Biography Of A Scholar: Bhai Ardaman Singh


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004

Bhai Sahib Ardaman Singh ji Bagrian was an eminent person in the realm of Sikh religion and Punjabi culture, a blend of grand human qualities and a great exponent of Sikhism. He was born on 20th September, 1899, in village Bagrian, Distt. Ludhiana (now in Distt. Sangrur) and passed away in Chandigarh on 25th December, 1976. His father, Bhai Sahib Bhai Arjan Singh, was a famous Raees and was honoured among the Sikhs with the title of His Holiness. Mata Devinder Kaur was the mother of Bhai Sahib Ardaman Singh. He had his schooling in Ludhiana and passed his B.A. degree from the Khalsa College Amritsar, in 1918. In the college he came into contact with Baba Gurdit Singh of Kamagata Maru fame. He helped the Baba (incognito) by getting him employed in the college. Baba Rori Singh was also given shelter at Bagrian where Sardar Sardool Singh Cavisher was living disguised as a sadhu. Bagrian House at Shimla became the confluence of many enlightened Sikh scholars, thinkers and statesmen. Bawa Hari Krishan Singh, Principal Teja Singh, Giani Gian Singh, and Baba Prem Singh Hotimardan, used to stay there during the summer months. Bhai Kahn Singh of Nabha was almost like a member of the Bagrian family. Bhai Sahib Ardaman Singh was nurtured and nursed in the company of such great Sikh scholars and in an atmosphere of soul stirring Gurmat Sangeet. He was an evolved soul and enlightened person of outstanding stature and eminence, completely committed to the cause of Sikhism.

Bhai Sahib was vehemently against idol worship. He has revealed through his writings and speeches that all the banis in Dasam Granth were not composed by Guru Gobind Singh ji. He often used to say that Sikhi was being eroded by Brahminical rituals and that the vitals of Sikh way of life were being destroyed. He would exclaim, “If there are no Sikhs then how would Sikhi render service to humanity?”

Bhai Sahib Ardaman Singh was essentially a man of religion. He never dabbled into the dubious intrigues of politics. For this very reason he was held in high esteem by all the political pundits of the day and the heads of other religions as well. The President of India, Dr Rajinder Parsad, the Prime Minister of India, Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri, all the Governors of Punjab, and even the Viceroy of India, graced the Bagrian House with immense pleasure. The House of Bagrian has been in the service of the Panth almost for four centuries. The Gurus have blessed the House to render service to humanity and spread the teachings of the Gurus far and wide. Bhai Sidhu and Bhai Roop Chand, through their devotion and service to the Guru, brought the House into eminence. The benediction of langar was bestowed upon Bhai Roop Chand by the sixth Nanak, Guru Har Gobind Sahib. The House of Bagrian has been held in high esteem by all the Sikh Maharajas. From cradle to the cremation, all ceremonies of the Sikh Royals are performed by the Bhai Sahib of Bagrian. Sewa (service) is one of the cardinal virtues of Sikhism. When the Guru bestowed this on Bhai Roop Chand he flourished beyond expectations. Bhai Roop Chand offered to Guru Gobind Singh services of his five sons, who were initiated as Khalsa. Two of them, Bhai Param Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh accompanied the Guru to Nanded. Bhai Dharam Singh had a son, named Dayal Singh, who founded a village, Dayal Pura. After Bhai Dayal Singh, Baba Guddar Singh and Mai Rajji brought glory to the House of Bagrian. The langar became famous as langar of Mai Rajji. As the story goes, on the advice of Baba Guddar Singh, Raja Gajpat Singh of Jind took the girl out of the pitcher marked for burial in the earth. He made the prophecy that the girl would give birth to a very brave man. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was her son and he visited Bagrian in 1807 in order to pay homage to Bhai Sahib Mohar Singh.

Bhai Sahib Arjan Singh, on the request of Raja of Kapurthala, laid the foundation of Gurdwara Ber Sahib at Sultanpur Lodhi in 1937, and on the invitation of Sant Baba Attar Singh, he laid the foundation of Mastuana in 1919. The religious ceremony of Benaras Hindu University was performed by Bhai Sahib Arjan Singh and the foundation stone of the religious wing was laid by Sant Attar Singh. Singh Sabha movement owes a great debt to the House of Bagrian. When the movement gathered momentum then it was firmly established in Bagrian in 1895, and the Chief Khalsa Diwan was the outcome. Bhai Arjan Singh became its first president and remained so for 15 years. The SGPC set up a committee for the centenary celebrations of the Singh Sabha movement. Bhai Sahib Ardaman Singh became the senior Vice-President of the Committee. Bhai Sahib also had the honour of being the President of the newly constituted Gurmat Academy which was an important organ of Kendri Singh Sabha. Bhai Sahib Ardaman Singh actively participated in the drafting of the Rehat Maryada for the Khalsa Panth. He had profound knowledge of Sikhism, and was considered an authority on Sikhism. He was a brilliant exponent of Sikh identity and Sikh Panth.

Bhai Sahib Ardaman Singh was deeply interested in Gurmat Sangeet. Under his guidance, the Punjabi University, Patiala, recorded and preserved the traditional and modern modes of kirtan, and a book containing 492 shabads in old compositions (o hs ) was researched and published by the University. Bhai Sahib authored many tracts on kirtan and chaired several seminars. He was given the unique honour of being the chairman of the selection committee for the granthis and ragis of Harmandar Sahib. He was an excellent speaker in English as well as Punjabi language. Whenever we think of Bhai Ardaman Singh of Bagrian, we are reminded of the following famous lines of Shakespeare :

His life was gentle, and the elements So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world,‘This was a man !’
August 18, 1999 Sadhu Singh Deol
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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Here is also a 2008 book review with more background

From Tribune India

Thus spake an ardent believer
by Roopinder Singh

Thoughts of Bhai Ardaman Singh compiled by Bhai Ashok Singh. Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh. Pages 250. Rs 395.

BHAI Ardaman Singh Bagrian as a person is hard to define. A man steeped in tradition, but who projected himself through the modern idiom. Born in 1899, he passed away in 1976, having seen the transition from feudal India, of which he was very much a part, to independent, socialist India. He was among the towering personalities who dominated the socio-religious canvas of Punjab for a significant part of this century

And what a personality he was as were his contemporaries! Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, Principal Teja Singh, Giani Gian Singh, Bawa Hari Krishan Singh — they dominated the intellectual and social ethos of Punjab then. And they would often get together at Bagrian House to discuss matters and exchange ideas. This was the time when differences were resolved with civility, when people agreed to disagree with grace.

Bhai Ardaman Singh was a Sikh, a scion of a family that traced its roots to Bhai Rup Chand who was blessed by Guru Hargobind. His father, Bhai Arjan Singh, had a pre-eminent position in Sikh society of his days and the son managed to adapt to changing circumstances with aplomb.

He expressed himself with clarity and forcefulness which can be seen in his collection of writings, "Thoughts of Bhai Ardaman Singh," compiled by his son, Bhai Ashok Singh. The writer is opposed to what he called plagiarism — the propensity of scholars of Sikhism to base their works on those of scholars who adhered to other traditions. A proponent of an independent Sikh religious identity, Bhai Ardaman Singh was steadfast in opposing "brahminical influences" on Sikhism.

What then is his concept of a Sikh? "Sikhs as a whole, are known as the Panth. The Panth includes all sorts of Sikhs, whether perfect or imperfect, novice or fully responsible, sehajdhari or amritdhari. Anyone who believes in the Guru and the Gurbani and has faith in no one else, cannot be denied to be a Sikh and, therefore, is a member of the Panth. For every Sikh there is a bar. Once he or she crosses this bar, he (she) is elevated to the selection grade, and after having received amrit he (she) becomes a Khalsa, a member of the Akal Purkh’s fauj (army of God), who surrender their life and are tested and consecrated with the sword, a class of God-conscious men, saint-warriors, out to protect the good and spread goodness and punish evil-doers and extirpate evil."

Whether he is exploring historical aspects of the religion or expounding on various concepts central to the faith, the author comes across as a believer well-versed in the Gurbani and the Sikh lore. He quotes extensively from the scriptures and is an ardent advocate of an independent Sikh identity — be it religious or cultural.

It is interesting to note what he has to say on the concept of maryada. "There is no special spiritual sanctity attached to maryada in Sikhism. But it is like the Constitution of a civilised and organised government of a country, to which loyalty is sworn. It has been formed and has been evolved from time to time by the Sikhs as a whole called "Panth". It is the point around which the whole organisation revolves and keeps together. Without a Constitution or rules and regulations, no society or individual can properly function. Without this regulation everything becomes a total chaos. It is a matter of strategy for protection and advancement of the Sikhs, to co-ordinate and integrate and keep them on the path. Maryada has evolved and changed according to the requirements, needs and conditions through which the Panth has passed. It will have to adapt itself and change in future also when necessity and urgency of the situation calls. A static constitution is always fatal to the cause. Our maryada, therefore, has to be dynamic and a living, pulsating and functioning Constitution. But it has to conform to and be subservient to the spirits and tenets laid down in the Satguru’s Shabad incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib."

Various heads as diverse as Guru Nanak’s way of life, simran, the Sikh sword, worship, singing the lord’s praises, karam gratefulness sant sadh sangat, women among the Sikhs, renunciation, clothes, food and unity, intolerance and culture are discussed in this compilation. The chapter on ardas is particularly interesting for readers who are not too familiar with the various aspects alluded to in the prayer.

As a reader peruses various topics in the book, he would see the work of an ardent believer and proponent of Sikhism who has expressed himself forcefully. The reader would have to keep in mind the time frame which set the tone of the writing, though the thoughts expressed through it transcend temporal limitations.

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