In a historic first, the Nirankari Mission has anointed Savinder Kaur, a woman, as its leader. Savinder is the widow of Baba Hardev Singh, who was the head of the popular sect until his death in Canada on 13 May in an automobile accident.
According to the Hindustan Times, the decision was announced late on Tuesday night.
The website India.com reported that Savinder was given the ceremonial 'dupatta' at the appointment ceremony in presence of a 21-member management committee headed by its president, JRD Satyarathi.
(Grieving Devotees pay their last respects to the mortal remains of Baba Hardev Singh at Nirankari Sant Samagam Ground in Burari, New Delhi.)
Earlier, there had been some talk that Baba Hardev Singh's youngest daughter Sudeeksha could head the sect.
"The decision has put to rest all speculation that were doing the rounds and the names that were proposed by different sections in the sect," a source told HT. The report added that Savinder told the sect followers to take a pledge to maintain mutual harmony and carry forward the Nirankari Mission as per the wishes of 'Baba Ji' (Hardev Singh).
In her late 50s, Savinder hails from Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh. She was married to Baba Hardev Singh in 1975.
Baba Hardev Singh had gone to Canada to work out the logistics for an international congregation planned between 29 June-6 July in Toronto, when he was killed there in a road accident in Montreal.
His body was flown to India, and on Wednesday thousands of devotees joined Baba Hardev Singh's funeral procession as it proceeded to the Nigambodh Ghat crematorium in New Delhi.