At Poh Sudee Saptmee, during Guru Dashmesh jee's birth Gurpurab, an amazing and wonderful smaagam used to take place at Narangvaal. Remembering those smaagams even today fills one with a sweet sensation. Trying to describe the divine colours of the those smaagams is like
"ਕਹੁਕਬੀਰਗੂੰਗੈਗੁੜੁਖਾਇਆਪੂਛੇਤੇਕਿਆਕਹੀਐ ॥੪॥੭॥੫੧॥ " (334)
Many days before Poh Sudee Saptmee, Bhai Saahib Randheer Singh jee used to, by hand, write loving invitations and send them off. Those letters were examples of the deep love Bhai Sahib felt for Gursikhs. His excitement to celebrate the Gurpurab with lovers of naam and his close friends burst forth from the lines of the invitations.
Once, a description was included in the "RaN SuhaavaRee Divas Suhaylaa" program. "NirbaaN Keertanee Jatha, the song-bird Bibi's Jatha, The Delhi Resident Bibis' Jatha, The Delhi Singhs' Jatha, Shimla/Kalkaa Jatha, Gurusar Sudhaar Jatha, the Taksali Bibi Jatha [not Damdami Taksal, this was a nickname Bhai Sahib had for another group of Bibis], Bhai Jeevan Singh jee, Bibi Tala Baylee jee, Bibi LaTbauree jee, Col. Pyaaraa Singh jee's amazing keertan, Sree Amritsar Singhs' Jatha, Sd. Avtaar Singh jee and wife's KhaRtaalee Jatha, etc. Due to shortage of space, the description of the entire program cannot be given"
Bhai Saahib would give the Jatha's Singhs and Bibis loving nicknames and descriptions with their names.
The love with which the invitation for the Poh Sude Saptmee smaagam was sent, resulted in a thirst within the Gursikh families to arrive at the Smaagam. Slowly the day would arrive and the Singhs and Singhnees would depart for Narnagvaal with enthusiasm. From Ludhiana, the Sangat would arrive at Kila Raipur Station. Old Baba NaraiN Singh jee would have arrived in the dark of night with a lamp. He would take the Sangat to his house which was near the station and the old couple would by hand serve the Sangat. Mata jee would wash the dishes, Baba jee would pump water for the Sangat's baths, and then he would lead the Sangat to Narangvaal.
The Gurmukh friends would proceed singing the praises of the Husband-Lord and sing to please him. On the other side (in Narangvaal) there was no less thirst to meet.
When the slightest sound of keertan could be heard, Bhai Sahib and other darshan-thirsty Gursikhs would go to meet the Jatha with a vaja and dholkee. The two groups would stand before each other and keertan filled with vairaag would echo. Bhai Saahib would sing such shabads as "ਧੂੜੀਵਿਚਿਲੁਡੰਦੜੀਸੋਹਾਂਨਾਨਕਤੈਸਹਨਾਲੇ ॥੨॥ " and others. An ardaas would be performed. After doing a dandaut, Fateh would be said. The Sangat would meet each other with teary eyes in way that is hard to describe. The way Gursikhs met was a very notable and unparalleled thing. In tight embraces, both sides would rattle the Khanda of Naam and by themselves, naam abhyaas would automatically make their souls blossom.
Beginning of the Smaagam
The Sangat was given a place to stay in nearby houses or the school. In the middle of the night, Gursikhs would bathe in their respective homes and then while doing nitnem arrive at Bhai Saahib's fortress-like house. In the big upper room of the house, the rain of Amrit Keertan would begin from Amrit Vela and echo till 11AM in a great bliss in the joy of Guru Saahib's birth. Then the Sree Akhandpaath would begin. Baoo Mul Singh jee would perform the ardaas which would last at least half an hour. He would use such piercing shabads in the ardaas that it was not possible for anyone to grow tired of it. Then the Akhand Paath Saahib began with Bhai Daleep Singh jee Fulaa(n)vaal. The paath began like a constant rain and it seemed as if all the baaNee had been memorised.
All the Paathee Singhs seemed to do paath in one breath. No one could see them take a breath at all. With glowing faces, half-closed eyes, clasped hands, the paath continued in great colours. All the Akhand Paathees and Japjee Saahib Paathees were sitting near Guru Saahib. Near Bhai Daleep Singh sat Bhai Atmaa Singh Panjokharaa, Bhai Joginder Singh BaRoondee, Bhai Darshan Singh GaRguj, etc. Bhai Saahib was also sitting in the Sangat. Sometimes Bhai Saahib would hit his KaRas together to join the beat of the paath, which was an unspeakable sight. The entire paath was conducted in a high itched and sweet voice.
The amazing and spiritual effects of Akhand Paaths were also seen here. On one side the listeners, wrapped in shawls and blankets would sit in deep meditation and on the other, the beloved, divinely imbued Paathees would recite phaat in such wonderful ways that the arrows of BaaNee kept piercing the listeners' hearts. During the Akhand Paath, no other keertan smaagam took place. All were earning the true profit by listening to the Paath. The Amrit BaaNee had such an effect that no one grew tired or bored. Those who wanted to receive Amrit were especially encouraged to try and listen to the entire Akhand Paath from start to finish with attention, so that at the time of receiving Amrit they get the most grace from Guru Saahib.
One day before the Gurpurab the Nagar Keertan would begin in the afternoon from the Akaalee Bungaa Gurdvara, just outside of the town. Before the Nagar Keertan, all the alleys and paths and Bazaars were cleaned and water was sprayed on the ground [to prevent dust from rising]. Bhai Saahib would himself begin this Nagar Keertan. Two Singhs on each side would support the vaja and Bhai Saahib would sing keertan in such high notes and with such force that right away the entire atmosphere would be transformed. From one end to the other, the entire Sangat would begin to sway and in one voice begin to sing keertan. Seeing this sight of the Nagar Keertan was also amazing and unparalleled.
At the lead of the Nagar keertan was the nishaan saahib, behind which followed the Panj Pyaaray and behind them, the Singhs were carrying the palanquin of Sree Guru Granth Saahib jee upon their shoulders. Behind that were the Keertanee Singhs and behind them the bibis. Those holding the vaja would change, the tabla players would change, but Bhai Saahib did not let the vaja go.
Too see this Nagar Keertan, sangat from the surrounding villages would arrive and the roofs of the entire town were filled with women and children. At this time, Komal jee (Bhai Harnaam Singh Komal) would take a basket of flowers and go from roof to roof showering flowers upon Sree Guru Granth Saahib. And like this, the Nagar Keertan, with full vigour and coloured in spiritual colours would end at sunset at the Akaalee Bungaa.
Arriving at Narangvaal from Kila Raipur, The amazing welcome and love filled meetings, the Keertan before the Akhand Paath which was filled with a desire to see the divine, the rain of Amrit BaaNee during the Sree Akhand Paath and the energetic Nagar Keertan's loud keertan echoes would have such an effect on some souls that they would lose all sense and could not control their bairaag.
No organisation of langar was better than at Narangvaal. Humble, and fully devoted tyaar-bar-tyaar sevadaars did seva here. They were simple and fearless Gursikhs with no other interest but service and they considered the Sangat to be the Guru's own form. They did everything to get the happiness of the Guru. All things needed for the langar were naturally available there: milk, ghee, yoghurt, butter-milk, flour, guR, sugar, daals, vegetables, firewood, etc. Nothing was bought, all was available naturally. Make saag, or sabzee or kheer or make degh or palao, but do not say anything but naam or baaNee in the langar. Like Nitnem, Sukhmanee Saahib, Sodar, and other phaats happen at a gurdvara, all took place here in the langar, with ardaas. The main organisers of the langar were Bhai Naahar Singh jee (not the book editor, another Singh) and Bibi Anand Kaur jee. From Amrit Vela 3AM to 10PM at night, the langar continued without stop. Sometimes makee day parshaday were distributed, other times yoghurt, butter, butter-milk, daal, subjee, and of course parshaaday. Sometimes there was hot guR and sugar, or kheer or KaRah Parshaad from GuR or sometimes even sweet rice. One side was the Gur-shabad or food for the soul and on the other was Guru kaa Langar to satisfy the mind and body. All hunger was gone. The big kaRaahaa was always on the fire and was only empty a couple times when it was cleaned with water and a cloth. After cooking all food, it was put in a couple of tubs or smaller kaRaahees. One type of food was distributed and in that time another would arrive. It was "ਤੋਟਾਮੂਲਿਨਆਵਈ ".
Bhog of Akhand Paath Saahib
On the actual day of Dashmesh jee's birth at Poh Sudee Saptmee, the Akhand Phaat would begin to conclude at 4AM. At this time, all the Guru's beloveds would take their place and the rooms and verandas of the house were so packed that one couldn't even find a place for a small seed.
After the Bhog of the Sree Akhand Paath Saahib, Bhai Saahib would begin the keertan in the enthusiasm for Sree Guru Gobind Singh jee's birth. At that time, Bhai Saahib would have a yearning to meet Dashmesh jee that would come out from his glowing face. Right away after the start of the keertan, the entire atmosphere would change and the darshan-thirsty souls would cry out from within in such a way that entire sangat would have a divine current race through them and would become drenched with tears of bairaag and savour the feeling.
In this bairagee Sangat, Bhai Saahib was in such a glowing state that it seemed as if he was lost within the darshan of Dashmesh Pitaa Jee, and was singing every line of baaNee in the love of Kalgeedhaar jee. He would cry out:
From each line of this shabad, he would get darshan and see Patshaah upon his true throne.
Others like Bhai Amolak Singh, who had been on the second vaja beside Bhai Saahib would then recite keertan from the fifth chhaka. Sometimes Bhai Jaan Sukhaalaa or Bhai Surjan Singh would grab a third vaja and sing keertan. Then came the Bibis. There were seven bibis who Bhai Saahib had arranged to learn keertan and all seven took a vaja. All were the emobdiment of simplicity and all were crowned with dastaars. The first shabad Bibi Updesh Kaur Panjokhara valay sang was "ਮੋਰੈਹਿਰਦੈਬਸਹੁਗੋਪਾਲ ॥" and the arrows of BaaNee began to fly. They would sing shabads which applied to each chhakaa and with the BaaNee, they would allow the Sangat to see Guru Dasam Pitaa jee through their souls.
At 2pm Bhai Saahib jee would again begin keertan, this time Bhai Surjan Singh jee, swaying to the keertan, sat on the second vaja. Baba jee sang a bairagi shabad in such a piercing voice that the entire sangat was lost. Baba jee himself was swaying like a tree in the wind while sitting at the vaja.
After that Shabad, Bhai Saahib sang "ਵਹ ਪ੍ਰਗਟਿਓ ਮਰਦ ਅਗੰਮੜਾ ਵਰੀਆਮ ਇਕੇਲਾ ॥" and other appropriate Shabads. The Sangat was bathing in the pool of the Sant Sangat and were emerging in bliss. " ਮੇਰੀਪਟੀਆਲਿਖਿਦੇਹੁ....... " and other Shabads were sung and around 5pm, the final chhaka of Aasaa Dee Vaar was recited. In the end, Bhai Saahib concluded the keertan with "ਤਿਨਘੋਲਿਘੁਮਾਈਜਿਨਪ੍ਰਭੁਸ੍ਰਵਣੀਸੁਣਿਆਰਾਮ ॥"
In the colour of this keertan, all souls would become dyed. The Gurmukh's souls would become perfumed and would give the scent in all directions (this is not just a saying or metaphor, this is a personally experienced and tested truth). In this divine scent, the keertan would go in even more chardee kalaa. The entire sangat would be immersed in their own divine colours and their consciousness was so focused on the Shabad that there was no motivation to look around or move or shift from side to side. On the contrary, the desire to enjoy divine flavour would continue to increase and continually immerse them even deeper. No hunger, no thirst, no boredom, no fatigue. All were lost within themselves. Consciousness was elevated and enjoying some unspeakable nectar. Sometime after noon, the keertan would conclude.
At 7/8PM, the RaN Sabaaee would begin, which would last till day and then continue with the Divas Suhaylaa which would conlcude the following evening at Rehraas. This was 24 hour keertan. Sometimes it would happen that the keertan started on the morning of the Gurpurab would go till Sodar and then become attached to the RaN Sabaaee and Divas Suhaylaa. So like this, for even more than 36 hours the sangat would sit uninterrupted.
The RaN Sabaaee would take place in the open yard. From the Langar veranda to the outter gates, the Sangat would sit according the words of baaNee:
Bhai Saahib would begin with the shabad "ਸੇਵੀਸਤਿਗੁਰੁਆਪਣਾਹਰਿਸਿਮਰੀਦਿਨਸਭਿਰੈਣ ॥". He would then sing other shabads on this theme like
At around 11/12 Bhai Saahib would conclude and the 7 bibi jatha began.
The Ran Sabaaee would be even more amazing than the amrit vela keertan. The effects of keertan and baaNee would become even deeper as they continued from the first smaagams (i.e. 1st keertan, akhand paath, nagar keertan, and amrit vela keertan). Some souls were so intoxicated that like a wind up clock, their Naam Khanda kept going and wouldn't slow down or stop. They were so senseless in this state that they would even have an effect on those around them. The keertan in its own amazing way would continue. All keertanee Gurmukh brother and sisters would enjoy bliss in the keertan from start to finish. No one had even the thought of asking for a turn to do keertan. No one had any need to stand or sleep. All were so immersed that no one had any awareness of their bodies. Only by breaking from the nectar can boredom, fatigue and sleep attack. Keertan was not recited for others but to please the Guru. No announcement took place during the keertan, and when the keertanee was to be changed, it happened through hand motions alone.
A lot of Naam loving brothers and sisters arrived at the Narangvaal Smaagam. No flashy clothes or individuals with unfocussed consciousness were seen. No Nigureys or atheists were around…what work did they have here? But despite this, the meditation on Gurmantar was not done openly. In fact, if some soul was totally struck by the nectar and the Naam Khanda began to go, it would continue to enjoy that condition for the entire night and the keertan would continue in its own place. Some serious individuals would lovingly try to stop them and would say "keep it secret. Meditate within your heart".
The absence of fatigue, and sleep and the ever-increasing immersion in divine colours has one important reason and that was that during the RaN Sabaaee and Divas Suhaylaa, for 24 hours, no Langar besides water was consumed. The enjoyment one can take from naam and baaNee without food cannot be enjoyed after eating and being totally full.
After listening to keertan for 24 hours, after the bhog, the hunger for more keertan increased. Singhs would go to their homes and continue with more keertan or naam abhyaas. There was no question of sleep or hunger. All bodies were light and it felt as if they were floating on air. The echo of keertan would last for many days in each person's ears.
At departure time, many in the sangat would comment on how Bhai Saahib had listened for so many hours. Even up to 63 and during this time, he had only on two or three times had some honey and lemon-water. But despite this, Bhai Saahib would still be embracing the gurmukhs around him outside the room. He didn't go and hide somewhere to sleep.
The departure from Narangvaal was also an amazing sight. To see the Sangat off, Bhai Saahb would follow the Sangat for a long time even out of the village. With teary eyes and bairaag, he would barely be able to release the sangat from his loving hugs and then he would repeatedly bow and allow the Sangat to leave. Bhai Saahib would continue to watch the Sangat for a long time as it was leaving and would watch it move into the distance. He would remain standing in his place until the Sangat could no longer be seen.
With respected Baoo Mul Singh jee, Bhai Saahib had extreme love. Seeing Baoo jee off, Bhai Saahib's love cannot be described.
But today, all these sights have become only sweet memories.
1)Today, the form of keertan smaagams has totally changed. Keertanees come only to do keertan and then a little while after doing keertan, they quietly depart like they no longer feel any bliss from singing along with the keertan.
2)Without feeling any ras, reciting Gurmantar is becoming just an empty show.
3)Announcing keertanee positions/times in an Akhand Keertan Smaagam is to break from the Shabad and is only a Manmatt show of haumai.