1st Feb - Sant Attar Singh Ji's Bursi
A truly great soul of the 20th Century....
After the annexation of Punjab to British Empire in 1849, very large number of weak minded Sikhs were converted to Christianity under the influence of Christian missionaries. The population of Sikhs declined to mere 8 lakhs and the situation was so grim that according to British Government intelligence reports, there will be no Sikh in this world by the year 1900, A.D. if this pace of conversion continued. At this critical time in the history of the Sikhs, Sant Attar Singh Ji was sent to this world by Almighty Wahe Guru to stem this tide of conversion of the Sikhs to Christianity. With the Grace of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Sant Attar Singh Ji baptised about 14 lakh persons to Sikh faith in his life time. Population of Sikhs grew to 40 lakhs by the time Sant Ji left this mortal world.
Sant Attar Singh Ji, the most widely known and respected great saint, was born on 28th March, 1867 A.D. in the village Chima of the erstwhile Jind State (Now in Sangrur District of Punjab) to father Baba Karam Singh Ji and mother Mata Bholi Kaur Ji.
From his very childhood, Attar Singh showed signs of his future greatness. He loved quiet meditation. Even at the age offive years, he used to remain engrossed in meditation for long periods. At the age of seven, the young lad was sent to a village School but he respectfully replied that he would receive only that education which leads to realisation of truth.
in 1885 A.D., young Attar Singh joined the army. He took "AMRIT" (baptism) from five beloved ones (Panj Pyaras) led by Bhai Jodh Singh, a priest in an Army Sikh Gurdwara. Under his guidance, Attar Singh Ji devoted his time in studying the sacred Sikh books and meditating on divine NAM. He was also very active and upto date in the military duties and attained the first portion in markmanship.
News of his fathers death moved him to immerse in Divine Realm at the earliest. He decided to leave the service by getting himself changed from active service to reserve category. Then he proceded on foot from Dera Ghazi Khan (Now in Pakistan) to Historical Sikh Temple of Hazoor Sahib Nanded (Now in Maharashtra State). Guru Gobind Singh Ji breathed his last at this sacred Shrine. He spent about 2 years at Hazoor Sahib and during this period, he engaged himself in prolonged meditation and infinite number of Japji Sahib Path recitations without caring for food and rest. He used to spend whole night in deep meditation and recitation of Holy Nam.
From Hazoor Sahib, he walked to Haridwar and Rishikesh (in U.P.) through thick forests. He spent about a year in deep and prolonged meditation at Rishi Kesh. From there, he set out on foot, along with Bhai Ram Singh of Thamali for Sialkot (now in Pakistan) via Dehradun, Paonta Sahib, Baru, Anand Pur Sahib, Una and Gurdas Pur. From Sialkot, he reached Amritsar and meditated constantly for 3 days on the third floor of Gurdwara Baba Atal. From there, he reached his home village and met his mother. On the persistent request of Sant Ji, she gave her consent for allowing him not to marry so as to enable him to be free to spend his life for the service of humanity in general and Sikh Panth in particular. Sant ji left his village Chima after three months. Since he was not formally discharged from Army as yet, he decided to submit himself before army authorities at Abbotabad in Rawal Pindi district (now in Pakistan)for completing formalities for final discharge from army. Colonel, the Commanding Officer of his unit appreciated his services and tried to persuade him not to leave the army service but Sant ji did not relent and was finally discharged from the army. Thus he became totally free to persue the Divine Mission in his life.
On his way to Punja Sahib Gurdwara, he had vision of Ten Gurus. From there he went to Rawal Pindi to meet Bhai Ram Singh Ji. In consultation with him, he selected an isolated place of thick forest near village Kanoha for prolonged meditation. After conpletion of an Akhand Path (uninterrupted recitation of whole of Guru Granth Sahib), he resorted to prolonged meditations in three spells o 40 days, 6 months and then one year. During this period he used to take a very small quantity of food once a day only which was served by a devotee couple. As a result of these prolonged meditations, his body was reduced to a mere skeleton. From then on, he was respectfully known as Sant.
His mother Mata Bholi ji developed an abscess near the knee joint which caused her lot of pain and sufferings. Sant ji an one to one meeting with her, explained the spirit of tolerance and accepting Will of God by concentrating on Divine Nam. She thus had realisation of spiritual Gyan (True knowledge). This realisation of one ness with God enabled her to overcome physical sufferings completely and attain exalted spiritual stage of JIWAN MUKAT (empancipation of spirit in life time) in her last days and died a peaceful and saintly death.
On the advice of Baba Sham Singh Ji of Amritsar - an exalted noble person, Principal Niranjan Singh Mehta of Khalsa College Amritsar met Sant Attar Singh ji at Lahore in 1905 A.D. HE took AMRIT and was known afterwards as Sant Teja Singh. He dedicated his whole life to Sant Attar Singh ji for selfless service who sent him abroad for highter education and propagation of Sikh faith. HE got his degree from Harvard University in America. Wherever he went in Europe and America, he spread Divine message of Guru Nanak.
In 1911 A.D., King George V visited Delhi and a grand Delhi Darbar was held at Delhi. Maharajas (rulers) of Sikh states requested Sant ji to lead the procession of Sikhs on this occasion. Seated on an elephant in the holy presence of Guru Granth Sahib, he sang the Gurbani Shabad when his elephant passed by the British King. The theme of the shabad was "No other King or Raja can be equal to Almighty God because all these worldly rulers exist only for a very short span of time and indulge in falsehood" On an enquiry by the King, meaning of the Shabad was explained to him. On hearing about him, the King was very much impressed by the noble and radiant personality of Sant ji.
During a religious discourse (Katha) at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, Delhi, he was bitten by a poisonous snake. Despite best possible medical treatment, then available, Sant ji left his mortal frame and merged with All prevading God on 1st Feb. 1927 A.D. at Sangrur. He was cremated at Mastuana Sahib, 5 kilometres away, in the presence of mamoth gathering of his followers and devotees. Thus an era of religious revivalism in Sikh history came to an end. But his memory and achievement s will ever remain alive in the hearts of millions of his fellow religionists.
Sant Attar Singh laid great emphasis on the spread of education and founded large number of Sikh Schools and Colleges. He always insisted on education blended with lofty principles of love, compassion, humility. and higher values in life. He took active interest in the affairs of Sikh Educational Conference. On the request of renowned National leader, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, Sant ji laid the foundation stone of Banaras Hindu University at Varanasi in 1914 A.D. Pandit ji was so much impressed by the towering personality of Sant Ji that he wanted that every Hindu family should have least one member as a Sikh.
Sant ji helped in the construction of many Gurdwaras and Holy tanks. He was responsible for constructing a magnificient building and holy tank at Gurdwara Dam Dama Sahib, Sabo ki Talwandi, in Bathinda District. He also got constructed huge buildings for Gurdwara and educational centre, known as Gur Sagar institution, at Mastuana in Sangrur District of Punjab.
He always preached meditation and noble human qualities of love, compassion, humility and selfless service. He used to say that all the problems faced by Sikh Panth will be resolved if all Sikhs get up early in the morning (Amrit Vela) and meditate on Wahe Guru NAM after taking bath. He spread message of love emphasising oneness of God and Universal brotherhood of all human beings.
At a time when Sikh Panth seemed to be on the verge of extinction as stated in the beginning of this article, he unleashed a massive movement of Amrit/Dharam Parchar to such an extent that he was responsible for baptising Amrit to about 14 lakh Sikhs in his life time. Many prominent Sikh personalities including Master Tara Singh, Sant Teja Singh ji, Principal Bhai Jodh Singh, Principal Bawa Harkrishan Singh, Principal Teja Singh, Malik Hardit Singh (former ambassador) etc. partook Amrit from Sant Attar Singh as one of Five Beloved ones (Panj Pyaras). He was embodiment of love and humility and practised what he preached in his life. He laid emphasis on meditation of Wahe Guru NAM and recitation of Nit Nem Banis early in the morning coupled with leading a true religious and pious life as per Sikh Faith.
Sant Attar Singh ji was such a great soul that he was, perhaps, the first Sikh personality to be affectionately awarded with holy title of a SANT by Sikh Panth/Sangat in the Twentieth Century.