As the Punjabi community mourns the demise of Bhai Nirmal Singh, the decorated Hazoori ragi of Shri Harmandar Sahib, there are many close relatives and frinds who are being traced to see if they are infected as well. Mr Singh passed away in the early hours on Thursday April 2 in Amritsar. The Padma Shri recipient returned from abroad recently and was admitted to the Guru Nanak Dev Hospital after he complained of breathlessness and dizziness on March 30.
In a statement on Thursday, KBS Sidhu, Special Chief Secretary, Punjab Disaster Management (Covid-19), confirmed the news of Nirmal Singh’s death, news agency ANI reported.
“Giani Nirmal Singh, former Hazoori Ragi of Golden Temple, Amritsar, has passed away at around 4.30 am today. Nirmal Singh had tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday,” KBS Sidhu said.
Nirmal Singh was put on ventilator on Wednesday in the GMC hospital in Amritsar.
“His risk factor increased due to his bronchial asthma. He had tested positive for Covid-19,” Sidhu added.
News agency PTI, citing officials, had said that the Sikh spiritual singer had hosted a large sammelan (religious gathering) in Delhi and some other places after he returned from abroad. Along with his family members and other relatives, Nirmal Singh had also performed a kirtan in Chandigarh on March 19.
Bhai Nirmal Singh Khalsa, who was decorated with a Padma Shri awardee in 2009, hailed from Verka, 8 km from Amritsar.
To add insult to injury for the family and friends of Bhai Nirmal Singh, his cremation could not proceed for hours, as residents of his native town in Punjab surrounded the cremation ground and stalled the funeral believing his cremation (offering his body to fire) would spread the virus.
After some negotiations with local residents, his last rites were performed at a secluded spot located at a short distance away from the cremation ground.
Mr Singh’s death marks the end of a distinct artist and his tradition of blending mysticism with music. Mr Singh belonged to a poor farmer’s family who had been displaced as a result of partition and had lost everything they had in what is now known as Pakistan.
In an interview, explaining his transition from farmer’s son to music lover, Mr Singh said:
“On the outskirts of our village, nomad singers called Mirasi would put their tents and settle for a few months before moving elsewhere. They lit fires in the evenings around which they sat and played their harmoniums. After working in the fields all day, I sneaked out at dusk to listen to their songs. The melody really soothed me.”
Mr Singh, against his father’s wishes, left home to learn music at the Shaheed Sikh Missionary College, Amritsar. He later went to Rishikesh to teach music at the Gurmat College. He also taught at Amritsar, Ganga Nagar.
In1979, Mr Singh believed that his conscious calling was to enlist himself as a singer at the Golden Temple. Later he spent decades to rise to be the ‘Hazoori Ragi’ at Sach Khand Sri Harmandir Saheb. He also performed. It opened up opportunities and enabled him create his own compositions to emerge as one of the finest raagis with mastery of all 31 raags in the Gurbani and perform at the other four takhts and other historical gurudwaras.