Thursday, 12 June 2008

Bhagat Puran Singh - The Great Philanthropist

Bhagat Puran Singh was the greatest visionary, an accomplished environmentalist. His life is a great source
of inspiration for the mankind. Let's follow his path and try to give our best to the people and the
environment around us

==Early Days==

He was born on 3 June,1904 in village Rajewal of Ludhiana district of Punjab. After the death of his
father, his mother encouraged him to pass matric level of education and find a Government job. His
mother worked as a domestic help in the house of a doctor at Mintgumury to organise money for her son's
education. Later, she went to Lahore and cleaned utensils in households there to earn money. Puran Singh
was sent to a hostel where he was sent Ten rupees every month by his mother. Unfortunately, he failed his Class tenth examination, after which beacme sad and dejected.His mother told him,"Don't be sad, even those who fail eat their meal." Later in his life he wrote about this incident as," She was the daughter of a farmer. She had seen that her parents would leave for the fields by daybreak and return home in the the evening after a whole day of back-breaking hardwork. Even then they weren't sure if they would get the harvest or will have to suffer starvation. Had she been the daughter of an officer she would have been disheartened by my failure and my inability to sit on an office chair with a pen in my hand." He was called back to Lahore and admitted in a local school there but he was not interested in studying his course books as they were filled with hypothetical and theoretical knowledge with absolutely no connection or applications in the everyday life. He, however, would spend hours browsing books in the Dyal Singh Library,Lahore and try to gain as much knowledge as he could. Sooner, this boy became a resorvoir of the knowledge which some of the greatest scholars could not even dream of possessing.

==Service towards Humanity==

While in Lahore, he would often visit Gurudwara Dehra Sahib and commit himself to the service of the
people by attending the visitors to the Gurudwara and providing them water for bathing and also managing
the cattle belonging to the Gurudwara. He would also serve in the Langar, the common kitchen, by cleaning
the utensils, making chapatis and distributing food to the sangat(people coming to the Gurudwara). He
even cleaned the floor of the Gurudwara in the evening. One day, a visitor fell from the roof of the Gurudwara and got badly injured. Bhagat Puran Singh immediately rushed him to the local 'Mu Hospital'. Experiencing inner joy after helping the patient, he took a man with badly bleeding leg full of worms to hospital where he expressed his thanks to Bhagat Puran Singh and said,"Son! Now I can die a peaceful death." With this incident, the service of humanity became the mission of his life. Now he would wander here and there finding the injured, physically handicapped persons and toking them to the Hospital. He also took care of them as his pocket and capability allowed. Once, he even washed the clothes of an old and poor beggar who was suffering from loosemotions.

On a moonless night of the year 1934, someone left a four-year-old leper boy on the door of Gurudwara Dehra Sahib who was handed over to Bhagat Puran Singh by the then Head Granthi of the Gurudwara,
Jathedar Acchar Singh after performning prayers for his well being. He named the boy Piara Singh, who
was taken care of by Bhagat Puran Singh. This incident completely transformed the face of his life.After the partition of India in 1947, Bhagat Puran Singh reached a refugee camp in Amritsar which housed over 25,000 refugees with just 5 annas(0.3 rupees) in his pocket. A large number of refugees were critically wounded and incpable of nursing themselves. The government didn't make any arrangements to take care of these refugees. Bhagat Puran Singh took the initiative, he took some chloroform and Turpentine oil and started treating the wounds of the wounded. He would often go in the nearby colonies to get food for the hungry and medicine for the ill.

==Later Days==

From 1947 till 1958, Bhagat Puran Singh did not get a permanent dwelling. He could be seen outside the
chief Khalsa Diwan, postoffices, railway stations or under the tree outside the office of the Civil Surgeon. He would wander in the streets, asking for donations to help the needy. Some people offered to help him, but most of the others kept themselves from donating towards the noble cause. At last, He founded 'The All India Pingalwara Charitable Society' whose annual budget at that time was 12.5 million rupees and got it registered. Even today, this instituion, headquartered at Tehsilpura, Grand Trunk road, Amritsar, works for helping the poor, the diseased and the physically and mentally handicapped. He died in the year 1992.


Born to Hindu parents who named him Ram ji dass, he embraced Sikh relegion and took up the name Puran
Singh. He was greatly inspired by the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the Sikh gurus.

==Other Contributions==

He was a mature environmentalist and visionary. He initiated tree plantation drives, organised talks and
lectures on varioue issues concerning the environment and social life, and also wrote a large number of
books regarding the same. Some of his famous works include "Education of man","Righteousness alone
exalts a nation","Plant or Perish","The Way,"The Increasing Population" besides alot of others.He disributed free pamphlets and books to make the people aware of the impending dangers to the
environment and society through the Pingalwara Society.

==Views of the Scholars==

"Bhagat Puran Singh was no ordinary mortal but undoubtedly the most loved and revered man in the
northern India. 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 dedicationto 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."

-Khushwant Singh, noted Indian writer


"The thoughts of great men are the common heritage of humanity and let our countrymen recieve
inspiration and guidance from these thoughts."

"Freedom is not an achievement but an opportunity."

"Those who die for their country are martyrs and those who live for their country are greater martyrs."

"Dignity in death is the greatest right of every living thing."

"All peaople should plant trees of Banyan, Neem and Peepal as they are essential for our ecosystem."

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