PEOPLE
This section provides a list of important and prominent figures from Anglo-Sikh History which have been listed in alphabetical order, according to ethnicity and time period.


A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - R - S - T - U - V - W - Y - Z


Randhir Singh, Bhai Sahib

Pioneer of the Gurdwara Reform Movement (1878-1961)


Early Life

Bhai Randhir Singh, whose original name before baptism and initiation into the Khalsa fold was Basant Singh, was born in the village of Narangwal in the Ludhiana District of Punjab on July 7, 1878, to a family of a very noble and devout heritage. His father, S. Natha Singh, was a learned scholar of Punjabi, Urdu, Persian and English, who initially worked as a District Inspector of Schools but later rose to the rank of a Judge in the High Court of the State of Nabha. As a Judge, he became well known for combining justice with mercy, compassion and humanity. His mother, Sardarni Punjab Kaur, was a direct seventh-generation descendant of a very devout, eminent, and saintly Gursikh, Bhai Bhagtu, a very distinguished disciple of Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dcv Ji and Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib. Thus, Bhai Randhir Singh inherited scholarship and strength of mind from his paternal side and qualities of piety and devotion from his maternal side.

He had most of his early schooling in Nabha and his higher education at the prestigious Government and Foreman Christian Colleges at Lahore (in 1896-1900 A.D.), which was, at that time, the capital of the undivided Punjab State. He was not only an intelligent and diligent student with respect to his scholastic pursuits, but was also a good sportsman, having once served as a Captain for the College hockey team. He had a prodigious memory, a fact clearly revealed from the way he has reproduced details of the happenings during his prison life. In his autobiographical letters from prison, he has narrated his long conversations with the jail authorities minutely and distinctly narrated. In his various books on Sikh theology he quotes very appropriate verses from the Gurbani freely and with apparent ease. He had a deep insight and scholarly expertise in Punjabi, Brij Bhasha of Sri Dasam Granth, Persian, Urdu and English. He even distinguished himself as an Urdu and Punjabi poet during his college days.



Gurdwara Reform

He took the initiative in clearing the malpractices in the various historical Gurdwaras. As a reformer, he was not deterred by the strength of the vested interests involved in their management. Once, at Gurdwara Fateh Garh Sahib on a holy occasion, he did not allow the recitation of Gurbani by an unholy and apostate Ragi Jatha, without caring for danger to his life. Again at Anandpur Sahib Gurdwara, on the occasion of Hola Mohalla Celebration, he did not tolerate the malpractices and immoral activities of the powerful management. Risking his own life, he successfully fought against the administration. It was for such deeds of Gurdwara reform that he has been referred to as the pioneer of the Gurdwara Reform Movement. A reference to his services in this respect was also made in the Hukam Namah bestowed upon him from Takht Sri Kesh Garh Sahib in 1905.

 


Resistance against the British

In 1914, when the British rulers razed the wall of the historical Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in New Delhi to beautify the surroundings of the then newly built Parliament House, it was Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh who not only was the first to protest publicly against this desecration of the Holy Shrine, but also to announce his specific plans to spearhead the agitation until the razed wall was restored. He was also instrumental in organizing two large Panthic Conferences in this connection, at Patti in District Amritsar, and at Lahore, to pass the Resolutions condemning the British action, and demanding the restoration of the razed wall. These conferences were the first of their kind after the British occupation of Punjab. It may be mentioned here that the Chief Khalsa Diwan, the only major Panthic Organization at that time, had expressed its willingness to side with the British Government.

Although his mind was never in politics, as a true Gursikh who cannot accept slavery and repression, he, along with the Ghadarite emigrants from USA and Canada, became an active participant in the armed revolt against the British Government for the country's freedom. In fact, he was the only outstanding leader from Punjab who, along with his companions, was a participant in this revolt. It is worth noting here that the top Hindu leader of the Indian National Congress, M. K. Gandhi, opposed this revolt and declared his support to the British Government in their First World War efforts, saying, "Was it not the duty of the slave, seeking to be free, to make the master's need his opportunity?...it was our duty to win their help by standing them in their need." Earlier the so-called Punjab Kesri, Lala Lajpat Rai, called these Ghadarite emigrants fanatics and dangerous to the national cause.

 


15 year Prison Sentence

The revolt failed due to leakage of plans by traitors from within, and he and his companions were arrested on May 9, 1915 and tried in what is commonly known as the Second Lahore Conspiracy case. However, his love for the country's freedom arose solely from the ideals of the Sikh Dharma, and whatever he did for the country he did primarily as a true Gursikh and not merely as a political freedom fighter. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1916 and his property confiscated. He was only 38 years old with a wife and three young children. The eldest ten year old daughter could not bear this separation from her dear father and died within a month of his imprisonment. His son Balbir Singh was only six years old, and his daughter Daler Kaur was just two.

 


Meeting with Bhagat Singh

Prior to his release from prison in Lahore, the well-known Shaheed Bhagat Singh, who was waiting execution in the same prison, expressed a desire to have Bhai Sahib's darshan before his death. On being approached, Bhai Sahib refused to see him saying "...he has violated the basic tenets of Sikhism by shaving off his hair and hence I do not want to see him." Bhagat Singh was quick to express his repentance and also confessed that he, in fact, was an atheist at heart. He further told Bhai Sahib that even then, perhaps, he would have kept the Sikh appearance, but if he had done that he would have lost the friendship and sympathy of his Hindu comrades and would not have received so much publicity in the press. After a two hour meeting with Bhai Sahib, he became a true Sikh at heart and later went to the gallows as a true believer in Sikhism.

MEETING WITH BHAGAT SINGH, THE GREAT PATRIOT
From Autobiography of Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh

At last the day came. It was 6 p.m. on 4th October, 1 930 The news of my release was announced and everyone was very happy about it. I was sitting in a blissful solitude within my cell. All the patriots rushed towards my cell to break the news to me and congratulate me. The first to come and congratulate me was Bhai Gajjan Singh (Teacher). In a matter of minutes other patriots gathered around me and read joyfully the orders
of release. I was overwhelmed not so much by the joy of release as by the separation I would have to bear from devoted friends like Bhai Kartar Singh (of Canada). I was overwhelmed by these dual emotions of joy and sorrow when friends came to bid good-bye with loving embraces: The prison officials stood there ready to carry out the order of my release but my feet were reluctant to move away from such dear companions. I embraced everyone of them and after a few affectionate words with each one of them I left them all with tears in their eyes. The stream separated from the river at last.

When I went out of these prison-wards I met Mohammed Akbar near the central dome. He was smiling and coming towards me. On seeing me he congratulated me for my release. Inattentive to his felicitations I told him hat it was time that he should fulfill his promise. He should not miss the chance. He smiled and said that he had already made arrangement for the meeting with Bhagat Singh. I could now meet him for full two hours. I asked him if he had taken permission from the Superintendent.

Daroga: Before I found it necessary to ask him, the Superintendent was already worried and puzzled and was seeking a way out of a difficult situation. His worry is that you should be quietly released without giving any chance to outsiders to make much noise about it.
He asked me to find a way out of this difficulty. He said, there are regular pickets of people outside, who are waiting for the news of the release of political prisoners. As soon as a political prisoner is released the news spreads like fire and there is a great noise and hubub of long processions, which are very disturbing to the Government. The Government has issued strict instructions, that the release should be secret and quiet. You see people sitting near the prison gates in regular pickets till sunset, so you must make some arrangement to send Randhir Singh out secretly and quietly so that we may not be blamed for anything later on. At that very, moment I asked the Superintendent not to worry, and suggested to him the plan, saying, "You remember sir, the day Randhir Singh came to this prison, Bhagat Singh who has been sentenced to death submitted an, application for permission to meet him, but you rejected it. I believe that if we now allow him to meet Randhir Singh, the meeting may take about two hours. It will be quite dark by then and by 8 P.M. we will send Randhir Singh out and strict secrecy about the releasewill be maintained." The Superintendent was impressed by this suggestion and gladly issued orders to allow this meeting and you can talk freely as long as you like. I will now give you a warder, who will guide you to Bhagat Singh.

So saying, he sent a prisoner warder with me and ordered him to permit us to have an unrestricted meeting. Bhagat Singh was taking his daily stroll in the prison compound. He had been told about the permission granted for this meeting. On seeing me he came running towards me. I was standing outside the fence of the courtyard. He crossed the fence and greeted me with great love and affection, bowing low out of reverence. I also folded my hands and greeted him warmly. The warder moved away when we were together. Even the policemen on duty in the compound kept away from us. We were all alone facing each other.

Bhagat Singh was so overwhelmed by the, joy of meeting after months of anxious moments, that tears rolled down his eyes. I had hardly met anyone in life who had developed so deep affection and love even before coming into contact with me. It appeared we had known each other for long time. In a rapturous tone he said, "O I can hardly say how
happy I am today on having met you at last. Day and night I was restlessly longing for just a short meeting with you. At last the blessed moment has come and my wishes have been fulfilled. After knowing all your great sacrifices and suffering in prison, I had become a keen admirer and passionate devotee. It was the heroism of the great freedom fighters of 1914-15 like you, which inspired insignificant
patriot like me. All our revolutionary exploits are nothing compared to the astounding heroic deeds performed by you and your companions. Your own life and struggle for freedom and rights especially impressed me. Munshi Manna Singh has perhaps told you with what passionate longing I was thirsting to meet you and talk to you. I should say that my inner attachment and admiration for you brought you back to Lahore prison after sixteen years. When I first sent a message to you within this prison, that I was anxious to meet you, I received your divine command to keep the sikh symbols (beard and hair.) I am prepared to abide by your wishes. I am really shamed and am prepared to tell you frankly that I removed my hair and beard under pressing circumstances. It was for the service of the country that my companions compelled me to give up the Sikh appearance and disguise myself as a sannyasin. So it is in association with the irreligious people that I was compelled to show disrespect certainly my religious symbols, but now I will certainly do whatever you wish me to do:

I was glad to see Bhagat Singh repentant and humble in his present attitude towards religious symbols. I was deeply impressed by his frank statement of facts, but I could not hesitate in expressing my inner feelings and I said

"Brother Bhagat Singh ji, I am deeply touched by your love for me. I am also impressed by your spirit of service and partriotic zeal, but I must tell you dear brother, that your companions did not give you good advice. You seem to be seeking something very petty and you became a prey to the evil and mischievous suggestions of your companions. Compared to our times the period in which you started the freedom struggle is a period of, great awakening. You could fearlessly take part in the freedom struggle and serve your country and humanity as you wished. But you must be knowing that, in our times (1914-15) few and rare souls felt inspired to dedicate their lives to this cause. In the Punjab only a few Sikhs who could be counted on finger-tips were politically awake felt the patriotic fervour to fight for freedom. There was a great feeling and political opposition to the heroic partriots who had come from Canada and America,, Every child in the Punjab was opposed to them. I will give you only one example of the moral courage of our patriot brothers of those days.

Bhai Nidhan Singh of Chugga village was a great patriot and fighter for freedom, who inspired hundreds of Indians living in foreign countries to come to India and dedicate their lives to freedom struggle. He spent thousands of rupees from his own pocket for freedom fight. And yet he did not disguise himself. He came openly by sea but the Government atonce made elaborate arrangements to arrest him. He reached India along with his companions without being detected. He could not be arrested. He came to the Punjab and threw himself heart and soul in the freedom struggle. His heroic deeds for the cause of freedom must be known to you. Warrants for his arrest had been issued, his photograph was widely publicised and a price was set on his head. There was an all out attempt to arrest him.

He moved swiftly from one place to another organizing the 'freedom struggle. There was no sympathy and support for these freedom fighters in the public. The patriots depended mostly on Bhai Nidhan Singh
for organisation and inspiration. Of course in fearlessness there was none so daring as Kartar Singh Sarabha. One day Kartar Singh feared that Bhai Nidhan Singh may be arrested. He was the key figure among the freedom fighters and it was necessary that he should not be arrested soon. Keeping only the political interest in view he suggested to Bhai Nidhan Singh that he should dye, his beard and thus change his publicised appearance to some extent. Bhai Nidhan Singh boldly answered that he would never do such a thing and tarnish and disgrace his heroism in the freedom fight. You can use me as best as you like with this appearance only and do not make any suggestions which would
make me a coward" he said.
His companions wanted him to fall a prey to their evil suggestions but his determination remained unshaken. For organising the freedom struggle he travelled twenty to thirty miles a day and sometimes fearlessly passed close by police posts. He performed such heroic deeds compared to which your plans were insignificant. He did not even agree to change the colour of his beard, while you went to the extent of removing your hair and beard.*

*Note: Bhai Nidhan Singh of village Chugga, Ferozepur district was sentenced to death in the First Conspiracy case on 13th Dec, 1915, but the death sentence was changed to life imprisonment. He was released and died on 6th December 1936 at Mop.

Bhagat Singh: Actually I did not murder Saunders. I was of course accused of having murdered him. I considered it, a great heroic deed and so took the credit for it. I confessed that I killed Saunders. Whether there was any benefit in it or not, I nevertheless got the credit for the whole deed. Even otherwise there was no escape for me.

I: The ideal of a true patriot is never to seek such petty joys of empty credits. For the joy of getting worldly praise you did not hesitate to fall from a higher spiritual ideal, nor did you ever repent over this fall from a much higher ideal. All that you have achieved by this wrong step is some trumpeting of your name and heroism by some papers. You gave up the Guru's personality for false glory and empty ambition. If you felt that you made a mistake you should have, repented and come back to the ideal by maintaing a Sikh-like appearance again. Why did you not do it?

Bhagat Singh: I might have kept the Sikh like appearance again, but then I would have lost the friendship and sympathy of my comrade B.K. Dutt. Secondly, I would not have got so much publicity as I am getting now. It is true that my sacrifices are insignificant compared to the sacrifices of the freedom fighters of 1914-15. But after such astounding sacrifices they did not get any publicity or praise in the papers. The Sikh papers had very limited circulation. Even they did not reveal all facts of the heroic deeds of patriots like you, because their timid policy prevented them from writing anything frankly. It is the non-Sikh papers which publicised my name widely and it is through them I have acquired all the glory associated with my name. It is a fact that if I had maintained the Sikh appearance and if I had professed myself to be a Sikh and kept hair and beard the non-Sikh papers would not have written a word about me, just as they did not write a word about
you and your companions. Even out of Sikh papers "The Khalsa Akhbar", Lahore, an urdu paper, dared to write something about you. I know it for certain that Hindu papers are always reluctant- to write even a word in praise of Sikh patriots and freedom fighters. They do not like Sikhs being praised for anything. If I had kept hair and beard again and become a Sikh, they would have started belittling me instead of praising me. So I hesitated to keep hair and beard again.

I: On judging what you have said, my dear Bhagat Singh, your ideal of patriotism is very. low and frippery. To make such a show of patriotism and service to the country for personal glory is cheap chauvinism and vain jingoism. The patriots of 194-15 movement suffered and saved the country keeping only the selflless service. of the motherland in view. They did not have the slightest thought of such cheap publicity and never even in a dream had any ambition of personal glory. It is only in the company of petty minded and evil-motived people that your mind was misled into such vain, thoughts of personal glory. The seeking of eminence through newspapers, and honour and glory through propaganda are all superficial things about which it is rightly said in the Guru-Granth.

Mad are those who trumpet a man's glory,
Shameless is he who accepts such fame,
He is like a rat who has tied a winnowing basket to his waist,
He now finds it impossible even to get into his hole

On hearing this Bhagat Singh was deeply moved and said "The ideal of Sikhism is no doubt very high. The world in general hankers after empty glory only. I also drifted in the same passion for personal glory. But today I have realised that all these things are idle exhibition of vanity; conceit and self-glorification. I would have been fortunate if I had got the opportunity of living in close association with you for at least three or four months. If I had got this opportunity to live in your company for three or four months, I would have gained much
and all my shortcomings would have disapeared. Now I will do whatever you ask me to do You now want me to become a kesha-dhari Sikh. I now admit that I made a great mistake. Even contrary to this healthy family tradition, I went against the Guru's instructions and showed irreverence to the Sikh symbols.

But there is one more fact, and I would be committing a sin if I conceal
it from you. I kept hair and beard merely because there was a long standing tradition in our family to do so. I am very proud to be called a Sikh, But the hard fact is that I am not a Sikh at heart. You will excuse me if I tell you in quite plain terms that at heart I am an atheist. I do not believe in God All my companions know it. With all that I am willing to do anything you ask me to do. If you command me, I will keep hair and beard. Alas! if only I had got the opportunity to stay near you a little longer, you could have changed my atheistic views.

I: I am very happy that you have revealed the truth of your inner state of mind and have not concealed what is really in your heart: It is absolutely useless to keep religious symbols like hair and beard while you are an atheist at heart, nor would I be proud of making you do such a thing. I am no more anxious about your coming back to Sikh forms, nor am I sorry that you do not have hair and beard. My only anxiety and wish now is that you should die with faith in God. You will definitely die on the scaffold. It would have been better if your atheism had disappeared before you faced death sentence. Even though you are an atheist remember one thing that you will not die, keep it engraved
in your heart that you will not die. You will be born again. Your soul is immortal and ageless.

It will never be destroyed. It will be born again and again: Know this for dead certain that you will not die. You will take human birth again. Look within and see what you are? Are you a soul, a spirit (Atman) or first a lump of flesh and blood. Do you think that this self within you which speaks, understands, thinks, reflects on serving humanity and expires after doing great deeds, is nothing beyond bones, blood and flesh and do you think it will end with the end of the body ? No, never your real self will not be destroyed and you will never die".

On hearing these words which were uttered in an inspired mood (by the Grace of God), Bhagat Singh stood there mute and inwardly moved. For a moment he lost his physical consciousness and his mind soared high. Speechless, he bowed low, as if some unknown power had taken possession of him. For quite sometime he remained absorbed in deep silence. I shook him with my hands and helped him to stand. On his face there was a strange glow. He came nearer me and stretching his hands
through the fence he tried to touch my feet. I held his hands in mine and said that only the Guru's feet are worth worship and not human feet. I helped him to stand up and when he had regained control over himself he said "Your words have pierced my heart like an arrow, my unbelief and faithlessness have been terribly shaken, a magnetic influence has changed my inner being. Deep down in my heart now I believe that I will not die and this belief will remain unshaken in my mind, speech and actions. I am that spirit that death will not destroy. I will not die. After I give up my body I will come again. Until my new birth my Atman
will remain in everlasting glory. When I die on the scaffold I will die with a great spiritual joy. I was brave through sheer will power and asserted that I did not care for death. Within my heart was the deep hidden sorrow of complete extinction after death. Whenever this thought came to mind there was darkness before my mind. The thought of being reduced to nothingness after death created a painful void within my heart. Your words have brought a, miraculous change in me. I can now see my future clearly in the light of new consciousness you have given me. The void, created by the thoughts of extinction have disappeared. All doubts and delusions have been dispelled.

I have gained much more strength. I will now die with great moral and spiritual courage. Your exalted life has imparted to me the elixir of spirituality and I feel its ennobling influence. I knew one thing about your life that you always say what you have experienced and your words and actions are always in unison. Not only am I convinced that I will not die, and that I am immortal Atman but I am convinced that there is God and you have had a glimpse of Him. So now you will be extremely pleased to learn that your beloved Bhagat Singh is a believer in God and he will die with complete spiritual faith in Sikhism, and according to the Sikh terminology, I will face not death but ascension. The word ascension is a beautiful word and reveals that the soul will rise above the body and go beyond death. After leaving my body my spirit will ascend heavenwards and will never die. It will be born again and will work for the ideal service of the Motherland and the nation. How fruitful has been this meeting with you. *

After this significant end of our meeting we greeted each other and parted in blissful silence. It was quite dark now. I was taken to the office from where l was given unconditional release and sent
out of the prison under cover of darkness. I boarded the train from Lahore railway station and came to Amritsar. From Amritsar railway station I walked to the Golden Temple. A Government servant had been given to me to help me in my journey. He carried my bag and bedding and attended to all my needs. Near the clock tower the servant waited with my luggage while I went inside and had a dip in the holy tank. It was 1am. There I sat in peaceful solitude meditating on His Name. I enjoyed this solitude very much. After meditation, I had a mind to meet some friends. But on second thought I wanted to keep this pilgrimage to the Golden Temple a secret. I knew that if I met some friends there will be unnecessary noise of jubilation about the release and a good deal of trumpeting through processions. I was tempted many times to go and meet Gyani Nahar Singh and Gyani Harbhajan Singh in the Malwai Bunga, but I overcame the temptation. Until day break I enjoyed the divine Kirtan of the Golden Temple. Then quietly I slipped out of Amritsar and resumed my journey to Ludhiana.

Vah Guru ji ka Khalsa Vah Guru ji ki Fateh.
Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh

*Note: At Bhagat Singh's death Sikh rites were performed by a sikh patriot. He had kept the promise of keeping hair and beard. Blitz, Bombay published a photograph on 26th March, 2949 which was taken a few hours before his death.

 


Honored by Akaal Takht Sahib

Soon after his release in 1930, Bhai Sahib was honored by Sri Akal Taldit Sahib with a Hukumnamah and a robe of honor, recognizing his steadfastness in faith and selfless sacrifices (Appendix A). He is the second person to have been honored by Sri Akal Takht Sahib during this century, the other person being Baba Kharak Singh, the renowned Panthic leader of the late twenties. Afterwards, the other three Takhts also honored him in the same way, thus making him the only single person to have been honored from all the original four Takhts in the last hundred years of Sikh history. (Damdama Sahib was declared the fifth Takhat later). Robes of honor and a gold medallion were also sent to him by the Sikhs of U.S.A. and Canada. He was selected as one of the Panj Pyaras to inaugurate the Kar Seva of the sarover of Gurdwara Tarn Taran Sahib, and to lay the foundation stones of the new buildings of the Gurdwaras at Panja Sahib and Shahidganj Nankana Sahib, besides those of the Bungas at Patna Sahib and Kavi Darbar Asthan at Paonta Sahib.

After his release from prison, he lived for over thirty years during which time he travelled throughout the country and propagated the true Gursikh way of life through Gurbani Kirtan and Paath. A large number of ardent seekers of the true path of Sikhism were drawn to him magnetically, and he directed them to and brought them in direct touch with the infinite wealth of Gurbani. In this way, the Akhand Kirtani Jatha came to be formed. According to him, the principles of life pointed out in Gurbani and prescribed in the Khalsa Code of Conduct are not merely ideals but downright practical. He himself conformed to and lived in accordance with these principles in letter and spirit, even in the midst of the most unfavorable and tortuous circumstances of jail life. It is now a fact of history that his bold stand and endurance of untold sufferings for retaining the Sikh symbols in jail resulted in the amendment of the Jail Manual, which permits all the Sikh prisoners to wear Turban, Kachhehra and Karra in jail. Prior to that time, they were forced to wear caps and Longoties and were deprived of the Karra.

He wrote about two dozen books on Sikh theology, philosophy and the true Sikh way of life (Appendix B). Of these, the most well-known is his AUTOBIOGRAPHY, a collection of his letters written from prison during his sixteen years of imprisonment. This book reveals his personal spiritual experiences of the highest state of divine illumination. According to Bhai Sahib Vir Singh, these experiences "...will give convincing testimony of the fact that our faith, the contemplation and remembrance of the divine Name has now been tested by an experiment in the crucible of his own self by a scholar educated and trained in Western lore." It also reveals that his whole life has been a saga of suffering in which he never for a moment left his deep faith and devotion to God and His Word.

With regard to his other books, it may safely be said that during the current century, he is perhaps the only writer on Sikh theology who has written comprehensively, and with the confidence arising out of first-hand personal experiences of the highest state of Divine illumination, on such subjects as Anhad Shabad (Unstruck Limitless Music), Gurmat Karam Philosophy (Law of Karma), Sach Khand Darshan (Vision of the Realm of the Truth), Jyot-Vigas (The Revelation of Light), Andithi Dunya (The Unseen World), etc. Dr. Tarlochan Singh rightly says that "...In his writings we find the glow of his mystic experiences, his intellectual certainty and the metaphysical clarity of his theology."

 


Meeting with A Christian Missionary
from Jail Chityan - Autobiography of Bhai Randhir Singh

now leave aside the story of my life in Nagpur Jail. If I remember any incident later on, it can be included in the second edition. But there is one incident worth mentioning before I close.

It was a completely dark cell in which I had to spend day and night in ajapa jap (sempiternal contemplation of the divine Name), in the wonderful celestial music of which I remained absorbed most of the time. I could feel and see with my inner eyes the close presence of my Guru and God. The ever refreshing bliss of His presence and revelations, spread from the fragrant naval-seat of inner consciousness, to the lotus of the heart and higher still to the super-conscious states where the music of his divine Name became a light and vision of an eternal splendour. The whole of my inner being was ablaze with His Light and that Light spread and lighted the whole space of my inner and outer being. "just as the rays of the sun pervade all, so the Light of God can be seen blended with everything." This is how I felt and experienced. The Light of God that can be visibly seen is in essence really spread like the light of the sun. My inner vision felt blessed and exalted by the bliss of the vision in which I saw the Beloved so near and in a form so clear.

One day I was standing close to the bars of my cell, when my mind soared and fell into a state of samadhi of a blissful state. I do not know how long I stood there, but I kept standing even when the hot sun blazed and its burning light fell on my body from the courtyard. Even then I stood there unconscious of the heat. I stood in this condition till some one shook by my shoulder and my eyes that were closed in deep concentration of nectar-laved vision suddenly opened. I opened my eyes and for a moment saw nothing around me. Then from outside the bars I heard a voice saying: "Excuse me, I had to disturb you. For over fifteen minutes we have been standing here in the cell yard. A Christian Missionary who has just come from England has been waiting here for some time along with the prison officials. The Padre Sahib has specially come to meet you".

I saw the Christian missionary standing in the outer corridor under the shade of the wall, and addressing him said "Come inside, why do you keep standing at such a distance?" "Are you All right?" questioned the Christian missionary. "Why not come closer and ask me how I am? Why keep standing at such a distance?" said I.

Actually the inner corridor was blazing under the hot sun, while he was standing in the shade of the walls, in the outer corridor. He did not find courage to come and stand in the burning sun. The superintendent realised his difficulty. He opened the lock of my cell and took me out close to him in the shade. I laughed heartily and said to the missionary: "How is that you could not endure the heat of the sun which we have been enduring for eight years. He looked at my face and then addressing the officials and other visitors he said: "His face is fragrant and flourishing. I have seen innumerable political prisoners, but his face is unique." Then addressing me he asked. "Are you happy? Are you well?" "The Lord is gracious," I said. The superintendent told him that I understood English quite well, but I said I preferred to speak in my mother tongue, Punjabi. He sometimes spoke in English and sometimes in Hindustani, but I gave replies in Punjabi, which he understood.

Christian Missionary: For how long have you been kept in this dark cell?

I: Ever since I was brought to Nagpur Jail I have been kept mostly in this cell. I might have spent about five or six months in solitary confinement in other cells.

Christian Missionary: How many years of imprisonment have you spent in this Jail?

I: My history ticket will tell you that.

Christian Missionary: (after examining the history ticket, which the Superintendent gave him). So you came here towards the end of the year 1922. You have been kept here for nearly eight years. For how many hours in the daytime are you kept in this dark cell?

I: I am made to spend the whole day and night in this cell.

Christian Missionary: For how many hours long are you taken for a walk? For how long are you allowed to take exercise?

I: Not for a single hour? All that I can do is to come out of the cell to the courtyard attached to it where I can cook and eat my food, or take bath or ease nature. Immediately after that I am again locked in the cell.

Christian Missionary: (Looking angrily at prison officials) Why is he treated like that?

Jailer: The Punjab Government has given us strict orders not to allow him to meet his comrades or any other prisoner. We have orders to keep him apart from everyone. Even prison officials dare not meet him alone. We have no objection to taking him outside, but we have strict orders from above not to do so.

Christian Missionary: (addressing me) Do you get any newspaper for reading?

I: Never, although the Inspector General of prisons has permitted it.

Christian Missionary: (addressing the prison officials) When the Inspector General has given permission why do they not get the newspaper?

Superintendent: There is some confidential reason for it.

Christian Missionary: (addressing me) Do they give you some books to read?

I: No, never; they have even confiscated our prayer books which belonged to us. My history ticket will show that.

Christian Missionary: Do you sleep in the corridor or in the cell at night?

I: (laughing) please ask them.

Superintendent and others: (with one voice) No political or other prisoner is allowed to sleep in the corridor.

Christian Missionary: Do you stay alone in this cell?

I: No, never. I am never alone even for a single minute.

Superintendent and Jailer: (excited) What he has stated is a lie. He is alone in the cell. There is no one else.

I: Both of them are telling a lie. I am never alone in the cell, nor have I ever been alone in the cell for a single day.

Christian Missionary: (addressing them.) Well Sirs, what is the meaning of this. Why do you insist on saying that he stays alone when he says he is never alone.

Superintendent: Sir, according to prison rules we cannot keep more than one prisoner in one cell. We have strict orders never to lodge two prisoners in one cell. We can show you the Jail regulations. We are telling the truth and he is making a false statement.

I: (seriously) I am telling the truth. They are wrong. We, Sikhs of the Guru, never tell a lie.

Christian Missionary: How can this enigma be solved? Responsible prison officers are making a statement which cannot be called false, but my conscience tells me that this Sikh is also telling the truth. A prisoner in his position who is not given any books, nor given any newspapers, nor is allowed to talk to anyone, and is lodged in this dark cell day and night, cannot survive and live with such a beaming face as his. Look at his face. How glowing and refreshing it is. There is not a trace of gloom on his face, but it is red with glowing radiance. After being locked up day and night for so many years, I cannot imagine such beaming radiance and fragrance on any human face. So I cannot believe that he is making a false statement. After all how can we solve this enigma. (After a silence of a few minutes, addressing me) I cannot dub the statement of the responsible prison officials to be false. I also cannot believe that you are making a wrong statement. Please solve this mystery. If you are not staying alone then who lives with you all the time.

On hearing this my mind soared high and in a voice filled with deep mystic fervour, and under a musical inspiration suddenly leaping from the unknown, I sang the following divine song in answer to the question: "The Guru is with me ever and ever; Contemplating Him I live in His presence:

I contemplate ever, the Name of God within my heart,
All comrades and companions are thereby saved;
The Lord (the Guru) is with me ever and ever;
Contemplating Him I live in His presence. (refrain)
Their Will is ever sweet to me, Lord,
Nanak seeks only the Word of God,

Guru Arjan: Rag Asa.

Everyone was thrilled by the Song. Like statues all stood motionless and felt the magnetic influence of the divine song. The refrain became the burthen of the song. For many minutes the whole atmosphere was charged with the spiritual influence of the song. Everyone stood silently with fixed attention. No one spoke, no one moved. Every one felt the bliss of the song. The Christian Missionary who understood every word of it was the first to speak and break silence.

Christian Missionary: The mystery has been well solved indeed. So your Guru is ever with you. So you were indeed telling the truth, and in a way, the prison official were also telling the truth. But I wish to test your statement a little more. (addressing the prison officials) Who stays in the adjoining cells? Please call them.

Jailer: Well Sir, in the day time they remain empty. At night different prisoners are lodged in these cells.

Christian Missionary: Why do you lock them up at night? Who are locked up here? Some special prisoners or you pick them at random and lock them up here.

Jailer: No Sir, those prisoners who have been ordered by the Magistrate to be kept in solitary confinement alone are kept locked up day and night in these cells.

Christian Missionary: What is the maximum period for which the prisoner can be kept in solitary confinement? Could you quote the regulation?

Jailer: For a month at the most.

Christian Missionary: Is there any prisoner who is kept in this cell only at night but is allowed to move about outside in the daytime?

Jailer: No there is no such prisoner, Sir.

Christian Missionary: But you say two prisoners are always kept locked up at night in the adjoining cells. Why is that punishment given to them?

Jailer: Well Sir, they are not kept here because they are punished for something but according to prison rules we cannot keep these cells vacant; so we ask other prisoners to spend one night in them by turn. So one prisoner is kept by turn in each of these two cells.

Christian Missionary: Why do you change the prisoner every night? Why can you not keep the same prisoner for some nights in the cell?

Jailer: We cannot compel any prisoner to be locked up in this cell every night. For one night or so they gladly come and volunteer to be locked up 'in them.

I: No one is gladly willing to spend a night in these dark cells. Would it not be better to ask those who have already spent a night here, whether they would be willing to spend a night in these cells again.

The Christian Missionary then examined the logbook and found that no prisoner had stayed in those cells more than one night. He then ordered five or six of those prisoners to be brought who had brought who had spent the night in the cells during the preceding week. He asked everyone of those prisoners how they feel during the night in that dark cell and why do they not volunteer to stay again for another night in it?Everyone with one voice said: "Sir, God save us from this dungeon. Even to pass one night has been a great torture. The terrible loneliness and gloom is unbearable."

After inquiring everything about their experience in those dark cells from the prisoners, the Christian missionary made up his mind to spend one night in one of those cells as a matter of experiment. So he expressed his strong wish to spend one night in the cell.

Superintendent and others: Sir, how can we do that without the orders of the government?

Christian Missionary: I would be getting locked up in one of these cells for a night voluntarily and gladly for the sake of experiencing how a man feels.

When the prison officials found him adamant in his determination to carry out the experiment they agreed to lock him up in the daytime but not in the night, and that for a few hours only. The Christian missionary agreed to be locked up for at least three hours. The prison officials were, however, seriously upset. "Why do you worry?" I said to them, "the Padre Sahib will not be able to stay in the cell for more than one hour. Let him experiment. What do you lose by it." "Of course, Of course," said the Christian Missionary, "I just want to experience it myself, how one feels."

So the Christian Missionary was ready to be locked in the dark cell. I humorously said to him, "How fine it would have been if you put on the dress of the prisoners and then got into it. But the prison officials will not permit you to do so." So it was soon decided that the Padre Sahib would be locked in the third cell, adjoining mine, and he would be kept in at least for three hours. Just as he was about to enter the cell, I whispered into his ear: Well Sir, there is a chain dangling in the cell. It is connected with a bell outside. If you find any difficulty in staying long, please pull that chain. The Warder Incharge would at once open the door." He thanked me for this information and entered the cell where he was locked up. I was also locked up in my cell. All the prison officials, the warders and the sentries went away. The Warder Incharge of the Octagen went to his office.

Within an hour the bell of the Padre Sahib’s cell began to ring as loudly as a fire alarm. The Octagen-Incharge warder came running. The Christian Missionary was shouting from inside: "Open the door quickly, take me out quickly, I am dying." The door was opened. The Christian Missionary came out and after breathing open air for some time he said: "Take that Sikh of Guru Nanak out of the cell and bring him here."

I was taken out and brought before the Christian Missionary, who placed his hands on my shoulders and said repeatedly: "Well, noble Sikh, your Master, Guru Nanak is indeed ever with you, but my Master Lord Jesus does not abide with me as your Guru Nanak does. I am now convinced that your Lord, Guru Nanak must be visibly living with you. Please repeat that song you sang." I sang that song under renewed inspiration, and while I sang my face flushed with the rapturous joy of its inner experience. After hearing it the Christian Missionary said: "I now realise the true significance of the words of this song. It is quite true that your Guru resides in your heart and soul, nay in your whole inner being, and you never feel lonely. I have seen it from experience that apart from other difficulties, the gloomy torture of loneliness is the greatest difficulty to be encountered. Oppressing loneliness was the only difficulty I encountered. Every moment I felt the desolateness and dreariness gnawing at my heart. Blessed art thou O noble Sikh of the Guru, who spent years in this dungeon all alone. Nay, I make a mistake again, not alone but with the unusual spiritual powers you have acquired from your Guru, you appear to see the blazing Light of the Guru ever burning in your heart. You must be in constant communion with your great Guru, and you must be experiencing His nearness and discoursing with him every moment. That is why you neither feel loneliness, nor are you ever upset, nor is there any evil effect on your body. I was almost dying from dreary and dark loneliness. Great and glorious are you O noble Sikh and great and glorious is your Guru". After saying this he went away along with his party.

When he reached the prison gate he asked for the prison log book and wrote three pages of his impressions of the prison. The sympathetic officers who read it reported to us that he gave a vivid portrayal of what was happening in the prison. He particularly mentioned that the cruelty perpetuated and the tortures inflicted on me were unprecedented. He wrote many things in my favour. A few sympathisers even promised to procure. a copy of his report, but they did not get an opportunity to do so.

After recording his complaint in the log book, he went straight to the Governor of Central Province and met him about this matter. I do not know what he said to the Governor but after three days I was suddenly taken to an open barrack where there was a hand-pump close by and a large open-air courtyard. There was sufficient ground to take a walk and a mosquito net was also given to me. The whole barrack was at my disposal. I was also informed that my friend Bhai Kartar Singh would be allowed to stay near me soon enough. But even before this happened the Punjab Government sent a telegram to send me to Punjab immediately. As soon as the telegram reached the office I began to receive congratulations and the date for my departure was fixed. The Superintendent and the Jailer informed me that it was not mere transfer order but a step to release me soon. I was assured that I would be released as soon as I reached Punjab. They also informed me that they would be sending one or two sepoys with me and I would travel without being handcuffed. I requested them to send Bhai Kartar Singh to me so that before I left we could stay together. The Superintendent promised but the Jailer did not agree. However said, "If you were not to leave we would have certainly brought you together". The Jailer feared that Bhai Kartar Singh might inform me of the tortures inflicted on him secretly, and the matter may go out to the public when I was released. But the Superintendent took courage to permit us to be together at least for a day or two. So we were allowed to meet for a day. Living in the same prison we met there for the first time after three years or so. We embraced each other, told each other what we had experienced and how we had suffered. Many secret feelings and thoughts were exchanged. After meeting for the whole day we were again separated at night.

All the books that were confiscated were returned. All the things that were taken from my personal possession on the day I was arrested were returned. These things included my clothes, a rosary, a kirpan, a chakar, and iron bangles. A very precious Kirpan which I generally wore with strap was not returned. God alone knows where it was lost. They searched for it but could not get it. They were however prepared to pay for it, when they lost all hope of finding it. "I told them that the kirpan was, priceless. It was not possible for them to pay the price. If I had demanded any amount they would have paid it, but I did not feel like taking any money for the kirpan, which for me was a religious symbol. What could I get from some money?


Source: Autobiography of Bhai Randhir Singh - translated by Tarlochan Singh. www.akj.org




 
 
 

 

 
 
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