Sham Singh, Sant
Holy Man who was also an Accomplished Musician (1803-1926)
Was born in 1803 to Bhai Darbari and Krishan Kaur, a couple of humble means belonging to the Sevapanthi sect of the Sikhs and inhabitants of Shahpur, in Sargodha district of Pakistan. His father died when he was barely five year old. Sant Ram Singh, a Sevapanthi preacher originally belonging to Mirpur, in Jammu and Kashmir region, took him under his care and moved, along with his young ward, to Amritsar where he stayed at Dharamsala of Addanshahis - another name for Sevapanthis. After his preliminary training in scripture reading, Sham Singh studied Sikh theology and history successively under the guidance of Pandit Atma Singh and the Nirmala scholar, Thakur Dayal Singh. Having an ear for music and a good singing voice, he learnt Sikh devotional music from Baba Naudh Singh and became an eminent performer of kirtan specializing in playing saranda. He would daily sing Asa ki Var in the morning in- Harimandar, the Golden Temple, and Sodar in the evening at the Akal Takht where he attracted large audiences.
Sant Sham Singh led a simple life of self effacement and service, and came to command great esteem and reverence. Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957) and Sardar Sundar Singh Majithia (1872-1941) are said to have taken khande di pahul at his hands. It was he who inspired Sant Gurmukh Singh of Patiala (1849-1947) to take up kar-seva (cleaning, construction and reconstruction projects at Sikh shrines with free voluntary labour) as his life's mission.
As Sant Sham Singh grew too old to go to Harimandar, his devotees built in 1911 a gurdwara for him in the Ata Mandi sector of Amritsar. They called it Dharamsala Sant Sham Singh, but he changed the name to Dharamsala Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji - Dasan Das Sham Singh (dasan-das literally meaning slave of slaves). He died of pneumonia on 23 April 1926 at the great age of 123.