By Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh jee in Jyot Vigaas
It was the year 1918. The Avtaar-DihaaRaa, or Gupurab of Poh Sudee Saptmee was fast approaching. Only a couple days remained. The 40 Sikh political prisoners in Hazaaree Baagh jail, all in separate cells, were very anxious to celebrate this occasion. But what celebration of the Gurpurab could there be for confined prisoners? There was no permission to sit together and all the prisoners, like lions, were kept in separate cages. The most allowance that could be expected was a break from jail work for the day and being allowed to meditate or read Gurmat books and tracts by themselves in their solitary cells.
But we all had made arrangements to celebrate this Gurpurab in a special way. We had arranged so that we could recite stories very loudly in our individual cells so that everyone could hear them and in this way we could celebrate together. It was a celebration "together" in the sense that each person would recite some baaNee or story in a very loud voice and the rest of us would concentrate very hard and attempt to hear them.
The Gupurab of Poh Sudee Saptmee of the year 1918 had arrived and I had the enthusiasm that this time, those brothers amongst us who write poetry would compose poetry on Sree Dashmesh jee for the Gurpurab and then write it on slates and then pass it around the jail block so all could enjoy it. Of all the poetry writing brothers amongst us, the most skilled and well known was Bhai Mounshaa Singh "dukhee". At first, Dukhee jee would just write patriotic poems, but in Hazaree Baagh prison, at my encouragement and requests, he began to write beautifully on religious topics as well. This new-found love of the Guru Ghar became so strong, he would at many times become inspired and write something in praise of the Guru and then secretly have it passed on to me. Dukhee jee was in the jail block beside the one I was in and so his voice could not be heard. Because of this, two days before the Gurpurab, I asked had the Chief-Head-Warden of the jail give him a message on my behalf, that Dukhee jee please compose bairaag-drenched poetry on Sree Dashmesh jee.
Dukhee jee sent the reply that first I should send him some inspirational words or theme to get him started. I sent the reply that I did not know how to make a theme or inspiration. Nor do I know how to write poetry and I have never read poetry either. What would I know about a "theme" or "inspiration"? But veer Mounshaa Singh replied a third time, and said "For Guru's sake" I should do as he asked. He wrote "No, Baba jee. If you give me the theme, only then will I be able to compose the poetry." Dukhee jee used to call me "Baba jee" out of love and respect.
What a cry he had made. And I was silent. The Chief Warden gave this order to me and left, saying that by tomorrow I should certainly have a theme ready and he would take it from me. What a difficult situation it was. Considering Dukhee jee's loving request, I didn't know what to do. How could I cause pain to Dukhee jee's sensitive heart and then expect to enjoy the Gurpurab as well?
Night fell and Amrit Vela arrived. At 2AM in the last part of the night, I rose and bathed and then fell into meditation. In the block behind mine, my beloved brother, Sree Bhai Attar Singh jee recited such an echoing Sree Sukhmanee Sahib paath that could pierce the heart.
Seeing a Glimpse of Dasam Paatshaah in Hazaaree Baagh and the Inspiration of a "Theme"
The day of Sree Dashmesh jee's birth was fast arriving. Those in love with Dashmesh jee began to feel their desire to meet him double within their hearts. While in divinely-coloured meditation, he gave his glimpse. Yes! Sree Dashmesh jee, beloved lord, gave his instantaneous glimpse and left leaving only enchanting joy in his wake. In the next instant he was gone. After this moment, a lightning like scream arose from within the heart, begging for his darshan "Aavee(n) dholaa, darsh dikhaavee(n), paavee(n) thanD kalayjay noo(n)" [Come o beloved one! Give your darshan! Make my heart serene and cool].
This call came over and over again. My every hair was calling out. Oh, what a wonderful theme was inspired! Sree Dashmesh jee himself inspired it. But nothing else came to me beyond this. In this mood, keeping the form of Sree Dashmesh jee before myself, such an amazing naam abhyaas started, such a wonderful blooming colour, that my consciousness was immersed until day-break. When the consciousness returned, and I became aware again, I began to wait anxiously for the Chief Warden so I could send this theme to beloved Kaviraj jee (I used to call Dukhee jee Kaviraj out of love as well).
I waited all day for the Chief Warden but he did not come. After asking, I found out that he had unexpectedly left on leave and perhaps he would not return the next day as well. Now I had the worry of how to get this theme to brother Mounshaa Singh. The messenger I needed had left. The next day was the Gurpurab and Veer jee was to send his composition to me before 9AM. I saw no way out. I was disappointed but then my heart found one support, and the ardaas rose from within me that "Oh Sree Dashmesh Guru Patshaah, miraculous one! In the same graceful manner in which you put this theme in my heart, your glance of mercy and your grace can put this theme in the mind of veer Kaviraj jee as well.
" ਕਾਠਕੀਪੁਤਰੀਕਹਾਕਰੈਬਪੁਰੀਖਿਲਾਵਨਹਾਰੋਜਾਨੈ ॥ ਜੈਸਾਭੇਖੁਕਰਾਵੈਬਾਜੀਗਰੁਓਹੁਤੈਸੋਹੀਸਾਜੁਆਨੈ ॥੩॥ " (206).
With this, I became free of worry. The next night was the period in which Sree Dsahsmesh jee was born in Patna. So, for that night, the desire to stay awake in love arose. How this night passed is not possible to describe here. In silence, most beloved darshan was given of our most beloved friend and I was immersed. The dark night melted and the sun spread its light everywhere.
We in Block Two were sharing stories of Dashmesh jee when the Chief Head Warden came with a slate filled with poetry by Veer Mounshaa Singh and Veer Kartaar Singh Canadian (Nava(n) Chand). There were numerous poems in different measures, but the top poem of only four lines was written by veer Mounshaa Singh. When I saw the opening line, my wonder knew no bounds, because it was the same "Aavee(n) dholaa darsh dikhaavee(n)…", written in clear letters. There were three more lines in this poem, but my heart desired that Dukhee jee would have kept writing and allowed us to hear more.
Some days after the Gurpurab, I had the opportunity to come close to Veer Mounsha Singh and I repeatedly asked him to recite that poem and he obliged every time. I asked him many times, very lovingly, "Veer jee, why did you write such a small poem of just four lines? Why did you not expand?" He would reply, also very lovingly, "Baba jee! I couldn't make anymore than this. What could I do? You didn't let me. If the current of poetry could have continued as strongly as the first lines, it would have been joyful to continue, (but alas…)"
When I asked how he came up with the first line, he replied "Baba jee! You inspired it and as you inspired it, it came to me." Then I said, "Veer jee! Don't praise me, just a lowly human. This is all Satguru jee's work and he blessed you." This was in fact the truth. We were both just wooden dolls, the puppeteer, Satguru jee, could make us move as he wanted and make one of us get the idea first or the other. We can't say who was first and at what time.
So then what? The story leaves off here. In 1920, veer Mounsha Singh along with 18 other brothers was released and came out and the rest of us under the divine-order remained for some time longer, detained in Hazaaree Baagh jail. After some golden days in Raj Mandree Jail, we were again sent to Nagpur Jail. Many more years passed and many Gurpurabs of Saptmee passed. From 1918, the cycle of time brought me eventually to 1930. This was the last Saptmee Gurpurab I would pass in captivity, but what did I know this would be the last? But yes, the feeling of spiritual joy within my soul did seem to hint that this type of Gurpurab celebration would come to an end here.
In a small confined cell of Nagpur Jail, the feeling of " ਨਾਗਨਿਵਾਸਾਂਦੇਰਹਿਣਾ ॥ " came and these lines also began to echo. That Saptmee Gurpurab, that ਨਾਗਨਿਵਾਸਾਂ vala final Gurpurab would be celebrated all alone. No, no!. It was celebrated within me in the service of the lord of Lakhee jungle with savaa-lakh present [A Singh is always sava-lakh i.e. equal to 125 000. This is a reference to a shabad in which the Guru calls his Khalsa together in the Lakhee jungle and all the Khalsa assembled there right away].
All my companions were in separate jails and my only brother and companion, my spiritual friend, Bhai Kartar Singh Canadian, who was in the same jail, was separated from me and imprisoned in some distant corner of the jail. Where my cell was, no human or any thing else ever came close. Well, it was fortunate. It was a solitary place of meditation. I could meditate with the Khandaa of Naam as much as I wanted and there was no one to stop me or restrict me. There was an order that no jail employee could come alone nearby. It was peace both day and night. It was a beautiful atmosphere.
The Echoing of the Jail Jungle
The blessed time of the Saptmee Gurpurab was passing. Beloved! Beloved Sree Guru Dashmesh! This sava-lakh servant of yours, separated from your Lakhee Jungle, has once again heard the call of his master! This feeling had arisen and "ਮਿਤ੍ਰਪਿਆਰੇਨੂੰਹਾਲਮੁਰੀਦਾਂਦਾਕਹਿਣਾ ॥" began to be felt within me. The entire jail-jungle echoed. Such keertan happened! It was as if countless gifted Keertanees and Gurmukhs were singing together in one voice. Ah! The desire to remain awake all night rose and the longing to see the lord also intensified. My eyes rolled up.
In the jail cell, standing imprisoned by the cell, grasping the jail-bars, I was swinging in love. And then, someone gently put a copying-pencil in my fingers that were grasping the bars. This one, longing for darshan and with closed eyes, again remembered those lines from twelve years past, "Avee(n) dhola, darsh dikhaavee(n), paavee(n) thand kalayjay noo(n)". This line rose within in me like a wave and automatically more lines of poetry began to follow. It was as if the curtain on poetry had lifted and it would not stop. I gained some awareness as my consciousness returned and I felt the encouragement to record the poetry that was rising within. I looked and saw that there was a pencil stuck in my fingers. I understood Guru jee himself was doing this and giving the encouragement. But then I could not find any paper to write on. How could there be any paper? Nothing was here. And on the other side, the stream of poetry kept coming while I kept hurrying to find paper. Then, I got an idea that the book on Bhai Gurdas jee's vaars was with me. On the pages, all around the print, there was a large margin and I began to write in it.
Then what? I grabbed the pencil and began to write. I kept writing the poetry as it kept coming. Till late in the night, the lantern was kept alight in front of me. In divine ecstasy and in the desire for darshan, I continuously kept writing for seven days and seven nights. The current of poetry would not stop and I would not stop writing. For these seven days and nights, no one came on rounds and no jail officer or visitor came. Until the stream itself did not stop coming, I did not stop writing.
Whatever my inner state was while writing this, can bee seen from the writing itself.
So, writing the above lines as the introduction to the book Jyot Vigaas was very important, and thus I wrote them. However it came to me, I wrote it here. I am grateful to Guru Kartaar countless times that even though I had written this book, it stayed with me for the rest of my time in jail in a secure manner and also came with me when I was released.
Some months after my release, I got the feeling that this writing should be re-copied by someone with beautiful printing. Those brothers who helped copy this book, to them, I am very thankful. I had left this book, "Jyot Vigaas" with my close friends, from whom some spiritual Gurmukhs could take and read it. Some amongst these Gurmukhs and my very close and beloved friends felt the desire to publish this book so that it would be maintained as a gift to the worthy coming generations of the Panth. I had to bow my head before their wishes. May Satguru jee give fruit to their worthy ambitions.
Laykhak premee-jan, ladhovariaa(n) daa mul khareedee laalaa golaa,
5 July, 1936.