Monday, 21 October 2013

A Son’s Tribute To His Father (Dr. Bhai Sher Singh ‘Kashmir’)

A Son’s Tribute To His Father

Dr. Bhai Sher Singh ‘Kashmir’

This photograph was clicked during Bhai Sahib’s stint in Forest Department, J&K (Govt.)

GENERAL: The names of poet-philosphers Bhai Vir Singh Ji and Prof. Puran Singh Ji are known to one and all. Interestingly, in the 20th century, well before the demise of Prof. Puran Singh there had been an exchange of hundreds of letters between him and Bhai Sher Singh Ji (Kashmir), a lumanary of highest calibre, even though they met only once. The meeting lasted fairly long and it is said that it was love at first sight, wherein they drank from each others souls.  Bhai Sahib’s only request to Prof Puran Singh was to write a Foreword for his exegesis on the Japji Sahib which he readily agreed and kept his word.
The masses are unaware that a man of the intellect of highest order and cosmic intellegence, Bhai Sher Singh was shadowed in the dense jungles of the Department of Forestry J&K (Govt). He was mainly absorbed in performing his official duties and wrote many books on forestry which are even now used as reference books. Notwithstanding his arduous official duties he was also engaged in writing on Sikh theology to fulfil his urge towards Panthic duties and wrote voluminous manuscripts to enlighten his brethren.
Bhai Sher Singh was a Poet-Scientist of India. He teamed up with Sir Joginder Singh to organize the “Khalsa Review” for Punjab on the lines of the “Modern Review” journal of Bengal.
His scientific works were no less credible than his flights of poetic imagination.  Even as on today the students of forestry read with great respect, the name and achievements of Forest Chemist of Bhai Singh’s calibre, who occupied the Chair as Forest Conservator in Kashmir and also Director Forest in the Forest Research Institute & College Dehradun when no Indian could aspire to this coveted post.
Family background

Bhai Sher Singh’s parents belonged to a small village, Golra Sharif (Distt. Rawalpindi), a well-known place of pilgrimage located near the holy shrine of Panja Sahib in Pakistan, about 15 kms from Rawalpindi city.

It will be of interest for the readers to know that Sufi Pir Sahib of Golra Sharif had gone for ziarat of Mecca Sharif when Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji during his one of his Udasi’s, also happened to visit the holy city. It is here that Pir Sahib attended all the discourses of Guru Nanak. It left an indelible impression on the mind of Pir Sahib and he became Guru Nanak’s disciple. On his return, Pir Sahib continued to perform the duties assigned to him as the Pir of Dargah, yet he and his descendents invariably incorporated all the principle diktats of Guru Nanak in their lifetime. They were revered by all faiths with utmost humility. Some of the descendants even got converted to other faiths like Sikhism.

The ancestors of Bhai Sher Singh (Kashmir) are said to be linked with Pir Sahib as may be seen from the family tree:—

Choudhary Attar Singh, a maternal grandfather and an honorary commissioner, finding Bhai Roop Singh, MA, of high acumen got his daughter (Smt. Sundri Devi) married to him. Roop Singh passed away three months after the marriage.

After the demise of her husband, Bhai Roop Singh, Sardarni Sundri Devi gave birth to a son solemnized as Bhai Sher Singh on the Tuesday of 4th September 1893 at his maternal grandfather’s residence in Rawalpindi.

Bhai Sher Singh’s mother, a God-fearing lady, brought up her son between the holy shrine of Panja Sahib and Rawalpindi city with great endurance. His father Roop Singh MA, a saintly figure, was not only diligent but was very well-to-do person with religious and spiritual tendencies. At that time a belief existed amongst the family and the villagers that he had inherited the spiritual impetus from his ancestors who had links with Pir Sahib of Golra.

Bhai Sahib’s mother, Sardarni Sundri Devi, who had inherited divine values from her parents, focused her entire physical and spiritual faculties solely on grooming her only son, with utmost care and caution; which brought a wholesome change in his life. After primary grounding in Gurmukhi alphabets – Painti Akhri, he was made to set on a chowki  — a small stool with two cushions to come to the level of Guru Granth Sahib. His mother would sit on one side and make him read with a straight back at the age of five, until he started reading fluently.


Bhai Sher Singh was born on 4th September, 1893, and at the age of seven in 1900, he joined the Mission High School in Rawalpindi. He bagged the first position throughout his educational career. He completed his M.Sc. (Hons) in 1916 securing the first position in Panjab.  He worked as professor in Khalsa College, Amritsar, for one year and thereafter worked as a personnel secretary to Maharaja Sir Dalip Singh of Faridkot. He underwent training at Forest Research Institute and College (FRI), Dehradun, for two-and-half years and attained his Degree in Provincial Forest Service with highest distinction. He joined the Kashmir Forest Department in 1920. To start with, he worked as Divisional Forest Officer followed by his stint as Deputy Conservator of Forests and retired as the Conservator of Forests. He was called on deputation to join Forest Research Institute & College, Dehradun, as Director Professor.

An article from Bhai Sher Singh’s thesis which was sent to the Director General of Archeology, New Delhi on 29th March, 1947, was highly appreciated by Dr. R.N. Chakravarty of the Archaeology Survey of India. He was delighted to find a senior Forest officer taking keen interest in the flora & fauna of Rig-Veda period and asked him to forward a copy of The Indian Forester journal in which it was published for use as reference work in the Central Archaeological Library.


In Bhagat Lakshman Singh’s autobiography it is distinctly pointed out that Bhai Sher Singh was a Sarvan son of his mother Mata Sundri Devi.  As a true Sikh family man he used to keep his family and mother with him during his stint as Forest conservator at various places. He without fail used to carry his “Safri Birh” of Guru Granth Sahib. Many of his Muslim companions and colleagues did not appreciate this. Neither the Dogra rulers of Jammu & Kashmir nor his colleagues were successful in distracting him from serving the cause of the Sikh Panth.

Bhai Sher Singh constructed a Gurudwara at Doda (Jammu) where he wrote his monumental work Krishna Leela Rahas. While trekking on the tedious Kutcha Roads of areas like Solan, Gilgit, Gurez, he discovered the (a) “Sardah Yatra”, the path tread upon by Guru Nanak in the region, (b) The closeness between Sharda and Gurmukhi scripts. “Gurmat Sahit” was first propagated in Kashmir.
Bhai Sahib also constructed Gurudwaras as Ram Ban, Udhampur, Doda, Banihal in Jammu Region of J&K State and Mirpur, Kotli (Pakistan occupied Kashmir). He spent most of his mortal days in Baramulah (Kashmir) Region of J&K State. 

This photograph was taken at Bhai Sahib’s residence at Baramulah. He is seen with his wife and son P. Parkash Singh Sawhney.     

Bhai Sher Singh used to say that Prof Puran Singh and Bhai Vir Singh are spiritual son and father. They had blessed him and uttered these prophetic words: “the Guru’s garden is still green and will become greener with each passing day. Sikhism indeed is like a lotus flower in the lake of India, it will live as long as this flower. In the times to come many more ruby-red petals are bound to be unfurled from this Lotus of Sikhism.”

After the sun set on Lahore Darbar, the Baramulah region of Kashmir came under control of Sardar Sham Singh Attari, Sardar Harbans Singh Attari. As the years went by, Bhai Jodh Singh, Sardar Gurmukh Singh, Bhai Sher Singh, Sardar Thakar Singh and Thakar Gandar Singh and other well-to-do Sikh personalities built their residences in the region. They used to have religious congregations and Bhai Sher Singh played a leading role in organising them.

PANTHIC ACTIVITIES: Bhai Sher Singh participated in almost all Sikh conferences and meetings. He was, however, very influenced by the writings of Principal of Prince of Wales School/ College, Jammu, and used to have hour-long discussions on various topics with him.

After his retirement at the age of 55, he was employed us Conservator of Forests, Junagarh State, where he served for two years. He was later on asked to join Forest College, Coimbatore, as the Principal. He had hardly served their for two years when the Government of Sri Lanka asked him to join Forest Training College, Colombo/ Ceylon, as President Advisor on deputation. 


Bhai Sher Singh did his Schooling from the Mission High School, Rawalpindi.

1. B.Sc. with Hons. & Ist Class First Panjab University with Scholarship for Best Student – 1914. 
First Class topper & broke all past records. Got the FULLER MEDAL EXHIBITION (GOLD MEDAL)  for topping B.A.–B.Sc. Combined (1914)
LORD HARDING GOLD MEDAL:- For bagging B.Sc. OMENS PRIZE for Best Student – Pass & Hons.

2. M.Sc. ( Hons.) First Class First – 1916.
Scholar Lord Arnold (Gold Medal) for reading MA, M.Sc. 1916 Lord Mechlogan Gold for standing First in M.Sc.

3. Fellowship December, 1916.
A) Fellow of Chemical Society of London,
B) Member of Chemical Society of New York America,
C) Member of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland – October 1917.
Dr. Bell I.C.S. Collector of Industrial Intelligence Association him with Dr. Suman Chemical Advisory Board to conduct research on Colour Phenomenon. His thesis got distinction.
Sir Holland addressed Chemists assembled in Lahore and his work paper and got this published in journal.
Cf. Journal of Physiology from Professor J.N. Laugh Hedgerley Lodge Madingle Rd. Cambridge – June 21,1917 on “Colour Phenomenon”.
His contributed extensively to scientific research and his thesis earned his Ph.D.
P.F.S. with (Hons) from Forest Research Institute & College, Dehradun -1921-1923.1. 
He topped the P.F.S. Class of Officers attending from Burma, Central Provinces. State Govt. (1923) awarded Gold Medal for Highest marks with Hons. Silver Medal for Forestry. Hill Memorial for Silviculture etc. (Cf. Indian Forester 1923) also of H.:L. Wright, Esq. I.F.S. Conservator of Jammu & Kashmir State Srinagar, “He has done remarkably well. Here I should let you know about him. He has done remarkably in every subject and though examined by outside examiners – some of whom are Americans – he obtained 100% on utilization & Silviculture. He did not get W. Plan prize because really could not let him have every prize.  I expect you are very glad to get to Kashmere & I must envy you of your good fortune”

He also submitted D.Litt thesis on Rig Veda in English which remains in active consideration (Cf. East Punjab University l/r. 227 of Mar. 11, 1947.)
Bhai Sher Singh also presented a research paper on the Sikh Religion at the World Religion Conference, Chicago, in 1921. He had also gone to Chicago to address and participate in the World Fellowship of Faiths in March, 1933.

Some of his works:-
1. English translations of Japji, Sidh Gosht, etc.
2. The Perfect Man and Peace Eternal (Sukhmani Sahib English translation)
3. Holy Song of Bliss Eternal (Anand Sahib English Translation)
4.  Atam Darshan - part 1 and 2
5. Waheguru Darshan - part 1 and 2
6. Brahm Gyan di Kunji - Part 1 (Krishna Leela Rahas)
7. Brahm Gyan di Kunji - Part 2 (ramayan Rahas)
8. Dashmesh Darshan tey Dasan Granth di Kunji 
9. Atmik Kiran tey Arshi Udariyan
10. Balihari Quadrat vasaya
11. East Looks Aghast At West
12. Five Fundamental Obstacles
13. Sach Khand Yatra
14. Search For Reality
15. Niki Umar Wadiyan Gallan
16. Naam Maha Rasya - Rangla Sawan 
17. Vichar Dhara
18. Sikhan vich karigari di vidya di den (1917-1918)
19. Gurpurab Punam, Vismad Punj (1932)
20. Sri Guru babey ji ki Chahun Jugi Janam Sakhi - An Autobiography of Eternal-Nanak - New Light on Eternally-old Atman, 1942
21) Sri Suhag Bhag, 1945.
22) Sri Guru Arjan Dev ji - What he did for India and mankind at large, 1933
23) Amrit
24) If Guru Nanak Came to America, what would he do, say and advocate, 1933.
25) Guru Nanak: The Saviour of the world, 1935
26) Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji, The Saviour of the World, 1932-33
27) Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji: Being Some Unwritten Leaves In The Life Of The Guru, 1933
28) Guru Gobind Singh: His Life Sketch
29) Biography of Guru Amardev
30) Sri Guru Amardas ji, 1942
31) Ki Dasam Pita Ney Devi Pooji Si? 
32) Panj Prashan
33) Life, Love and Immortality
34) Retold Tales Sublime (Guru Nanak's Life)
35) Science atey Dharam
36) Jeevan Jugti Vismaad udarian
37) Naam, Sri Namdev ji
38) Sri Guru Gobind Singh (Punjabi)
39) Dharna da Sagar, 1944
40) Jeevan Gurti, 1944
41) Heer Tey Ranjha
42) The Modern Scientific Shorthand, March 1928.
43) The Khalsa or the Elect.

- P. Prakash Singh, 
Police Medal, 
Dy Inspector General.
2A, Hospital Road, 
New Delhi - 14.

Ek Tola, Miniature Guru Granth Sahib:
The smallest known Granth Sahib

Short HistorySize appx. 1" x 1" x 1"
The story goes that miniature Guru Granth Sahib's manuscript was printed sometimes in 1912. During the World war 1 ,  British Indian Army was called to fight for the common cause. The Sikh Regiment expressed concerns about proceeding to battlefield without Guru Granth. The British Generals who were well aware of the Sikh  sentiments and respects of Holy Granth, came out with brilliant idea  of making a mini Granth Sahib. At their advise The British Government solved the problem by printing 13 miniature copies of Guru Granth Sahib in Germany. Each of these manuscript  is 1 inch in size and contained 1,430 pages. This miniature Granth was then carried by the Sikh  soldiers to overseas  battlefield. A special magnifying lens was supplied to read it. It is said that Sikh commanders used to carry this Granth Sahib in the folds of their turbans.

Of the known thirteen copies of Granths, only about 8 are accountable today. One of them is at Golden Temple Amritsar, one at British Museum at London, the next is with the Badi Family at Unna, one with Gurudwara at Agra, and one with Sahni Kashmirwale Family in Canada. The rest ownership is unknown.

How it came to our family:
My father, Bhai Sahib (Dr.) Sher Singh, Kashmirwale, (the known author of Atam Darshan & Waheguru Darshan) was honoured by British Government of India as "Sardar Bahadar" for his literary achievements some seventy years ago. My father thanked the British Government,  but refrained from accept it. At that time he was in service of Kashmir Government. H.H Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir, was friendly with my father. At this Maharaja enquired as to why he had not accepted the British honour. It is said, he replied "Maharaja Sahib, you have been always addressing me as Sardar Bahader or Sardar Sahib. The British honour was nothing new". The Maharaja was delighted at his remarks.

This was a bold retaliatory step taken by a citizen during the British Raj in India. The Sikh Supreme Body was pleased with his action. At their recommendation The Akal Takhat Sahib then bestowed on him the honour of "Bhai Sahib Bhai " or Reverend Brother.

The Miniature Guru Granth was at that time  given to him by the Jathedar of the Akal Takhat Sahib as Siropa.  Thus he was called Bhai Sahib Bhai Sher Singh, Kashmirwale. Since we are from Kashmir, we are called Kashmirwale.

Capt. Jittender J.S. Sahni (Kashmirwale)
Bhai Sahib Bhai  Sher Singh's son.
192 Lakeshore Road
St. Catharines On.  L2N 2V3. Canada.