Badrinath

For the last 150 years, there has been a regular Langar (free offering of food) at the Mai Hiran Gate in Jullundur, in the name of Maharani Hiran of Kapurthala, known to all as Mai Hiran.
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The free Langar is funded by the Mai Hiran Trust, created by her two sons, Kanwar Bikram Singh and his younger brother Kanwar Suchet Singh, in the name of their legendary mother.

I do hope that the younger members of the Kapurthala family will help to ensure that the Langar carries on for another 150 years and more!

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Here is a story which starts at the Langar at Mai Hiran Gate in Jullundur.

Badrinath

Mai Hiran is said to have on a regular bases donated gold coins and gold bangles anonymously, by hiding them in bags of flour and distributing the bags to the poor.

It was a tradition in the Kapurthala family, that the newly weds would be taken to the Mai Hiran Gate in order to participate in the “Langar”,  serving all who came to receive the free food.

Kapurthala House, West Wing, Jullundur 1996 The new brides coming in to the Kapurthala family were  therefore also expected to follow Mai Hiran and  anonymously donate gold, while feeding the poor, at the Mai Hiran Gate Langar.

 

 

 

Kapurthala House, West Wing , 1996.

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In the beginning of 1946, when my my mother came to the Kapurthala House in Jullundur as a new bride, she and my father were taken by Rani Ripjit Singh (my Father’s Aunt and “Nina Chachi Ji” to me) along with Bebe Golhan, to the Langar at Mai Hiran Gate in order to serve the poor.

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At the langar, Bebe Golhan asked my mother to take off six of her gold bangles, hide one gold bangle each in six bags of  Channa ( roasted chickpeas) and donate the bags as part of the Langar. Then Nina Chachi Ji suggested that my father should also donate some gold in the same way, by hiding it in a bag of roasted chickpeas.

Kanwar Manjit Singh of Kapurthala

Kanwar Manjit Singh of Kapurthala

My father had a gold “Karha” (The Sikh Warrior Bangle) on his right wrist and he started to take it off in order to place it in a bag of roasted chickpeas.

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Just then, a Nihang Singh, who had been siting in a corner observing my father and mother, moved quick as lightening to get to where my father was and got hold of my father’s wrist  in an iron grip.

(Nihang Singhs are Sikh warriors, belonging to an ancient orthodox sect of Sikhism)

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“Na Beeba” he said with a brilliant smile on his much lined face which seemed to light up an entire palace, “Ehe karha te tu Badrinath nu dena hai” (No young man, you will need to give this gold bangle to Badrinath”)

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Just for those who do not know of  Badrinath, it is an ancient temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva, said to have been built over nine thousand years ago, high up in the Himalayas.  

It is one of the most important Holy Pilgrimage sites in India.   Hundreds of thousands of devotees travel up to the very upper reaches of the Himalayas every year, in order to pay homage to Lord Shiva in the form of Badrinath.  In addition, “Badrinath” is also a popular name for men in India.

.My father was of course taken aback by what the Nihang Singh had said to him.   

Just then  Rani Ripjit Singh with folded hands, said to the old Sikh Warrior, “Jaroor jay ga ehe Badrinath nu. Main vi jaungi aithe nal”  (Yes he will definitely go to Badrinath. I too shall go with him on the pilgrimage).

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At this the Nihang Singh let out a roar of deep laughter and looking up, as if to the heavens he said, “Tera natak hi natak”!   (Lord, it is all your Divine theater!)

My father and his aunt Rani Ripjit Singh, did make a plan for a joint pilgrimage to the holy site of Badrinath, but for various reasons were not able to carry out their plan.
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A few years later, my Mother was  pregnant with my younger brother Kanwar AnilJit Singh, who was due to be born in early October.
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Doctor Sant Ram Dhall, who was considered to be one of the best pediatricians in India at the time and was also a good friend of my father, had been engaged for the care of my mother during her pregnancy.
Kanwarani Veena Manjit Singh with Chandrajeet

Veena Manjit Singh of Kapurthala with Chandrajeet

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Mrs Uma Daulet Singh, my Father’s elder sister who cared deeply for my father and indeed for all of the kapurthala family, as it was of course her father’s house,  felt however that my mother should be cared for at the Army base at Meerut during her pregnancy, where her husband was posted at the time as a senior Army officer.
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So she came over to the Kapurthala House at Jullundur on the 13th of August, when my father was not there and took my mother along with her to Meerut, leaving a note for my father with an explanation for the above.
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When my father came back to the Kapurthala House the next day and found the note from his elder sister, he was to put it mildly, not very happy about it and drove up to Meerut on the same day in order to bring my mother back to the Kapurthala House in Jullundur.
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After a lot of (at times very heated) arguments between the brother and sister, Mrs Uma Daulat Singh very reluctantly agreed to let my mother go back with my father to Jullundur early morning of the next day, the 15th of August.
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During the ride on the way back from Meerut in my Father’s Buick however, my mother started to have contractions, possibly brought on due to all of the stress resulting from the above.
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Mrs. Uma Daulat Singh of Kapurthala

Mrs. Uma Daulat Singh of Kapurthala

My father tried desperately to contact Doctor Sant Ram Dhall by telephone from various places on the way to Jullundur, finally tracking him down at the house of his parents, a few miles out of Amritsar and explained the situation to him.

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Doctor Sant Ram Dhall suggested that instead of going on to Jullundur, my mother should be taken directly to Amritsar, to the General Hospital there and that he would try and get over to the hospital as soon as he could.

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The 15th of August is of course the Independence Day and a major holiday all over India.   So when my father got to the General Hospital at Amritsar, he found that there was only a skeleton staff around for the care of my mother.

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On top of that, the large and unending processions and parades in and around Amritsar on that day, made traveling in Amritsar very hard indeed, making it impossible for Doctor Sant Ram Dhall to be able to get to the hospital in time..

Finally as the condition of my mother worsened, Dr Rahul Bajaj, the junior doctor on duty at the hospital decided to go ahead and deliver the baby via Caesarean section.

My brother AnilJit, though born prematurely, was fine and had no problems of any kind, but during the operation my mother had suffered a serious hemorrhage and had lost a huge amount of blood.

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It was clear that she needed to have an immediate blood transfusion if she was to survive.

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Again due to the Independence Day holiday, the city blood banks were all closed and there was no one available at that time in the hospital with the right blood type for my mother, who to make matters worse, has a very rare blood type!

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Dr Rahul Bajaj bluntly who knew that the hemorrhage during the Caesarean section was potentially fatal for my mother, bluntly told my father that the chances of survival for my mother were almost nil, if the matching blood type could not be found right away!

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In an act of sheer desperation, my father ran out of the hospital to try and find a blood donor and saw a soldier walking along in front of the gate of the hospital.

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My father ran over to the soldier and grabbed his arms with both his hands “Please help me” he said to the man “my wife will die if she does not get a blood transfusion”. “I will give you any thing you want if you can please give some of your blood” he said and then took off his gold Karha and handed it to the man saying “here, this gold Karha is yours and I will give you whatever else you want but please, please help me now”.

A Nihang Sikh Warrior

A Nihang Sikh Warrior

The soldier agreed to come in to the hospital where my mother was being kept and had his blood tested for a match with that of my mother.

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Miraculously, the blood type of this absolute stranger, picked out randomly from the road by my father, matched that of my mother’s rare blood type!

So against all possible odds, a blood transfusion was successfully completed, saving the life of my mother.

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My father who was physically and emotionally exhausted by then, saw that the soldier who had donated the blood, was ready to leave the hospital and so he went over to thank the soldier.

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“We can never fully repay you for what you have done for us” he said to the man, “I would like to meet with you again after all this is over, but I do not even know your name! What is your name?”

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“My name is Badrinath sir” said the soldier, “I am Lance Naik Badrinath” he added.

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Kanwar ChandraJeet Singh of Kapurthala

ChandraJeet

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