Sant Bhagwan Singh Ji Khalsa.
     
 

From time to time Akaal Purkh sends down souls to this earth to inspire people, to show people the way, to attach people to the feet of the Guru. These souls are already ‘mukhat’, liberated, and they can come and go as they please. They have an aura about them that attracts those people who want to progress spiritually.

Sant Bhagwan Singh Ji’s mother passed away when Baba Ji was only five years of age. Mata Ji used to ‘Charru’ or clean the floors of the Gurdwara twice a day. Mata Ji used to tell little Baba Ji that Guru Nanak Dev Ji appears from over there, pointing at Guru Granth Sahib Ji, “one day you will see Him from there” she would say. Sure enough one day Baba Ji received his first darshan of Guru Nanak Dev Ji when Guru Ji appeared from Guru Granth Sahib Ji as a large Parkash, it shone brightly and then disappeared back into Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Baba Ji, only five years of age, ran to the Granthi, the old priest, who was sitting outside the darbar hall, he told him “I have seen Baba Ji, I have seen Baba Ji.” The Granthi did not believe the young child and asked where he had seen Baba Ji. Baba Ji pointed at Guru Granth Sahib Ji but the Granthi became quite annoyed, how could a young child see Guru Nanak Dev Ji he thought, and grabbed him by the arm and dragged him outside and gave him a slap . As Baba Ji sobbed home, it so happened that the old Granthi climbed up the steps and stumbled. He slipped and fell on the steps of the Gurdwara and badly bruised his knees. When Baba Ji’s elder brother heard of what had happened he took Baba Ji back to the Gurdwara to have a word with the Granthi. The Granthi was now sitting on the floor nursing his wounds, he had seen the error of his ways and apologised, from then on he treated the young Baba Ji with love and care and told him to come to the Gurdwara whenever he liked.

 

Baba Ji spent a lot of his young life in the company of Sadhus or Holy men. Over the years a steady stream of holy men would come wondering into the village and all would recognise something in the young Baba Ji and Baba Ji would sit with them hours on end listening to their simran and conversing with them. When aged around six years Baba Ji was enrolled into the local primary school. The only problem was that the attraction of the holy Sadhus would sometimes be too much and rather than going to school Baba Ji would head towards the Gurdwara where invariably the Sadhus had set up camp. On the way to school Baba Ji would stop off at the Gurdwara to matha-take and wait for parkash of Guru Sahib Ji and many days Baba Ji would miss school altogether and just sit in front of Guru Granth Sahib Ji waiting for darshan of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and then going outside and sitting with the Sadhus.

One day a Sadhu came wondering into the village. This Sadhu had a “hokka”, or a chant that he would say out loud every thirty seconds or so. The Sadhu would shout out load “Oh, saaria tha ekh-o pio” which translates to “He (God) is the father of everyone.” This phrase the Sadhu would repeat every few moments regardless of what he was doing or saying. Whatever he was doing, whatever he was saying, thirty seconds or so later he would interrupt with “Oh, saaria tha ekh-o pio.”

In the morning Baba Ji would be given his little satchel and sent off to school but while everyone would think that Baba Ji had gone to school instead Baba Ji would make a line to the Gurdwara. He would mutha-take and then head outside to the Sadhu and sit in his lap. Baba Ji would be given two small prathay and achaar (pickle) for his lunch and at noon Baba Ji would take out the parathey and hand one to the Sadhu and eat one himself. During the day the Sadhu would repeat various shabads into Baba Ji’s ear and then would continue with his simran, and of course every few moments would say “Oh, saaria tha ekh-o pio.” One day someone from Baba Ji’s family in conversation mentioned that Baba Ji was at school, and this was overheard by the Granthi. The Granthi told them to follow him. He took them behind the Gurdwara where the Sadhu was sat repeating his simran and Baba Ji was sat in his lap in deep contemplation. “There” he pointed “there is your son, not at school but here with this sadhu”. Baba Ji’s father was not too pleased that his son was sitting here all day rather than going to school. He was angry with Baba Ji and with the Sadhu, but the Sadhu was not shaken, he said that he would be staying in the village for a whole year and no matter what anyone did or said he was going to teach the young Baba Ji what he was instructed to teach him.

So for a whole year the Sadhu stayed in the village and Baba Ji would spend a lot of time with him and the Sadhu would repeat shabads in Baba Ji’s ear and every few moments would shout “Oh, saaria tha ekh-o pio.” The sadhu became very fond of Baba Ji but when the year passed the Sadhu packed up his few belongings, gave piyar to Baba Ji and said “I am going now, but another Sadhu will come by soon” and with this he was off, he wondered out of the village never to return.

So it was that a little while later another Sadhu came to the village. The most striking feature of this Sadhu was his matted hair. Great ‘Jatta’ or matted hair was wound round into a large bun on the Sadhus head towering above him. When he saw the young Baba Ji he came over and picked him up and put him on his shoulders, and he would do this for the time he stayed in the village. For a period of eight to ten months the Sadhu stayed in the village and Baba Ji would sit on his shoulders or in his lap when the Sadhu was sat on the floor, and all the time the Sadhu would be repeating his simran under his breath and would lean over and repeat it in Baba Ji’s ear. When his time came he also gathered his few possessions and bid farewell. In this way Baba Ji spent most of his childhood in the company of Sadhus and Sants.

 

 

 

 

As Baba Ji grew up he would study hard and on a number of occasions complete two classes in one year and Baba Ji excelled in music and sangeet. At a young age Baba Ji’s propensity for music was recognised and he was taken to a tabla master who was asked if he would teach Baba Ji the art of tabla, this he agreed.

Music or sangeet is taught in India in the Guru-Shishia tradition; this is where one becomes a disciple of a master and must do what the master says in all aspects of life. The actual learning of sangeet comes much later first the master will test and see how dedicated the disciple is, many leave after a little while as they cannot cope with the demands put upon them, only those who are pure of heart, dedicated and with an inner desire to learn will stay the course.

So, for the next three months Baba Ji was set to work feeding the cows and cattle. For three months no tabla was taught, no layakari was taught, no music theory was taught, Baba Ji spent all his time tending to the cattle, cleaning their living areas, cleaning them, feeding them. This was to test Baba Ji’s resolve, to see if Baba Ji was really serious about learning sangeet. Most children would have quit after a little while of looking after the cattle but Baba Ji’s resolve was strong and he did all that was asked of him by the teacher. Then one day the teacher realising that Baba Ji was steadfast in his commitment called him over and started the tabla training. He taught Baba Ji, thakay, tukray, uthaans, rayllay, kaidhay. He taught all the taals, Shiv taal, Braham taal, Vishnu taal, Sool taal, Chartaal. He taught tihais , dham-tihais, baydham-tihais, chakkerdhar tihais. He taught layakari, duggan, tiggan, chaugaan, aarh. Years went by and with Akaal Purkhs blessing Baba Ji became an accomplished tabla player while also keeping up with his studies..

Years later when Baba Ji was a young man and touring large part of India performing Kirtan in Gurdwaray , Baba Ji and his jatha would travel from village to village, from town to town and city to city performing kirtan at the local Gurdwaras. Baba Ji and his jatha toured all the army and air force bases doing kirtan to thousands of soldiers. The officers would give Baba Ji a jeep and allocate a driver and Baba Ji and the jatha would travel in the base doing parchaar of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The soldiers would listen very attentively and Baba Ji would recite tales of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the Gurus exploits against all odds, instilling ‘bir rass’ into the soldiers. During his tours Baba Ji went all the way up to Kathmandu in Nepal, in the steps of our great father Guru Nanak Dev Ji, to perform kirtan there and visit the site where Guru Ji with his wooden ‘kharama’ turned over a small rock for a spring of water to appear for the local people would had need of a water supply.

One day Baba Ji and his jatha were in Mumbai doing kirtan and they found themselves in a gathering of musicians, where some of them would go on to be world class, one vocalist went by the name of Bhimsen Joshi. Bhimsen a world class and world famous classical vocalist, while in conversation made a quip about Sikh kirtania, he said along the lines that Sikh musicians are okay to do kirtan but they cannot play or sing in the true classical sense and asked if there was anyone who would accompany him on the tabla while he sang some Khyaal, but nobody wanted to play with such a distinguished vocalist. In one way it was a challenge, would anyone take up the gauntlet that was laid down?

Baba Ji who was still quite young at the time in his early twenties, did benti to Akaal Purkh saroop Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and said to Joshi Ji that he would play with him. Joshi was a little surprised at this as he did not expect such a young man to stand up in a gathering that had a lot of experienced and mature musicians sitting. Joshi Ji asked if he was sure he wanted to play but Baba Ji assured him to take up his place and start singing and Baba Ji would do the rest. So Bhimsen Joshi started his alaap followed by a Chota Khyaal in vilambit laya and Baba Ji started with choti Teen taal. Joshi sang and tried all manner of tricks to put off Baba Ji, but with Guru Ji’s kirpa Baba Ji did not flounder and kept on playing with great skill. Baba Ji started to give the ‘Summ’ either before or later then was expected on the Theka and when the Khyaal progressed to Madhya laya and then faster and faster Baba Ji used the techniques taught by his master to play the tabla at great speed but using the minimum of effort. Joshi Ji completed his performance and was greatly impressed by Baba Ji’s playing. He congratulated him and invited Baba Ji to come stay in Mumbai where his talents would be greatly appreciated and there would be much demand for such an artist. But Baba Ji declined, Baba Ji said that he was a kirtania of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and it was his calling was to do kirtan to the sangat across India.

In Baba Ji’s early years before their tours of India he attended school and went into further education and as mentioned earlier Baba Ji would sometimes complete two years in one, eventually gaining a Master Of Arts (MA), majoring in tabla.

In the meantime Baba Ji joined a number of Nihang Singh Jathas and Kaar Sewa dayray under the guidance of various Sant Mahapursh. Baba Ji took amrit from Sant Bishan Singh Ji from Nihang jatha.

Baba Ji also had the opportunity to play tabla with Bhai Randhir Singh of Akand Kirtani Jatha and stayed for a time with Rara Sahib walley Sant, Ishar Singh Ji.

The first time Baba Ji had darshan of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was when Baba Ji was a Bhujangi in a Nihang Jatha. Together with a few other Nihang Singhs, Baba Ji had to stay the night at the asthaan of the sixth Guru. The main gurdwara building was surrounded by a marbled floor with steps leading down to an open compound where the sangat would sit and enjoy the sun. As night fell a few Nihang Singhs and Baba Ji opened up their manjies (small foldable bed frames with a woven base) on top of the steps on the marbled flooring in front of the entrance to the Gurdwara and settled down for sleep. After falling asleep Baba Ji awoke to find that the other Nihang Singh’s had moved their manjies down the steps and far off into the surrounding area. Whether they had been scared off or had seen something that made them move is not known. Looking around Baba Ji was quite tired so fell asleep. As the night progressed Baba Ji heard a sound, as if someone was talking to them, Baba Ji awoke with a start looked around, saw no one and lay down again and closed their eyes. Again Baba Ji heard a voice in his ear, they sat up and looked around, again there was on one. A little puzzled Baba Ji lay down again. It was at this point that Baba Ji felt someone take hold of their wrist and distinctly heard someone say into their ear “Puttar (son), this is our asthaan, move your manji away from here.” Baba Ji opened his eyes and saw an arm clad in a fine blue robe and realised instinctively that it was Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, Baba Ji quickly sat up and the parkaash disappeared. They picked up the manji and quickly descended the stairs and moved far off into the compound. Baba Ji was very moved by this experience and for a long time after, six to eight months, Baba Ji went into intense bairaag, not speaking or communicating with anyone, such was the intensity of parkash of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.

In another incidence while Baba Ji was a bhujangi Nihang, the jatha was staying at a Gurdwara situated near a slow flowing river. Baba Ji would get up early around 2:30 am and go down to the river and take his bath. One day Baba Ji awoke and strolled down to the river where he found a dozen or so Singh’s already bathing. Baba Ji walked down to the river bank and asked how come they had awoken early; normally Baba Ji was one of the early risers. The Nihang Singh’s laughed and carried on bathing, Baba Ji asked where they were from as he had not met them before, one of them pointed towards another Gurdwara nearby and said that they were from over there. As Baba Ji entered the cold waters of the river the leaves from the nearby bushes started to rustle and there was a swirl of wind almost like a mini whirlwind and all the Nihang Singh’s in the water disappeared into it and into the water. It all happened so quickly and there was not much light at that time in the morning to see exactly what happened, Baba Ji was taken aback and couldn’t quite understand what had happened, who were they? Where had they come from? Where had they gone ?

As the sun rose ushering in a new morning Baba Ji walked over to the nearby Gurdwara pointed out by one of the Nihang Singhs in the river. Baba Ji approached one of the people who was busy straightening the white sheets that covered the darbar hall inside. Baba Ji asked about the Singhs that were staying here, the man was puzzled, “there are no Singh’s living here Bhujanghi, there is only me here.” Baba Ji then realised that the souls that he had darshan of early in the morning were Shaheed Singh’s.

 

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