TARA SINGH NAROTAM, PANDIT (1822-1891), a renowned scholar of the Nirmala school, was born in the village of Kalma, near Qadian, in Gurdaspur district of the Punjab. Very little is known about his early life except that, under the influence of his father, who was a devout Sikh, he started attending religious divans while still very young. When he was about twenty years old, he left his village and came to the dera or hermitage of a Nirmala saint, Gulab Singh, at Kurala, Hoshiarpur district. Sant Gulab Singh initiated him into the Nirmala order and taught him the Sikh texts. 

For further learning Tara Singh went to Amritsar and thence to Kashi (Varanasi) where he studied Sanskrit and Vedic literature.He spent some time at the village of Nadia in the Santipur area of Bengal. The Arddha Kumbha fair in the year 1861 took him to Haridvar. By then his fame as a scholar had spread far and wide, and Maharaja Narinder Singh (1824-1862), the ruler of Patiala, extended his patronage to him.

Accepting the Maharaja`s invitation, Tara Singh came to Patiala and made the Nirmala dera, Dharam Dhuja, his permanent seat. Here he immersed himself in his scholarly work. He wrote copiously and taught several groups of scholars. His most distinguished pupil was historiographer Giani Gian Singh.

After the death of Mahant Ram Singh Kuberia in 1875, Tara Singh was appointed Sri Mahant or the chief of the Nirmal Pahchayati Akhara at Kankhal (Haridvar), the central organization of the Nirmala sect. Among Pandit Tara Singh`s works may be mentioned Vahiguru Sabdarth (1862), Tika Bhagat BanIKa (1872), Tika Guru Bhav Dipika (1879), Sri Guru Tirath Sangrahi (1883), Granth Sri Gurumat Nirnaya Sugar (1877), Sabda Sur Kos (1866), Akal Murati Pradarsan (1878), Guru Vans Taru Darpan (1878), GrantA Guru Girarth Kos (1889), Prikhia Prakaran (1890), and Tika Sri Raga (1885). It is also said that he wrote a commentary on the entire Guru Granth Sahib which seems to have been lost.Tara Singh`s work can be divided into four categories exegetical, lexicographical, theological and doctrinal.

In his exegetical and doctrinal writings, he conforms to the Nirmala school of interpretation, presenting Sikh thought from within his Vedantic orientation. He believed that the gurmat, doctrinally, is an amalgam of the doctrines of Sankara and Ramanuja, with the exception that in gurmat, bhakti preponderates overjnana and action. He added that bhakti too is based onJ`nana only. He asserted that Guru Nanak was an incarnation of ViSriu and that Guru Nanak conformed to the path of the Vedas and did not deviate from that path anywhere except in idol worship which he rejected firmly.

He held that the Vahiguru is another name of ViSriu only and it could not refer to the nirguna concept of God. Mukti`m his view was a bodiless state. According to him, bani included in the Guru Granth Sahib was a revelation like the Veda. His expression was highly Sanskritized in the manner of the Nirmala school.

He was deeply learned in the Vedic, Sastric and Puranic lore and quoted from it profusely. Tara Singh Narotam died at Patiala in 1891. He was given a state funeral under the orders of the ruler, Maharaja Rajinder Singh.

References :

1. Shergill, Surindar Singh, Pandit Tara Singh Narotam :Jivan te Rachna. Patiala, 1985
2. Narotam, Tara Singh, Sri Guru Tirath Sangrahi. Kankhal, 1975
3. Suarni, Muni Arjan Singh, Sri Nirmal Pancliyati Akhara. Kankhal, 1952
4. Dial Singh, Mahant, Nirmal Panth Darshan. Amritsar, 1953
5. Pritam Singh, ed., Nirmal Sampradai. Amritsar, 1981