NISHCHAL SIṄGH, PAṆḌIT SANT (1882-1978), widely respected holy man, preacher of Sikhism and head of the Sevāpanthī sect of the Sikhs (1950-78), was born on 18 April 1882, the son of Bhāī Amīr Siṅgh and Māī Piār Kaur, a pious couple of Miṭṭhā Ṭiwānā in Shāhpur (Sargodhā) district of Pakistan Punjab. Nishchal Siṅgh lost his father at the age of five and was brought up under the care of his eldest brother, Mahitāb Siṅgh. Mahitāb Siṅgh, himself a devoted Sevāpanthī saint, led Nishchal Siṅgh to take to the same path . He sent him to Vārāṇasī for higher learning. Nishchal Siṅgh, having attained proficiency in Sanskrit studies at Vārāṇasī, spent another seven years at Haridvār studying traditional Indian philosophy. He was particularly attracted to Vedānt which he found somewhat akin to Sikh thought. His wide knowledge of Sanskrit literature and philosophy earned him the sobriquet of paṇḍit. He returned to Miṭṭhā Tiwāṇā after completing his education in 1914, and vowed to dedicate his life to the propagation of gurmat (Sikhism), spread of education and to humanitarian service. Miṭṭhā Ṭiwānā was the centre of his activities in the beginning. Here with the help and guidance of his brother, Mahitāb Siṅgh, was founded the Gurū Nānak High School, in 1914. In 1925, he shifted to Mandī Bahāuddīn, a sub-divisional town in Jehlum district, and started teaching and preaching in Santpurā ḍerā, a Sevāpanthī seminary, 3 km outside the town. From here he also went out on long preaching tours to places as far apart as Mīrpur in Jammū and Kashmīr and ḍerā Ismā'īl Khān in North-West Frontier Province. In 1930-31, he undertook a six-month long journey travelling leisurely and visiting Sikh shrines on the way to preach the word of Gurū Nānak at important towns in the Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Mahārāshṭra. The tour terminated at Nāndeḍ in what was then the princely state of Hyderābād. He undertook similar tours, by train, in 1940, 1965 and 1973.
The buildings of Srī Takht Harimandar at Paṭnā Sāhib had suffered serious damage during an earthquake in 1934, necessitating reconstruction and renovation. The supervision of this work was entrusted to Sant Nishchal Siṅgh. He was at Paṭnā Sāhib in 1947 when the partition of the country and the unprecedented carnage and mass migration of population took place. ḍerā Santpurā at Maṇḍī Bahāuddīn had its share of the consequent disruption and disaster. Sant Nishchal Siṅgh's brother Sant Mahitāb Siṅgh, a dedicated, luminous soul and lifelong bachelor like himself, died along with about 700 others who had sought refuge in the premises, fighting against a horde of Muslim fanatics who had attacked them. Sant Nishchal Siṅgh re-established ḍerā Santpurā in 1952 at Yamunānagar, now a well-known industrial town in Haryāṇā. The kār-sevā at Paṭnā Sāhib completed by 1957, he made Yamunānagar his permanent residence although his preaching tours continued almost till the end which came on 23 August 1978.
Besides administering the Khālsā pāhul to thousands of seekers, Paṇḍit Sant Nishchal Siṅgh's most memorable contribution was in the field of education. He established several schools and colleges, outside the Punjab, which besides general education provided for the teaching of the Punjabi language and Sikh religion. In addition to separate secondary schools and colleges for boys and girls, other educational institutions founded by him included Gurū Gobind Siṅgh College, Paṭnā Sāhib, Khālsā School, Gauhāṭi (Assam), Khālsā School, Rāñchī (Bihār), and Khālsā School Gurdwārā Baṛī Saṅgat, Calcutta (West Bengal).
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)