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NIHAL SINGH THAKUR

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NIHAL SINGH THAKUR (1808-1895), Sikh theologian and musician, was born at Amritsar on 7 Phagun 1864 Bk/17 February 1808 to Bhai Mahal Singh and Mata Basi. Bhai Mahal Singh lived in the village of Sayyid ki Sarai in Gujjarkhan tahsil of Rawalpindi district, now in Pakistan, and had come to Amritsar only as a pilgrim, but settled here for good after the birth of Nihal Singh. The family could scarcely make both ends meet, and Nihal Singh, then a small boy, had to work in order to augment their meagre income. At the age of ten, he entered the derd, or seminary, of Thakur Dayal Singh, a Sikh luminary, as a pupil. There he was admitted to the rites of the Khalsa.

During the next fifteen years, he studied Sikh scriptures, grammar, poetics, history and Sanskrit literature. Being the most prominent of the pupils of Thakur Dayal Singh, Nihal Singh also came to be distinguished by the epithet `Thakur` or `master.` Thakur Nihal Singh had the gift of a sweet voice, and he learnt vocal and instrumental music from Bhai Gurmukh Singh Pothohari, a noted musician of his time, and accompanied him at labid, or Indian drumpair, during kirtan, or singing of hymns, over a long period of time, in the Harimandar at Amritsar. He also learnt and practised the Ayurvedic system of medicine. Around 1870 Thakur Nihal Singh setout on a pilgrimage to various Hindu and Sikh holy places, where he preached the Sikh faith through kirtan and discourse.

His longest stay during this period was at Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib, Abchalnagar, at Nanded, where he sojourned for nine months.He also stayed for a considerable time, in 1872,at Gurdwara Charan Padukaat Nizamabad in Uttar Pradesh. There he prepared, at the instance of Mahant Sadho Singh, an exegesis of the Jap Sahib. It was given the sonorous and alliterative title of Chakradhar Charitra Chdru Chandrikd. Another work he wrote there was entitled Chintdmam. On his return from the pilgrimage, Thakur Nihal Singh stayed at Sukkho, a village in Rawalpindi district.

In 1874 he moved to Thoha Khalsa, where he established a dera called Dukh Bhanjani. He continued his kirtan recitals and missionary work till the end. Sam Atar Singh is said to have frequently attended these recitals at Thoha Khalsa. Baba Khem Singh Bedi once took him on a preaching tour of his estates. In 1895, he was on a similar visit to Haripur in Hazara district, when he died suddenly on Jeth vadi 14, 1952 Bk/22 May 1895.

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