Sant Gurbaksh Singh

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Sant Gurbaksh Singh (1871-1939), better known as Sant Gurbakhsh Singh of Patiala, scholar and preacher, was born in 1871 at Chunlan in Patiala district. His father, Bhal Sham Singh, and his family shifted to Harisron, near Navashahar in Jalandhar district, as the repression was let loose by government on the Namdharis. He served as granthi in the village gurudwara. Gurbakhsh Singh received his early education in a derd at Fatehabad, near Khadur Sahib. He had a religious inclination from the very beginning and was drawn into the company of Nirmala saints while still very young. With a group of them he travelled first toJharisT and then to Varanasi two centres ofNirmala learning. At these places he acquired proficiency in Sanskrit grammar, Vedanta, Nyaya and Mimarisa. He came to be reckoned as a powerful logician and was sent to Prayag, Haridvar, Patiala, Amritsar, and other Nirmala centres to participate in learned debate. His skill as a logician was put to lest especially in the religious polemics which raged in the Punjab towards the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth. Gurbakhsh Singh had by now been converted to Singh Sabha ideology which he preached with zest and vigour. He revelled in discourse with the Arya Samajists and won for his powers in argument the title of Sabha Jitt Pandit, i.e. Pandit or scholar victor in debating forums. He was named adviser for religious affairs to the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar. In 1908 he took over as editor of the Patiala State Gazette which had then started appearing in Punjabi under the orders of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh (1891-1938). This appointment and his close association with the Singh Sabha of Patiala linked his name with Patiala for ever. He was nominated along with Babu Teja Singh of Bhasaur, Bhal Vir Singh and Dr Bhal Jodh Singh, a member of the committee, constituted by the Chief Khalsa Diwan on 20 October 1910, to work out the draft of a Sikh code which was published under the title Gurmat Prakdsh: Bhdg Sanskdr. Unmatched in platform oratory, Sant Gurbakhsh Singh spent his last years in comparative oblivion. He died in 1939.