Bhagat Puran Singh is one of the great Sikh Heroes of twentieth century. He dedicated his entire life to the service of the mentally and terminally ill patients. He voluntarily cremated the deserted dead bodies of human beings and animals with full honor. He believed that the dignity in death is a birthright of each living being. He is known for his determination, faith in the almighty and his service to disabled.
His service to the mankind is comparable with the greatness of Mother Teresa.
Bhagat Puran Singh was born at village Rajewal of Distt. Ludhiana on June 4 1904. His Father’s name was Chaudhary Chibu Mal and Mother’s name was Mehtab Kaur. When he was young, he used to travel a lot from one village to other. Most of the times, he stayed at a Hindu Temples. One day, while he had halted at a Temple, Brahmins asked him to sweep the temple. He felt bad because those Brahmins ate food without offering it to him. Next time he stayed at a Gurdwara. Granthi (priest) of the Gurdwara gave him food. He was also provided a cot and a glass of milk. He was not asked to do any sewa (service) to the Gurdwara. These incidents led Bhagat Puran Singh to adopt Sikhism.
He could not study beyond class tenth but, he was a writer, publisher and environmentalist. Lahore’s Dyal Singh Library helped him in self-education. Bhagat Ji’s contributions in spreading awareness about the social evils, economy, environment and public health are commendable. He collected useful articles from the newspapers and magazines, published the compiled articles in the form of booklets and distributed it free of cost in public interest in front of some Gurdwaras. His dedication was awarded with honors from many renowned institutions including the Padamshri award by the Government of India in 1979. He surrendered the prestigious Padamshri award as his protest against the attack on the Golden Temple in 1984.
Bhagat Puran Singh laid the foundation of his Pingalwara on the ennobling presence of his beloved child named Piara Singh (a mentally retarded disabled child). During the partition of India in 1947, he carried Pyara Singh for a distance of 50 Km from Lahore to Amritsar. He decided to be the boy’s carrier until the latter was cured to walk at his own. He used to perform his daily routine carrying Pyara Singh on their shoulders.
The inhuman condition thrown up by the country’s partition led him to the ideas of organized and institutionalized patient-care and led to the formation of the Pingarwara (the home of the crippled). Pingalwara became a home for orphans, mentally retarded patients and deprived sections of the society. He provided the inmate the facilities of housing, food, medical care, love and attention. He believed that all forms of handicap could be treated and no stigma was irredeemable. Hundreds of unbearable lives were made worth living by him. Women and children were the main beneficiaries of his “God-guided” plans. It was one man effort as he did not get adequate help from the society or the State Government.
He loved the mother earth and regularly picked up all unwanted materials found along the roads. He was concerned about the cutting of trees. He spread awareness to save the environment using means like distributing free pamphlets, banners and books.
Bhagat Puran Singh left for heavenly abode on August 05, 1992 at PGI, Chandigarh. He will always be remembered for his dedication to the disabled and the love for the environment. This great lives on amidst the suffering people, transfigured and immortalized. He did not work miracles. But he did reveal, in word and deed, the power to transform lives, alleviate pain and lift up such hearts as are hurt, depressed and disconsolate.
All India Pingalwara Charitable Society (Regd) founded by Bhagat Ji located at the G.T. Road, Amritsar, Punjab, India is still managed effectively by Dr. Inderjit Kaur. The institution has grown and become the centre of a service movement with more than 1000 patients. Free print media of Bhagat Puran Singh is still available at Pingalwara and at Pingalwara stand in front of most of Gurdwaras. Pingalwara is supporting orphans, disabled, education of poor children, free medical support and much more. The society has planned to produce a movie on the life of Bhai Puran Singh.
Shree Acharya Vinoba Bhave said that the Indian temples played a very significant part in the social and cultural life of India. This Pingalwara is a temple of God without any idol or a representative religious symbol of God installed in it. The only symbol of God in the Pingalwara is the destitute bodily helpless man. The aim and chief function of the Pingalwara is the care of the physically helpless people, whether in the grip of infirmity or old age or afflicted with sickness. But in view of its educational activity, the institution is also a social laboratory wherein the solution of many a social problem is not only discovered but from where it is also broadcast with an effective and original method of publicity. As such, this kind of temple represents a great effort of intelligent humanitarianism and is destined to play its own role in the cultural history of the country.
Noted Indian writer Khushwant Singh said that Bhagat Puran Singh was no ordinary mortal but undoubtedly the most loved and revered man in the world. I once described him as the bearded Mother Teresa of Punjab. Mother Teresa had the backing of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, the English press and innumerable foundations to give her money. Bhagat Ji had nothing except his single-minded dedication to serve the poor and the needy. And yet he was able to help thousands of lepers, mentally and physically handicapped and the dying. His name will be written in letters of gold in the history of the world.
Bhagat Puran Singh Chair for St
udies in Selfless Service to Humanity was established at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar in year 2005. Objective of this chair was to highlight the contributions of Bhagat Puran Singh in the betterment of our society and how his philosophy can be used for a healthy and prosperous future of mankind.