GURMUKH SIṄGH MUSĀFIR, GIĀNĪ (1899-1976), poet and politician, was born the son of Sujān Siṅgh on 15 January 1899 at Adhvāl, in Campbellpore district, now in Pakistan. Gurmukh Siṅgh attended the village primary school and went to the city of Rāwalpiṇḍī. to pass the middle school examination. He trained as a junior vernacular teacher and took up, in 1918, appointment at Khālsā High School, Kallar, where Master Tārā Siṅgh, who later became famous as a political leader, had been the headmaster during 1914-16. His four years there as a teacher earned him the epithet Giānī, 'Musāfīr' being the pseudonym he had adopted. Young Gurmukh Siṅgh had been much affected by the massacres at Jalliāṅvālā (13 April 1919) and at Nankāṇā Sāhib (20 February 1921) and, in 1922, he gave up teaching to plunge into the Akālī agitation for gurdwārā reform. He composed poetry full of patriotic fervour and recited it with gusto at Sikh dīvāns. For taking part in the Gurū kā Bāgh agitation in 1922, he underwent imprisonment. Side by side with his involvement in religious reformation, he started taking interest in nationalist politics and courted arrest in the Civil Disobedience launched by the Indian National Congress in 1930. The same year he was appointed head of Srī Akāl Takht, central seat of religious authority for the Sikhs. He held this office from 12 March 1930 to 5 March 1931. He also served for a time as secretary of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee as well as general secretary of the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal. He went to jail again in Satyāgrah (1939-41) and Quit India (1942-45) movements. He became president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee in 1949. He was also a member of the All-India Congress working Committee. He was elected a member of the Lok Sabhā successively in 1952, 1957 and 1962. He did not complete his last term in the Lok Sabhā and resigned in 1966 to take over as chief minister of the reorganized state of the Punjab. On 28 March 1968, he re-entered Parliament, this time as a member of the Rājya Sabhā.

         An active politician throughout his life, Giānī Gurmukh Siṅgh Musāfir also won renown as a poet and writer. His published works include nine collections of poems --- Sabar de Bāṇ, Prem Bāṇ, Jīvan Pandh, Musāfarīāṅ, Ṭuṭṭe Khambh, Kāv Sunehe, Sahaj Setī, Vakkhrā Vakkhrā Katrā Katrā and Dūr Neṛe; eight of short stories --- Vakkhrī Dunīā, Āhlaṇe de Boṭ, Kandhāṅ Bol Paīāṅ Satāī Janvarī ; Allah Vāle, Guṭār, Sabh Achchhā, and Sastā Tamāshā; and four biographical works --- Vekhiā Suṇiā Gāndhī, Vekhiā Suṇiā Nehrū, Bāghī Jarnail and Vīhvīṅ Sadī de Shahīd. He represented Indian writers at international conferences at Stockholm in 1954, and at Tokyo in 1961. He was posthumously decorated with Padma Vibhūshan, the second highest national award.

         Strikingly handsome, with a flowing white beard setting off his statuesque, glowing face, Gurmukh Siṅgh Musāfir was well known for his joie de vivre, his style and humour. He had a huge capacity for laughter.

         He fully enjoyed the experience of living and had mastered the art of being happy. He got on with people of all ages and occupations. He was genial, humble and utterly guileless. He was above malice . He had undergone severe privation in life, but this left no trace of bitterness in him. He was exempt from intrigue. In politics, the highest positions came to him, but he never manoeuvred for any. He was unambitious, yet he was from the beginning assured of his direction and identity. This was the secret of his strength -- and success.

        Giānī Gurmukh Siṅgh Musāfir died in Delhi on 18 January 1976.


  1. Ashok, Shamsher Siṅgh, Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Prabandhak Committee dā Pañjāh Sālā Itihās. Amritsar, 1982
  2. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983

Mubārak Siṅgh