Saturday, January 6, 2001
M A I L  B O X

The Father Teresa of Punjab

IN the context of Khushwant Singh’s write-up "The Father Teresa of Punjab" (This above all, December 16), it is a cruel fact that even persons like Bhagat Puran Singh who live for others must die. Such noble souls may go away physically, but their deeds immortalise them. The "saint of Pigalwara" has been considered Mother Teresa of North India or what the author calls the Father Teresa of Punjab. In fact, in this region even those who may be unfamiliar with the name of the Nobel Laureate and her compassionate deeds have been admirers of this unassuming man who was the embodiment of the precept that one should give until it hurts.

Bhagatjit was a beacon to whom all those who were handicapped — physically, mentally or emotionally — looked up and the sea of humanity that swelled in his frail body drove him to strive for the eradication of others’ suffering even at the age of 87.


The small coins that he and his admirers collected through easily recognised black sealed donation boxes went to light a flicker of hope in the lives of the hopeless and forlorn, and Bhagatjit showed that even a little money is enough if it is put into the service of mankind as a form of worship. It is not that people were miserly. In fact, the donations to Pingalwara were considerable because everyone knew that his was a cause untainted by any trace of selfishness.

The messiah of mentally retarded, physically handicapped and the sick is on longer there to run the Pingalwara, which is in the care of his handpicked trustees, including Dr Inderjeet Kaur who is carrying forward his work. I do not think any person will be able to fill the void caused by the departure of Bhagatji. Anyhow, one hopes that his successors will be able to carry the torch lit by him and try to enhance its luminosity by emulating his glorious deeds.



Guru Gobind Singh’s words, quoted by the writer as manas kee jaat sab ek hee pahchaantoo are actually maanas kee zat sabhai ek hee paihchaan bo (know you all that the caste of mankind is one).

Simple and suave Bhagat Puran Singh was a selfless humanitarian. Humility was the hallmark of his personality. He took care of lepers and other patients, irrespective of their caste and creed at Amritsar. Quite often he would feed and dress the patients suffering from terrifying diseases.

He really possessed the traits implicit in hsi epithet "Bhagat". One day, he was very hungry and had nothing to eat. A crow carrying a piece of bread in its beak came and sat on a tree. The bread fell from its beak. Bhagatji ate half of it and left the other half for someone else who might be in need of food.



One regrets that due to lack of media coverage, not many people know about Bhagat Puran Singh. He devoted his life to the service of mankind. Such inspiring and dedicated individuals are rarely born on this earth and it is a shame that we do not learn from them.

We, as a society, have failed to deliver. There is poverty, disease, and dearth because we do not care about others as long as we are happy ourselves. Service of making is not a priority for today’s materialistic man. Then there is a problem of acceptability and encouragement. A person will rarely be encouraged by his or her family to tread the path of spirituality and service. Families, as a rule, encourage its members to opt for materialistic gains. Peace, spiritual comfort and solace are the things that they are the least concerned about.


The wonder that was India

Apropos of Pramod Sangar’s article "The wonder that was India" (December 23). It is stated by the writer that India’s foreign trade during the 17th century was confined to export of commodities like textile and spices in exchange for gold and silver. However, India has been exporting goods in exchange for gold and silver from the time of the Indus Valley civilisation. From some seals of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, found in other countries, it is deduced that India maintained commercial relations with Western and far eastern countries.

India exported cotton, woollen and silk cloth, gems, diamonds, ivory ornaments, condiments, spices etc. In return for these exports, India imported gold, silver, silver utensils and beautiful clothes. Due to growing trade with Rome, so much gold from Rome began to drain into India, that Roman politicians raised their voice to protest against Indian trade. Roman writer Pliny said that if India continued to receive so much gold from Rome every year the Roman Empire would be reduced to a penniless state.


Origin of Sharmas

There are many factual errors in the write-up "Origin of Sharmas" (December 2) by Shiv Darshanlal Sharma.

The writer refers to the story of Lord Parshuram and Prince Jaisen Sharma. But in the Mahabharata this story has Karna, not Jaisen Sharma, as a disciple of Parshuram.

He further attributes the authorship of Siddhanta Kaumadi to Rishi Panini, whereas the author of the book is Bhattoji Dikshit who wrote it in 1630 A.D. Rishi Panini belongs to the 8th century B.C. How could he be the author of Kaumadi which was written in the 17 th century A.D?

So far as the meaning of the word Sharma is concerned, Yaskacharya has given the meaning of sharman as shelter (sharan) in his magnum Niruktam, not the one that the writer has attributed to him.

It is from the word sharman that the word Sharma was formed. In the Vedic period the Brahmanas lived in ashramas (huts/shelters) in forests and they gave shelter to all who happened to reach there. They were, therefore, called Sharma (shelter-giver). That is why Manu ordained that the word Sharma should be added to the names of Brahmanas.