Nihang, literally, is an alligator, who is all supreme in the waters, just as the lion is the supreme king amongst the fauna of the forest. Nihang, in Sikh terminology, is a synonym for an Akali, just equivalent to a staunch Sikh. The Nihangs trace their origin from a son of Guru Gobind Singh whom Guru Gobind Singh robed with a blue battle-dress with his own hands and a Nihang is, therefore, invariably in blue clothes.
These Nihangs, and Akalis were identical till the middle of the 19th century when the Sikh political supremacy was extinguished in the Punjab and ever since two bands of Nihangs have continued to exist under license from the Government of the day with the right to roam about in military formations, in free possession of their customary steel weapons of the 19th century, including the right to possess and retain a few old cannons, which are more symbolic than battle-worthy. These Nihangs have their headquarters at Damdama Sahib, a holy Sikh shrine in the Bhatinda District of the present Punjab and they claim that they are keeping themselves alert and ready for the day when the Khalsa will regain its political power and glory.
During the last 25 years, in a free India an irate bureaucracy have proceeded to annihilate small bands of Nihangs by mowing them down with rifle and machine gun, at the slightest pretexts, presumably to communicate unmistakably to the Sikhs, the omnipotent character of the new power in a free India.