Literally, mahant means, the headman, and in Hindu usage a mahant means the manager of a well-established temple. Amongst the Sikhs, a mahant stands or stood for the manager of a Sikh gurdw3r3 since most of the historical Sikh shrines had remained under the management of such Sikh recluses who did not observe the outward symbols of Sikhism and thus remained safe from the Mughal Persecution. With the destruction of the Sikh power in Punjab in the middle of the 19th century, these mahants became arbitrarily powerful as they came to be protected by the civil laws of a non-Sikh power, the British, in their possession as the hereditary controllers of the properties of the Sikh historical shrines. Gradually they lapsed into many Hindu and non-Sikh practices and adopted even anti-Sikh postures, backed as they were by the British bureaucracy. One such mahant was Narain Dass, who in the year 1921 massacred about 150 Sikh pilgrims within the precincts of the Sikh shrine commemorating the birth-place of the founder of Sikhism, Nankana Sahib, and this tragedy triggered off the Sikh upsurge, called the Akali movement which openly defied the mahants of the affluent Sikh shrines as well as the British bureaucracy backing them. After a struggle of about half a dozen years, the Sikhs succeeded in wresting the control of most of these shrines from the hands of these mahants and a statutory management committee called, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee was set up to control these shrines.