By Bhai Jagjit Singh
Information sourced from Bhai Surinder Singh and Bhai Jaswinder Singh, beloved sons of Giani Ji.
Giani Amolak singh was born in the village Dhaat, Ludhiana, Punjab. His father’s name was Sardar Bogha Singh, and his mothers name was Mata Dhan Kaur. After studying his Metric, Amolak Singh went on to Punjab University, where he did the Giani course. Hence, he became affectionately known as Giani Amolak Singh ji.
Gianiji’s interest in Sikhism began from his parents. His father was a devout soul. Everyday at Amritvela, he would take milk to the Gurdwara sahib, and sweep the floor. However, the biggest influence in these early years was his mamaji (maternal uncle), Master Joginder Singh, a well known Gursikh and a close associate of Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh.
From the age of 5 years, Amolak Singh was in the sangat of these blessed souls such as Masterji, Bhai Sahib and the Akhand Kirtani Jatha. In 1936, Master Joginder Singh ji did seva at Tarn Tarn Sahib. Gianiji regularly stayed there and was inspired to learn kirtan. Such was the blessed soul of Gianiji, that by the age of 8 years, he realised his path in life, and partook Amrit.
In 1944, Giani ji started attending the Gurmat Sahib Sudar College, Ludhiana. The group that ran this project were vibrant companions of Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh. They created a school which taught pure Gurmat and was strict in discipline. The students of this school all became prominent Sikh activists and did a lot for the Panth. It was here that Gianiji started teaching tabla and harmonium.
Later on Gianiji found a job as a Punjabi teacher in a government school. Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh told Master Joginder Singh to write a letter to the Government, and tell them Gianiji is resigning from that position. Gianiji accepted the will and pyaar of the Gursikhs and returned to the Gurmat Sahib Sudar College.
Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh ji was very prominent in the Panthik arena. There was wide recognition of his high Jeevan and Panthik Kurbani. Bhai Sahib and Baba Attar Singh with many other Gursikhs had brought a lot of change in the Panth via the Gurdwara Sudar Movement. They worked under the banner of the Panch Khalsa Divan. There was a huge conference at Patiala. This was organised by the Maharaja of Patiala. Bhai Sahib was given the Presidentship of the conference. However Bhai Sahib gave a powerful address in this conference condemning the corrupt forces in the Panth. Bhai sahib openly stated to the Maharaja, that his throne has been blessed to him by Satguru. He told him to give his Raj to the Panth, or he will lose it. Such has happened today. A lot of intimidation was put to Bhai sahib at that conference to not say what he believed. But Bhai Sahib was full of Tat Gurmat passion. It was Giani Amolak Singh and other Gursikhs who stood side by side with Bhai sahib to make sure Tat Gurmat is stated.
LETTER FROM BHAI SAHIB
Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh ji was very fond of Giani ji. It has been mentioned to me before that Bhai Sahib had so much love for so many Gursikhs, but was fond of two youth in particular. One was Bhai Sahib Jeevan Singh and the other Giani Amolak Singh. Both spent a lot of time with Bhai sahib, and even travelled to Kumaar Hatti with him.
Gianiji’s family has a letter written by Bhai Sahib he recalls the Gurbani shabad, ‘Tum Vekh Vekh Hum Jeevann’. Bhai Sahib states, ‘I have searched but I cannot find anyone who sings this shabad with the same satisfaction as you.’
In Bhai Sahib`s village of Narangwal, living next to Bhai sahib house was another Gurmat family. The two houses had a lot of love between them. Bhai Sahib selected Gianiji’s life companion from this house. Bhai Sahib simply told Gianiji that his match had been found and he should marry. Gianiji humbly accepted his wishes. In 1949, Gianiji married Bibi Surjit Kaur ji.
COMING TO EAST AFRICA
A delegation came from Dar-es-Salam in Tanzania to meet up with Bhai Sahib Ranfhir Singh. Many Sikhs had now moved to East Africa and set up a Gurdwara. The delegation asked Bhai Sahib to recommend a good Granthi singh for seva. Bhai Sahib sent Gianiji. Giani ji left in 1956.
Gianiji did a lot of seva in Africa during his time of 1956 to 1967. At that time the Namdhari Gurudom of Jagjit Singh was very prominent in Africa. Giani ji was invited to a conference organised by the East Africa Council. Jagjit Singh also spoke at this conference. It was here that Gianiji spoke vigorously on the subject of ‘Shabad Guru’ and countering a lot of Namdhari propaganda. From that day Gianiji gained widespread prominence in Africa.
Everyday Gianiji would take personal charge of doing seva of Maharaj Guru Granth Sahib Ji. He would ensure perfect rumallas, and encourage the sangat to learn how to do seva properly. The Sangat had great sharda in doing this seva.
Gianiji got a salary for the Singh sabha. But unlike modern Gurdwara Gianis, he never took one penny from the sangat. To compensate for him doing the Giani duty, he spent hours doing Niskam Seva. He would spend his day time doing free seva at the Khalsa School, from 4pm to 6pm teaching kirtan. His passion was for Niskam seva.
SANGAT’S DUST IS YOUR CURE
Over time, Gianiji noticed that his kesh on one side of his moustache and beard where falling out. They had thinned significantly and it had become noticeable. Gianiji became quite concerned. He tried various medication, but to no avail. Gianiji decided to write a letter to Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh ji. Bhai Sahib wrote back telling Gianiji that the only cure is to everyday to ‘Johrian De Seva’ (clean the dust of the shoes of the sangat), and wipe it on that area. Bhai sahib said that dust is your medication. Soon Gianiji’s kesh returned to normal.
MEETING WITH BABA PURAN SINGH
Gianiji went to Nairobi in Kenya, while on holidays. He had heard of an abyassi Gursikh called Baba Puran Singh ji. They had reached late in the evening, and Gianiji asked about Baba Puran singh. In the morning at Amrit vela, Gianiji began doing Asa-Di-Var. Amongst the sangat in front the kirtanis was Baba Puran Singh Ji. Giani ji had never met him, but instantly knew he was a blessed soul. While in kirtan, Gianiji hinted to his companion, asking who this Gursikh was. His companion hinted back, that this is Baba Puran Singh Ji. Thus began Gianiji’s long association with the Niskam Sevak Jatha.
COMING TO THE UNITED KINGDOM
Gianiji realised the political situation in Africa, and also considering the education of his children, he moved to Southall in UK. The sangat was just forming in them days and Gianiji started doing kirtan divans. The sangat was divided into 2 groups, one the Singh Sabha, and the other was the Sikh Cultural Society. Slowly Gianiji managed to get these two groups together. Then they brought a site for the Gurdwara. In the years 1967-68, the first Amrit Sanchaar in UK took place in Southall. Gianiji did seva in the Panj Pyares. There is a picture of this event in Bhai Rama singhji’s autobiography. It was in this Amrit Sanchaar that Bhai Rama Singh amongst 15-20 other Gursikhs were blessed with Amrit.
In 1968, Gianiji with other Gursikhs from the Akhand Kirtani Jatha arranged the first UK Rainsbhai at the old Green Gurdwara. This was a huge achievement and these Rainsbhai flourishes even today, enjoining hundreds of souls to keertan and Gurbani abyaass.
Gianiji was also devoted to the affairs of the Panth. From his early days he stood by Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh, till his last days. I have been fortunate to meet many Great Gursikhs. Too often today, they shy away, talking about protecting their Jeevans. But a true Sant-Siphai can never do this. He had too much Pride and Spirit to allow his Father’s Great Guru Khalsa Panth TO fall into the doldrums. Gianiji was one such person who was fully involved in local, national and Panthik affairs for over 30 years in UK.
Gianiji always maintained his Gristji Jeevan, working in a biscuit factory. He did his seva in a Niskam manner, never using the Sangat’s money. Gianiji, along with Bhai Madan Singh, were highly involved in the helmet case, childrens’ turban case for schools, and kirpan case, to give our generation freedom to wear our Bana. Gianiji was pivotal in organising the biggest UK demonstrations by Sikhs. The first was the one in 1983, supporting the Dharam Yudh Morcha in Punjab. The second was in 1984 showing the UK Sikhs anger at Operation Bluestar.
Gianiji first became President of Singh Sabha Southall in 1972-73. From then on he was involved directly or indirectly with the Gurdwara control until 1985. He was also involved heavily in the Akali Dal UK doing seva as President on numerous occasions over the 30 year period.
In the early 1980’s, when Jathedar Gurdyal Singh Ajohna passed away, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who was President of SGPC, and Sant Harcharan Singh Logowal, who was President of Akali Dal, offered Giani ji the seva of the Akal Takht Jathedari. Gianiji politely declined, due to wanting to maintain his Gristhi Jeevan, family responsibilities, and his difficulties with the meat issue in the Akal Thakht Rehit Maryada. He also openly said to the leaders that their friendship would be affected by his inability to be a puppet for them. He had a strong self-dignity and would speak his mind. He was further offered it on numerous occasions in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. But again he declined.
However he was a member of the Sikh intelligentsia, and numerous Panthik panels, such as the World Sikh Council and the Akal Thakht Advisory Board.
He also played leading part in the Akhand Kirtani Jatha doing smagams worldwide. He was also pivotal in establishing the Niskam Sevak Jatha on the Panthik stage. He played a major part in helping secure the kar seva of Darbar sahib, Keshgarh Sahib, Hazoor Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib.
From an early age Gianiji never missed any smagams. He would immerse himself in seva and abhiass with his fellow Gursikhs. He would do kirtan far and wide. He often went on Parchaar tours with the Akhand Kirtani Jatha and the Niskam Sevak Jatha. He travelled as far as Canada, America, Africa and Austrailia.
Many youth from Canada and America have also written memories of Gianiji as tributes, which shows the love he spread. He ensured no matter what he was occupied with, he always made time, for Sahib Guru Gobind Singh’s Gurpurb Smagam in Ludhiana, Delhi Smagam, and Sahib Guru Nanak’s Jallundar Smagam. Gianiji was a great orator and kathakar. In his kirtan he would regularly explain to the sangat, the amazing deep meanings of shabads, and spread the message of Sahib Siri Guru Nanak dev Ji.
Looking at his jeevan, his legacy must be how he wanted everyone under one Banner ‘The Khalsa Panth’. My personal view is that we have to look at Gianiji’s life and see how many different arenas and jathas he did seva in. Examining this, we can see he always made ‘the Seva is Pardaan’. He gave this most importance rather than groups, politics and associates.
Gianiji was also concerned how much the Akali Dal has become commercialised. I remember a conversation with him, where he showed his unhappiness at the Akali dal making a fundamentalist Hindu the head of Akali Dal in Ludhiana district. He said these modern day Akalis have no vision. He told me that, ‘Once fundamentalist Hindus in Punjab said they will never let Sikhs build the Khalsa Colleges, but all of us Singhs did our kamar kasse and said we will build it. Stop us if you can!’ He also warned that our Dharam Parchaar groups were also going the same way. He wanted every Gursikh to be a missionary and spread the message of Sikhism. Very important to this is that they have high Jeevans. This does not mean hiding in our homes, or just attending keertan darbaars, but like Giani ji being active in Dharam Parchaar in a pioneering manner, and standing steadfast in our Gurdwaras upholding Gurmat. He was a real ‘Sant-Siphai’ – that is his legacy, a true son of Sahib Siri Guru Gobind Singh Ji.