TĀRĀ SIṄGH NAROTAM, PAṆḌIT (1822-1891), a renowned scholar of the Nirmalā school, was born in the village of Kālmā, near Qādīāṅ, in Gurdāspur district of the Punjab. Very little is known about his early life except that, under the influence of his father, who was a devout Sikh, he started attending religious dīvāns while still very young. When he was about twenty years old, he left his village and came to the ḍerā or hermitage of a Nirmalā saint, Gulāb Siṅgh at Kurālā, Hoshiārpur district. Sant Gulāb Siṅgh initiated him into the Nirmalā order and taught him the Sikh texts. For further learning Tārā Siṅgh went to Amritsar and thence to Kāshī (Vārāṇasī) where he studied Sanskrit and Vedic literature. He spent some time at the village of Nādīā in the Sāntīpur area of Bengal. The Arddha Kumbha fair in the year 1861 took him to Haridvār. By then his fame as a scholar had spread far and wide, and Mahārājā Narinder Siṅgh (1824-1862), the ruler of Paṭiālā, extended his patronage to him. Accepting the Mahārājā's invitation, Tārā Siṅgh came to Paṭiālā and made the Nirmalā ḍerā, Dharam Dhujā, his permanent seat. Here he immersed himself in his scholarly work. He wrote copiously and taught several groups of scholars. His most distinguished pupil was historiographer Giānī Giān Siṅgh. After the death of Mahant Rām Siṅgh Kuberīā in 1875, Tārā Siṅgh was appointed Srī Mahant or the chief of the Nirmal Pañchāyatī Akhāṛā at Kankhal (Haridvār), the central organization of the Nirmalā sect.
Among Paṇḍit Tārā Siṅgh's works may be mentioned Vāhigurū Śabdārth (1862), Ṭīkā Bhagat Bāṇī Kā (1872), Ṭīkā Gurū Bhāv Dīpikā (1879), Srī Gurū Tīrath Saṅgrahi (1883), Granth Srī Gurumat Nirṇaya Sāgar (1877), Śabda Sur Koś (1866), Akāl Mūrati Pradarśan (1878), Gurū Vaṅs Taru Darpaṇ (1878), Granth Guru Girārth Koś (1889), Prīkhiā Prakaraṇ (1890), and Ṭīkā Srī Rāga (1885). It is also said that he wrote a commentary on the entire Gurū Granth Sāhib which seems to have been lost.
Tārā Siṅgh's work can be divided into four categories-- exegetical, lexicographical, theological and doctrinal. In his exegetical and doctrinal writings, he conforms to the Nirmalā school of interpretation, presenting Sikh thought from within his Vedantic orientation. He believed that the gurmat, doctrinally, is an amalgam of the doctrines of Śaṅkara and Rāmānuja, with the exception that in gurmat, bhakti preponderates over jñāna and action. He added that bhakti too is based on jñāna only. He asserted that Gurū Nānak was an incarnation of Viṣṇū and that Gurū Nānak conformed to the path of the Vedas and did not deviate from that path anywhere except in idol-worship which he rejected firmly. He held that the Vāhigurū is another name of Viṣṇū only and it could not refer to the nirguṇa concept of God. Muktī in his view was a bodiless state. According to him, bāṇī included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib was a revelation like the Veda. His expression was highly Sanskritized in the manner of the Nirmalā school. He was deeply learned in the Vedic, Śāstric and Purāṇic lore and quoted from it profusely.
Tārā Siṅgh Narotam died at Paṭiālā in 1891. He was given a state funeral under the orders of the ruler, Mahārājā Rājinder Siṅgh.
Rattan Siṅgh Jaggī