The Leader of ‘Khalsa panth Akali, Buddha Dal, Panjva Takht, Chalda Vahir, Vishav’
By Nihang Sher Singh & Akali Nihang Dr Kamalroop Singh
Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh ji was the 14th Jathedar or commander of the Buddha Dal, the central organization of the Nihang Singhs. Baba Baba Surjit Singh ji did Akaal Chalana (left for the abode of Akal Purakh) on 6pm on the 3rd September, 2014, in Patiala jail. This brief obituary cannot do justice in describing his life, achievements, and more importantly their love and divine presence that was beyond words.
Baba Surjit Singh ji was born on the 7th of June 1945 in Murar, Amritsar. Before joining the Ladli Fauj (Beloved Army) of the 10th master Sri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib ji, Baba Surjit Singh ji served in the armed forces of the Punjab police, from 1964 to 1969. After Baba ji quit the armed forces in 1969, he went to Anandpur Sahib, and did seva (selfless service) of the Sangat (Holy congregation) for three months and then returned home.
Baba Surjit Singh at the Akali Phula Singh Burj in 2005
photograph by Kamalroop Singh
Baba Surjit Singh ji officially joined the Nihang Singh HQ or the Buddha Dal in 1970, whereupon he was given a horse and Shastra (weapons used for warfare) by the then 12th Jathedar (Commander) of the Buddha Dal, the late Akali Baba Chet Singh ji. Baba Surjit Singh ji was initiated into the Khalsa Panth in 1972, by the Buddha Dal, who administered Amrit or Khande-ka-pahul (Divine Nectar of Khalsa initiation) to him. After which Baba Surjit Singh ji was assigned the hardest duty of Ghoreyaan di seva, or the selfless service of feeding, cleaning, and grooming the sacred horses of the Guru, in the Buddha Dal.
Guru Gobind Singh writes in his scripture titled the Dasam Granth Sahib, and in Sau Sakhi, that the seva of the horses is the highest in the Khalsa Panth. The Guru said that one year of this seva is the equivalent to twelve years of any other seva. In this way Baba ji actually achieved more than a lifetimes worth of seva in this very life! In the words of the universal teacher, Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj: ‘Jin sevia tin paia maan. Those that serve are honored. Adi Guru Granth Sahib, ang 2.’This is why Baba ji was highly respected in the Nihang Singh Dals, throughout the Sikh Panth, and by anyone else who had the good fortune to come in contact with him.
Then Baba Surjit Singh participated in the karsewa of Sachkhand Sri Harimandar Sahib (The Golden Temple), situated in Amritsar, for two years from 1973-75. Afterwards, for three years, Akali Baba Surjit Singh ji followed a daily routine of doing seva around the clock, and only taking very minimal rest. He would wake up for amritvela (the sacred ambrosial hours before dawn) at 00:00 am (12 am).
‘Gurmukh laha lai gae manmukh chale mul gavai jio.19.’
‘The Gurmukhs reap their profits and leave, while the self-willed manmukhs lose their investment and depart.19. Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Sri Rag, Adi Guru Granth Sahib, ang 74.’
After which he would do ishnan (bathe himself) and sit for his Nitnem (Daily Prayers), the daily routine of the initiated Sikhs in which the Sikhs read their daily prayers that were assigned to them by the Tenth Master, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, in the year 1699, after he had administered Amrit at Anandpur Sahib. After completion of his Nitnem at 03:30 am Baba Surjit Singh ji would begin his seva (selfless service), and would continue to serve till his mind and body would allow him to do so. Baba Surjit Singh ji loved serving the Sangat (The Guru’s congregation) and would serve them with complete love and devotion whenever he would be presented with the opportunity to do so.
Photograph by Nihang Gurmant Singh
Shortly after the death of the Nagarchi Singh, (The Singh entrusted with the seva of the War drum (Nagara)), Baba Surjit Singh ji was assigned the duty/seva of being the Nagarchi Singh by the then Jathedar, Akali Baba Chet Singh ji. Again in this new duty as a Nagarchi Singh, Akali Baba Surjit Singh ji served the Dal and carried out his duties with enthusiasm (chardikalah) and wholeheartedly (Satiguru ki seva safal, jai ko karey chit laie, Adi Guru Granth Sahib, ang 552).
The 12th Jathedar, Akali Baba Chet Singh ji, seeing his love, devotion, and the years of service that Baba Surjit Singh ji put into the Buddha Dal, led him to bestow the Farla, and thus make Baba Surjit Singh into a Mahakal Singh or General. The title of ‘Mahakal’ is considered one of the highest honors in the Sikh world as the Farla decorated of the top of a Sikhs dastar (Turban), represents the Holy ‘Nishan Sahib’ also known as the Holy ‘Victory Standard (Flag)’ of the Sikhs. It is one of the purest symbols of the Sikh faith and has always been held high and regarded with utmost respect by the Sikh congregation. Millions of Sikhs sacrificed their lives, so that the Guru’s Nishan Sahib, entrusted to the Sikhs by the Tenth Master is still held high up in the skies.
Shortly after the Death of the 12th Jathedar Akali Baba Chet Singh ji, Akali Baba Santa Singh ji was elected the 13th Jathedar (Commander) of the Buddha Dal. Jathedar Baba Santa Singh ji then entrusted Akali Baba Surjit Singh ji with many important tasks and duties. Baba Surjit Singh ji continued to serve the Buddha Dal and the Sangat wholeheartedly and at the same time carried on with his devotion towards God. Now Baba Surjit Singh ji would wake up at 12 am and would recite his prayers for eight hours that is till 8 am in the morning, every day.
Baba Surjit Singh ji also served the 13th Jathedar (Commander) Akali Baba Santa Singh ji, and seeing his love and devotion, Akali Baba Santa Singh ji appointed Baba Surjit Singh ji as his second in command. This meant that Baba Surjit Singh would be in charge of the chakkravarti Dal, or the moving Battalion, which consisted of the Guru’s horses, and Singhs. They would go village to village performing Akhand Paths (continuous scriptural recitals), and doing Amrit Parchar (initiation ceremony into Khalsa). In this Dal was the strictest of bibek or physical cleanliness, which meant all food must be cooked in fire wood, in sarbloh (iron utensils), all water must be from a well or river (tap water was prohibited), and even cleaning of teeth had to be done with a woodbrush, and not a plastic toothbrush (no chemical products are allowed in Buddha Dal). The encampment was ordered by Guru Gobind Singh never to stay in one place for more than three days. This is a very difficult tradition or maryada, and even during and after 1984 when Nihang Singhs were being hunted down by some corrupt Police and Army, and the whole of the Punjab was in chaos, the brave Baba Surjit Singh single handedly kept this tradition from breaking.
During his years Baba Surjit Singh ji performed many extraordinary feats through his prayers and devotion towards Akal Purakh. A childless couple, who had been married for 27 years, that hailed from the district of Gurdaspur, in Punjab, visited Baba ji and requested him for a blessing of a child. Baba Surjit Singh ji humbly folded his hands and prayed to the Divine Guru of the Sikhs, Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji Maharaj and requested the Merciful Master to bless the childless couple with a child. The Singhs were astonished when the same couple paid a visit to Baba Surjit Singh ji, holding a newborn baby in their hands.
One author of this obituary was at Akali Phooli Singh Burj in 2005 and had the great blessing of spending some time with Baba Surjit Singh ji. By that time Baba ji was established as a loyal and devoted servant of the Guru Khalsa Panth, where he had selflessly served the Guru’s horse for over thirty years. He had been through many hardships but had remained tyar bar tyar (ever ready). Baba ji said that nowadays people try to control the five thieves or Panj Chor (lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego), but he said this was a very deep process. He said people have forgotten firstly to control their jealousy and gossip. He said both these things were causing conflict in the Guru Khalsa Panth. He then quoted a Nihang Singh oral tradition (bola) about the Chugal and Mughul, and how in the Dal (spiritual army) this is unacceptable. He said now is the time to do meditation and selfless acts, simran and seva, and be tyar bar tyar, always ready! He said ‘Let us all make an effort to be happy for others, to control our tongue about other people, to avoid causing conflict, and look at our own intentions and actions before anybody else. This is the first step to controlling the five thieves.’
Diwali at Akali Phula Singh Burj in 2005
Baba Surjit Singh, with Baba Gajjan Singh, and Baba Trilok Singh
photographed by kamalroop singh
In 2005, due to this great sacrifice of Baba Surjit Singh, and the ailing health of the 13th Jathedar Akali Baba Santa Singh ji, he declared Baba Surjit Singh ji as the 14th Jathedar (Commander) of the Buddha Dal. See www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050417/punjab1.htm. After this the S.G.P.C and Akali Dal selected Balbir Singh put in a false case against Baba Surjit Singh, and he was tortured and imprisoned. Due to the protests of Nihang Singhs he was subsequently released, and Balbir Singh asked him to give him the leadership of the Buddha Dal, to which Baba ji replied to him, ‘How can I be a traitor and overturn the order of my mentor Baba Santa Singh Ji?’
Then Akali Baba Santa Singh the 13th Jathedar died on the 8th of August 2008 at the age of 90. After nine days of scriptural recitals for the passing of Baba Santa Singh, at its closure or bhog, Akali Baba Surjit Singh ji was formally initiated to be the 14th Jathedar (commander) of the Buddha Dal on the 18th of August 2008 with the formal turban tying ceremony.
Akali Baba Surjit Singh ji was an exceptional leader and executed his duties and commands with precision like that of a General. The entire Sikh congregation loved and revered Baba Surjit Singh ji.
In the year 2009 Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh ji along with 22 other Singh’s were arrested on false charges and were presented to the session court of Punjab, India, this was due to a political coup on the Buddha Dal by the S.G.P.C – Akali Dal alliance. The court ordered a legal case to be commenced and till its completion through a final verdict by the Judge and Jury, the session’s court ordered the Punjab Police to arrest Akali Baba Surjit Singh ji and place him in the Patiala jail. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfJ1qXCsZM4) In the Patiala Jail, Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh ji, along with 22 other Nihang Singhs (some have never been charged) have spent the better part of 5 years, while the case continued. The Sangat in UK organized a revision of the evidence against Baba ji, and a leading expert in this field found the evidence against Baba ji was unreliable and did not merit him being in jail.
Baba Surjit Singh in chardikalah at his Court appearance in Patiala
False witnesses, corrupt officials, and long court dates delayed Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh ji’s case and even till this date there has not been a final verdict by the Punjab and Haryana High court.
While in the Patiala Jail in Punjab, Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh ji led a life of example and changed the lives of many inmates of the Patiala Jail. He inspired many of them to lead a life of devotion, as commanded by the Supreme Gurus of the Sikhs. Baba Surjit Singh ji initiated many inmates hem into the Khalsa Panth. He inspired many of them to shun their old ways of crime and to correct their wrong doings.
Even the Jail authority and the officials of the jail noticed a change in their prison after Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh ji had been brought there as an inmate. Several Prison authority’s would seek his guidance and respected him.
Baba ji pictured in jail, filmed by nav kandola
From the prisoners, the policemen inside the jail, to the jail warden, all would seek his holy company. This verse by Guru Gobind Singh Ji sums up the life of Baba Surjit Singh:
ਧੰਨ ਜੀਓ ਤਿਹ ਕੋ ਜਗ ਮੈ ਮੁਖ ਤੇ ਹਰਿ ਚਿੱਤ ਮੈ ਜੁਧੁ ਬਿਚਾਰੈ ॥ ਦੇਹ ਅਨਿੱਤ ਨ ਨਿੱਤ ਰਹੈ ਜਸੁ ਨਾਵ ਚੜੈ ਭਵਸਾਗਰ ਤਾਰੈ ॥
Bravo to that being, who remembers Hari through his mouth and reflects in his mind about the war of righteousness; who considers this body the war of righteousness; who considers this body as transient, ascends the boat of Lords` praise and ferries across the dreadful ocean of the world;
ਧੀਰਜ ਧਾਮ ਬਨਾਇ ਇਹੈ ਤਨ ਬੁੱਧਿ ਸੁ ਦੀਪਕ ਜਿਉ ਉਜੀਆਰੈ ॥ ਗਯਾਨਹਿ ਕੀ ਬਢਨੀ ਮਨਹੁ ਹਾਥ ਲੈ ਕਾਤਰਤਾ ਕੁਤਵਾਰ ਬੁਹਾਰੈ ॥੨੪੯੨॥
Who makes this body as the abode of forbearance and enlightens it with the lamp of intellect and who taking the broom of knowledge in his hand sweeps away the rubbish of cowardice.2492.
Despite being in jail, Jathedar Akali Baba Surjit Singh ji continued with his daily routine and prayers and continued living in a state known as chardikalah (A state of positivity). Baba Ji organized 40+ Akhand Paths of Adi Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Granth Sahib and Sarbloh Granth Sahib while in jail in just five years.
Unhygienic food and unsanitary conditions at the Patiala Jail caused Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh ji to fall ill in the year 2011. By June 2013 Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh ji’s health started deteriorating, and Baba Surjit Singh ji was taken to P.G.I Hospital Chandigarh, Punjab, for regular weekly checkups. By the year 2014 his health worsened and he spent the best part of two or three days of a week at the P.G.I hospital in Chandigarh. Finally, due to acute illness, Jathedar Akali Baba Surjit Singh ji breathed his last breath on the 3rd of September 2014 in the Central Patiala Jail, Punjab. Jathedar Akali Baba Surjit Singh ji was truly an exceptional soul, sent down to this world, by the Almighty Lord to carry out his tasks. Today the entire Sikh world mourns the loss of one of its greatest leaders.
The Path Bhog in remembrance of Jathedar Baba Surjit Singh Ji Buddha Dal was held on the 12th of September 2014 at Gurdwara Lakhi Jangal Sahib (Goniana Mandi, Bathinda). The new leader 96 crori Akali Baba Prem Singh Nihang from Mata Sahib Kaur’s Gurdwara at Hazur Sahib was selected as the next head of the Buddha Dal. May Vahiguru bless him with chardikalah and continuing to inspire us all, as he has already done so for decades.