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PAL SINGH ARIF, SANT

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PAL SINGH ARIF, SANT (1873-1958), mystic and poet, was born on Maghar sudi 15, 1930 Bk/4 December 1873, the son of Gurdit Singh Sandhu and Sahib Kaur of the village of Paddhari, now in Amritsar district of the Punjab. He learnt to read and write Punjabi from the village granthi and Urdu from a Muslim He developed a taste for folk poetry and started composing verse of his own quite early in his youth. Pal Singh was also fond of the company of holy men, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim. At the age of 20, he was married to Nihal Kaur, daughter of Chanda Singh, of the village of Sarighna, in his own district.A year later, he enlisted in British Burmese army, and migrated to Burma.

There he trained as a regimental signaller in the 3rd Burmese Battalion and lived for the most part at Mandalay. In due time, he was promoted a corporal. During his stay in Burma he turned to mysticism under the influence of one Havildar Hakim Singh who for his piety was known among his comrades as a giani or `arif, i.e. one possessing spiritual insight. Because of his close association with Hakim Singh, he too came to be called a sant or `arif. When he came back to India after retirement and settled down at his native Paddhari, he attracted many disciples from different places in North India and founded almost a separate sect of `Arifs.

He and his followers were Sikhs by faith but their style and expression had Sufi overtones.A prolific writer, Sant Pal Singh `Arif was the author of over three dozen works, mostly in verse, on themes varying from esoteric folklore to didactic and religious. They were published from time to time right from the year 1896 in the form of separate books as well as in Punjabi newspapers and magazines. In 1949 he published a collection of all his poems in a 1250 page volume entitled `Arif Prakash. Sant Pal Singh `Arif passed away at Paddhari on 5 Har 2015 Bk/19June 1958. His followers gather at the memorial shrine outside the village on 5 Har every year to observe his death anniversary. S.S.A.

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