By Swami Harshananda
Alakhnamis literally means ‘those who take the name of the Unseen’.
Vedic monasticism as expounded in the dharmaśāstras was reserved for the ‘dvijas’ or the ‘twice-born,’ members of Brahmin, Kshatriya, and Vaishya varnas. Spiritual aspiration, especially the desire for mokṣa or liberation, being common to all human beings, persons from outside these three varnas too had evolved their own way of monastic life and monastic orders. One of the many such groups is the ‘Alakhnāmīs,’ also called ‘Alakhgīrs’ and ‘Alakhiyas.’
The word ‘alakh’ is a corrupted Hindi form of the Sanskrit word ‘alakṣya,’ the ‘unseen.’ So, the ‘Alakhnāmīs’ are those who take the name of the ‘Unseen,’ the Supreme Brahman. They believe only in God without form.
This sect is said to have been started by one Lāl or Lālgīr, a saint of the camār (shoemaker) caste. It is not known when he lived. Members of this sect are confined mostly to Bikaner in Rajasthan State. They wear a long blanket coat and a conical cap. While begging for alms or greeting one another they cry out ‘Alakh kaho,’ ‘Speak of the Unseen.’ They are gentle by nature and practice non-violence, catholicity and purity. They do not recognize the varna system and disfavor visiting temples.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore