Shabad Voyage : Sant Sucha Singh ji’s Purpose, Achievement and Challenge (Dr. Jatinder Pal Singh Jolly)

Sant Sucha Singh, the founder of Jawaddi Taksaal, Gurdwara Gur Gian Parkash, had become the focus of attention for the entire community due to his innovative outlook, post-modern modus operandi and his services to the Panthak cause. He had been honoured by the pioneer Sikh institutions like Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Takhat Hazoor Sahib, The Jathedars of all the Takhats, Sant-Sects, Sikh religious centers, American Sikh of Espenola and Sikh diaspora settled in the New York, Toranto, Vancouver, London etc. was in a way a collective sanction to his unprecendented activities.


Shabad Voyage Starts from Jawaddi Taksal Ludhiana, Punjab, India

Although the meditative performance of Baba Sucha Singh was a by-product of an ages old family environment saturated with religious values, yet it was whetted by the idyllic atmosphere of Hazoor Sahib, Takhat Patna Sahib and Baru Sahib. Following the establishment of Gur Shabad Sangeet Academy in 1985 at Jawaddi Kalan, the launch of Adutti Gurmat Sangeet Sammelans in 1991, setting up institutions like Vismaad Naad, international institute of Sikhism etc., organization of international-level seminars and publishing the papers read in them are some of the painstaking tasks for which he will be remembered for ever by the lovers of sikh thought and music. Although he ceased to be physically among us on 27 August 2002, yet life-friendly attitude can be recognized from a poetic line of Dr. Jaswant Singh Neki, ‘Mein Sirf Utne Pal Hi Jeewia Haan Jinnhan Uppar Meri Kirya Di Chhaap Hai’ (only those moments which have an imprint of my deeds belong to my life in reality). Viewed carefully, the entire lie of Baba Sucha Singh turned out to be highly functional. The light he spread for igniting a global consciousness during a period not exceeding fifteen years, was a contribution deserving no lesser an adjective than Adutti (matchless).


Takhat Sachkand Sri Hazoor Sahib, Nander, Maharashtra


The paper at hand dwells only upon Shabad-Yatra, only one of his Herwlean tasks. It was during this very Yatra that – I could enjoy the warmth of the Baba’s nearness and this journey opened a gateway of inner voyage for me. The posters of these unique journey were pasted everywhere near around Harimandir Sahib. Among the posters of various other Yatras, the words ‘Shabad-Yatra’ attracted the attention of on and all. The poster of ‘Shabad-Yatra’ had on it, the artist-Imroz’s picture of Guru Granth Sahib with the sketches of 15 Bhagat Poets whose poetry forms a part of the scripture. Below it was a map of Maharashtra and the inscription of the objective of the Yatra. It said that in the first phase of the Yatra would include visit to the birth places of Maharashtra-born Bhagat Naamdev, Trilochan and Parmanand viz. Narsi Bahmani, Pandarpur and Warsigram. The Programme also envisaged a national-level seminar on ‘Bhagat Naamdev and Guru Nanak Sahib in Bombay University before the commencement of journey.

What could be more attractive for me. I rang up Jawaddi Taksaal on return. The Baba had just returned from Bombay after making arrangements for the seminar included in Guru Granth Sahib? Is this the same Granth which is recited in all the Gurdwaras? What can be expected of a common man if this is the information-level of a well-educated Chief Minister of independent India. The objective of Shabad Yatra becomes all the more important from his point of view.

Passing through Delhi, Agra, Shiv Puri, indore, Burhanpur etc. and making a brief sojourn at these places, this ‘Shabad Yatra’ highlighting the importance of Shabad-Guru under the leadership of Baba Sucha Singh reached Hazoor Sahib. During their three day halt here, the carvan of devotee, was joined by the bus carrying the devotees from Bombay. this stay was marked with the visits to the local Gurdwaras and having a sight of historical weaponary, costumes, horse etc. Following a press-conference at local level, many regional and national newspapers carried elaborate information regarding the objective and significance of Shabad-Yatra. Alarge number of devotees poured-into meet the Baba and became a part of the Shabad-Yatra.


People of Hingoli offered Garland to Sant Baba Sucha Singh Ji


Three days after the Shabad-Yatra carvan set out towards Hingoli from Nanded, it was three times bigger in size than it was at the time it started from Ludhiana. Among others who joined the Yatra led by 5 Piaras from Hazoor Sahib, there were persons like Dr. Jai Parkash Mundra, co-operative Minister and Member Parliament, Rakesh Wadekar, Bali Ram Patil, Brij Lal khurana, Ramesh Chander (all M.L.As and chairman of different undertaking) U.P. Singh Madaan Deputy Commissioner Nanded, Dr. Ravinder Rasaal, the editor Godatir (a Marathi Daily), Principal M. Shajali, Gurcharan Singh Sangha, the editor Sachkhand Pattar, Laddu Singh, the chairman Sachkhand Board, Amar Singh Mumbai, Jathedar Baba Kulwant Singh and Baba Bakhshish Singh the Katha-wachak (narrator of religious discourse). Before departure of the Yatra from Sachkhand, Sant Baba Hazoora Singh made ardas for the purposeful conclusion of the Yatra. Baba Sucha Singh was honoured with great religious pomp and show in the ambrosial hour at the Takht by adorning him with a big turban, robe, waist-band and weapons. On this occasion Baba Sucha Singh was urged to organize also a impressive seminar on the ‘Dasam Granth’ there in near future.

When the Yatra reached Hingoli, it was welcomed by raising very beautiful gates here and there, thanks to the efforts of a local Punjabi transporter Mr. Khurana. Mr. Vilasrao Gundevad, Member Parliament from District Parbhani, welcomed ‘Shabad-Yatra’ alongwith Swayam Seva Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Sewa Samriti, Beopar Mandal, Pahakar Samiti, Bank Mandal, Municipal Commissioner Hingoli, police officers, Tehsildar and other VIP’s and accompanied up to Bhagat Namdev’s native village Narsi Bahmani. The localities prefer to call Narsi Bahmni as Narsi Naam Dev because the mystic had taken birth here in 1270 A.D. Hailing from Cheemba caste, He spent his whole life in the devotion of God he spent about 20 years on the land of Punjab in village Ghumaan of Distt. Gurdaspur. During the last years of his life he settled again on the bank of Chanderbagh in Pandarpur and there itself, he breathed his last.


Village Narsi Namdev, Birth Place of Bhagat Namdev, Maharashtra


Narsi Naam Dev is a very simple village with small population. Bhagat Naam Dev’s house is still safe there. Now-a-days a Teli (oil crusher’s) family resides there. In the bottom portion of the house there is a basement of 4×2′ area where Bhagat Naam Dev must have sat in meditation. The Teli family regularly lights an oil lamp in the basement with the result that the whole place had become smutted. In the upper portion lived the Teli family in two mud-plastered rooms. During the last seven centuries, the ground level of the village had risen so high that the roof of the Bhagat’s house had come to the ground level of the village. The smoke had sooted even the thick wooden-beams of the roof of the basement. Opposite this house is well, known as Naam Dev Ka Kaun (Naam Dev’s well). Its water is very good to drink.

On the road passing by the village is a small temple of Shivala design with the size of 12×15′. It has installed-in-it, an idol of Bhagat Naam Dev. On the outer wall of the temple there are two oil-painting: Bhagat Naam Dev’s on the left and that of Guru Naam Dev on the right. It seemed as if the whole village had gathered there to welcome the Shabad-Yatra. A camp of 50 children was also in progress belonging to Varkari community, these children were learning how to sing Bhagat Naam Dev’s Bani at the rhythm of the Bells. Their accommodation was arranged a big spacious-hall on the left of the temple. In the open Pandal in front of the temple, the Jawaddi Taksaal Ragi Bhai Surjit Singh Samunder and his associates enthralled the congregation by singing the Bani of Bhagat Naam Dev. The Varkari children performed kirtan on Vitthul’s tune and created an atmosphere of trance as do the Akhand Kirtanists with an uninterrupted recitation of Waheguru-Waheguru. They were carrying along the whole congregation with the rhythm of ‘Vitthul-Vitthul.’

Their mentor was interpreting Naam Dev Bani in Marathi but the symbols used by him were so simple and lucid that we could understand it as properly as Punjabi. As the rivers become one with the ocean, the fire of different woods produces the similar flame and waters of any taste whatsoever produce the same kind of steam when heated, similarly. The people belonging to different races, religious faiths and regions ultimately merge with the same ultimate source i.e. the Divine Flame of God. There is no deference between man and man in His court. Similarly, the interpretation of Gurbani made by Sant-Sucha Singh was enjoyed by one and all blissfully. The congregation of devoees in thousands could be recognized from their apparel, in the Yatra.

On this occasion the local management of the temple submitted a charter of demands to the Baba wherein it demanded the setting up of Guru Nanak Niwas at the site adjacent to the temple and start Langar (community kitchen) there so that the devotees going to Hazoor Sahib may have a stop there. Accepting this demand in the midst of Jaikaras, the management Board of Takht Hazoor Sahib Sanctioned the commencement of Atutt (inexhaustible) Langar there. A truck full of food had already arried there from the Takht. It was really a feast for the eyes to see the local people enjoying Langar, sitting in queues. It was just like a manifestation of Guru Nanak’s concept of Sacha Sauda (a true bargain) Sri Shankar Satarkar, the chief of varkari sect had joined this function by traveling a distance of 300 kilometers all the way from the banks of Qayadee river. He was stromg enough to perform kirtan daily for five hours at a stretch, at an age of 98. He was brought on the devotees shoulders just as one would bring a palanquin, with all reverence. Baba Sucha Singh honoured him and some other dignities of Varkari sect with the Siropas i.e. the robes of honour. The sect honoured the managers of Shabad-Yatra by offering them the garlands of Champa and Chameli (Jasmine) flowers and coconuts. We treated this offering from the Bhagat Nam Dev’s place as something quite rare.

S. Laddu Singh Mahajan, the chairman of Sachkhand Board assured that beside the construction of Guru Nanak Bhawan and commecement of Langar, the house of Bhaga Naam Dev too will be turned into a museum. It will preserve historical articles related to the Bhagat whose entire Bani will find itself inscribed there. The people of Varkari sect believe that when Sant Naam Dev performed kirtan at Pandarpur, Bhagat Kabir kept company with him on Dholak and Swami Gyaneshwar used to ring bells. Veena was Bhagat Nam Dev’s favourite instrument which he played himself. Even today, the Varkari followers have kept this tradition alive. This temple of Bhagat Naam Dev guarded round-the clock by a sentinel with not a gun, but a veena in his hand. a touch of his on the strings of veena fills the atmosphere with a spiritual resonanceand an Akhand (uninterrupted) recitation of Vitthul’s tune goes on. Twenty four sentinels have been put on job twenty four hours meaning thereby that the duty of a sentinel changes after one hour. A Jyoti keeps lit day and night in the temple. It is symbolic of the spiritual aura created by the Akhand Paath. Now it is for the listener to get blessed with it or not. About two hundred children are being trained to preserve this tradition, by the Varkari sect.

Having installed a marble slab regarding the Shabad-Yatra here from international institute of Sikhism; the Yatra turned towards Pandarpur. At this place near the bank of Dehura river, Bhagat Naam Dev had sung the praises to God in a slate of rapturous glee. The priests of his time had not allowed him to enter the Ghat (bathing-place on river bank) as according to them, he belonged to a lower caste. The legend goes that with the spell of celestial music sung by the Bhagat, the main gate of Dehura Ghat had rotated and appeared before his eyes. The Shabad ‘Naame Dehura Pherio’ (Naam Dev rotated Dehura) testifies this legend. Near the main gate of the red-bricked Dehura, is situated the tomb of Bhagat Naam Dev.

After a visit to this place, we went to see the temple in the thick interior of Pandarpur where the 27th descendent of Bhagat Naam Dev gave a hearty welcome to Baba Sucha Singh and his Shabad-Yatra. Here also the Jawaddi Taksaal and the Naam Dev devotees of kirtaned Bhagat Bani. The spacious compound of the temple was decorated with the idols of the Bhagat and other spiritual Masters. This was their first interaction with the sangat from Punjab. They felt delighted at the interpretation of the concepts of Shabad Guru and Naam-Simran. The last halt of the Shabad-Yatra was ‘Warsi Gram’. In the midst of this small town was the temple which was associated with Bhagat Trilochan. This temple was quite big and enriched with the touches of Rajasthani art. The palanquins made of marble-gauze and big niches were adorned with icons of several gods and goddesses which were attired with the brocaded cloth and ornaments and worshipped. In the verandah of the temple, there was a statue of Bhagat Trilochan also.


House of Sant Namdev’s 27th descendent


There is a popular belief among the local people which indicate that the Bhagat had his house elsewhere and nobody is certain about its exact location. But he used to reach here practicing Dandaut (prostration in obeisance to the worshipped). None had ever seen the Bhagat eating or wearing well. Once, one of his devotees, moved from within at his plight, brought him a new silk-robe. Wearing the silk-robe he felt a little delighted at heart that God had reached so promptly to set him right. This was a moment of enlightenment for him. When his meditation bore fruit, his self dissolved into the ultimate. Being a shudra, his tomb was built outside the sanctorum of the temple. But among the locals, he is held in high esteem. The Sikh Sangat had perhaps come to Warsi Gram for the first time. As we were passing through the bazaar of Warsi Gram with the posters of Shabad-Yatra pasted on our chests, the people looked at us with great curiosity. For their information Vismaad Naad had published a book in hindi entitled ‘Sabhei Ghat Ram Bolei’ containing the Bani of Bhagat Naam Dev, Trilochan and Parmanand along with their sketches. Reading this book, they were astonished to think that the Shudra Bhagat who had been denied even entry in the local temple enjoyed recognisation at par with the Gurus in the eyes of Guru Nanak.


Tomb of Bhagat Parmanand at Village Warsi Gram


We failed to locate the birth-place of Bhagat Parmanand on the basis of our conjectures which had brought the Shabad-Yatra to this place. The local sect-chiefs promised during conversation with the Baba that in near future they would cooperate him in tracing the concerned birth-place. Second Shabad-yatra was chalked out for Rajasthan for the birth-place of Bhagat Dhanna and Bhagat Peepa. I chanced to accompany the Baba twice in search of these places. We traversed a long distance visiting Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Kota, Boondi and Jaipur in our vehicles but to no avail. Once along some sikh transporters of Kota Boondi we were coming to Jaipur. They were of the view that Bhagat Dhanna’s place exists somewhere here on this route. Then we read a board at one place on the way. The Baba got the vehicle steered towards that side at the sight of the board which though disfigured with rains, looked bearing the words, ‘Dhanna Jatt Ka gaon’ (the village of Dhanna Jatt). Going about 8 kilometers toward the interior. We found it a poor village of Muslim population called ‘Dhuan Kalan’. As we advanced two kilometers ahead, we saw a hut in a corner of a barren land. opposite to it were two small rooms attached to a pucca verandah. Hearing us, a sardar came out of the hut. He was bare-footed, with a dark brown piece of cloth wrapped around his head. He was attrived with a flowing kurta reaching down to the knees and advanced straight towards the Baba to pay obeisance to the Baba. we were as surprised to see him as he was to see us. His blooming smile seemed to say, “Oh! The God Himself has come to the hut of this underling.” He spread a carpet in the verandah and arranged a bedding on twine-cot for the Baba. he served water to all by fetching it from the nearby well. Then he lit the fire with dry cotton-crop sticks and started preparing tea for us. Sitting close by us he narrated his story saying that he hailed from Ludhiana. A Jatt by caste his name was Surjeet Singh. He was well aware of the performance of the Baba in promoting the Panthak cause. He told that piqued out at a sarcastic remark of some commission-agent that the Jatts are incredible-never worthy to be relied upon. He had abandoned everything in the Mandi and set out in search of a true Guru. Roaming about here and there, he finally reached here in the village of Bhagat Dhanna adopted Dhanna as his Guru. Thus he settled in this field where, the legends says, the Lord himself had ploughed for Dhanna and sown his crop. Every year a big mela is held here on 8th of Vaisakh . The people from far and wide come here, worship Dhanna and taste the soil of this field as one would taste a sweetmeat like Burfiby way of Prasad i.e. the sanctified food. It is believed that if the land is affiliated with excessive salinity or any other problem of this sort, a handful of soil from this field is enough to restore the fertility or productivity of the afflicted land.

This very field has the well of Dhanna Bhagat. Surjit Singh has renovated the two rooms near the well. In one he has installed the idea of Dhanna Bhagat while in the other lies open Guru Granth Sahib. He told that initially he had to face a tough time in getting settled here. The locals thought I had come to grab their land. But when he sold his own land in the village and purchased some more in the name of Dhanna Bhagat here, he cultivated for himself, a faith among the local people. Now the Langar serving tea and food to the guests continues here all the time. Sometimes he goes to G.T. Road, tem kilometers away from the village and collects some contribution from the Punjabi Sikhs, truck-drivers taking their meals on the roadside Dhaba. Here he remains engrossed in the remembrance of God’s name. He proposes to build a beautiful memorial in the name of Dhanna Bhagat and a museum having articles relating to the Bhagat. He believes that the people of Rajasthan have a good treasure of things related to Dhanna Bhagat but there is no trace of them as yet. He has somehow acquired some copper-plates from the nearby villages. These copper-plates have on them the inscription of Dhanna’s Bani. A legend goes in the area that at the end of his life, he had gone to the other world in his temporal frame along with his family in a cart. Out of the clouds of smoke and raised by the cart-wheels on the outskirts of village, the villagers saw him going to the heavens. There is how the people of Dhuan Kalan believe. Apart from the above, we had to visit Pakpattan, the birth-place of Baba Farid. I was entrusted all the responsibility to make arrangements for the Shabad-Yatra to Pakpattan (Multan) by Sant Baba Sucha Singh. I was supposed to chalk out the whole programme in consulation with the cultural ambassadors of Pakistan like Elias Ghumman and iqbal Qaisar.

Till the sant passed away in July 2002, we kept busy in many more projects and international seminars etc. The second stage of Shabad-Yatra too could not complete its cherished mission. In 2004, when I joined Baba Farid International Conference in Pakpattan at the call of Diwan Azmat Sayeed Mohammad Chisti, the 43rd descendent of Baba Farid, Baba Sucha Singh must have been traveling with me in a permeated form. Every breathe made me have a feel of his existence on the soil of Pakpattan.

A very important and academic aspect of this Shabad-Yatra was a national seminar on ‘Bhagat Naam Dev and Guru Granth Sahib’ in the Yashuwanto Hall of the Bombay University. Prof. Mirajkar, the head of Bhagat Naam Dev chair was appointed its convener. The Baba joined the inaugural session of the seminar along with the Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi, the Deputy Chief Minister Gopi Nath Munde, Vice Chancellor Bombay University Dr. Sneh lata Deshmukh and other dignitaries. In this keynote Dr. Mirajkar apprised the audience with the objective of the seminar. Other who attended this seminar included prominently: Dr. Satinder Singh Noor from Delhi University, Dr. Harkerat Singh, Amarjeet Singh Grewal, District Education Officer Ropar, Dr. Ajmer Singh and his wife Jaswant Kaur and Dr. Jginder Singh Kairon from Amritsar beside many other Hindei, Bengali, Marathi and English scholars. Most of the papers were read in English during this two-day seminar. They triggered a meaningful discussion. It was during the very inaugural session that the Chief Miniter announced the installation of Guru Nanak Chair in Bombay University. This gesture was welcomed by all the sections. This news hogged the headlines of all the leading newspapers the next day. On this very basis Bhagat Naam Dev Chair was setup late in Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar so as to build a bridge of cultural goodwill between Maharashtra and Punjab.

Another achievement of this Shabad-Yatra was holding a function to honour seven prominenet Punjabi personalities settled in Maharashtra. They included the great jurist Ram Jethmalani, film produced Govind Nihlini, writer and film-maker Gulzar, great musician ustad Allah Rakha khan, D.G.P. Maharashtra Amarjit Singh Samra and customs collector Siharath Singh Sekhon for their distinctive achievements in the areas concerned. While receiving the honour Ustad Allah Rakha Khan Sahib clearly, “My age now is not to receive, but give.’ (obviously, even the state Chief Minister was just like a grandson to him). But he had reached here just because Sant Baba Sucha Singh credited with reviving stringed instruments in keeping with the tradition of Gurmat music, had come all the way to Bombay from Punjab.

Undoubtedly, the personality of the Baba was so charismatic that anybody who met him once was bewitched by his qualities of head and heart. The Almighty had sent him on Earth with a very special purpose. That is why what he did in his life time was unprecedented. Once we took up mny task, he would carry it to its grand completion with an indomitable spirit of courage and perseverance, He was a true friend, philosopher and guide. No ordinary person could go on with such a dynamic personality. I experienced various facts of his personality during Shabad-Yatra viz. a very affectionate head of the family and an efficient manager. He was a perfect planner. Solution to the hardest of issues would spring forth from his being as naturally as a cascade flows from the dizzying heights. At times, I would ask him in utter bewilderment, “Baba Ji, you have since your childhood stayed away from the household affairs. So you don’t have any experience of a household life. You don’t have business tendencies either. Then how do you until the knotty worldly and psychological issues within no time?” He replied with great equanimity, “I have learnt from life, the experiences of others.” Whosoever met him fell that he was the most beloved one of the Baba. His mesmerizing words would make one enjoy their sweetness and avail their latent wisdom throughout his life. This was the magnetic effect of his personality.

In fact his entire journey life was a Shabad-Yatra. That is why at the time of editing the collection of his discourses entitled ‘Swei Parkash’, he asked me to write the following dedication-
To Those Who, owe their origin to the Word, Lived the Word And dissolved into it.

One who dissolves into the Word may cease to be on an earthly plane but permeates the being of his near and dear ones due to his spiritual strength and becomes a source of perennial inspiration for them. Among the projects started by Baba Sucha Singh, Shabad-Yatra was the one which had yet begun only. Now it is a challenge for his followers to fructify the vision of their master. While doing so, they will be taking a right step in the right direction by disseminating the global-brotherhood message of Guru Granth Sahib to the humanity through the organization of seminars on the remaining 13 Bhagats.