Mahant Bachiter Singh
Mahant Bachiter Singh (1945 - 1991) was a pious Sikh who succeeded Sant Bhai Mangal Singh Ji Doom as the mukhi-sewadar (Chief Guardian) of the Gurdwara Nangali Sahib (Poonch) on 23rd October 1947. Mahant ji was a great religious personality; an intellectual and a saint.
He was responsible for the reconstruction of the shrine, Gurdwara Nangali Sahib (Poonch) in 1948 after it had been destroyed by fire in 1947. He also felt the need of establishing a sub centre of Sikh activity at Jammu. This was because more than 90% Hindu-Sikh population from Poonch, Muzzafrabad and Kashmir areas got uprooted and resettled at various places in Jammu Province.
Accordingly, a suitable stretch of land was purchased at Digiana, at about 3 km on NH-1A from Jammu and Sant Mela Singh Technical Ashram (Ashram = Shelter for the needy) was established there. Since then, the Digiana Ashram has remained a nerve centre for socio religious-cum-economic-educational activities of the Sikh minority in Jammu & Kashmir.
1947: Turbulent time
During partition and ensuing conflict of 1947, Mahant Ji was compelled to come to Poonch town as village Nangali Sahib had also gone under the occupation of Invaders. After the liberation of the village Mahant Ji immediately rushed back to Nangali Sahib but the original Gurdwara complex was completely burnt and destroyed by the tribesmen invaders. Therefore initially he was putting up in a small room near the Dera.
Subsequently, he started planning for construction of a big Gurudwara complex and started tours of villages and towns for collection of donations.
In about 1947, he also purchased 45 kanal of land at Digiana and got constructed a big Gurdwara Sant Mela Singh Dastkari Ashram (Digiana) and started Ashram for orphan youths who are being provided training in various trades so that they may be able to earn their livelihood. Ragi Jathas are also organized there for religious preaching.
The Dera Nangali, in Jammu & Kashmir state in India has its own historical contribution in the development of the Sikh minority in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Three great disciples of tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, namely Sant Bhai Pheru Singh Ji, Sant Bhai Punjab Singh Ji and Sant Bhai Rocha Singh Ji who had been baptized at the pious hands of the 10th Guru, were ordained by him to make the hilly State of Jammu & Kashmir as their area of service to humanity in accordance with tenets of Sikhism.
These three great souls travelled, one after another, through nook and corner of the hill state, reaching the farthest villages and preaching the message of the Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh; the message of love, universal brotherhood, oneness of God and service of humanity.
By great efforts of these three great Saints a very large number of people from Jammu & Kashmir got attracted towards teachings of Sikh Gurus and adopted Sikh way of life. So, the fourth missionary in succession, Sant Bhai Mela Singh Ji, felt the need of establishing a centre of activity wherefrom the preaching would be carried out throughout the year, day and night, and where people could assemble on special occasions to deliberate on matters of common interest.
First Dear established in Jammu & Kashmir
He established the Sikh centre, calling it a Dera (Abode) at village Nangali on a stream Drungly, 5 km off Poonch Town in the year 1803 AD. Right from its inception the place automatically acquired a reverence and came to be known as "Shiromani Sant Pura Dear" Nangali Sahib.
This Dera was been visited by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1814. Maharaja Gulab Singh and almost all of his successors, held the Dera in high esteem. Many Indian and foreign dignitaries and thousands of devotees from all corners of the world and from all faiths have been visiting the Dera.
Even during these days it stands as the most sacred place of Sikhs of Jammu & Kashmir who feel privileged to pay a visit to this holy place. Sant Manna Singh Ji succeeded Sant Bhai Mela Singh Ji on the seat of the Dera in 1854 AD and thereafter Sant Bhai Mangal Singh Ji, Sant Bhai Rattan Singh Ji, Sant Bhai Avtar Singh Ji, Sant Bhai Rattan Singh Ji Modi, Sant Bhai Mohar Singh Ji and Sant Bhai Mangal Singh Ji came to occupy one after another this pious and most respected seat. All these great people preached love and sacrifice for the sake of humanity and became models of simple living and high thinking through religious sermons.
Need for another Sikh Centre
In 1947, the then missionary of the Dera, Mahant Bachittar Singh Ji (1945 - 1991) felt the need of establishing a sub centre of the Dera at Jammu. This was because more than 90% Hindu-Sikh population from Poonch, Muzzafrabad and Kashmir areas got uprooted and resettled at various places in Jammu Province.
A suitable stretch of land was purchased at Digiana, at about 3 km on NH-1A from Jammu and Sant Mela Singh Technical Ashram (Ashram = Shelter for the needy), established there. Since then, the Digiana Ashram has remained a nerve centre for socio religious-cum-economic-educational activities of the Sikh minority in Jammu & Kashmir.
From here Late Mahant Bachittar Singh Ji planned, organized and got constructed many boarding schools and colleges in Baramulla, Tral and Jammu besides helping the Hindus & Sikhs of the State in their esettlement efforts. Towards late 80’s when competition for seats in technical institutions became very intense, well deserving students from this community could not find more than 4–5 seats out of 150-300 seats filled by J&K Government every year.
Realised a need for an Engineering College
Moreover, he felt that chances of honourable life in the twenty first century were likely to become available only to those who were technically qualified. He initiated the programme of establishing an Engineering College as a Minority Institution. Before he could implement his programme, he left for his heavenly abode in Nov. 1991. The mission was taken up by his successor, Sant Manjit Singh with great zest, zeal and utmost devotion. The community came forward to support him.
Mahant Bachittar Singh College of Engineering & Technology was established by Sant Manjit Singh Trust and registered under the aegis of Dera Sant Pura Nangali Sahib Poonch, J&K State, India.
The project, though initiated in 1993, got final approval of J&K Govt. in 1998 and that of AICTE in 1999. The college has obtained affiliation with University of Jammu in July 1999. Its first phase started with the admission of first batch in October 1999-2000.
Bhai Sahib ascends from Earth
The present Mahant Shri Manjeet Singh ascended the Gaddi on 10th of Nov. 1991 as desired by Late Mahant Bichatar Singh Ji. His name was confirmed by the Government later on.
- Gurdwara Nangali Sahib (Poonch)
- Gurdwara Yaadgar Mahant Bachiter Singh
- Gurdwara Sant Mela Singh Dastkari Ashram (Digiana)
- Vaisakhi Mela of Nangali Sahib
- Gurdwara Bahu Fort