Bhagat Puran Singh

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Bhagat Puran Singh

Hardeep Kour Bali , A selfless social worker "Daily Excelsior" 13/8/2017

Once in a lifetime, selfless and extraordinary people like Bhagat Puran Singh appear on this planet to bring lost hope in the lives of the unfortunate ones. He was born on 4 June, 1904 in Ludhiana into a Hindu family as Ramji Das but owing to his experiences during one of his stays at Gurudwara, he chose to become a Sikh and earned the title of a writer, publisher, environmentalist and a philanthropist.

Bhagat Ji was undoubtedly the most revered man on the earth and his love for mankind led to the foundation of “Pingalwara” in 1947 started with only few patients of Amritsar. In one of his writings, he said, “Seeing the sad plight of the destitute patients, whereas I started thinking of establishing an organization to look after such patients and get them treated from various hospitals, it also came to my mind to go through various types of magazines and books, etc. and try to know as to what had the developed countries thought and done to solve the problem of this neglected segment of the society.”

The formation of Pingalwara has a long story behind it as Ramji Das aka Bhagat Puran Singh had failed in the Matriculation examination so his mother shifted to Lahore and told him to reappear for the test. Meanwhile, she started working at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and alongside she used to work at flour mill owner, Harnam Singh’s place who then advised Ramji to visit Gurudwara Dehra Sahib regularly until the declaration of his results. The young boy followed his advice and started spending most of his time doing Sewa at Gurudwara Sahib. Owing to his regular visits to the Sikh temple and considering his dedication in the sewa, he was given the name “Puran Singh”.

Later, Puran Singh earned the prefix “Bhagat” due to his diligence as a sewadar, he used to scrub utensils, make night stay arrangements at the Gurudwara for the visitors, help the poor and destitute people, offer service at arranging shoes of pilgrims as they enter Gurudwara etc. Even after all this, if he finds any free time on his hands, he would directly go to the library, peruse and skim through numerous books to acquire knowledge about various aspects. In the library, he used to learn about the various issues like deforestation, fuel issues, population growth problem, unemployment etc. All these things inspired him to aware people about the developing issues in the society hence he installed his own printing press at Pingalwara and started writing articles on general issues to aware people about social issues.

Bhagat Puran Singh’s mother died on 23rd June, 1930 owing to incurable diseases and her death deeply saddened him and emotionally moved him to seriously ponder about serving humanity which eventually led to the foundation of “Pingalwara”.

In a shocking incident in the year 1934, somebody had left a spastic child fully covered in excreta in the Gurudwara premises as his mother had died long time ago while his father was unable to look after the child. Following this incident, the gurudwara management handed over that child to Bhagat Puran Singh due to his assiduity. Since that day onwards, Bhagat Ji used to carry this child on his shoulders and thus became the guardian of that young kid and named him “Pyara”.

Later, during the partition time, Bhagat Ji moved to Amritsar from Lahore where he along with that 17-year-old crippled child stayed in a refugee camp. Bhagat Ji volunteered for serving the sick, old and handicapped people in the camp and by the time, people started to move from these camps; Bhagat Ji was left with seven to eight destitute whom he took from footpath to hospital and took great care of them by washing their clothes, cleaning their excreta and sweeping the whole place in order to keep it neat and tidy. Besides, he acquired a rickshaw in which he used to carry sick people to the hospital for their treatment. Bhagat Ji had this veritable combination of humility, passion, courage and compassion which was essential for shouldering the burden of the old, sick and orphaned people.

Bhagat Puran Singh became a great example of a true Sikh devoting himself for the service of the mankind by showering love on the weak and the suffering mankind. He helped people irrespective of caste, creed and color. He was an institution in himself, who became a living legend until he breathed his last on 5th August, 1992. He might not be physically present amongst us but his ever-lasting love for the homeless, abandoned people and mentally deranged children immortalized him. The institution that he had established for putting an end to the misery of the sick and old destitute is still working well and progressing with love and devotion. He was even termed as the bearded Mother Teresa of Punjab by the renowned Indian writer Khushwant Singh. His modest effort now offers rehabilitation facilities to scores of people. Bhagat Puran Singh was truly a sage whose life was full of great deeds working recklessly but splendidly for the underprivileged.

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