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Jeevan Britant – Akali Kaur Singh

An Abstract by Gurcharan Singh

Author & Publisher : Bhagwant Attar Singh of Kashmir, # 47, Sec 19-A, Chandigarh
Pages 164, Edition 2005,
Price : Not mentioned

Akali Kaur Singh Nihang was a unique personality among the Kashmiri Sikhs who spent his lifetime in service and Sikhi parchar in Kashmir, and later in Punjab and other parts of India. When after partition, the tribals attacked Kashmir, the Sikhs had to move out under harrowing circumstances. From that moment, to the end of his life, his sole passion was to resettle them against heavy odds.

He was born on 11th Phagan 1943 (1846 AD) in village Padhar, and was the eldest among the five sons and four daughters of Bhai Maha Singh and Mata Karam Kaur. He was named Puran Singh, which later at the time of his amrit initiation at Hazoor Sahib, was changed to “Kaur Singh”. He adopted the Nihang way of life after that. That is why he was known as “Akali Kaur Singh Nihang”.

From 1952 to 1958 BK (Bikrami Samvat), he studied gurbani under Baba Karam Singh and Jaswant Singh of Guru Har Sahai, became well-versed as “pathi”, and started deep study of gurbani. When he was young, his father planned his marriage, but he went to his prospective father-in-law, and frankly told him that he would never stay at home and therefore his engagement should be withdrawn. But as both the families had promised, the marriage did take place on the Baisakhi of 1960 BK (1903 AD). In a few days time, he quietly left at night and went to Panja Sahib. There he met Bhai Ladha Singh who remained his friend for life. (Later, Bhai Ladha Singh became Hazuri Raagi and Granthi in Faridkot). He then moved to Amritsar where he spent his time in meditation near Dukh Bhanjani Beri and is said to have acquired spiritual powers.

From here, he went to Hazur Sahib where he met Akali Hazura Singh, Head Granthi. Probably he partook Amrit there. He read a lot of books on Sanskrit and gurbani, and along with his associates became a ‘Nihang’.
From then on, he became a wandering parcharak, and taught Gurmukhi and Gurmat to all. Because he was a strict disciplinarian, he insisted on Rehat Maryada and the Kakars, and dissuaded people from manmat. With his handsome face and unique dress, he always stood out, and was taken for a prince. The British secret service keep a watch on him.

When Singh Sabha Movement started, he did his parchar more vigorously. His opinion on Gurmat was always sought. In 1973 BK (1916 AD) he went to Afghanistan and taught true Sikhi spirit and initiated many into Singhs. Because sangats always remembered him, he kept on making trips for almost eleven years to various villages and touched even Kabul. On return to Lalpura, a maulvi incited Muslims to attack him and burn the gurdwara. But the maulvi and the crowd were so impressed with his eloquence and knowledge of Koran, that everyone cooled down and bowed before him.

Akali ji also toured Punjab, UP, CP, Maharashtra, Bihar, Bengal and Assam, and gave practical help to the Singh Sabha Movement. He was advisor to Chief Khalsa Diwan, and was deeply respected by Nihangs of Hazur Sahib. In every Panthic gathering, his advice was sought. He was offered the positions of Head Granthi, Harmandir Sahib and Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht, but he always declined. He also acted as arbitrator in disputes among various sects, parties, as he was considered unbiased and known for his dedicated life as a true Sikh.

Once in 1907-08, Bhai Wasakha Singh, Granthi of 14 Sikh regiment was dismissed at Ferozepur because he did not get up when some English officer entered the diwan (gathering). By his influence and argument, he had him reinstated.

Those days descendants of the Gurus, namely, Bedis and Sodhis, encouraged personal Gurudom, Akali ji always insisted on Parkash of Guru Granth Sahib and proper respect to the eternal Guru. He was a stickler for proper observation of routine in Keertan, path, ardas, and rehat, and boldly pointed out omissions, and corrected the same regardless of whosoever was involved.

He used his influence with Kashmir members for proper representation to Sikhs in government jobs. In elections, he supported only good persons of high calibre. After the attack of tribals, when national militia was formed, ‘Kutha’ meat used to be cooked for all. Akali ji, with his influence with Sheikh Abdulla PM of Kashmir, got Jhatka introduced for Sikh soldiers. On many occasions, he was included among the five piaras for foundation laying ceremony of new gurdwaras. He would eat food cooked only by Amritdhari Singhs / Singhanis or cook himself – otherwise he would go without eating.

The most important task, which Akali ji undertook, was construction of Guru Nanak Ashram at Chakar, to serve as a boarding house for students. The location chosen was in the Mazaffrabad District. On the west was Rawalpindi, on south Poonch, on the east Baramula, on the north Chalas. All around were many primary schools, but students had to travel long distances to study in middle / high school. This was a great handicap and a source of discouragement. This boarding house would be useful for them to study in high school at Muzaffrabad and other middle schools. This was close to concentration of Sikh population and would be useful, as the community was backward in high school education. With great efforts, approval was obtained and the foundation laid by the Governor of Kashmir on 28th Har 1985 BK (1938 AD). It got completed on 10th Sawan 1989 BK (1941 AD). To meet the expenseses for the construction, Akali ji contributed the entire amount of sale of his famous work “Index of verses of GGS” (Sri Guru Granth Shabad Ratan Parkash), and undertook tireless travel to collect contribution from affluent Sikh persons/families. Many prominent Sikh personalities participated in the inauguration ceremony. Well known among them were Mahant Mangal Singh ji Nangali, Poonch, Sant Budh Singh ji Mirpur, Bhai Sudh Singh ji Ragi of Sargodha and many others from J & K and North Western Frontier province. Earlier, many illustrious Panthic visitors like Bhai Vir Singh, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, Sardar Ishar Singh Majhail, Bhai Ladha Singh of Faridkot and others participated in Akhand Path, Kirtan and Kavi Darbar.

Total expenses are estimated to have been Rs 1, 42,600 on building only. Lot of essential material for the Ashram was purchased and nearly 7000 books added to the library, many of which were valuable old manuscripts. Included in these, were Faridkot wala Teeka, Mahan Kosh of Bhai Kahn Singh ji Nabha, Janam Sakhis, Suraj Parkash, Old and New Panth Parkashs, Gurbilases, Gur Sobha, 50 Birs of Guru Granth Sahib including a Bir of Guru Granth Sahib signed by the 9th Master.

The store included Press equipment, sewing machines, Langar equipment, Rumalas, Chaddars, Palkis, Kirpans and other traditional items for Amrit ceremony, etc. The Ashram served as school-cum-boarding house for boys. Akali ji also started a Girls middle school on 7th Bhadon 2000 BK and about a dozen girls got admission. Many Ashram girls did matric / gyani / JBT after that and got jobs.

A newspaper Kashmir Sikh Samachar was started which continued till 1947.
Alas! this dream of Akali ji was shattered, when in Oct 1947 AD (Katak 2004 BK) tribals encouraged by Pakistan first concentrated on West Kashmir border, and then suddenly attacked, causing devastation and destruction, murder and rapine on the way close to Sri Nagar. Chakar Ashram was an important target and was burnt and looted. Many inmates died heroically fighting the invaders. Akali Ji, then in Punjab, flew back to Sri Nagar and guided Indian Army and Air Force as they were new to the terrain. After that, his attention was directed to taking care of those who survived the attack, injured and hungry including widows and orphans in different camps. The help included winter beddings, food, first aid, etc. Large number of refugees entered India through Attari Border and were encamped at Kurukshetra. There was another camp for 500 for which PEPSU Govt offered help at Sangrur. There were endless problems of untimely supply of food, clothing, sewing machines for widows, and unsympathic attitude of officials. He was constantly taking up issues with the Rehablitation Minister downwards. Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, Raj Pramukh of PEPSU, took a lot of interest in Akali ji’s efforts.

At Kurukshetra, a special Amrit Sanchar camp was organized for Sikhs (nearly 1200) with the help of Chief Khalsa Diwan and SGPC, who arranged parchar for a month to keep up the morale.

He appealed to Sheikh Abdulla, Prime Minister of Kashmir, to give compensation for the loss at Chakar, arrange land/buildings in Jammu, which was estimated at nearly two and a half lakhs. Also, he kept on making lists of persons lost, girls abducted, widows, persons in various camps such as Kurukshetra, Sangrur, Nagrota (Jammu) Chakrata (UP) Yol (Kangra), Jaipur, Ashram, Rambagh, Srinagar, etc., so that their rehabilitation could be organized. This continued till the end of his life.

In view of concern shown in Sikh Educational Conference, New Delhi, about the spate of apostasy, especially in Malwa area of Punjab, special camps were organized in Sunam and Mansa for Sikhi Parchar, Gurmukhi literacy and Amrit Sanchar. Nearly 500 persons were initiated. He issued detailed guidelines for village improvement, daily routine, Amrit ceremony and all other aspects connected with this programme.

While he was preparing for a second round of tour of Malwa, in November 1952, he fell ill. In December 1952, he was brought to Dukh Nivaran Sahib, Patiala, where with high blood pressure his condition worsened. On 11th January, he was admitted to Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, but his condition did not change, and he breathed his last on 23rd evening 1952. His last rites were performed in the Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib Complex.

At the conclusion of Akand Path a large number of Sikh sangats joined including the Chief Minister PEPSU, Sardar Gian Singh Rarewala, many Ministers, Officers, scholars such as Hira Singh Dard, Baba Prem Singh Hoti, Prof Ganda Singh Historian, Sant Singh Tegh and many others. A Resolution included setting up a Library in Dukh Niwaran Sahib in his name, a colony where 280 families uprooted from J & K to be settled, his biography to be written, etc. A large number of condolence messages came on his death. These were from Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh, Bhai Vir Singh, Bhai Ardaman Singh Bagrian, Sant Kartar Singh Kamaliawale (Patiala), Sant Gurbax Singh of Muzaffarbad (Kashmir), Col Rajinder Singh Chakaar, Maulvi Md, Yusuf (Chakaar) and many others eulogized his qualities and achievements.

He was an indefatigable Sikh Parcharak known for his sincerity in propagation of Sikh way of life, and high standards of devotion to the Guru. His zeal for education of Sikh youth is reflected in the setting up of the Ashram at Chakar. And last but not the least, he was an author of rare insight. Some of his works are mentioned below :

i. Index of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (r[o{ Fpd osB gqekF). This is a colossal work of sheer dedication and perseverance completed in 13 years in those days when computer was unknown.

ii. Indexes of Varan Bhai Gurdas and his Kabits.
iii. fJ;soh ;zeN w'uB: He established, quoting from various scriptures of Hindus, Bible, Koran, Guru Granth Sahib, that widow remarriage is acceptable.
iv. Hazuri Sathi: The account of those running the organization of Hazur Sahib Nanded.
v. Guru Gobind Singh’s tour of the South
vi. Sri Gur Sobha by Sainapat poet in 10th Guru’s Court. Introduction and Publication of the rare manuscript.
vii. Many unpublished/translation of Gurbani, Rehatnamas of Bhai Nand Lal, Mehma Parkash, Nitnem gutka.

Akali Kaur Singh ji will be remembered as a one-man institution – a zealous missionary, an educationist, humanist and a scholar rolled into one


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