• Pothi Seva

The Baba Shaam Singh Scholarship

Updated: May 24

Biographical Context

Sant Baba Shaam Singh Ji Sevapanthi was a great Sikh Saint who lived for 123 years from the early 19th Century, through to the 20th century. Born in 1803 in Shahpur, North-West Panjab (now in Pakistan), they spent their childhood learning under the tutelage of Sant Bhai Raam Singh Ji Sevapanthi. During this time they had learned how to recite, write, and memorise Sikh Scriptures. Being a scribe and memorising Gurbani was strongly encouraged by Sant Bhai Raam Singh Ji, stating that in the time of Kaljug (dark age), there is no meditation akin to that of writing and reciting Gurbani, and even then, only if it is done with love and humility. For this reason, Baba Shaam Singh Ji had learned how to be a scribe, and would often use this as a tool to memorise Gurbani.

Sant Baba Shaam Singh Ji would frequently travel with Sant Bhai Raam Singh Ji to spread the knowledge of Sikhi. Often was the case that they would travel to Amritsar, as Sant Bhai Raam Singh Ji always had a yearning to visit this holy place. Sant Baba Shaam Singh Ji also developed desire to visit Amritsar and would always accompany Sant Bhai Raam Singh Ji when this was the route. Later on, with the blessings of their teacher, Baba Shaam Singh ji travelled to Amritsar alone. Their whole day from thereon would be spent within the vicinity of Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar.

Baba Ji and Raag Vidya

During this time, they met with Sant Amir Singh Ji, who stressed the importance of Raag Vidya and asked Baba Shaam Singh Ji to become a student. At this moment Baba Shaam Singh had no desire to learn Kirtan, and respectfully declined. Visiting Amritsar again later in life, Baba Shaam Singh heard the Kirtan of Baba Naudh Singh Ji, and where truly immersed. It is at this moment that their wish to learn Kirtan was born, and so they did an Ardaas (prayer) asking to be blessed with Raag Vidhya. After this, with much difficulty, they managed to obtain a Siranda (musical instrument) which was required for someone to learn Kirtan. They were blessed with Raag Vidya, and the ability to play the Siranda, from Bhai Laal Chand Ji who lived in Baba Shaam Singh’s village, Shahpur. Baba Shaam Singh stated that it was due to the fact that they had refused to learn from Sant Amir Singh Ji, that they had such difficulty locating a Siranda with which to learn Kirtan. They stressed the importance of accepting the will of Saints, as if this isn’t done, one will be met with much difficulties later in life. It is with great fortune, that Sant Baba Shaam Singh Ji would then go on to live in Amritsar from the age of around 30, until the age of 123, and perform Kirtan at Sri Darbar Sahib for over 70 years.

During their stay at Amritsar, Baba Ji were a well-known philanthropist; supporting the oppressed lower caste and impoverished communities who were being discriminated against by the Darbar Sahib priests (who during this time, were employees of the colonial government). They spent their time within the vicinity of Amritsar, teaching Sikhi, performing Kirtan, and helping those around them. Baba Ji showed much love and respect for others, as well as their surroundings. Such was Baba Ji's humility that they would daily pick up the droppings of birds and animals around the walkway of Sri Darbar Sahib and other Gur-Asthaan.

Baba Ji and the Restoration of Guru Granth Sahib Ji Manuscripts

Baba Shaam Singh is well known for their contributions to Raag Kirtan, but they also made significant contributions to the world of manuscript creation and restoration. In Sant Gatha, Bhai Vir Singh Ji writes that Baba Ji would write small Gutka Sahib manuscripts for the sangat (congregation). It is also known that Baba Ji scribed an un-published anthology of anecdotes from the lives of saints known as Sri Bhagat Prem Parkash which is still kept at their historic Dharmshala in Atta Mandi, Amritsar. Baba Shaam Singh had an amazing love for Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which can be seen in the way they would encourage the repair and restoration of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The anecdotes below are taken from Sant Gatha (originally written by Major Prem Singh) as well as Baba Shaam Singh Ji (by Daljit Singh Bedi) :

'At one time the 'Jild' (cover) of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji became damaged. Seeing this, Baba Ji took the manuscript to a famed muslim bookbinder. The whole time that the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji manuscript was being repaired by the bookbinder, Baba ji would visit the place and offer a garland of flowers for Guru Sahib daily.' 'When Baba Ji would go and visit different Gurdwaras he would keep a few things in mind. One point he would always keep in mind was that whenever he saw that a Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji manuscript had become damaged, he would firstly explain to the Granthis to get the manuscript repaired. He would then make the Granthis promise that they would get Sri Guru Ji's Jild (cover) repaired by a skilled bookbinder. If it was needed, they would also give money towards this cause.'

'Whenever visiting a Gurdwara Sahib, Baba Ji would offer Chandoa Sahib, Rumala Sahib, Manji Sahib, Cushions, Chaur Sahib as needed.'

'Baba Ji would always carry with them Hartaal (correction fluid), Ink, Bamboo Pens (kalam), Paper, 'levi' (paste prepared from wheat flour/starch), whenever they saw an ang of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji requiring minor repair, they would do this immediately.' - Extracts from 'Sant Gatha' and 'Baba Shaam Singh Ji' by Daljit Singh Bedi

The Scholarship

In memory of Baba Shaam Singh’s spirit of heritage preservation, a scholarship has been launched by Pothi Seva to help fund research and training in this field. The scholarship may be used to support the attendance of a course, conference or training event related to book and manuscript conservation. It may also be used to cover part of the cost of travel abroad to conduct a research project related to Sikh manuscript and book conservation. The Pothi Seva Trustees will reward the scholarships based on the merit of their applications.

As minimum we require five donors able to donate £16 a month to make a £1000 scholarship available each year. If you are interested in helping advance the conservation of Gurmukhi manuscripts and printed texts by becoming a donor to the Baba Shaam Singh Sevapanthi Scholarship, please follow the information found here.