As word of her passing spreads, notes from those she has touched are coming in from around the world. Her life of devotion as well as her music has left an indelible impression on anyone who has met her or heard her.
Tribute to Bhain Ji Jaswant Kaur
We have known Bhainji since she came to Gobind Sadan. From the first time I heard her sing I was completely aware of the powerful voice she had, but more than that it was the feeling in the “kirtan”; she sang with her heart-one just stopped to listen to it. Bhainji was a person of discipline-not only that she was always on time for her duty, but it did not matter what time the kirtan had to be done-early hours of the morning or afternoon or evening-she was there.
She was meticulously neat and clean. Her room in the “dera” was always clean and neat. Very often we sat there with Maharaj ji when he used to give audience. We were good friends. Whenever she saw me (if she was doing “kirtan”) she would immediately sing my favourite shabad (“Mere sahib”).
We had a good rapport with each other, but we never “gossiped” with each other. She was a person who was disciplined and bounded to her duty. Even on the 20th February 2010, she was doing “kirtan” with her strong voice. I pay my respect to her as an older sister whom I will miss at Gobind Sadan.
Tribute to a Noble Soul
Bibi Jaswant Kaur was a very noble soul who could have traveled the world as a rich and famous ragi, but instead lived simply among us for decades at Gobind Sadan, dedicating all her musical talents to the praises of God. A few special memories: In 1992 when Maharaj returned to Punjab after many years for his mother’s bhog ceremony, he was asked to speak at many places, and Bibiji went along with him to sing kirtan. We traveled together over the bumpy roads in the back of a covered jeep. When she was tired, Bibiji would hook one arm over the back of the bench seat and lie down, somehow miraculously resting without complaint despite what must have been great physical discomfort, especially at her age, for she would have been in her 70s at that time.
Another time Maharaj was asked to speak in a poor Uttar Pradesh village, and Bibiji went along to sing kirtan. When we arrived at the schoolyard where a tent had been set up for Maharaj in the midst of the heat, flies, and dust, people were milling all around. But when Bibiji began singing, at once a wave of peace spread throughout the place, and everyone settled down. How often we relied on her to establish a sacred mood for our Gobind Sadan events.
At one point, Bibiji became quite sick. She was staying with her daughter, and for months we didn’t see her or hear her uniquely powerful voice. Then came Baisakhi, and Maharaj decided to give darshan of Guru Gobind Singh’s chola and other sacred relics that had been entrusted to him. He called Bibiji to sing for the occasion, for her renditions of Guru Gobind Singh’s bani were always very stirring. Somehow she came. When we saw her, we wept with joy. When she started singing, her voice was weak at first, but as she began singing the words of Guru Gobind Singh, her voice regained its strength, and we wept even more to hear her.
Then in 1999 the night before we went with Maharaj to Anandpur Sahib for the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa, a special Amrit ceremony was arranged at midnight, and Bibiji was selected as one of the Panj Piare (five very pious people representing Guru Gobind Singh’s original Five Beloved Ones). I was one of the fortunate recipients of amrit that night. It was a great and extremely rare honour for a woman to be one of the Panj Piare. But of course Bibiji was absolutely correct for the role, for she had lived a life of great spiritual discipline and tremendous dedication to God, and had great knowledge not only of Gurbani but also of all the classical ragas of Guru Granth Sahib. Her voice was remarkably strong and thrilling, and it remained so right up to the time of her death at the age of 90. She was indeed a great treasure, and we will always remember her as such.
Mary Pat Fisher
The Pindi Gheb Public Educational Society, Managing Committee, Parent Teacher Association, Teachers, Staff members, Parents and students of Sardar Amar Singh Sher-I-Punjab Pindi Gheb Khalsa Sr. Sec. School were extremely shocked and much grieved to hear the sad demise of our revered Sardarni Jaswant Kaur Ji.
Sardarni Jaswant Kaur Ji, a name, an inspiration, and motivation in itself, led a very holy, pious, religious, tolerant, self esteemed and socially well-adjusted life. She was really a symbol of unlimited love and affection. She was a treasure of humanistic values and generosity who led a life of 90 years by serving the “Guru Ghar” in true spirit and devoted action.
A symbol of unlimited ocean of love and affection is the word “Mother.” Nothing in this universe can substitute “Mother.” A mother like Sardarni Jaswant Kaur Ji was an ideal to be followed who really inculcated values and traditions not only among her daughters but in whosoever came in her contact even once.
But, we all are bound to bow before wishes of ALMIGHTY WAHEGURU. His omnipresent HUKUM is to be accepted under all circumstances by all of us.
We all convey our heartfelt condolences to the grief stricken family and pray to AKAL PURAKH to grant peace to the departed soul and bestow strength upon the members of her family to bear this irreparable loss.
Satya Vir Singh: Principal, Sardar Amar Singh Sher-I-Punjab, Pindi Gheb Khalsa Sr. Sec. School Doriwalan, Guru Gobind Singh Marg New Delhi 110005
Bibi Jaswant Kaur will be remembered daily by us as we listen to her devotional song/kirtan. Her ability to sing till her death-reveals that she was with God and Maharaj ji-daily. This is a beautiful gift of Gobind Sadan /Maharaj ji to her to live peacefully while bringing peace of mind to others.
Mohini and Satinder Mullick-Corning, NY, USA
Bibi Jaswant Kaur ji – A Gem
My first encounter with Bibi Jaswant Kaur ji (or “Beeji” as Bhagat ji, me and my wife fondly addressed her) was on the website www.gurmatsangeetproject.com which has a beautiful write-up on her by Sarabpreet Singh. I had downloaded Shabads sung by her and later met her many times at Gobind Sadan, New Delhi where she rendered Keertan with love and joy for half an hour every evening at 5 pm. This half hour encounter was enough to reach one to a blissful state with her traditional pre 1947 style rendering of melodious Gurbani Keertan. Highly respected by one and all, she was kind enough to invite us to share Langar with the Sangat on her birthday recently as also on other occasions. She shared her treasure of Gurbani Keertan acquired with selfless and life long devotion even with the un-initiated common people like me, humbly explaining the meaning of words like “Kusumbh”, a flower with ‘Kachha Rang’ – colour that fades easily as opposed to “Majeetha” which is a profoundly fast colour. Such explanations and her grace would kindle spiritual feelings among listeners. I vividly remember the occasion at the end of Keertan one day when she recounted the several variants of Rag Gaudi in the Granth Sahib, such as Gaudi Guareri, Gaudi Poorbi, Gaudi Cheti etc. which led us to admire the compositions in Sri Guru Granth Sahib prescribed in perfect musical notes – most appropriate to arouse the underlying devotional thoughts and emotions. Her sad demise is a personal loss to me, the Sangat of Gobind Sadan and keertan premees all over, though she and the Shabads will always remain in our memories of her which are sweet beyond description.
Commodore (ret’d) Jasbir Sing
Bibi Jaswant Kaur, A Servant of Peace
Maharaj ji always said that the vibrations of our voices permeate the atmosphere. Some spread anger and some peace. In a world atmosphere charged with anger and hatred, Bibi Jaswant Kaur (our kirtan wali) was a clarion voice resonating peace.
My earliest recollections of Bibi Jaswant Kaur before I even conversed with her were through her music. Whenever she sang it was as if every being, seen and unseen, stopped for a moment to just savor the sweet sounds. The music wafted over the fields, whether we were on the hill in the dairy or in the dera with her, it just permeated our being.
Each holiday we would gather around Maharaj ji either in the Darbar Sahib room or on the veranda, and Bibiji would start, Aaj more aye hain: “Today my beloved friend has returned,” and as everyone would feel the presence, Maharaj ji himself would start to sing.
As she was one of the few early residents who spoke English, I was able to speak with her and begin to understand and appreciate the depth of this great soul.
She possessed the rare combination of grace and strength tempered with tremendous determination. No wonder Maharaj ji called her the “diamond of Gobind Sadan.”
She came from a well-to-do family in Punjab. While her father was stationed in Amritsar in pre-partition India, he put her under the tutelage of the legendary rababi at The Golden Temple (Sri Darbar Sahib) Bhai Taba ji. Until her passing she was his only known surviving student, and proponent of the rababi style, passed down from Siri Mardana ji, which has all but vanished from the panth.
Her classmate and friend, Joginder Kaur, went on to become a world-famous popular singer, but Bibi ji used to laugh as she remembered that her father strictly forbade her to sing popular songs and made her stick to kirtan.
She had a storied career, not just as a singer, but also served in the police, and even sold life insurance to generate additional income. I know because I bought a small policy from her. Following her husband’s accidental death, she made sure her daughters, Kamal and Rupinder were happily married (to S. S.B. Singh ji and S. Gurpal Singh ji) and then was free to devote the rest of her life to the Guru’s seva. Though she always relished the visits from her children and grand children.
She was not only Gobind Sadan’s hazuri ragi – singer of the Guru’s court – she was also one of its first Granthis. She witnessed and collected the gold dust that fell from heaven at the opening Prakash at Gobind Sadan. She laughed when she told of how Maharaj ji had quickly taken it away and told her not to tell people. Outside of Gurucharan’s room, Maharaj ji would often meet people in her room (the middle room in the line).
Maharaj ji asked her to teach Joginder and me kirtan, and as you can imagine, she was a master given two novices to take through the paces. She not only taught us the ragas but also instructed me in three thals (tin thal, dadra, kerva) on tabla so I could accompany her (very roughly) during Gobind Sadan kirtan if no one else was around. She built my repertoire into about a dozen shabads that I still can recall. Hari ko nam sada sukh daee; Mu lalen sio preet bhani; karvat bhala na karvat teri; main banjaran ram ki; jin premkio tin hi prabh paya. I can’t tell you how patient and loving she was. But, later on when I would offer to bring her students, she smiled and said, “Please make sure they have at least some basic knowledge of music.” Joginder has far surpassed me in kirtan as Maharaj ji trained me to speak, but the melodies and the sound of her voice will always be with me.
But her real student who she loved like her own son was Harpal, who along with Bhagat ji have faithfully learned her style. It gave her great pleasure to recall how the three of us, Bibi ji, Harpal, and me, were crammed on a scooter behind S. Mukhand Singh, with vaja and tabla, as we went village to village preaching around Chandigarh. Each night, on the veranda of the early shrine in the 23 C sector Gurdwara, she would gather the small sangat around her and sing: Au ji tu, au hamarai, sat gur shabads sunavna; Come my friends, let’s gather and sing God’s praises.
Her seva to the panth did not stop with just her melodious voice. In 1971, when Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib was liberated from the clutches of Jethadar Santokh Singh, she willingly without any question or fear, entered the Gurdwara and restored and maintained the daily discipline of kirtan and daily prayers. She told how she had made sure all the rumalas were cleaned and kept with great reverence. During the Akali Morcha at Akal Takhat against the Emergency Rule (’74?), she sang daily from Manji Sahib as the jathas (including hundreds of Gobind Sadan members) courted arrest.
It is said in the Bible, “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” We in Gobind Sadan were fortunate to have one in our midst. And while we were fortunate enough to have recorded her voice, it is the vibrations of her being that will always be remembered.
Gobind Sadan will ever resound with her voice and the vibrations of her selfless service for generations to know what it means to be a true servant of the Guru and a true woman of virtue.