Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Bhagat Puran Singh Jee

109 years ago today, a humble, shabbily dressed man, who spent his entire life serving the outcasts of society, was born. A man who had very little, and left a behind a legacy. A man whose loving dedication to his service earned him the name ‘Bhagat’, meaning ‘devotee’. A man who is so incredibly inspirational, it’s beyond words.

In his early years, he would clear the streets of Lahore. Whenever he came across a dead body, human or animal, he would immediately prepare a grave or pyre by his own hand, and give the unclaimed dead a burial or cremation as a sign of respect. He came to the aid of the abandoned. He took care of the destitute and took the sick to hospitals.

He wrote, "From my childhood, my mother had asked me to do personal service to all the creations of God. This tender and distinct feelings of virtuous tasks was ingrained in my mind. My mother had taught me to provide water to the animals, plant trees and water newly planted saplings, offer feed to the sparrows, crows and mynahs, pick up thorns from the paths, and remove the stones from cart tracks. This had embedded the Name of the Almighty in my heart.”

He never finished his basic schooling, but would spend hours browsing books in the Dyal Singh Library in Lahore and try to gain as much knowledge as he could.

He was an early environmentalist, an advocate of what we now call the ‘Green Revolution’. He was spreading awareness about environmental pollution and increasing soil erosion long before such ideas became popular. He produced pamphlets of his writings, printed them on re-used paper, and distributed them freely.

After the partition of India in 1947, Bhagat Puran Singh reached a refugee camp in Amritsar which housed over 25,000 refugees with just 5 annas (0.3 rupees) in his pocket. The government didn't make any arrangements to take care of the critically wounded refugees. Bhagat Puran Singh took the initiative - he took some chloroform and Turpentine oil and started treating the wounds of the wounded. He would often go in the nearby colonies to get food for the hungry and medicine for the ill.

Against the ugly backdrop of violence and poverty of the partition of India, he founded Pingalwara in 1947. This was a home for abandoned, terminally sick, mentally ill, and disabled people. It began with only a few rejected and neglected patients from the streets of Amritsar. Now, almost 21 years after his death, Pingalwara is still tending to the castaways of society, caring for over 1000 patients.

He was honoured for his dedication in 1979 by the Indian Government with the Padma Shri award, given for exceptional and distinguished service in any field. However, after the Indian army's attack on the Golden Temple in 1984, because of his love for humanity, he chose to return this award.

This pure, beautiful, selfless soul was Bhagat Puran Singh Jee, 1904 – 1992. He was born into a Hindu family, and chose to become a Sikh after being affected by the culture of service he witnessed in a Gurdwara. A culture of service that we have come to shamelessy neglect. May we be inspired by him.

Dhan Dhan Bhagat Puran Singh Jee. ♥


"Bhagat Puran Singh was no ordinary mortal but undoubtedly the most loved and revered man in the world. I once described him as the bearded Mother Teresa of Punjab. Mother Teresa had the backing of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, the English press and innumerable foundations to give her money. Bhagat Ji had nothing except his single-minded dedication to serve the poor and the needy. And yet he was able to help thousands of lepers, mentally and physically handicapped and the dying. His name will be written in letters of gold in the history of the world".

Pingalwara. Please support this beautiful charity.



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