MELĀ SIṄGH, SANT (1784-1854), holy saint and preacher of the Sikh faith, was born in 1784 at Koṭeharī, a village in Bāgh tahsīl of the present Puṇchh district of Jammū and Kashmīr. He was only eleven years of age when his father, Bhāī Makkhaṇ Siṅgh, a pious Sikh convert from a Brāhmaṇ family, died. Soon after, his elder brother, Fateh Siṅgh left on a pilgrimage to Nāndeḍ, sacred to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, and never returned home. He made Amritsar his permanent abode, dedicating himself to a life of prayer and service. Young Melā Siṅgh was much affected by his brother's example. He had a melodious voice and sang devotional songs on his dotārā, a simple double-string instrument, as he grazed cattle in the bush around his village. His recitation attracted the notice of sant Rochā Siṅgh, an elderly saint much revered in those parts, who once happened to pass by. The holy man entered the village and asked Melā Siṅgh's mother to entrust her son to him. He took over the young boy as a disciple of his and brought him up under his personal care. He was so deeply impressed by his pious devotion that, before his death in 1803, he nominated Melā Siṅgh, then scarcely 20 years of age, to be his successor.

         Sant Melā Siṅgh set up his ṛerā, along with a Gurdwārā and Gurū kā Laṅgar, at a place 5 km to the east of Puṇchh, and named it Santpurā Nagālī after nagāl plant that grew in abundance in that tract close to the Duraṅgalī rivulet. The ḍerā was endowed by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, who visited it during his Kashmīr campaigns in 1814 and 1819. Gulāb Siṅgh, the Ḍogrā ruler, also assigned to it the revenue of several surrounding villages. While Nagālī, reverently called Nagālī Sāhib, was his principal seat, Sant Melā Siṅgh frequently went out preaching across different parts of Puṇchh, Hazārā, Kashmīr valley and the Punjab. He initiated many into the Sikh faith, established gurdwārā and instructed people in the pious and upright way of life. He also had admirers among Hindus and Muslims whom he enjoined truly to adhere to the tenets of their own faiths.

         Sant Melā Siṅgh died on 5 November 1854, Sant Mannā Siṅgh succeeding him in the holy seat at Nagālī.

Bhagat Siṅgh