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Bhai Mohan Singh Vaid

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Bhai Mohan Singh Vaid (1881-1936), apothecary, writer, collector of books and social reformer, was born at Tarn Taran on Phagun sudi-l, 1937 Bk/7 March 1881, the youngest of the four sons of Bhai Jaimal Singh (1843-1919), who too was a vaid (practitioner ofAyurveda or Indian system of medicine) of long standing. Mohan Singh had no regular schooling after his preliminary education in the Gurmukhi Vidyala at Tarn Taran.

He,however, studied books on Sikh religion and history at home and learnt Ayurveda from his father and, later, from Sant Ishar Singh and Pandit Jai Dial. Early in his life he came under the influence of Singh Sabha enlightenment and founded in 1894 the Khalsa Vidyarthi Sabha, lit. Sikh Students' Association. In April 1905, he established the Khalsa Bhujhangi Sabha, Sikh Youngmen's Association, which was affiliated to the Chief Khalsa Diwan in 1908 and ultimately merged with the Singh Sabha, Tarn Taran, in 1915. Bhai Mohan Singh was a member of the committee set up by Khalsa Diwan Majha to open an institution for training workers to preach religious and social reform among the Sikhs, and when, as a result of the committee's recommendations, Khalsa Pracharak Vidyala came in to existence at Tarn Taran in November 1906, he was appointed its secretary. In December 1907, the Chief Khalsa Diwan set up the Sikh Handbill Committee to bring out leaflets to propagate Sikh principles. Bhai Mohan Singh Vaid, who had already floated a monthly magazine Dukh Nivdran (January 1907) and had been a sub-editor of the Khalsa since February 1905, was entrusted with the writing of the handbills. He brought out 43 handbills during 1908-11 in hundreds of thousands copies in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu on a variety of topics such as evils of drinking, gambling, illmatched marriages, caste system and untouchability. He was also an active member of the Temperance Society, and became a municipal commissioner in his home town in 1910 which position he held throughout his life. A member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee since 1921, he was arrested on 7 January 1924 after the committee had been outlawed by government on 12 October 1923. He served a two year term in Mianwali jail from where he was released on 20 November 1925. He was again elected a member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 1930 as well as in 1933.

Bhai Mohan Singh was one of the pioneers of modern Punjabi prose who rescued it from the conventional modes, introducing a simple, matter-of-fact style of writing. He wrote nearly 200 tracts and books on topics varying from religion, social reform, medicine and health care to politics, economics and psychology. Besides writing many novels, stories, essays and a couple of plays, mostly didactic in nature, he also published translations or adaptations of some western classics. Some of his more important works (other than those on medicine) are Dampati Piar, Rang Barange Phulaan Htredidn Kaman (fiction); Birdh Vidh Durdasha Natak (play); Rabbi Jor Mela (mysticism); Karam Yog, Bacon VicharRatnavaHand Atmak Unnafi (ethics); ' Ilm Khyal subtitled Law of Mentalism (psychology); Kire Makaure (zoology); and Grahi Parbandh Shastar (household economics). One of his pioneering efforts to propagate gurbani among the non Punjabi readers was the publication in 1928 of the Guru Granth Sahib in the Devanagari script. He was a keen book lover, and a voracious reader. His biographer records that in 1931 at least 26 different papers and periodicals, mostly in Punjabi, were regularly received by him. His collection of books, magazines, pamphlets and newspapers has since been donated by his descendants to Punjabi University, Patiala, and it constitutes a rare bibliographical resource in Northern India.

Bhai Mohan Singh Vaid died at Tarn Taran on 3 October 1936.

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