DAUDHAR ḌERĀ, a school for training Sikh musicians popularly known as Vaḍḍā Ḍerā, was established in 1859 by Sant Suddh Siṅgh (d. 1882) at Daudhar, village 22 km southeast of Mogā (30º-48'N, 75º-10'E), in Farīdkoṭ district of the Punjab. Suddh Siṅgh was a disciple of Ṭhākur Dīdār Siṅgh, a Nirmalā saint of Māṇūke, with whom he studied Sikh texts. According to local tradition, a chance meeting with a bairāgī sādhū, formerly a court musician to a chief in Uttar Pradesh from where he had migrated at the time of the uprising of 1857, led Suddh Siṅgh to invite him to his Ḍerā to teach classical music to the inmates. Mahant Vīr Siṅgh (d. 1902), who succeeded Suddh Siṅgh as head of the Ḍerā, was himself an accomplished musician. He and his equally talented disciple Khushāl Siṅgh trained their pupils in the subtleties of Sikh devotional music, instrumental as well as vocal. The instruments taught were sarandā, sitār, tānpūrā, tāūs, tablā and ḍholakī (drums); cymbals, chimṭā khaṛtāls (concussion); and harmonium. The next mahant or head priest, Maṅgal Siṅgh (c. 1860-1937), himself an adept at playing tablā, not only continued instruction in devotional and classical music but also added to the curriculum lessons in recitation and interpretation of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, in Gurmukhī calligraphy and in classical Punjabi prosody. He admitted to the Ḍerā the blind, the crippled and the orphans, whose number during his time rose to about 150. Free board and lodging were provided for them. The Ḍerā set up branches at some other villages such as Badhnī Khurd, Maliāṇā, Buṭṭar and Jagrāoṅ. After the death on 28 July 1937 of Mahant Maṅgal Siṅgh the pace of activity slackened somewhat, and yet the daily routine of kīrtan in the morning, followed by kathā or discourse on gurbāṇī, and chaukī or a session of kīrtan in the evening continues, with the Gurū kā Laṅgar catering to the needs of the inmates, casual visitors and travellers. Special congregations mark important days on the Sikh calendar and the death anniversary of Mahant Maṅgal Siṅgh.


    Visākhā Singh, Mālvā Itihās. Kishanpura, 1954

Ajmer Siṅgh