Shiromani Saint Kanwarram's Life Story !!
Shiromani Saint Kanwarram's life story and songs
inspire millions of Sindhis today and bring a sense of pride in their
mind. Today many of our places and nagars in India are named in his
memory. He belongs to the glorious part of our history. He was not in
the history of ancient India or even medieval period of history. He was
there as recent as few years before our migration from Sindh in 1947.
Kanwarram and Sindh are most important part of our recent history. Today
life of Sindh with its totality including major rural part of it is
inconceivable. We Sindhis are essentially urban people at present. We
are society scattered in India and in other parts of world living in
metropolis, cities and towns. Of many other things that partition has
deprived us of is our rural life in India. Our knowledge of rural life
in India is limited to Hindi cinemas as depicted by our dream merchants.
Kanwar was born in a small village 'Jarwar' near Mirpur Mathelo at
district Sukkur in Sindh on 13th April 1885. His father Tarachand was s
simple honest man part of traditional joint family, who had a farm and a
small shop in village. His mother Tirathbai, a very pious lady used to
participate in religious and spiritual work along with performing her
household duties. She had great faith on 'Rahrki Darbar' in village of
Rahrki few miles from Jarwar. Head priest of Rahrki Darbar Saint
Khotaram had huge following in Sindh. He was man with mission. His
spiritualism did not end with kirtans and satsangs. He preached people
to serve poor and downtrodden. He promoted several causes of social
service. Mata Tirathbai prayed Rahrki Darbar for a son who should become
a saint. Her prayer were answered and a son was born to her. Saint
Khotaram named child 'Kanwar' means 'Lotus'. Farsighted saint saw Kanwar
a person who would be a great to society while performing his house-hold
responsibilities towards family.
Mata Tirathbai sang songs of spirituality when kanwar was in cradle. She
told her baby in no uncertain terms that he has to grow up to be s saint
as per her commitment to Rahrki Darbar. Jija Mata had conceived her
child in cradle to be 'Shivaji Maharaj'. Mothers have played vital roles
in bringing up their children. Our saint Kanwarram is gift to our
community by Mata Tirathbai and Rahrki Darbar.
What is a Darbar? No, it is not a Royal court as per its dictionary
meaning. It is a great tradition of our culture. Darbar are our heritage
to be proud of. They have kept our culture and religion alive and intact
for centuries together. Basically 'Darbars' are institutions of religion
and spirituality. Manjhadanji Darbar, Shadani Darbar, Khatwari Darbar,
Sadhubella and so on. These institutions of our society have played an
important role in social and even economic needs of time. These have
played functions of charity, matrimony among the members of society.
Many of them had established Go Shallas, Dharamshallas, Schools for
children, shelters for hand canoed and water wells apart from
constructing temples for Hindu religion.
Kanwar became child of entire village. Children played together. They
shared their sweets and toys, pains and joys. Father Tarachand sent
Kanwar to learn reading and writing 'Hindu Sindhi' also known as 'Hat
Vanika'. In Punjab this is called 'Bhita' or dual script. This script is
still used in trade for keeping accounts. It has no vowels. Later Kanwar
also learnt 'Gurumukhi' script created by Sikh gurus of Punjab. Kanwar
did most of his reading and writing in Gurumukhi.
As a boy Kanwar helped his family shop and farm. He would also go to
sell boiled channa 'kother' in pot, carrying on his head. His singing
drew admiration from entire village. He also played flute in childhood.
At age of 10, father decided to sent him to learn music. Two miles away
from Jarwar was another village Hayat Pitafi, which had a Darbar. This
was founded by Saint Shadaram (now called 'Shadani Darbar')
At that time this Darbar's presiding head priest was a lady, named Mata
Hassibai, a very competent person. She was hard working and served
saints and sadhus personally with her hands. If needed she would go out
to fields and worked for Darbar.
At Hayat Pitafi Darbar, lived a great teacher of music Hassaram. He was
blind man. His knowledge of Indian classical music was very vast. Young
boy Kanwar was put under his charge. Kanwar got his formal music
training from him. He acquired knowledge of 'sur' and 'taal', knowledge
of Ragas and their timings and its effect on mind of listeners. It
became a great boon for Kanwar, who used music to create desired effect
not only on human audience but also on atmosphere of nature around.
Fortunately Hassaram was perfect Guru for Kanwar. Hassaram was very
strict with his students. Along with music he taught discipline to his
pupils and would not hesitate to give them punishments when they failed
on their duty of sangeet or otherwise.
He took his student to other village for performing. On one occasion he
was honored with shawl along with a walking stick. On the way back to
Darbar he asked boy kanwar how does new walking stick look. "Sir it is
very beautiful" said kanwar. "How nice! keep this stick very safe with
you. When we go out of village I want to carry this new stick. At our
place i shall use my old one,"
"O.K. Sir" said kanwar.
After a few days they went to sing Bhajan to other village about 2 1/2
miles far. On the way Hassaram suddenly remembered and said 'kanwar
where is my new stick ?" "Sir i have kept it very safe at Darbar. No one
would touch it."
"You fool!" shouted Hassaram "Don't you remember I must take new stick
to other village?"
"What Sorry? Go immediately to Darbar and bring my stick".
Guru Hassaram waited under a tree while his favorite student walked
three miles to and fro in hot sun to obey his teacher.
Many years thereafter, when Kanwarram was at the peak of his popularity
traveling over Sindh spreading Spiritualism through his power of music
and performances, Hassaram became seriously ill. Sensing his end of his
life Guru send his obedient 'shish' kanwar. Those were days when
transports and communications were very slow. On his deathbed blind by
eyes Hassaram would ask every now and then "Has kanwar come?"
And at last when kanwar arrived and touched feet of his guru, a big
smile came on dying face of Hassaram. He said "kanwar they thought i
will die before you arrive. How can that be ? I told Yamraj to wait.
After all I am Hassaram, teacher of kanwar. And see Yamraj also obeyed
Kanwar, saint of saints had tears in his eyes and was enable to speak
anything. Hassaram caught his hand and said, "Kanwar come near me. I
want to keep my head in your lap. Don't keep quite. Sing a nice Bhajan
so that I can go peacefully."
Kanwar kept head of his Guru in his lap and with all the strength of
mind t his command controlled his tears. He sang a Bhajan with his eyes
closed. When the Bhajan was over every one present there saw Hassaram
was dead lying in the lap of Kanwarram.
After formal training Kanwar joined Rahrki Darbar which was presided
over by saint Satramdas at the time. He became spiritual guru of kanwar.
He had a great vision. He taught universal love not only for humans but
also for animals and birds, ants and insects. He established several
social centers like Dharmashallas and Go Shallas. Kanwar started
performing 'Bhagat' with message of spiritualism, Under instructions
from his guru kanwar got married.
Satramdas had several social and religious projects in hand. After death
of Guru Satramdas kanwar took responsibility to fulfill the dreams of
What is Bhagat? It is not Bhakti songs. Bhagat is folk form of
performance typically Sindhi. It requires a main performer who begins
telling story with songs. He is supported with at least one another
artist known as 'Bolrio'. This Bolrio speaks or sings in lighter vein
and many times created humor with satire to the delight of audience.
There can be more Bolrios apart from other team of musicians like an
orchestra. For an artist Bhagat offers opportunity of variations in
plenty. In other words it is an interesting story, drama, dialogues,
music, songs, dances, comedy and much more.
Does it sound like ingredients of masala movie of Bollywood?
Bhagat has a definite cultural purpose, a moral. It is healthy social
entertainment with message. For kanwar it was more of a mission than an
entertainment. All proceeds collected at performance were for social
cause. Either distributed to poor and needy immediately after the show
or used for a cause. For his own family and household kanwar depended on
his family business of shop, farm and hawking.
Kanwar made several changes in the system of Bhagat. He had a kind
heart. He was very fond of physically handicapped people. The blind, the
lame and crippled persons were told to join his team of Bhagat. He
wanted them to lean music or art or anything to their capacity. He
wanted to make them useful members of society. What a great thought! Due
to this reason number of his performing team would go up to 250 persons.
They traveled with him and were treated on equal terms.
Several stories are attributed to Kanwar with miraculous events. People
getting sons. Dead getting alive. Barren lands becoming green. This goes
to prove only one thing that people had tremendous faith in hi. They
treated him like God whose word can not fail. But as far kanwar himself
was concerned, he never said anything like that. Forget about being God,
he refused to call himself even a Saint! He would say he is simply a
Bania as ordinary as any of other person. Whatever he did was on
instructions of his Guru Satramdas and as per wish of God almighty.
Once a person suffering from acute leprosy came to him. The person was
in terrific pain and agony. He cried and said "Swamiji I have gone to
all the doctors and Hakims. This disease is growing day by day. O great
saint you are my last hope. relieve me from the disease. I am fed up
with this life."
Kanwar touched his head with hand and raising the sane hand to sky he
said "I pry for you to greatest healer of mankind. Go to Guru Satramdas
Samadhi. Apply ash of his 'Dhuni' on your body morning and evening. Pray
God and have faith in him".
Man followed accordingly. After a period of time he was cured
This reminds us of another singer saint of Bengal Chaitanya Maha Prabhu,
who also did a lot for lepers, sick and downtrodden people. He
enthralled Bengal and entire India with his chanting of "?Hari Bol".
A great follower of Kanwar Prof. Ram Panjwani who created cultural
fragrance for Sindhis to heal their wounds of partition, compared
Kanwarram with Tukaram of Maharashtra. "See both looked similar
excepting slight variation of coloiurs of their head gears. Both saints
used folk art to preach spirituality. Tukaram had Marathi folk,
Kanwarram had Sindhi fold. And above all names of both rhyme perfectly
same "Tukaram" "Kanwarram".
Others have compared Kanwarram with Kabir. Kanwarram always sang kabir
alongwith his Sindhi saraiki and Punjabi. Kanwarram called himself 'Das'
like Kabir. Kabir was kori and kanwar was Baniya.
Transparency in public life
Whatever money was collected at performance of Bhagat, was meant for
people. Kanwar never accepted anything for himself or for his family.
Once an old rich lady called kanwar and said she wanted to speak to him
in private. Kanwar met her. She gave kanwar 8 gold coins and told him to
make bangles for his wife as she could not bear to see her without any
"Amma", said kanwar, "she is wife of kanwar and should wear what her
husband can afford. These coins can not be accepted by me".
"But I have brought only for you".
"You may give to our charity account." At last lady agreed and kanwar
accepted for charity. At the beginning of Bhagat, kanwar made a public
announcement "one person has donated 8 gold coins in charity and does
not want her name to be disclosed. This donation was given when only
three of us were there. Donor, myself and God. Therefore I request the
organizers to include this donation in today's collection."
When Gandhiji visited Sukkur, political organizers suggested that kanwar
must be invited to public meeting of Mahatma Gandhi to attract more
people. Kanwar readily agreed. At public meeting people were surprised
to see kanwar without his usual dress of Bhagat. It was difficult to
even recognize him till he sang. Kanwar had come there in full khadi
costume with pajama, kurta and Gandhi cap. Here was a man of masses for
whom cause of country was more important than his spiritualism for self
Once Kanwar went to Sukkur at house of famous advocate Keswani and said,
"Sir I have come to you with a request". Have you brought case to me"
asked advocate Keswani.
"In a way yes. A poor farmers' small piece of land has been annexed by a
big landlord known to you."
After listening the entire episode, Keswani said "O.K I shall take up
the matter. How about my fee ?"
"Sir the person is too poor to pay anything"
"Then you can pay"
"All right sir, how much will it be? " "You will have to lunch at my
place and rest for some time here. That will be my fee."
Work and worship
Before his death, Priest of Ghotki Darbar Saint Khaluram had expressed
his desire that old building of Darbar should be reconstructed and
enlarged so that more handicapped persons could get shelter there.
Panchayat of Ghotki village requested kanwar for help. Kanwar went to
Ghotki and got the work started. He participated in construction work
with others like an ordinary laborer carrying bricks and pot of material
on his head. In the mornings and in evenings he would sing while working
for construction. Hundreds of people joined him in the work. The
building got completed in two months.
According to Prof. Ram Panjwani one of the most favorite songs of kanwar
was, Ram Sumar prabhat mere man, Ram sumar". This is beautifully
composed on early morning Raags of Indian Classical. If you listen to
this song early in morning at 'Amrut Vela' you would get solace of your
mind and spiritual elevation. Try it.
Another favorite song of kanwar "Naale Alakh je or dhaneen-a je jero
taar munhinjo Nidhar aahiyaan maan nimaani aadhaar tunhinjo".
At the backdrop of our eternal river "Sindhu" all the great poets have
used water and boats as theme of their poems. This says, In the name of
God let my boat of life cross the waters of world safely and
successfully. "It is a prayer. It contains philosophy of life. Every
human has to live a life in this world. Sinners sink while good ones
swim successfully and achieve the ultimate happiness of life. This
philosophy is expounded by all our great saints like Guru Nanak,
Tulsidas, Surdas, Mirabai, Kabir and others.
Other song is "Keen rijhaayaan tokhe keean parchaayaan....dasko danv"
Means "What do I do to please you my Lord. Oh God tell me? Should I go
to mandir or do I visit masjid?"
Lyrics apart, this song is composed in very upbeat mood. Rhythm of this
is predominant. If you listen to this song you would start dancing!
Another song of our Kanwar was, " Aau kaanga kar galh munkhe tin
maaruaran ji, maaruaranji saangheearanji, Aau kaanga..."
Means "Welcome O crow ! tell me about my people in the native place.
Tell me news of my childhood friends. Tell me everything of my place,
please O crow !" Obviously this is expression of persons living away
from their home, family and friends.
This song is composed in "Maru Raag" and expresses sadness. The song is
bound to bring you in tears.
At the last performance of his life at Dadu, Kanwar had sung this song.
Pir of Bharchoondi
The word Pir in common usage means a religious head. 'Pir' is a system
prevailing in Sindh since centuries. It is Islamic socio-political
institution headed by 'Pir'. Many of them have their own private armies.
They have their own estates and followers. As it happens in all the
institutions some Pirs spread sufism and love while others are fundament
lists and fanatics. They spread terrorism particularly targeting kafirs
Pir of Bhachoondi was Islamic fanatic. He had his own army. He thought
himself to be a ruler who made his own laws although Britishers ruled
Sindh at the time.
Once his son who behaved like a prince got fancy of a pretty Hindu girl
in Sukkur. When he misbehaved Hindus from the neighbor got hold of him
and beat him with boots. He cried saying he was son of Pir. Hindus gave
him so much beating that he was half dead. They left him with warning
that if he dared to do the similar thing again, they would beat him so
much that he would forget his own identify forever.
When Pir of Bharchoondi came to know of this he was red with fury. He
used foul language for all the Hindus. He vowed to teach them lesion.
"They have insulted Pir of Muslims and i will kill their religious
head." He planned a cowardice act of killing a Saint like kanwar, who
was an easy soft target.
Seed of partition
In October 1939 our Bhagat was invited to perform at Manjhadanji Darbar.
From there he went to Dadu for a Bhagat. From Dadu station he had to
travel by railway to Sukkur via Ruk station where train had to be
Kanwar got down at Ruk to change the train. Some well wisher had given
him a basket of grapes. Kanwar asked his men to distribute the grapes to
all present at the station. The Prasad of grapes was given to all the
persons at station. They included two men who had come to kill kanwar.
After changing train kanwar sat in the compartment near window. As train
started moving after whistle, there was a gun shot on the back side of
head of kanwar. He said 'Ram' and fell down. People there were aghast at
the sight of blood coming from his head. They screamed and shouted.
News of killing of kanwar spread like a wild fire throughout Sindh,
Shutters were down. People started pouring g into Sukkur for last
darshan of their swami.
The procession of his last
journey had more than 50,000 people. All were in tears. They included
DSP, collector and his Muslim followers.
No Sindhi so far has evoked so much emotional response of people as
kanwar did. For no other Sindhi so many poems, songs and volumes of
literature have ever been written. After death of Kanwarram, a brave
person Hassaram Pamnani raised the question in Sindh legislative
assembly. He demanded that Govt. must act and arrest the culprits. He
was threatened for life. And soon Hassaram Pamnani was shot dead at Rohr
Station. Later Kanwarram's brother Jararam was also murdered while going
from Jarwar to Mirpur Mathelo.
Sindh became target of Islamic fundamentalism. It seems that gunshot on
kanwar was s seed which resulted into brutal partition of our country.
In August 2000 'Hindustan' Sindh Daily of Mumbai published a news item
stating that killer of Kanwarram died in Sindh at the age of 99 years.
He had killed more than 30 Hindus.
Biography Of Saint Sain Kanwarram Sahib