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Bhai Trilochan Singh Panesar

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Bhai Trilochan Singh Panesar

Picture of Bhai Trilochan Singh Panesar also known as Veerji.

Bhai Trilochan Singh Panesar (known as Veerji or elder brother, 18 November 1937 – 19 March 2010) devoted his life to sewa (service to community and God) and simran (remembrance of God), the two tenets of Langar (community kitchen) every morning, in front of Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Chandni Chowk, Delhi. He could be seen early morning along with his team in the Gurudwaras of Delhi, cleaning them.

Bhai Trilochan Singh Veerji was born in Mandalay in Burma on 18 November 1937. His father Sardar Sadhoo Singh served in the Indian Army during World War II and later in the Indian Railways. Veerji got his inspiration from Sikh Gurus, Bhai Kanhaiya (1648–1718), and Mother Teresa (1910–1997) to serve everyone without any discrimination. He retired as a technical officer with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, New Delhi. Bhai Trilochan Singh died on 19 March 2010. He had instructed his team members to continue the work he had started. His works continue and are increasing. Thousands of volunteers from all over the world contribute their energies in running the mission he started.

He was married to Sardarni Dalip Kaur (Mataji). She was the eldest daughter of Sardar Bakhshish Singh Bhoey of Patiala, Punjab. Mataji died on 5 Mar 2008. Veerji and Mataji have two sons, Premjit Singh Panesar and Kamaljeet Singh (Sanju). Together they continue the Mission started by Veerji and Mataji with the support of thousands of others from around the world.

Guru ka Langar, cleaning gurudwaras, medical services

Every day, his team feeds around 4,000 people in front of Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib in New Delhi. Mother Teresa was one of his greatest inspirations. His ashram at Santgarh (Sant's fortress) near Tilak Nagar (Delhi) is called 'Veerji da Dera', where cooking goes on non-stop to feed the hungry and homeless. His advice to all is to seek out the hungriest of the hungry, the neediest of the needy, and the poorest of the poor and care for them.

Noted Indian author and journalist Khushwant Singh wrote a column in The Tribune in September 2002 appreciating his work with the article "No One Will Go Hungry" ([1]) after seeing his volunteers distribute food to pilgrims in SachKhand Express train, which connects Amritsar to Nanded (the final resting place of the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh ji). This service continues.

His last words through one of his team (Sangat/sewadars) to all his associates (sewadars/Sangat) was, "Till how long will I do this for you, I have shown you the way and created it, you need to continue it now". (In Punjabi he said, Mai kad tak tusa waaste aii sab khuchh kardaa karaundaa rawangaa, Jis sewaa te tusaa nu layaa si oh sewaa tusaa di zimedari hai.) One of his missions in life was to discourage sale of gurbani (Spiritual messages contained in Sikh Scriptures). He advised people not to sell Guru Granth Sahib, gutkas (booklets containing gurbani) and commercial benefit from spreading the word of God. He and his teams continue distribution of such materials free of cost to those who need it.

The secular nature of his job can be understood when his team sends food (vegetable biryani) for Muslims when they open their Roza in the evening during the fasting month of Ramzan (Ramadan). He always fed the poor, and his team of volunteers give milk to hundreds of stray dogs in the city at various points. His team feeds countless birds with bajra (pearl millet) at various places in Delhi. A staunch vegetarian, he campaigned for a vegetarian world, often going to butcheries and buying animals before slaughter and taking them to a Gau Shala (animal shelter) where they are given food and taken care of. This animal shelter currently has over 40 rescued animals.

His team runs a daily free clinic for the poor at the footpath of Chandni Chowk, Delhi, where his team of volunteers bandage and provide medicines to around 150 people daily. During his lifetime, Bhai Trilochan Singh ji personally supervised these works of service every day. There are six more places in Delhi where medicines are given free of cost to around 1000 people in the city of Delhi every day. Taking care of families of patients outside hospitals was also his priority. His teams offer tea to those who wait outside AIIMS and Safdarjung hospitals in New Delhi daily.

Jails and their inmates had been his focus area. He organized many camps for inmates of Tihar Jail, New Delhi, and many jails in states such as gunehgaar), some have been caught and are inside, others have gone unnoticed and are free, everyone deserves compassion".

He and his teams cremate unclaimed dead bodies in various mortuaries around the city with the help of Department of Police, Delhi. He has immunized thousands of people for Hepatitis B. He, in various capacities, constructed and repaired a number of crematoriums. He hired land to grow crops from which grain could be used for feeding the poor. Such farms are still being run. Veerji was a secular person with whom people of all the faiths congregated.

He cleaned many mandirs, masjids and gurdwaras. Veerji also cleaned sarovars (gurudwara ponds). One of his greatest contributions is rejuvenating biologically dying river Yamuna in Delhi by releasing tons of fish annually into it. He also organized tree plantation at many places.

He asked his team to continue all the services to community in the same spirit, even when he would not be around physically. He himself has been a source of inspiration to so many people, who were fortunate to come in his contact. He used to feed monkeys every day with channa and chapatis. During summer, Veerji distributed thousands of matkaas (clay pots for drinking water) and placed water tanks filled with cold water in many parts of the city for the thirsty.

Prayers and Praise of Almighty

His greatest contribution has been to present before all a true way of living as a Sikh, by being a good human being, being compassionate to all creatures, singing praise of God, service by selfless devotion. He started a mission of having Akhand Paths (non stop recitation of Guru Granth Sahib, Holy and Living Guru) in which common people read and followed the holy scriptures directly on their own.

His Teachings

Life is short, make the best use of it. Realize that service (sewa) and prayer (simran) are the only two bedrocks of life. Without mercy in the heart even a saint becomes a monster. To achieve anything one has to first give up slumber, rest and one has to undergo pain. Giving is no giving till it pains to give. Serving is no serving till it pains to serve. When there is opposition, and hurt, the service is accepted by Almighty. Seek no publicity, work alone without politics, there are many who will value your work. If you are running after fame and respect, God is never happy. Serve the needy in silence. Nature rewards the humble. Serve the needy. Compassion is the most important quality in a person, the start point of religion. Without compassion, all is futile. Remembering God always, and making small prayers (Ardaas) before each work gets success. Building temples and places of worship is good, but real good thing is to serve humanity, and nature. Realize that each breath we take takes us closer to our end, do not waste time in petty affairs. Work with own hands, humbly. Share and consume, and do not eat meat. Your food itself should be pure, do not consume intoxicants. Do not use drugs, or tobacco. Suffering bad words, without reacting is real tapasya (strenuous worship). God loves us, and looks after us, he is always close to us, and cares for us. When you are serving the needy, you are serving God.

Service in which there is no pain involved is no service, giving is no giving till it pains to give. If you face opposition in your works, consider it as certain that success is near and you are about to be blessed. Shun the company of publicity seekers, they do work for fame and will barter your works for personal selfish motives. If you get into worry, feed the birds, worry disappears from under the roof of the house on which birds feed. If you have less money and cannot feed the birds, feed the ants, as they will be satisfied with just a few grams of sugar and flour (chini te atta). It is the number of souls which are satisfied by you which will matter. If you are in a great problem, and cannot get any results, go to a butchery, buy a pregnant cow, or an animal about to be butchered. Get that animal released, care for it, and you will be blessed. Release fish which is about to be eaten, into flowing water/ponds. Give water to the thirsty. Clothes to those who have none. Bandage the injured and those who cannot afford it. Sweep the floors of prayer houses, keep them clean. One who pays daily respects to a Master is loved by his master. Salute God daily, in each breath you take. Remembrance is being with Him. Have a contract with God: I will do your works, You do mine.

Construction of buildings to help society

Veerji has to his credit construction of many temples. As an engineer, he contributed in construction of Gurudwara Moti Bagh and the tube wells dug in the city to provide water for drinking and cleaning.

He created Virdhashram, a hospital where patients who need continued care are admitted. This is located at B-1/B-2, Dashrath Puri, near Dabri Mor, Janakpuri. Extremely poor patients who are denied admissions to hospitals or who have no one to look after them are taken to this hospital. Accident victims, amputation cases, TB patients, burn cases or those on the last stages of suffering and awaiting a dignified release from suffering are looked after here. Presently this ashram has over 35 patients. A free dispensary for outpatients is also run each day from here. One more floor to house another 20 patients is under construction. Two hospitals have now tied up with Virdhashram for mutual exchange of services.

The last project he started was the construction of a multistoreyed building in the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib near Connaught Place, New Delhi. His last days were spent supervising this construction work, even when he was sick and suffering. This building construction is now complete, supported by volunteer effort. It houses two floors where visitors to the Gurudwara can avail toilet and bathroom facilities. The top two floors are for housing of granthis and sewadars. He advised that disabled people must be taken care of, and insisted on special toilets for them. This multi-utility building has been inaugurated on 8 February 2012. Virji's group has been now given the responsibility of construction of a multistoried utility building at Gurudwara Bala Sahib. This project is underway at full swing.

Emergency services

After the massive 2001 Gujarat earthquake, his teams went for relief work in the quake-affected areas. He constructed a 200-bed hospital in Limbdi, Gujarat, where an existing government hospital was destroyed due to the quake. He stayed for over four months in Limbdi, and was facilitated by the government of Gujarat for his efforts.

Almost all the countries situated around the Bay of Bengal were affected by the Hepatitis B was organized for many villages. Clothes and other essential articles were distributed for over two weeks with the help of Commissioner and medical teams provided by local administration.

After bomb blasts at Sarojini Nagar, New Delhi, on 29 October 2005, he along with his team of volunteers cremated most of the dead bodies free of charge, while assisting the police. This service is continuing daily in Delhi where unclaimed bodies of unfortunate people are cremated free of cost. Many police stations in New Delhi request the services of ambulances of the mission and ask for help in removing the bodies of accident victims to mortuaries in the hospitals and if unclaimed, for their cremation. Approximately 15 to 20 unclaimed bodies are cremated each day in Delhi free of cost.

During Bihar floods in September 2008, Veerji collected essential commodities for flood affected people and sent them there for which the Bihar Resident Commissioner issued him a "Letter of Appreciation".

His team is always ready to render sewa or humanitarian services, whenever and wherever required. A daily clinic is run on footpath of Chandni Chowk opposite Red Fort Delhi. Free food (Guru Ka Langar) is served to many people on the footpath each day in a long line, which can be seen from 8 to 9 am daily.

Early Life of Veerji

Veerji was born in Mandalay in Burma; it is said that in 1942, when the Japanese bombed Mandalay, the entire family of Veerji was wiped out. He was a five-year-old child, who was picked up by his elder sister (she said he was eating rice at that time), and brought all the way to Punjab. His father who was then serving in Army, came to know about his children being alive, much later. He studied in a village madrassa initially and in a school. He joined Engineering College at Nilokheri, Haryana, where he earned his diploma in civil engineering. Veerji joined PWD Punjab, and was involved in survey work in Rohtang Pass. As a young man he was deeply impressed by the life of Napoleon Bonaparte; a book on the Life of Napoleon Bonaparte by JSC Abbot is a family treasure. Till his last he read this book and was motivated by the immense motivation of Napoleon, and emulated him in many ways. His elder son joined the army at the suggestion of Veerji. Veerji came on deputation to New Delhi for construction of IIT Delhi. He contributed handsomely in this project and was known as a go-getter and a person of high integrity. He left IIT in 1971, and joined IARI Pusa.

Daily Routine

Veerji woke up at about 3 am each day. He had a cup of coffee, took bath with warm water and quickly left his dera (camp) in a car to do sewa (community service). For many years he did the morning "Prakash" sewa at Gurudwara Moti Bagh in Delhi. He did the "Ardaas" and took "Hukamnaama" and participated in washing the gurudwara. He then reached Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, where he washed the "Parikarma" around the sarovar, and then the front portion of the gurudwara, langar hall, and all the portion around the gurudwara. From here he came to Gurudwara Rakab Ganj, where he again organized the cleaning. By 7:30 am he reached Gurudwara Sis Ganj. After paying his respects to Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib, he started the morning dispensary. Hundreds of patients were brought from nearby areas for dressing and treatment. This was followed by distribution of langar in front of Sis Ganj Sahib. By 9:30 am his morning was over, and he had his breakfast from a tiffin right on the road sitting in the car. His pre-meal insulin injection was administered to him, and he shared his small meal with someone each day.

From here he came to Pushta, located on the banks of River Yamuna, where tea was served followed by Langar to hundreds of poor people. By 11 am he started back for his dera. Usually he went for some Kirtan/function in some sangat's house. He had a small rest somewhere, usually in the front seat of the car. By afternoon he was back in the Dera, where he organized the cooking, and distribution of Langar. The whole day was spent in meeting some needy person, or a loved one sharing his problems, joys and sorrows. He again went for sewa in the evenings, on Tuesdays to Bangla Sahib, and on Fridays to Moti Bagh Sahib. Only by 12:30 pm, he retired for a brief sleep. He always reminded people about the sanctity of being on time. He never wasted time, and never let anyone waste it. Motivating all was his sole motto.

For many years his morning sewa routine included Gurudwaras Mata Sundri Sahib, Damdama Sahib and Bala Sahib. A tireless person, he was a source of inspiration to all and always drew praise and respect from everyone me came in contact with. He shirked publicity. He was always non political and non-controversial. He loved the poor and served them to the best of his capability.

Highlighting Sikhism

Simple living is an important principle of Sikhism. Veerji encouraged marriages without dowry. He organized hundreds of marriages, and always asked the couple to stay simple and avoid wasteful expenditure on pomp and show. He opposed abortion and urged people instead to give such children to him, so that he could care for orphans. He helped many orphans by settling them in good families.

Veerji did not encourage ritualism, and orthodox behaviour. According to him, religion should make us more humble, and not staunch or rigid. Compassion, selfless work and forgiving nature brings peace. Earning right kind of livelihood "kirat karo", is the first essential step of life. Sharing what we have—"Vand Shako" (share and consume) principle needs to be brought back in life. According to him, the gurdwaras (Holy places), Garib (poor) and Golak (treasury) have an intimate relationship. When the poor are not served in the holy places, and the treasury is not used to serve the poor, the sanctity is lost. Holy places should primarily serve the poor.

The organizations today

The organizations started by Bhai Trilochan Singh Veerji are all nonprofit, voluntary, seek no donations in cash, and are only for the benefit of society, humankind and nature. The central theme is to increase brotherhood among all sections of society irrespective of caste, colour or creed. All faiths are based on compassion, and Compassion is the bedrock of every charitable activity.

References

  • Khushwant Singh (2002) in No One Will Go Hungry. The Tribune, 7 September 2002. Retrieved on 29 April 2010.
  • Gabriel Brau (2010) in Visit to India - 6. A photoessay on blogspot.com tell the story.
  • Jeroem Swolf's Reportage in Chandni Chowk Mornings An independent foreign reporter covers the Morning Services in Delhi.
  • Streets of the World in Activity at Chandni Chowk, New Delhi—Feeding the Hungry and tending to the sick and wounded.
  • Gobind Times a website devoted to Bhai Trilochan Singh Panesar and his writings in Gobind Times—A Mouthpiece of Veerji.
  • Why Not Give article in Times of India (Speaking Tree) dated 14 Oct 2012 [2].
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