By Kalavanti Raja
Sindh has been blessed with many saints and mystics. One of the most popular saints, in recent times, was Bhagat Kanwer Ram, born in a small village in upper Sindh in 1885 in a grocer’s family. Even as a child, he showed great talent for singing and his father put him up with a prominent holy man in the area – Saeen Satramdas. From this Guru, he imbibed spiritual teachings, a sense of genuine humility and love for a simple life.
Bhagat Kanwerram enriched typical Sindhi form of temple worship called – “bhagat”. With ghunghroos on his ankles, dressed in a long robe and pugdee, he would sing and dance reciting mythological epics and folk tales in his own operatic compositions. Bhagat would commence in a temple courtyard after dusk, when it was cooler, and continue till early hours of the morning. Large adoring crowds, gathered to watch him, were enthralled with spiritual devotion.
He received millions in offerings that he either gave away generously to the poor and needy or used to build temple courtyards and dharamshallas. He turned away no one – Muslim, Hindu or untouchable, strong or week, even dacoits. He did not keep a penny for himself, supporting his family in a meagre, simple lifestyle by continuing to work at their small grocery business.
Being in great demand, he traveled widely all over Sindh performing bhagat in durbars, especially at the death anniversaries of local saints. Then infant record company HMV made 10 records preserving 20 of his kafis and bhajans. These were the first and most popular records at that time in Sindh.
There are many legends of his piety and miracles. Seeing a tired old woman, he carried her load of firewood on his head and escorted her home. Once a woman put her dead baby in his arms for blessings. Accused by the mother, his prayers revived the baby.
On Nov. 2, 1939, at age 55, while on a train from one bhagat to another, two fanatics assassinated him. Like the throngs who gathered to greet him at every station, they had just bowed to him; he had bowed to them in return and given them some fruit as parsad.