RANDHIR SINGH. BHAI (1878-1961). a revolutionary as well as a saintly personage much revered among the Sikhs, was born on 7 July 1878 at the village of Narangval in Ludhiana district of the Punjab, to Nattha Singh and Panjab Kaur. Nattha Singh was at first the district inspector of schools of Ludhiana and then translator of law books in the princely state of Patiala, in which capacity he rendered into Punjabi the Indian Penal Code under the title Hind DanddvaU. Later, he became a judge of the High Court in Nabha state. Randhir Singh passed his high school at Nabha and was admitted to Government College at Lahore in 1896.

In 1898, he transferred himself to Forman Christian College at Lahore, but left in 1900 without completing his course for the Bachelor`s degree. At college, he excelled in poetry and athletics. The poet in him flowered into a religious mystic and the sportsman into an intrepid campaigner for the political freedom of the country. In October 1902, Randhir Singh was appointed a ndib tahsilddr and personal assistant to the District Plague Medical Officer, Dr R.W. Fisher.

In 1903, he resigned his government post, declining simultaneously an offer of promotion to the higher rank of tahsilddr. He received the vows of the Khalsa on 14 June 1903 at Bakapur, near Phillaur, at a special divan convened to convert to Sikhism Karim Bakhsh, a Muslim, and his family.At initiation, he received the name of Randhir Singh, his previous name being Basant Singh. Briefly in 1904-05, he worked as a head clerk in a goverment office at Abbotabad, where he spent most of his time in meditation.

This was a time of spiritual illumination, as recorded in his autobiography/^ Chitthidn (Letters from Jail). In 1907, he took up the job of a hostel superintendent at the Khalsa College at Amritsar, only to quit it like his govenment appointment. Randhir Singh was appointed secretary of the Khalsa Diwan, Damdama Sahib, in 1908. When in 1913 the government demolished the outer wall of Gurdwara Rikabganj in Delhi to secure symmetry in the vicinity of the Viceroy`s Palace, he took a leading part in organizing protest meetings.By September-October 1914, members of the Ghadr party had started pouring into India from the United States and Canada to make an armed insurrection.

Some of them contacted Bhai Randhir Singh, who readily offered to cooperate and who became one of the leaders of the Ghadr revolution in the Malva region. On 19 February 1915, he marched out with a batch of about 60 comrades to help Kartar Singh Sarabha capture the Firozpur cantonment. The plan, however, fell through. Randhir Singh was detained at Nabha on 9 May 1915 and on 19 June was put under arrest and taken to Ludhiana.

He remained in Ludhiana jail until 27 October 1915 when he was removed to Lahore.He was tried in the Lahore conspiracy case II and, on 30 March 1916, sentenced to transportation for life. For sixteen long years (1915 to 1930), he was shifted from jail to jail Lahore, Multan, Hazaribagh, Rajahmundry and Nagpur. While in Multan jail, he went on a protest fast to secure for the Sikh prisoners their religious rights and won his point after a 40day trial.

Just before his release on 4 October 1930, he was brought to Lahore jail where a Muslim jailer arranged a meeting between him and Bhagat Singh, the martyr, then under death sentence. Bhagat Singh, as says Bhai Randhir Singh in his Jelh Chitthidn, confessed that he had been up to that time an atheist but that after meeting Bhai Randhir Singh a new spiritual awareness had come to him.After his release from jail in October 1930, Bhai Randhir Singh turned increasingly inwards and spent most of his time in meditation and in preaching the Guru`s word through kirtan and through akhand paths. For his standing in Sikh piety and for his qualities of courage and sacrifice, he received siropds or robes of honour at all the Takhts, seats of highest religious authority.

In the hukamndmd issued from the Akal Takht, Amritsar, on 30 Bhadori 1988/ 15 September 1931, he was eulogized for his “steadfastness, selfless sacrifice and outstanding services to the Panth.” Besides the Takhts, he received similar acclaim at other holy places, including Tarn Taran, Khadur Sahib, Goindval Sahib and Sultanpur Lodhi.

He was chosen to be one of the Parij Piare, the Five Beloved, who initiated on 17 September 1931 kdrsevd or voluntary mass labour to clean the holy tank at Tarn Taran. He was the Jathedar of the Parij Piare chosen to lay, on 14 October 1932, the cornerstone of the new building of Gurdwara Parija Sahib. He was also included among the Parij Piare who performed similar ceremonies at Gurdwara Shahid Garij at Nankana Sahib (21 November 1934), Akal Buriga at Patna Sahib (8 January 1938) and the Kavi Darbar Asthan at Paonta Sahib (17 March 1938). Bhai Randhir Singh wrote more than three dozen books and tracts on Sikh theology, philosophy and mysticism.

Especially notable among his works are Jelh Chitthidn, Anhad Shabad Dasam Dudr, a book on the highest state of spiritual illumination according to Sikhisrn, Charon Kamal ki Mauj, an essay on mystical experience, Gurmati Ndm Abhids Kamai, a theological treatise on the discipline of ndm, i.e. absorption in the Divine Name, Gurm.at Ribek, a book on the Sikh code of conduct, and Gurbdm didn Lagan Matron di Vilakkhanatd, dealing with peculiarities of vowel symbols in Gwbam.Joti Vigds and Darshan Jhalkdn are books of mystical poetry.Bhai Randhir Singh died on 16 April 1961 at Ludhiana. On his death 200 akhand paths or continuous recitations of the Guru Granth Sahib were performed in and outside India. His memory is perpetuated by his followers who, women not excluded, don turbans in a distinctive manner and perform what is called akhand (uninterrupted, long continuing) kirtan he made popular.

References :

1. Randhir Singh, Bhai, Jelh Chitthian. Amritsar, 1938
2. Khalsa Samachar. Amritsar, 20 April 1961
3. The Tribune. Chandigarh. 16 April 1988