Bhai Sahib was a pioneer Sikh Parcharak who travelled across the world spreading the word of Sikhism. He was born in 1952, the village Poonia, Nava Sher district (Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar), Punjab, India. His father Sardar Gulzar Singh and mother Bibi Surjeet Kaur were both Amrithdhari gursikhs. Bibi Surjeet Kaur’s father Sardar Mukand Singh Nagra (Behbalpur village, Hoshiarpur district) had fought in ‘Free India movement’ and was part of the ‘Babbar Akali’ movement 1920s. As a condition of his daughter’s marriage he insisted that the boy must be Amritdhari and that is how Sikhi came into the family. From an early age Bhai Sahib was engrossed and attracted to the spiritual life and enjoyed doing seva (sweeping shoes) at the local gurdwara and being amongst nature and animals.
Migrating to the United Kingdom (UK)
Bhai Sahib was 15 years old when he migrated to United Kingdom, his father and brothers lived in Dudley (West Midlands, UK). He studied science at the Dudley College of Technology, later he went on to complete Bachelor degree in Metallurgical Science from Sheffield University (1987). He would regularly join with his father and visit the Guru Nanak Sahib Gurdwara Smethwick (130 High Street, Smethwick). In the early 1970’s there were very few gursikhs in Birmingham area and they would travel by bus to reach the gurdwara as many families did not own cars during those early days.
Taking Amrit and Adopting Sikh way of life
When my Bhai Sahib Rajinder Singh was approximately 19-20 years he approached one of the Naam imbued Gursikhs (Bhai Shingara Singh ‘Nihang’) after an Amrit Sanchar at Smethwick Gurdwara. Bhai Rajinder Singh was doing ‘joriya thi seva’ (cleaning the shows) and Bhai Shingara Singh had just entered the foyer areas. Bhai Rajinder Singh approached him and asked him “when should a Sikh take Amrit?”, Bhai Shingara Singh replied that when the Sidhas had asked Guru Nanak Dev Ji this question, Guru Ji replied that
ਪਵਨ ਅਰੰਭੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮਤਿ ਵੇਲਾ ॥
pavan ara(n)bh sathigur math vaelaa ||
From the air came the beginning. This is the age of the True Guru's Teachings.
ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥
sabadh guroo surath dhhun chaelaa ||
The Shabad is the Guru, upon whom I lovingly focus my consciousness; I am the chaylaa, the disciple.
(This Shabad is by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Raag Raamkalee on Pannaa 942)
Which meant, that as soon as the body has breath, you should think about the guru. Bhai Rajinder SIngh was so moved by this gursikh’s bachan. Over a 6 month period, Bhai Rajinder SIngh would go to Bhai Shingara Singh house and discuss gurmat. Bhai Shingara SIngh gave Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh ‘Jail Chetia’ book for Bhai Rajinder Singh to read. Eventually Bhai Raijinder Singh became ready to take Amrit and this happened during the Akhand Kirtani Jatha (AKJ) Rehnsbahi at Smethwick High Street Gurdwara in February 1972 along with his younger brothers Bhai Ajaib Singh, Bhai Kuldeep Singh and his sister Bibi Kirpal Kaur and brother in-law Bhai Surjeet Singh. Bhai Shingara SIngh was in the Panj Piyaray along with many other Naam imbued gursikhs at that time. Bhai Rajinder Singh was very close to Bhai Shingara Singh ‘Nihang’.
Jathedar of Akhand Kirtani Jatha (1978 to 1980)
Bhai Sahib became blessed with the naam ras and kirtan from that time onwards. In 1978 he was appointed the Jathedaar of Akhand Kirtani Jatha (U.K.) and served in this role until 1980. During this time Bhai Sahib played an active role in kirtain parchaar in the UK and Europe. He was self taught kirtani and had a sweet and melodious voice, he was softly spoken and touched many lives. As there were very few gurdwara’s at that time Bhai Shib would organise regular rehnsbahi kirtain and amrit sanchaar’s at his home residence in Dudley.
Bhai Sahib was married to Bibi Balbir Kaur in 1974, at Singh Sabha Barking Gurdwara, London. He has three children, his eldest daughter Bibi Jatinder Kaur, who is married to Bhai Ranjit Singh (Brisbane, Australia), his second daughter Bibi Daljit Kaur, who is married to Bhai Jaspal Singh (son of Bhai Onkar Singh, Leicester) and his son Bhai Kulwant Singh who is married to Bibi Gursunder Kaur (from Italy).
Chaldha Vaheer Jatha International
There are two critical Sikh historical events that played an influential role in Bhai Sahib devoting his life to Sikhi Parchar. The first event was Amritsar massacre on Vaisakhi 1978 attack on the Akaal Takht sahib and Harmandir Sahib. Bhai Sahib made a conscious decision which compelled him towards undertaking Sikhi parchaar (tatt gurmat parchaar). Particularly, he was conscious that the Indian government would do whatever it could to exterminate Sikhs, the only option to counter that attack was to create more Sikhs (Khalsa and Amrit Sanchar sewa) who lived in the western countries (outside of Punjab). When Bhai Sahib went to Punjab in 1980, he learnt about the sewa of Bhai Fauja Singh did and Bhai Subeg Singh did under the banner of ‘Chalda Vaheer Jatha’ where they would travel from village to village doing Sikhi parchaar and Amirt sanchars across Punjab. He adopted the same name ‘Chaldha Vaheer Jatha’ (means the Travelling group) with its key mission to undertake International Sikh Dharmic parchaar (missionary work). Bhai Sahib resigned from his employment and self funded all of the travels and expenses with parchaar. He spread the word of Sikhism through Kirtain, parchaar, countless amrit sanchar's and youth gurmat camps. During the 30 years of seva Bhai Sahib was a Pioneer Sikh Parcharaks who travelled to many countries. He travelled all across Europe, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand as well as USA, Canada, Kenya and Pakistan.
From 1980 to 1982, Bhai Sahib lived in Amsterdam, (Holland) where he owned a business. During that time he assisted the Holland sikhs to establish the first gurdwara in Holland and performed the sew of granthi and organised the frist Amritsanchars. In many of the European cities, Bhai Sahib played a critical role in establishing the Gurdwara’s, taking the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Saroops and organising the first Amrit sanchars in these cities.
In 1986, Bhai Shabeg Singh (Sydney, Australia) had approached by Bhai Rajinder Singh to bring a jatha and travel to Australia to do Sikhi Parchaar. Bhai Sahib organised the first world tour with a Jatha (of 9 singhs and 1 singhni) including the late Bhai Rama Singh, Bhai Prithvipal Singh, Bhai Hardiyal Singh, Bhai Gurdip Singh, Bhai Swaran Singh Malhi, Bhai Pakhar Singh, Bhai Gurcharan Singh (Norway) and Bibi Manjeet Kaur (Holland). The world tour included: Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Bhai Sahib was the first parcharak to have ever travelled to these countries, as a consequence many sikhs took amrit during that time.
In November 1993, Bhai Sahib travelled to Nankana Sahib (Pakistan) for the first time and so moved at being at the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, that he continued to visit each year until 2000. Bhai Sahib from his daswand would take gurmat parchaar material for the Sikhs living in Nankana Sahib, who lived in harsh poverty (e.g. clothes, gutka (in Urdu), keratin audio, books). They loved Bhai Sahib dearly as he would converse with them and explain to them about Guru Nanak Dev ji’s and how to be a sikh. Bhai Sahib established the ‘Guru Nanak Model School’ for the Sikh children of Nankana Sahib, this school provides Sikh children (approximately 100 Sikh families reside at Nankana Sahib) to learn about Gurbani, Gurmat, Kirtain, Tabla and Sikh History. He enjoyed listening to the children recite gurbani when he visited each year.
Bhai Sahib’s final Journey 10th November 2000
Bhai Sahib always remained humble and never eluded that he had attained certain spiritual levels. He was very close to many gursikhs (Bhai Jeevan Singh, Bhai Rama Singh, Baba Takur Singh (Damdami Taksal) and Giani Preetam Singh (DDT). He did not engage in petty politics of jatha-banday, he maintained that respect and love for gursikhs regardless of which maryada they followed. During the days leading up to him leaving the UK for his annual yatra to Pakistan, Bhai Sahib requested for his family to meet him. He had also phoned gursikhs indicating that this was his “akree fateh” (final farewell). His health deteriorated while he was on the yatra at Nanakana Sahib and Bhai Sahib insisted that he wanted to return to his home village (Poonia). However, his health became worse, Bibi Balbir Kaur took him to Jullandhar Hospital, and he suffered a heart attack and passed away at the Jalandhar hospital. Bhai Sahib had always desired to be cremated the ‘proper Gurmat way’ (old tradition of funeral pyre) and this was maintained by many gursikhs (Bhai Talwara Singh, Bhai Mehar Singh, Bhai Ram Singh, Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode) arriving for the antam sanskar. The former Akaal Takt Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti performed the final Antam Ardaas.
Bhai Sahib’s contribution to the Sikh Panth was given the highest honour in April 2004, whereby he was the first non-resident of India (NRI) (foreigner) to have their portrait installed at the Ajayab Ghar Sikh National Museum in Amritsar. The former Akaal Takt Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti and the former head granthi and now current Akaal Takh Jathedaar Bhai Gurbachan Singh performed the ardaas and unveiling of Bhai Sahib’s portrait.