Rabinder Singh Bhamra
We rarely come across people who can make a difference in our lives. These are the people who have focused their energy on a mission chosen by them or as ordained by the Almighty and demands full attention and focus on it. The results that come out may surprise many but not themselves as they knew what they were doing and what the results were supposed to be. Written on their forehead is sense of purpose, direction and determination to achieve their goals with perseverance and dedication. One may also find calmness and serenity on their faces and they work unperturbed along with their mundane responsibilities as if continuing their unfinished work from previous life. Such people are from ‘dev lok’ who are here for a specific mission. One such person whom I came across in New York three times and later in India has been Giani Gurdit Singh of Mera Pind fame.
His book Mera Pind tells how real and simple life of a village in Punjab can bring so much happiness and pleasures that one need not seek it beyond. A life so natural in the rural background with nature which brings out emotions of the heart in consonance with surroundings and find expression in simple songs, dance and festivities carried out in community gatherings. This creates a bond amongst them which makes the village as one family sharing their joys, sorrows, love, romance and fun and frolic which can all be realised by people in a tiny hamlet.
This is what Giani Ji showed to the world in his book Mera Pind which touches everyone who reads it—wishing they belong to the people who are singing dancing and telling stories under the Peepal tree at the village well. No wonder it has been translated into so many languages and people all over the world dream to share life with the people of this village where love and happiness emanates from contentment and simple living and not from material wealth, tall buildings, highways and big cars. This village, Mithewal, they say is immortalised by Giani Ji but so is Giani Ji immortalised by this village. The book was revised three times and has gone through eight editions. No wonder this book has been called most outstanding novel depicting rural life in Punjab and is almost a classic in Punjabi literature. This book earned him a prize from UNESCO for Punjabi literature. Another book he wrote on Festivals of Punjab called Tith Tihar also brought him another prize from UNESCO.
Giani Ji not only wrote about rural life but also on Sikh religion and its scriptures. Although he was not a man of high academic qualifications yet he was a man of letters. He secured a degree in Giani from Panjab University in 1945 and his interest in spiritual matters lead him to delve into the religious and spiritual field which resulted in writing books relating to Sikh religion, its scriptures and dealing with Sikh institutions, for rest of his life. He won distinctions in whatever he touched and was the most sought after person by all the Sikh academia, political and religious leaders.
His most outstanding religious work which he completed after long and dedicated fact-finding research and enquiry was Ithas of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Bhagat Bani which was released in New York in 1990 in the Gurdwara at Richmond Hill. It deals with Bani of Bhagats in Sri Guru Granth Sahib which was entered into the Holy Granth at par with Gurbani of other Gurus by Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Some of the bhagats were contemporaries of Guru Nanak and some lived before him… All bhagats were God-realised persons and gave the same message as the Gurus gave to humanity. They had all achieved union with God through naam and had not followed the prevalent ritualistic mode and had suffered for being different. This way of naam was the new way for the kaljug for which Guru Nanak was sent as ‘Satguru’ by God to show it to the whole world. Incorporating Bhagat Bani in the Granth established a universal religion for humanity which could bring peace and happiness to the people and announced a new society in the new world.
Quoting Goidnval Pothis, the book calls Nama and Kabir as the Sikhs of Guru Nanak: “Kabir Nama bhagat Babe ke.” Some other Bhagats also had the blessings of Guru Nanak. The book stands as a monumental work of about 700 pages on the life of bhagats and show how their Bani was collected by Guru Ji. Giani Ji spent about 40 years to complete this study and bring this authenticated work out to the people for which he was honoured by SGPC in 1991 as ‘Gurmat Acharya’
His latest book which came out was Mundavani in 2003. Mundvani means a seal and it is the last hymn at the closure of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This book is based on a research work of over 50 years and the author convincingly proves that Raag Mala as it appears in Sri Guru Granth Sahib after Mundavani is not part of Gurbani and was a later fake addition written by poet Alam. A controversy which arose about it. The book is available in the market; another resolution to the hundred years old controversy.
Besides the above major publications Giani ji has a long list of publications to his credit as editor, research scholar, biographer and historian on Sikh scriptures. He edited and published the daily Parkash newspaper from 1947 to 1978. He also brought out Singh Sabha Patrika, a monthly magazine devoted to Sikh history and divinity from 1973 to 1988. He was General Secretary, Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha and Member, Dharam Parchar Committee, SGPC. His research report on the history of Damdama Sahib in 1965 resulted in the declaration of this holy historic place as ‘Fifth Takht by SGPC.
He played a pivotal role in the establishment of Punjabi University, Patiala. He had proposed the formation of it when he was a member of the Punjab Legislative Council from 1956 to 1962. It is in this very University that his wife, Sardarni Inderjit Kaur, served as Vice Chancellor from 1975 to1977. Besides the honours mentioned above, he was awarded Punjabi Sahit Shiromani Puraskar in 2006 by the Punjab Government. He was also honoured by Chief Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar in 2003 and by Punjabi University Patiala in 1991
Giani Ji’s contributions to Punjab and its culture as a scholar on religion, folklore and as a historian, journalist and a biographer are too numerous to list here. He never stopped giving back to the land where he was born. He showed a deep love and veneration for the soil and it all shows in his work which brought out the latent beauty of the land and created an awareness of its glorious culture. Through his journalism he improved the education system in Punjab and unearthed hidden resources, connecting the people with their divinity. It is rare to see such sons of soil who care so much for their motherland. He was definitely on a mission and he dedicated all his life on the land of the Gurus and their scriptures.
The One for whom he was working for, fully supported him in all his efforts: “Jeh jeh kaaj kirat sewak ki than than uth dhavay.” and amply recognised his services through his other children: “Kartay hath vadiaaean jaiy bhavay teh deh.” His connection with His Master could be seen in the shimmer of his eye and it appeared he was looking through you and not at you. Even in ill health, towards the end he never stopped working. His project of writing five books on the history of the formation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib of which only two third is done. The third book on which he was working was only partially done. We hope that his family will continue to work on that project and bring it to completion.
He leaves behind two sons, Roopinder Singh and Ravinder Singh, and his wife Sardarni Inderjit Kaur, who is an educationist and served as Vice Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala and Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, New Delhi. Roopinder Singh like his glorious father is a journalist and a photographer. He is an Assistant Editor with The Tribune and has written and published two books already. Ravinder Singh is based in New York and runs his own business
On this first anniversary of Giani Ji’s departure from this planet, we are reminded of his contributions par excellence and it does motivate many of us to follow in his footsteps and carry on the work which he started and do whatever in our capacity to enrich our culture the same way as he did. I have no words to thank him for all what he did for us who call ourselves Sikhs and ‘Punjabis’. Can we ever, even a dozen of us match his contribution? May this proud son of Punjab, wherever he is, inspire us all, whom he has left behind to make this land of Mera Pind, a place of songs of peace, happiness and enjoy the good life and festivities.