Today in Sikh History – 30th January
|1850||Bhai Maharaj Singh was deported to Calcutta from Jalandhar.
==> Bhai MAHARAJ SINGH: Born in village Rabbon, near Malud, Ludhiana Dist. Parents named him Nihal Singh. As a young lad, he went to stay at Bhai Bir Singh’s Dera at Naurangabad. Did sewa for many years, took Amrit at the hands of Bhai Bir Singh, was given the name Bhagwan Singh, and eventually became his chela. The Dera was practically a military camp with 1200 musketmen and 3000 horsemen. It had always been a sanctuary for political refugees. It became the centre of the Sikh revolt against Dogra dominance over the Punjab.
Hira Singh Dogra, the chief minister of the Punjab, attacked the Dera in 1844 with 20000 troops and 50 cannon. Several hundred Sikhs, including General Attar Singh Sandhanwalla, Prince Kashmira Singh and Bhai Bir Singh were killed. Bhagwan Singh became the head of the Dera.
The British, who had been waiting for the right moment to intervene and establish their authority, made their move in 1847. They deported Rani Jinda. The Sikh chiefs revolted, including Bhagwan Singh. He was welcomed by Sikhs saying Ah Wo Maharaj, because of his sanctity, thus, soon he came to be referred to as Bhai Maharaj Singh.
During the second Anglo-Sikh war that followed, at the battles of Ram Nagar, Chillianwall and Gujrat, he was very active providing personal inspiration and organizing supplies for the Sikh Army. Soon after the defeat at Gujrat, all the other Sikh chiefs had been captured or had surrendered.
By the way, Bhai Maharaj Singh was one of the first people of Punjab to launch a freedom movement in Punjab after the British took over Punjab. He said in 1849:
Bhai Maharaj Singh’s other name was Bhai Nihal Singh. His belonged to a line of Sikh revolutionaries who wanted to return to the creed of the Gurus. The pinions of this movement were Baba Bhag Singh of Pothohar, his worthy and more popular disciple Bhai Bir Singh of Naurangabad in Amritsar and the latter’s successor Bhai Maharaj Singh.
Bhai Maharaj Singh plan of action against the vastly superior British was framed in the jungles of the Chumb Valley.
The British reacted by moving Dalip Singh to securer confinement, encouraged Muslim zealots to locate him for them and offered hugh rewards for information of his whereabouts. On the other hand, the British tried to portray him as a religious leader to lower his following as a Military or political leader. It was the British officers who coined the term Karnivala since it they did not want to admit the failures of their intelligence. Bhai Maharaj Singh, undoubtedly, was certainly a Miracle Maker since it became impossible for the British to arrest him. This was due to the support given to him by the public that he was able to hide among the people.
He was captured together with 21 unarmed followers on Dec, 28 1849, near Adampur. Vansttart, the Deputy Commissioner of Jallundar who arrested him, wrote.
Even more generous was Mcleod, Commissioner of the Doab,
It was found too risky to put Bhai Maharaj Singh on trial in India and he was deported to Singapore. He arrived on the Mahomed Shaw, on 9th July 1850, together with a disciple, Khurruck Singh, and moved to Outram Jail. He was kept in solitary confinement in a cell 14 by 15 feet, which, because of the walling up of the windows, had been further rendered dark, dinghy and absolutely unhealthy (Secret Consultation Papers, 28th Feb 1851, #52-57). He was practically blind within three years, developed cancer on his tongue, and had rheumatic swellings and pains in his feet and ankles. The Civil Surgeon, Singapore, recommended that Bhai Maharaj Singh be allowed an occasional walk in the open, but this was turned down by the Government of India. The result was that his health continued to deteriorate, and about two months before his death, his neck and tongue became so swollen that it became very difficult for him to swallow.
Bhai Maharaj Singh died on 5th July 1856. He was cremated on a plot of land outside the prison, presumebably by Khurruck Singh, who also died in prison later. Locals, mainly Hindu Tamils began to revere the spot, marking it with stones. Offerings of flowers found their way there, Sikhs and Muslims joined in. The Sikhs placed a structure on this spot, turning it into a small temple. In 1966, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib was moved to the Silat Road Temple. Only the stones were re-erected outside the temple. Large numbers of Sikhs and non-Sikhs come to the samadh to worship, with offerings of valuables, a practice against Sikh tenets.
Bhai Maharaj Singh was the head of the Order now known as the Hoti Mardan Valli Sant Khalsa Sampardai, recent illustrious heads were Sant Attar Singh and Sant Isher Singh. He was thus not only a revolutionary fighter but also a recognized religious personage of very high standing. Many believe him to be a Karniwala.
-Source – extracted from ‘Bhai Maharaj Singh Saint-Soldier’ by Choor Singh, Singapore.
|1855||Baba Dayal Singh Nirankari passed away.
==> NIRANKARI: a particular branch of GurSikh faith, established by Bhai Dayal Singh Ji. A Saehajdhari Sikh resident of Peshwar, GurSahai Ji, had a son named RamSahai Ji who married Ladhaki, daughter of Vasakha Singh (treasurer for the tenth Guru). Bhai Dayal Singh was born from this marriage on 15 Vaisakh sunmat 1840 (1783).
At the age of 30, Bhai Dayal Singh’s mother passed away. Since then he moved to live with his Mama ji (mother’s brother) Milkha Singh in Rawalpindi. Milkha Singh successfully instigated the drive for religious preaching in Bhai Dayal Singh Ji.
Bhai Dayal Singh married Mulladae and had three sons: Darbara Singh, Bhara Singh and Ratta Ji. Bhai Dayal Singh was continually absorbed in Nirankar Shabad Jaap and diligently preached against idol worship. For this reason, he and his following came to be known as Nirankari. This group has actively and successfully lead reforms within GurPanth practices. However, it should be noted that this group is distinct in their beliefs and practices form another group who believes in human Guru and also calls themselves Nirankaris. Bhai Dyal Singh opposed idol worship and preached marriage reforms.
Bhai Dayal Singh Ji passed away on 18th Magh sunmat 1911. Rawalpindi has a beautiful Gurudwara of Nirankaris, where visitors are humbly served with GurSahab kirtan, Katha, Guru’s Langar.
CAUTION:- The SANT NIRANKARIS are a recent phenomenon and they have nothing in common with the Nirankari sect of the Sikhs, except for the name. They are not even a schism split from it, although the founder, Buta Singh (1883-1944), was once a member of the Nirankari Durbar at Rawalpindi. Upon being asked to quit the Durbar for a misdemeanour, he raised a group of his own. He was succeeded by Avtar Singh, who after the partition of India, 1947, migrated to Delhi and set up a centre there. Over the years, he recruited a considerable following from among Sikhs, Hindus and others. He was followed by his son, Gurbachan Singh. Gurbachan Singh’s son, Hardev Singh, is now the leader of the Nirankaris.
These Nirankaris have no affiliation with any of the known religious traditions. In any case, they have nothing in common with Sikh religion and own no connection with it. They welcome to their fold people from all religions. In this way, they form a freemasonry of faiths held together by the person of the leader, who is believed by the faithful to be the incarnation of God. As Gurbachan Singh once proclaimed : The responsibilities assigned from time to time to prophets like Noah, Rama, Krishna, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, Kabir, Nanak, and Dayal have now been put on shoulders by my predecessor Baba Avtar Singh. In Nirankari writings, he was claimed to be the Deity, the creator of this entire universe, its sustainer and master.
It is not for anyone to controvert such claims. Least of all for Sikhs, who do not regard truth as the monopoly of any single group or faith. Their history and culture are witness to their liberal outlook. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-75), Nanak IX, laid down his life to secure the people the liberty of conscience. His martyrdom was for the protection of the right of everyone to practise his religion unhindered. He protested against the State’s interference with the individual’s duty towards his faith. It was a declaration that any attempt to create a unitary, monolithic society must be resisted. It was a reiteration of the Sikh belief in an open and ethical social order and of the Sikh principles of tolerance and acceptance of diversity of faith and practice. This lesson is part of the Sikh experience and teaching and no follower of the faith may contravene it.
The Sikhs would have no quarrel with the Sant Nirankaris about their beliefs or ways of worship, but there are certain aspects of their system which cause abrasion. Although the Sikhs form a small percentage of their following, the Nirankari leaders have always preached their faith through the vocabulary and symbols of Sikhism. But with their native bias, they never cease from attempting to disfigure and distort many of its cherished ideals and institutions. Imitation breeds obliquity. The word Nirankari itself is borrowed from the Sikh chroniclers. The Founder, Guru Nanak, was by them referred to as Nanak Nirankari – believer in God, the Formless. Nirankari Baba is the title the Nirankari leader has appropriated unto himself. He retains his Sikh form, as did his predecessors. In imitation of Guru Gobind Singh’s Panj Piare (the Five Beloved of Sikh history), he has created his Sat Sitare (Seven Stars). The names of venerable Sikh personages from history are assigned to members of the leader’s family and his followers. Among them : Mata Sulakkhani (Guru Nanak’s wife), Bibi Nanaki (Guru Nanak’s sister), and Bhai Buddha and Bhai Gurdas, two primal figures of Sikhism, both regarded highly in Sikh piety. Peculiarly Sikh terms, such as Satguru, Sangat and Sachcha Padshah, the title which the Sikh history came to be used for the Gurus, in contrast with Padshah and Badshah representing secular emperors, have been appropriated by the Nirankaris. Their religious book, a collection of Punjabi verse, incipient and elementary in character, by Avtar Singh, with little literary grace and spiritual content, is designated Avtar Bani in the manner of gurbani, i.e. the Sikh Gurus’ utterance. In Nirankari congregations gurbani is frequently and copiously quoted, but with a deliberate slant. The purpose invariably is disapprobation of the Sikh way of life. Sikh Scriptures are quoted and expounded openly to suit the Nirankari bias. In their monthly journal, Sant Nirankari, articles were published on gurbani and its interpretation. These articles appeared under title such as Vichar Sri Sachche Patshah (Thoughts of, or Interpretations by, the True Lord, i.e. the Nirankari leader), and Gurbani ki Hai (What really is gurbani?). Meanings contrary to Sikh understanding and tradition were propounded.
Sikhs have resented the continuing denigration by the Nirankaris of the their faith and of their belief in the Guru Granth as the Person Visible of the Gurus. They have protested against it. This is what they attempted to do – peacefully – at the time of the huge Nirankari congregation in Amritsar on April 13, 1978, coinciding with Baisakhi celebrations by the Sikhs. The Sikh group which went to the site had no violent intent. They were unarmed, except for their religiously sanctioned regalia. They were neither Nihangs nor Akalis, though most of the Sikhs are of Akali persuasion – politically. The bulk of the protesters in fact belonged to Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh’s jatha, whose primary concern is with kirtan or chanting of the holy hymns. Their other colleagues were from the jatha of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who devote themselves exclusively to the study and expounding of the bani of the Guru Granth.
The protesting Sikhs were met with a shower of bullets from the Nirankaris. Thirteen of them were killed, and many more wounded. The congregation, under the aegis of the Nirankari leader, Gurbachan Singh, continued for more than three hours after the gruesome tragedy. No one – none from among the Nirankaris who profess love and human fellowship to be the fundamental value in their creed – had a thought to spare for the dead bodies that lay scattered outside.
-Taken from Retrospect section, on page 26 of the June 1994, Volume 42:6, No. 486, issue of The Sikh Review.
SANT NIRANKARIS & AKALIS –
– Sat Pal Baghi of Ferozepore in Chandigarh Edition of Indian Express in the last week of April, 1978
|1892||Lal Singh, a Bar Student charged with an offence, insisted to give his evidence on oath by saying: I am a Sikh. I have a religion. When he was examined on solemn affirmation and not oath, the matter went up in appeal. It was held by Justice Hawkins that it was wrong to let Lal Singh make a solemn affirmation instead of taking an oath. Wills, Charles, Lawrence, and Wright JJ all concurred.
-Source: History of Sikh Struggles, Vol. 1, by Gurmit Singh, Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 1989, pp. 14