NIHĀL SIṄGH ṬHĀKUR (1808-1895), Sikh theologian and musician, was born at Amritsar on 7 Phagun 1864 Bk/17 February 1808 to Bhāī Mahal Siṅgh and Mātā Basī. Bhāī Mahal Siṅgh lived in the village of Sayyid-kī-Sarāi in Gujjarkhān tahsīl of Rāwalpiṇḍī district, now in Pakistan, and had come to Amritsar only as a pilgrim, but settled here for good after the birth of Nihāl Siṅgh. The family could scarcely make both ends meet, and Nihāl Siṅgh, then a small boy, had to work in order to augment their meagre income. At the age of ten, he entered the ḍerā, or seminary, of Ṭhākur Dayāl Siṅgh, a Sikh luminary, as a pupil. There he was admitted to the rites of the Khālsā. During the next fifteen years, he studied Sikh scriptures, grammar, poetics, history and Sanskrit literature. Being the most prominent of the pupils of Ṭhākur Dayāl Siṅgh, Nihāl Siṅgh also came to be distinguished by the epithet ‘Ṭhākur' or ‘master.'

         Ṭhākur Nihāl Siṅgh had the gift of a sweet voice, and he learnt vocal and instrumental music from Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh Poṭhohārī, a noted musician of his time, and accompanied him at tablā, or Indian-drum-pair, during kīrtan, or singing of hymns, over a long period of time, in the Harimandar at Amritsar. He also learnt and practised the Āyurvedic system of medicine.

         Around 1870 Ṭhākur Nihāl Siṅgh set out on a pilgrimage to various Hindu and Sikh holy places, where he preached the Sikh faith through kīrtan and discourse. His longest stay during this period was at Takht Sachkhaṇḍ Srī Hazūr Sāhib, Abchalnagar, at Nāndeḍ, where he sojourned for nine months. He also stayed for a considerable time, in 1872, at Gurdwārā Charan Pādukā at Nizāmābād in Uttar Pradesh. There he prepared, at the instance of Mahant Sādho Siṅgh, an exegesis of the Jāp Sāhib. It was given the sonorous and alliterative title of Chakradhar Charitra Chāru Chandrikā. Another work he wrote there was entitled Chintāmanī.

         On his return from the pilgrimage, Ṭhākur Nihāl Siṅgh stayed at Sukkho, a village in Rāwalpiṇḍī district. In 1874 he moved to Thohā Khālsā, where he established a ḍerā called Dukh Bhañjanī. He continued his kīrtan recitals and missionary work till the end. Sant Atar Siṅgh is said to have frequently attended these recitals at Thohā Khālsā. Bābā Khem Siṅgh Bedī once took him on a preaching tour of his estates. In 1895, he was on a similar visit to Harīpur in Hazārā district, when he died suddenly on Jeṭh vadī 14, 1952 Bk/22 May 1895.

Gurdev Siṅgh