Baba Bir Singh Jee was a Sikh saint, the holy man and great warrior who practiced Gurmat in its purity. Baba Bir Singh Jee was born in July 1768 (1825 Bikrami), in the early hours of the morning in the household of Sardar Seva Singh and Mata Daya Kaur in the village Pind G-gobooa in Amritsar district. The 6th Nanak, Shri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji had once come to this village and prophesied that a great Sikh saint and warrior will take birth in this village and will achieve a lot for the Sikh Faith. When the family took Baba Bir Singh Jee to the Gurdwara, according to Gurmat Maryada, Karah Prashaad di Degh was done and Ardas for the Hukamnama to name the young Baba Bir Singh Jee. The Hukamnama was as follows:
“Brahma Binde Tisda Brahmat Rhe”
so from the Hukamnama Sahib’s first letter i.e. ‘B’ , the young child was named Bir Singh. In a short amount of time, Baba Bir Singh Jee learnt the vidya of the world and completed full santhiya of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Baba Bir Singh Jee then began to look into deeper granth’s such as Sarkutavli, Vichaar Saagar, Yog Vashisht Aadh Vedhant etc. It’s said that Baba Bir Singh Jee were so smart that they only required to read baani once and it would be shudh. As Baba Bir Singh Jee grew older they enrolled in the Army.
Baba Bir Singh Jee’s father was also in the Army. After his father, Bhai Seva Singh jee, became martyred in a military campaign in Multan, he joined the Sikh army. Henceforth, Baba Bir Singh Jee was asked to replace the position of his father and happily accepted. Baba Bir Singh Jee began practising riding horses and the art of weaponry and combat. A Singh of the same village as Baba Bir Singh Jee stayed in the same quarters as Baba Bir Singh Jee who along with Baba Bir Singh Jee would engage in religious discourse and join in meditation on the divine Lord Akaal Purukh.
The Sikh was a devotee of Baba Bhaag Singh (Khuri) and left his job in order to permanently go live at Khuri. Before leaving, the devotee told Baba Bir Singh Jee to ensure that if they ever go back home via the route of Rawalpindi, then they must not miss the opportunity to meet with Baba Bhaag Singh. He convinced and put hope in Baba Bir Singh Jee that through having blessed vision of this Saint, one’s soul will feel at peace. This statement took it’s place into Baba Bir Singh Jee’s heart and they were convinced, that doing darshan of Baba Bhaag Singh Ji will fulfil their religious needs and wants. It became hard for Baba Bir Singh Jee to complete a day, as all day they would contemplate how they wished to see Baba Bhaag Singh Ji.
Baba Bir Singh Ji
Baba Bir Singh Jee then requested that they be allowed to leave their job permanently. Those in charge, bribed Baba Bir Singh Jee with all greeds possible and tried their utmost best to convince Baba Bir Singh Jee not to leave. However, Baba Bir Singh Jee said that they now wish to work at the door of the true Darbaar. Baba Bir Singh Jee travelled on horse to Khuri and saw their friend from the army, Bhai Chanda Singh. Bhai Chanda Singh had already told Baba Bhaag Singh about Baba Bir Singh Jee.
Baba Bhaag Singh Ji then came to the position where Baba Bir Singh Jee was and asked; “Bhai, who are you? Where are you going?” Baba Bir Singh Jee then replied: “Until today I have not acknowledge who I am, and whether it is that I am destined to go? All this knowledge and understanding shall only be obtained with your assistance, Maharaj!” Baba Bir Singh Jee closely watched Baba Bhaag Singh Ji’s face. Baba Bhaag Singh Ji then asked: “What is it that you are looking at?” Baba Bir Singh Jee then said, “It seems to me as though I have seen you before, that too on many occassions! But I can’t seem to remember where?“ Baba Bhaag Singh Ji then replied “We are in debt to you, we have something to give to you, for a long time we were pondering how we are going to give it you, however you’ve come yourself and will take it with you!”
Following the holy commands of Baba Bhaag Singh Ji, Baba Bir Singh Jee abandoned their weapons and horses and became detached from all worldly possessions. Baba Bir Singh Jee returned home and having turned their backs on all worldly responsibilities, engaged in Naam Simran and worship of the Divine.
In the village of Baba Bir Singh Jee there was a dera (camp) of holy men. It was the cold days of winter and the holy men were suffering as they had no wood for shelter.Baba Bir Singh Jee took it upon themselves and sacrificed their own roof for these holy men. The news of the whereabouts of the roof soon reached Baba Bir Singh Jee’s parents. Frustrated, Baba Bir Singh Jee’s mother ran towards Baba Bir Singh Jee and said; “Bir Siyaan, what earnings are you rewarding us with o’ son? You haven’t even spared a roof over our heads! Go! Run away from here, we have no need of you, do not show us your face again!”
Hearing this Baba Bir Singh Jee prepared themselves for Khuri and having being relieved of all worldly attachments and responsibilities, travelled to Baba Bhaag Singh Ji. Upon hearing the news, Baba Bhaag Singh Ji immediately declared Baba Bir Singh Jee head of all Langar Sewa. Baba Bir Singh Jee began to fulfil this sewa with their body and mind.
Baba Bhaag Singh Ji one day closed their eyes and remained imbued in the colours of Waheguru for a long period of time and began to say: “From the first day I met you Bir Singh, I had told you that I am in debt to you and so today that debt is being payed back because when you have something to give to another, what is the need of wait? Here you go, take this Pure, ever-lasting gift of ‘Aatam-Giaan’ (Acknowledgement of the soul) which has been being passed down since the time of Bhai Daya Singh Ji. Take care of this gift.” Baba Bir Singh Jee bowed their head in reverence and humbly stated – “Maharaj Ji, this pure gift can only be maintained with your blessings and grace.” To which Baba Bhaag Singh Ji replied – “We shall always be with you.”
Baba Bhaag Singh Ji then wrapped a basket on a donkey and commanded Baba Bir Singh Jee to take it to Oona Sahib. The basket and the donkey had both been given by a devout Sikh as a gift. Baba Bhaag Singh Ji then gave Baba Bir Singh Jee money clothes and a letter. Baba Bir Singh Jee then wrapped themselves in a blanket, placed the basket on their head and began walking the donkey on their side. The journey lasted several days after which Baba Bir Singh Jee arrived at Oona Sahib. Upon recieving the news, Baba Sahib Singh Ji who was present in Kirtan arose and went to greet Baba Bir Singh Jee. Baba Sahib Singh Ji collected the basket of fruits from Baba Bir Singh Jee and proclaimed – “You have a lot of responsibilities in the Sikh faith and metaphorical weight upon your head, henceforth please allowed me to take this basket.” Baba Sahib Singh Ji then read this letter written by Baba Bhaag Singh Ji which read – “We have sent you this diamond of a Sikh, who shall perform self-less service in your company.” Baba Sahib Singh Ji too acknowledged that Baba Bir Singh Jee was no normal individual and would one day be a great Mahapurkh. Here, Baba Bir Singh Jee was blessed with serving Langar to the congregation. Baba Bir Singh Jee had stopped talking and would practise Waheguru Mantar on every breath they would take. This has become a daily practise in their life.
After witnessing such levels of spirituality, Baba Sahib Singh Ji was impressed and in their mind praised Baba Bhaag Singh Ji for having found such a great Sikh. They then said to Baba Bir Singh Jee – “Inside you exists the capabilities and powers to rid the world of pain and suffering, to sacrifice your life to the faith, your service is accepted, you are fruitful! The Sikh community will forever honour your spiritual wealth.” During this, Sardar Chanda Singh arrived at Oona Sahib and made a humble request to Baba Sahib Singh Ji that a camp of Sikh’s be set up in the Majha region of Punjab. Baba Sahib Singh Ji accepted the request and sent Baba Bir Singh Jee to set up the base. Before sending them off they said – “Go, bless the region of Majha! Even those heads that do not bow to anyone, will bow to you!”
Baba Bir Singh Jee accepted the holy words of Baba Sahib Singh Ji and set up base at Naurangabad (Majha). In a few days, the word of this camp spread quickly within neighbouring villages and towns. The Langar started with 20 regular visitors. It shortly became 100 regular visitors and as soon as anyone knew it, there were 1000′s of devotees eating in the Langar on a daily basis and large amounts of money was being spent on flour on a daily basis. There was a saying in the Majha region that – In the Langar of Baba Bir Singh Jee there is no estimate of the flour, there are kilogram’s upon kilogram’s of salt and the soup is taken down from the huge pots via ladders! A lot of m’haan Sikh Mahapursh performed selfless service in the Langar of Baba Bir Singh Jee – whose name was shining like a shooting star nationwide. Sikhs such as Baba Maharaj Singh Ji, Baba Khuda Singh Ji and Baba Patasa Singh Ji would partake in service daily.
In 1839 Maharaja Ranjit Singh passed away and Sikh history was seeing some of it’s darkest days. The British began to commit atrocities across Punjab and murdered Maharaja Kharak Singh and Kanvr NauNihaal Singh. During all these atrocities, Baba Bir Singh Jee sat in their base, carefully observing every moves that the government were taking. There were inner weaknesses within Sikhs, not enough mature knowledgeable people in the Raaj and no truly wise Saint-like people in authority. Baba Bir Singh Jee, along with most of Punjab’s elder Sikhs were aware that the Sikh Raaj was destined for doom. The Sikh Empire was soon to fall.
Baba Bir Singh Jee travelled to Lahore to do Afsos (Punjabi tradition of consulting the families of those who have passed away) of Knvr Naunihaal Singh. They arrived at the location of Maharani Chand Kaur and said – “Maharani, we have to come to do Afsos of the death of Knvr as they were the last hope for the Sikh Empire and unfortunately we no longer have the privilege of his hope. The way that is empire is now beginning to run is morally wrong, the poor man has no voice and is victim to poverty, pain and suffering. Such an empire needs to be brought to an end!” The court began to echo these words and those that had heard the words of Baba Bir Singh Jee began to tremble with fear.
The British devised a plan in ordered to overthrow the Lahore Darbar and take control of the empire. Raja Heera Singh a predominant figure in this plan, knew that any counter attacking plans required could be obtained from the current leader of the Bhai Daya Singh Ji Samparda – Baba Bir Singh Jee Naurangabad Wale and longed for an opportunity to meet with Baba Bir Singh Jee and finish them off. The Lahore Darbar had become a battleground and so many people left Punjab in fear of death. Baba Bir Singh Jee send letters to Sardar Attar Singh, Ajit Singh, Knvr Kashmira Singh, Psaora Singh, Sardar Jvaahar Singh and General Hari Singh Nalwa and all arrived at Naurangabad. Baba Bir Singh Jee had become a predominant figure in Sikh politics as they were giving shelter to revolutionaries.
Along with the British, Raja Heera Singh martyred Baba Bir Singh Jee on the 6th of May 1844. It was on this same day that Baba Bir Singh Jee had arrived in the town of Marhaanhe. In order to eliminate the fears and stress of the residents, Baba Bir Singh Jee ordered that base will be set up on a river near Harike Pattan bank within the town and that Baba Bir Singh Jee will wait for the forces to arrive . After evening recitals of prayers and Kirtan, Baba Bir Singh Jee arose and told the Sikh congregation that the Heera Singh had betrayed them and had joined the British in order to murder them. Baba Bir Singh Jee told the Sangat that no one is to attack the crusaders as we don’t wish to give out the impression that Sikhs are fighting with one another.
Baba Bir Singh Jee ordered Baba Maharaj Singh Ji to prepare double Langar so that even the enemies not go hungry! The Kirtan continued and Baba Bir Singh Jee demanded Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji be taken to a safe location before the attack. Baba Bir Singh Jee sat on a Manjha (rope-bed) and went in to meditation (Smaadhi). Gun shots began to be let off, however upon the command of Baba Bir Singh Jee, the Kirtan was not to be stopped. Not one bullet hit Baba Bir Singh Jee and instead the Hazooriya-Sikh doing seva of Baba Bir Singh Jee was shot. After countless efforts, the British brought in cannons and shot Baba Bir Singh Jee’s blessed body and so through this amazing sacrifice Baba Bir Singh Jee left for their heavenly abode.
In describing a worthy and blessed Sikh, Bhai Gurdaas jee writes in the last two lines:
ਗੁਰ ਸਿਖ ਗੁਰ ਸਿਖ ਪੂਜ ਕੈ ਭਾਇ ਭਗਿਤ ਭੈ ਭਾਣਾ ਭਾਵੈ ॥
gur sikh gur sikh pooj kai bhaae bhagat bhai bhaanaa bhaavai.
(Worthy is that Sikh) who loves another Sikh and embraces the love, devotion, and fear of Waheguru.
ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ਨ ਆਪੁ ਗਣਾਵੈ ॥12॥
aap gavaae na aap ganaavai. ||12||
That person loses their ego and does not assert themselves.