Vir Singh 5 December in Amritsar — 10 June in Amritsar was an Indian poet, scholar, and theologian of the Sikh revival movement, playing an important part in the renewal of Punjabi literary tradition. Singh's contributions were so important and influential that he became canonized as Bhai, an honorific often given to those whom could be considered a saint of the Sikh faith. Charan Singh's three sons. His grandfather, Kahn Singh — , spent a great deal of his youth training and learning traditional Sikh lessons in monasteries.
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He was a poet, novelist, editor, exegete, historian and a journalist. He was the leading figure in the Singh Sabha, the dynamic Sikh renaissance movement in early 20 th century Punjab. The following is the talk given in by Dr. Balbir Singh Bhai Vir Singh's younger brother on the 3 rd death anniversary of his brother. It is being reproduced here to commemorate his th birth anniversary celebrations, which are scheduled for December 5, Details of each programme are listed hereunder, following the text of the lecture.
He believed in life eternal, in the immortality of man and he conveyed this message of hope through prose, poetry, music, history, philosophy, drama, conversation and commentaries.
He not only gave these contributions but also influenced many writers that have written in Punjabi. This fact has been noticed far and wide. The editor there, taking notice of Bhai Sahib and his works, remarks, "It can easily be understood how this man has influenced every writer, poet and scholar of his age. He has a delicate and flower-like touch, yet beneath the greatness is a consciousness of immortality that does not fail to communicate itself to the reader.
In as much as Punjabi literature is concerned, and the Punjabi poets and writers are concerned, these remarks can aptly fit Bhai Sahib. He was born somewhere about and lived for about 84 years. His literary career lasted a good 66 years.
During that period, he wrote and edited something like twelve hundred tracts booklets of the Khalsa Press Society , fifty books and left a good deal of unpublished work to be published as posthumous volumes.
Out of which I have personally published so far six volumes during these last five years. Now, that was a great improvement on people asking, "Give me wealth, give me cows and give me children. He wrote a beautiful poem on violets. The gist is, if I may put it in English: "I am like a violet who remains concealed in his foliage.
I wish to remain concealed and die unlamented. It is my perfume that betrays my existence. He says: my art, my conversations are like a perfume. I cannot conceal it.
I have concealed my color. I have concealed my structure. But this fragrance, this perfume is all pervasive. It travels far and wide and brings in recognition. This recognition interferes with my work of self-realization and self-expression. The idea that I want to remain concealed is not a matter of mood. It is not an expression of constraint. It is a shunning of society and fame. The Punjab University, though belatedly, recognized the merit of his work.
They adopted a resolution to confer upon him the Doctor's degree. I think it was D. Doctor of Literature. It was perhaps to be conferred in the first convocation when Trivedi and Patel and some others were invited for that purpose.
Bhai Sahib would not go. He said, "I don't want it. The result was that the University Syndicate passed a resolution to send the Registrar to his home with the degrees and honors and all that. Sardar Bhopal Singh, the Registrar of East Punjab University, came to our house with that diploma or whatever you call it and that big gown that you wear - the red one - it is still lying in our house as a piece of decoration.
Sardar Bhopal Singh made a short speech and concluded his remarks by saying: "Please permit us to add that in honouring you, it is not so much an honour to your person as a recognition of the fact that in honouring men such as you, the Punjab University is honouring men and women of letters who deserve as much honour as statesmen, politicians and others of the world.
That was his Doctor's degree. I was not there. This ceremony took place in Amritsar. I was at Dehra-Dun. Bhai Sahib immediately wrote to me a small poem of four lines beginning with -. Our father was a medical man, Dr. Charan Singh. Bhai Sahib wrote they have made me a doctor. But I am not a doctor. My father was a doctor; my grandfather was a hakeem. And they were so good that they had the art of healing. Wherever they would go, they would heal and cure: Paani garo vidiyaan sande man budh vasey jinhaa de kher, Assee anari rahe umar bhar However, I never learnt this medicine or practiced the art of healing.
I remained anaari Na pandit na bane hakim, Doctor da je hudam chalaa aan lagaa ta lagsee gair - I feel so odd that at this age I have to carry this appendix of Doctor. His satire was - Doctor da je hudam chalaa aan lagaa ta lagsee gair This is to illustrate the man was cultivating only swar music and slok poetry while shunning shruv fame that was showered upon him. I say to you that he threw overboard these goods and the heavy load of learning.
He was quite learned and was a great Persian and Sanskrit scholar. He knew grammar very well but he never thought that these things would help in the emancipation of his soul; or in giving that taste of freedom or bringing about the union of the individual soul with the cosmic soul to which he was aspiring.
About knowledge - his remarks were, that, whatever our learning is, ultimately it is - Sir kachkaul banna hath leetha After giving up this side of knowledge and refusing to chase fame, he was cultivating only two things in his life: music and poetry. Music to him was not a mere piece of recitation on a musical instrument or a piece of melody sung by a person. Music to him was a living personality, which gains an independent existence, independent of the singer or the musical instrument.
That was his personal experience about music. For his benefit, I translated this piece of poetry that was published in the Empire edition of poetry in London. The translation:. These two things, poetry and music, become warp and woof of his life and wove a very good pattern on the whole. And that pattern is his dreamland - the land of his visions, which becomes real for him, in which he lives; which he portrays, which he interprets and to which he directs the attention of other people so that they may get their guidance from that.
About dreams, an author has remarked that dream abides, it is the only thing that abides. And then, another famous poet writes: "Yet after break and still or stone are gone and flesh and blood are dust, the dream lives on. I was saying earlier that he wove the reality of dreams with music.
What I want to convey by this is that his idea was that it is the experience of dreams that give content to the living moments. It is different from a similar idea found in English literature. A well-known poet writes about giving appointments to others to meet him in dreams. The idea that dreams are true only in dreamland, though Man wants the dreams to be extended.
But for Bhai Sahib, it is the experience of dreams that gives content to the living moments of life. After having experienced something in his dreams, he says: " Kamdi rahee kalayee " in relation to the spiritual experience of life.
It arises out of that vision which he wove through the cultivation of his intense poetry and music. As I said in the beginning, he never believed in death. He is still here although we can't see him.
He wrote a poem before his death describing the same thing. Balbir Singh Memorial Lecture by Prof. Bhai Sahib's bed and leather chair in which he would usually sit, are among the items available for view.
Balbir Singh Sahitya Kendra, Dehradun. A wonderful tribute to a fantastically talented man, totally dedicated to Sikh values and practices. His work continues to inform and inspire many even today more than 50 years after his death. He was also the first novelist who wrote in Punjabi. Another gem from his pen speaks of the evening of one's life when the shadows have lengthened, yet the wellsprings of desires continue unabated Sanjh hoyee parchhave n chhip gaaye itchha bal too jaree and then continues to remember those who know and live the pangs of passion Seenay khich jinaa ne khaadi au kar araam nahee behnday.
The sixth river of Punjab he was. But a generation that does not know him has replaced his poetry with alcohol as the sixth river. A wonderful mystic. But we all have blind spots and he was no exception; the legend of Hemkunt owes much to his patronage. Bhai Vir Singh's tracts and novels permeated the Sikh consciousness for several generations in the first six or seven decades of the twentieth century and brought out the best in the community.
It is imperative that we have all his works translated in proper English so that they are available to the younger generations. This must-do task is long overdue. Bhai Sahib was a saint as defined in The Guru Granth. Apart from the books he wrote, there're excellent books that are written by others about him.
Guru Nanak Chamatkar Part 2
He was a poet, novelist, editor, exegete, historian and a journalist. He was the leading figure in the Singh Sabha, the dynamic Sikh renaissance movement in early 20 th century Punjab. The following is the talk given in by Dr. Balbir Singh Bhai Vir Singh's younger brother on the 3 rd death anniversary of his brother.
Sri Guru Nanak Chamatkar Part 1
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