The term Mina means a "deceitful, charlatan, hypocrite". This term emerged after Guru Ram Das nominated the younger son as the next Guru, instead of the elder son. The elder son Prithi Chand protested this decision. Sikhs in the commune split, some supporting Guru Arjan, others Prithi Chand. The latter group were considered hostile. Some scholars avoid using the derogatory term for them, and call them the Miharvan sampraday (meaning "Miharvan commune") or Sikhan da chotta mel ("Sikh sect that lived for a short while").
They were a major parallel Sikh sect in the 17th century in addition to the orthodox Sikhs, but not the only one. Other sub-traditions of Sikhism included the Hindali Sikhs who followed Baba Hindal. All of these Sikh sects produced a variety of competing Sikh literature that is of historic importance to Sikh studies.
In some historic sources, Prithi Chand is alleged as a mean person who challenged Guru Arjan, tried to poison his son Guru Hargobind and helped the Mughal officials arrest then execute Guru Arjan. In Minas literature, in contrast, he was a devout follower of Guru Arjan who helped the Sikh cause and who was the rightful successor of Guru Arjan. According to them, after the arrest and execution of Guru Arjan by Mughal emperor Jehangir, unofficial associates in the commune made the eleven year old Guru Hargobind the next Guru and began vilifying Prithi Chand.
They emerged in a period of religious persecution and inner dispute within the Sikh tradition on the appropriateness of violence and non-violence in the pursuit of religious freedoms and spiritual matters. According to Hardip Syan and Pritam Singh, Minas emphasized more of the non-militant approach of Guru Nanak and earlier Gurus in theological pursuits, while the Guru Hargobind followers pursued the "miri-piri" approach and began militarizing the Sikh tradition to resist the Mughal persecution.