton, but restored him to life and made him his disciple and cook. (Another version of the story states that the raja was struck blind, and that after twelve years Sakkarnath restored his sight.) The raja, however, was not reformed as the result of his punishment. One day he took out some of the pulse he was cooking and tasted it. Bhairom chanced to appear that day in person and refused the food. The reason was discovered and the raja was punished by having the pot {handl) hung about his neck. He was obliged to wander the livelong day, getting food out of the pot. His punishment lasted four years, after which he was pardoned, but his followers still bear the name, Handi Bharang. A most interesting version of this story is told at Trimbak. At that place Yogis show a stone samadh, said to be that of Aurangzeb. The legend is that Aurangzeb became a disciple of Gorakhnath, but that the other Yogis refused to eat with him; so he buried himself alive. After twelve years he came out of his tomb as
Mritaknath (Lord of Death). He was only a skeleton when he came forth, but after his reappearance flesh came upon his bones. Afterwards, Gorakhnath ordered him to cook food for the Yogis present. He did so, but, when the food was ready, he tasted it to see if it were properly seasoned. 

The food was declared unclean and the pot was hung over his head. Therefore, he is called Siddha Handi Pharang Nath. He went off to Poona, where to this day this sect reside, at Handi Parang Natha.Shakkarnath had no disciples, so, on his deathbed, he called a Musalman, Jafir by name, made him his disciple, and advised him to take only uncircumcised Muslims into his following. These Yogis are employed as Hindu cooks, and belong to the Santnath sect. The order today recognizes only Musalmāns and they do not eat with other Yogis. At Tilla it was stated that these Yogis are not counted as one of the twelve panths. Chand Bharangis are said to be found in the west, near Dwaraka. And, as stated above, members of this sub-division are found in Poona.

(2) The Jafir Pirs are Musalmāns. They are well known in the Panjab. Although they are Kanphatas, Hindu Yogis
do not eat with them. They are followers of Ranjha and disciples of Balkeshwarnath. These Yogis are not counted as one of the twelve sects. Some trace them to Santoknath, who is Vishnu. The Plr Jogis, who are also Musalmāns, perhaps of the same panth, will eat the food of other Yogis, but others will not eat their food. At Tilla it was affirmed that these Yogis are not found at Sialkot.

(3) Mannath (Manmanthi, ManathI). To this line belongs Arjannaga, or Arjannanga (Pangalnath{?}) who is now in
Kailas as a Siddha. There is an establishment belonging to this sub-sect at Jawalamukhi. These Yogis trace their origin to Raja Rasalu whose follower Mananth was. They are found in Peshawar and Jhelum.

(4) Aghori (Ghori). It is possible that there are some Aghoris among the Yogis. There are none at Tilla, but the
Yogis of that place said that sometimes the recently-buried corpse of a child might be dug up and eaten by Jogis of this group. It is acknowledged that an occasional Kanphata belongs to this panth. It was reported repeatedly by Yogis and at different places, that an occasional Aughar becomes an Aghori.

(5) Nimnath and Parasnath. These two persons were sons of Matsyendranath, begat, according to one tradition, in Ceylon. They were slain and afterwards restored to life by Gorakhnath. Later, they were initiated by their father and then founded new sects. They are Jains. However, there are groups under both names that are included in Yogi panths. The Nimnaths who are distinct from the Parasnaths, are also called Gaphain (Gaphlani) or Khiskai. The Sartors, Nimnaths, always wear a cloth over the mouth and take the utmost precautions against the destruction of life. They are wanderers and receive food cooked by others. They use a cilam, not a huqqa. The Parasnath Puj sub-division are celibates, but they live in houses. The interesting legend concerning these two persons is as follows. After Matsyendranath left die queen in Ceylon taking with him his two sons because Gorakhnath had called him to his senses, they fell under the anger of the latter, and he put them to death and hung their skins on a tree. Later, for the sake of their father, he restored them to life. Some time afterwards, the boys were sent to a village to beg. They were ordered by a man to drag away a dead calf, before he would give them alms. They did as he requested, and in return he gave them food. By the time that they had reached their teacher the food had turned to blood and worms. Then Matsyendranath cursed the village. The sons later separated and formed new panths, the Puj and the Sartora, with which other Yogis have no concern. In a variant to this story Gorakhnath goes with the boys to beg alms at a merchant’s (bania) shop, and they are made to take away a dead calf. When Gorakhnath sees the food transformed, he catches them by the hand, takes them to the  merchant’s house, and there puts them to death. Thereupon all the merchants complain that he has polluted all their sacrifices by this murder; and he retorts that they had polluted his disciples. He agrees, however, to restore the two boys to life if the merchants will henceforth worship him and no other. They agree and Gorakhnath left Parasnath, one of the two boys, with the merchants, and the Jains deem him an incarnation of God.

(6) Kantharnath (Kanthadnath). Some say that this group trace their origin to Gorakhnath, others to Ganeda. In
Ambala they are an endogamous panth of householders. At Kanthkot they worship Ganesha and Kanthadnath, using the latter name while telling their beads. Here Kanthadnath is worshipped twice a day. His followers take the vow of celibacy. In almost all of their customs they resemble the Dhinodhar Kanphatas. However, in the west Kanthadnathis often marry; but the fathers do not eat with their children until their ears have been split and other dedicatory rites have been performed.
Other names, for which no relationship can yet be assigned are: Kaiknath; Payalnath; Udainath, identified with Pashupati, probably one who preceded the founding of the order, second of the Nine Nathas, founder of the panth of Yogis; Arayapanthi of Bor Bosan near Kaba Pir, Thanesar; Revnath; Tajnath; Filnath; Sarpatnath (Charpatnath, Charpat, or Darpatnath) tenth from Gorakhnath in Svatmarama’s list; Gaininath, teacher of Jnaneshvar; Naranjannath; BaranjogI; Adhnath, Adhinath(?); Papank; Kamdhaj; Kashyapa; Ardhanari; Nayari; Amaranath; Kambhidas; Tarnaknath; Abhapanthi of whom Abhangnath is mentioned in the Tahqiqati Chishthi.
The Pathsana of Karnal and the Patsiana of Jind are a school of Yogis.

A number of ascetic movements refer their origin to Gorakhnath. One of these is traced to Sharangnath or Shringnath, who reached the height of his power after the death of the great guru. His panth is sometimes called the Bawaji ka panth. He introduced new rules and made his disciples bore their ears and insert ear-rings of wood. After his death ten sects were founded, all growing out of his order. They are the (1) Girinath, (2) Purinama, (3) Samsia, (4) Militant Nagas, (5) Ajaipal, (6) Gwalibasada, (7) Ismail Jogis, (8) Agamnath, (9) Nimnath and (10) Jalandharnath. There must be some confusion in this list, or there are duplicate names in this and the panths of the Kanphatas. Numbers five, six, seven, nine and ten have been discussed already. Of the others the author has seen members of the first only. At Kedarnath, just outside of the town of Dwarahat, in Kumaon, there is a small temple of Bhairom. This is situated below the gate of the main temple and the pujan at the shrine was a woman of the panth. These Yogis marry. They do not split their ears. The famous witch, Nona Chamari, belonged to the panth of Ismail Jogis.

Lai Padris are not Gorakhnaths, although they are often found in close association with them. They are followers of Dattatreya, who was eminent in the practice of Yoga and who is held in high esteem by Yogis. He is considered by some to have been an incarnation of Krishna. In the Dabistan, he is described in a contest of Yogic power with Gorakhnath. Dattatreya was probably a deified Brahman of the tenth century, to whom the famous story of the testing of the virtue of the wife of Atri has been attached. His shrines are scattered here and there in the districts about Poona, and in one place his image has three heads to represent the Hindu Triad. He was an Aghori.

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