Published : 2001

Group : Spirituality

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Preaching through his deeds

By Sunder Iyer

Sindh has been a land blessed with many saints and sages. One of the more popular ones was Bhagat Kanwarram. He ws born into a grocer’s family in a small village in upper Sindh on 13th April 1885. He exhibited a talent for singing at a very young age, recognizing which his father sent him to a renowned sage-Saeen Satramdas. From this Guru, he imbibed spiritual teachings, a sense of genuine humility and love for a simple life.

Bhagat Kanwarram known to be the messenger of God is cherished as one of the best devotional singers of Sindh. Bhagt Kanwarram was not only a melodious singer, but also an indefatigable servant of humanity who moved his listeners through his deep spiritual messages. A philanthropist and an embodiment of perfect humility, Bhagat Kanwarram can be easily called the Jewel of Sindh.

Bhagat Kanwarram enriched the typical Sindhi form of temple worship called “bhagat”. With ghungroos on his feet, dressed in a long robe and a pugdee, he would sing and dance reciting mythological epics and folk tales in his own poetic compositions. Kanwarram would commence Bhagat in a temple courtyard after dusk and continue till early hours of the morning. Large adoring would crowds gather to watch him and get enthralled to his spiritual renditions.

During his performances, many people approached him for help. To answer to their needs Sant Kanwarram would raise his clothe in the form of a bag (Jholi) and appeal for help form the gathering. The followers would express their gratitude by donating money or at times also offering their jewellery. He generously distributed all the offerings among the desitutes and the disabled. The collections were also utilized in building temple courtyards and dharamshalas. There remains not a single instance when a needy, be it a Muslim, a Hindu an untouchable or even a dacoit, returned bare handed. Not keeping a penny to himself, he continued his small grocery business that barely supported his family. Being in great demand, he traveled widely all over Sindh performing bhagat in durbars, especially at the death anniversaries of local saints. The then infant record company HMV made 10 records preserving 20 of his Kafis and Bhajans. These were the first and the most popular records at that time in Sindh.

Once in Nawabshah, a rich lady gave him eight golden dollars with a request to arrange golden bangles for his wife. With utmost humility, he replied to the lady, “What would we do with these golden ornaments? They will be useful to these poor and hungry fellows” and he immediately distributed them all among the needy. He was truly the ‘Anasakta Karma Yog,’ Lord Krishna talks about in Bhagwd Gita.

Many stories are told about Kanwarram’s miracles, though he never claimed to have made any. It is said that as he sang Sarang – the song of rains, clouds gathered and sometimes it rained heavily. His prayers could stop the rains, control the winds and turbulent waters. People were cured from fatal diseases with his blessings. He prayed for people by singing Ardas or Palav – prayer songs to invoke God’s blessing, and their wished were granted. Instances are told when at least twice, two infants who were believed to be dead, came to life in his arms, as he sang Loli, the song of blessings for children. The modern pragmatic attitude would find it difficult to accept such miracles. But don’t we find miracles in nature everyday? Nothing is impossible for God, because He is Almighty and His powers work through His saints.

The world often persecuted the seekers of truth. Jesus Christ was put on the cross, Socrates was poisoned while Gandhiji was assassinated. The prophet of peace and harmony, Sant Karnwarram was also shot dead. On Nov 1, 1939, at age 55, while on a train from one bhagat to another, two fanatic Muslims assassinated him at Ruk Junction. But death cannot touch the great ones like Kanwarram. He is immortal in his songs and in his deeds of service. His memory will always be fresh in the minds of all Sindhis. In any town where the Sindhi community is settled, one will invariably find a Dharamshala in the sweet memory of the Great Saint, Bhagat Kanwarram.