Dr Charan Singh

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Dr. Charan Singh (1853-13 November 1908), poet and musicologist, was born at Amritsar in 1853. His father was Baba Kahn Singh and mother was Mata Rup Kaur. Dr Singh was the seventh descent from Diwan Kaura Mal, an influential eighteenth century Sahajdhari Sikh.

Kahn Singh (1788-1878) who was of a retiring disposition had spent some years in the company of wandering ascetics before he was persuaded to give up the life of a recluse and become a householder. In addition to his practice of indigenous medicine, he collected and transcribed Sanskrit manuscripts and wrote verse in Braj thereby laying the foundations of the family's literary tradition. His son, Charan Singh, studied Sanskrit, Braj, Persian and prosody, besides Ayurveda and Western medicine.

A boyhood experience which must have left a deep impression on his mind was the preparation for his benefit of a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib in the hand of Suhel Singh, his maternal uncle. Young Charan Singh watched from day to day the large pages being inscribed in handsome Gurmukhi calligraphy. The completion of the work on 25 February 1862 (Phagun Vadi 5,1918 Bk) was marked by rejoicing and feasting and distribution of charity.

He first practised Ayurvedic as well as Western medicine serving from 1 August 1872 to 12 November 1881 in government dispensaries. He resigned the appointment to set up as a private practitioner and to pursue his literary tastes. He was married in 1869 to Uttam Kaur, daughter of Giani Hazara Singh (q.v.), a reputed man of letters. He had four sons of whom Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957), the celebrated Punjabi poet and savant, was the eldest and Dr Balbir Singh, scientist and scholar, the youngest.

Among his several works, Charan Singh's Atal Prakash is a versified account of Baba Atal Rai's life, and the Dasam Gur Charitra, a vignette of Guru Gobind Singh.

He translated Kalidasa's Abhijnana Sakuntalam into Punjabi and started working on two novels (fang Marauli and Sham Sundar) which he left incomplete and which were published posthumously by the Khalsa Tract Society.

His Gurmat Sangit Nirnaya is a work on the ragas or musical measures employed in the Guru Granth Sahib. Sri Guru Granth Bani Beora explains the titles of compositions comprising the Guru Granth Sahib, and furnishes information about the verse-forms and the ragas or musical measures employed, with details of compositions in each raga as well as of the individual contribution of each of the Gurus and bhaktas.

His Gargajj Bole is a book on the Sikh martial patois, and Sn Maharani Sharab Kaur, a book of didactic Punjabi prose. All his works have been published in one volume in the second part of Shn Charanhari Visthar. Besides composing verse himself, Charan Singh presided over a salon of local devotees of the Muse, and took active interest in the rising Singh Sabha movement.

He died at Amritsar on 13 November 1908.