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SOHAN SINGH, SANT

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SOHAN SINGH, SANT (1902-1972), born Ude Singh, was the youngest of the four children of Pahjab Singh and Prem Kaur who lived at the village of Phul in the former princely state of Nabha. The family moved to Chatthevala, near Damdama Sahib (Talvandi Sabo), during the influenza epidemic of 1918-19. Ude Singh was a good looking youth and was for this reason named Sohana, i.e. handsome.His original name was soon forgotten and he came to be known as Sohan Singh. He studied the Sikh sacred texts with Sant Hari Singh at the village of Jion Singhvala, in present day Bathinda district.

Young Sohan Singh tried his hand at versifying as well and got up a kavishan troupe (singers of ballads and odes) which recited heroic poetry at religious congregations. In 1925 lie was arrested at Ludhiana as he, with his troupe, was reciting an inflammatory poem inciting people to join in the Gurdwara reform agitation.  After his release, lie proceeded to Malaya where he became, in November 1927, a granthi or Scripture reader at the Malacca gurdwara. In November 1932, he returned to the Punjab to train under Pandit Kartar Singh of Dakha at Gurmat Upadeshak College, Damdama Sahib. He studied logic and philosophy and mastered Sikh religious lore, obtaining the title of Maha (Senior) Giani.

Returning to Malacca in June 1934, he dedicated himself completely to the propagation of Sikh faith and became a leading figure in Sikh religious and social circles. He was associated with a large number of institutions including the Malayan Granthi Pracharak Sabha, Malayan Naujavan Sabha and Singapore Khalsa Association. During World War II, he organized volunteers to look after the destitutes and war widows. During one of his tours, Sohan Singh fell ill and died in the General Hospital at Ipoh on 24 May 1972. To perpetuate his memory, a Vidyala commemorating his name has been established close to the Malacca gurdwara to train Sikh missionaries and granthis.

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