HĪRĀ SIṄGH RĀGĪ, BHĀĪ (1879-1926), eminent exponent of Sikh devotional music, was born in 1879 at Farūkā, in Shāhpur district, now in Pakistan. His father's name was Bhāī Bhāg Siṅgh and mother's Satbharāī. Bhāg Siṅgh was well versed in classical music and played string instruments such as sāraṅgī and tāūs. Hīrā Siṅgh joined the middle school at Sāhīvāl, but soon left it to study the religious texts with Bhāī Māhṇā Siṅgh of Farūkā. He learnt music from his father who performed kīrtan in the village gurdwārā. At the age of 15, he was married to Bībī Bhāvāṅ (renamed Prem Kaur). He attended the Niraṅkārī Darbār at Rāwalpiṇḍī and Nāmdhārī Darbār at Bhaiṇī, and subsequently joined the jathā of Sant Atar Siṅgh in whose company he also went on a pilgrimage to Srī Abchal Nagar Hazūr Sāhib, Nāndeḍ. In 1897, he settled down, with his wife, at Amritsar, working with the Khālsā Tract Society which brought him under the influence of Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh and deepened his study of the Sikh scriptural writings. He started to learn playing the harmonium from Mahant Takht Siṅgh. His father soon joined him in Amritsar and the two formed a rāgī jathā, or choir, which soon became the most famous ensemble reciting kīrtan at Sikh gatherings. Hīrā Siṅgh led the kīrtan interspersing it with exposition of the sacred verse, as his father accompanied him on the tāūs. He joined the Chief Khālsā Dīwān founded in 1902, and worked tirelessly towards promoting its programme of religious and social reform and of education among Sikhs. By his kīrtan and discourses, he kept vast audiences spellbound. Many entered the Sikh fold under his influence. The story is told of Hājī Muhammad Miskīn who was among the audience listening to Bhāī Hīrā Siṅgh's kīrtan in Gwālīor in 1925. The Hājī had very diligently manufactured a rare piece of art -- a whisk made of 1,45,000 strands of sandalwood fibre -- which he desired to present as an offering at an appropriate place of worship. He felt so moved that he accompanied Bhāī Hīrā Siṅgh to Amritsar and, on his advice, offered the precious article at the Golden Temple. The whisk is still preserved in the Golden Temple toshākhānā or treasury.

         Bhāī Hīrā Siṅgh was one of the principal fund-raisers for the Sikh Educational Conference which set up schools in many parts of the Punjab. He helped to found in 1908 a Khālsā high school at Farūkā which after the partition of 1947 was restarted in Ambālā Cantonment.

         In the middle of 1924, Bhāī Hīrā Siṅgh was taken ill with cancer of the stomach. He died at Dehrā Dūn on 2 September 1926.


  1. Avtār Siṅgh, Bhāī, and Gurcharan Siṅgh, Gurbāṇī Saṅgīt. Patiala, 1976
  2. Siṅgh Sabhā Patrikā (Bhāī Sāhib Rāgī Hīrā Siṅgh, Vishesh Aṅk). Amritsar, 1979

Balwant Siṅgh