In 1934, Pingalwara was started by Bharat Puran Singh in India, Amritsar. Today it has seven branches in India, in Chandigarh, Sangrur, Jalandhar, Goindwal, Mananwala, Panodri, and Waraich. There are branches in the US, Canada and the UK too.
It is a charitable organisation. Pingalwara is a home for the differently-abled, handicapped, mentally ill, orphans, aged persons, and those suffering from incurable diseases.
Bhagat Puran Singh was born in 1904, in a Hindu family with the name Ramji Das. He was born in a poor family. His mother used to clean utensils and was able to send him to a hostel. In 10th class he failed, then he started doing Sewa in gurudwara Dera Sahib. His mother passed away in 1930, he continued to do sewa in the gurudwara by cleaning floors, making prashade, serving langar etc and thought to serve the suffering of humanity.
He took sick people to the hospitals and washed the clothes of the homeless. He became a Sikh because when he stayed at Mandar he was told to do all the cleaning and afterwards he wasn’t offered food as the Brahmins ate food in front of him.
In comparison to when he went to the gurdwara, he was served with warm langar without any conjecture of sewa in return. In 1923, he took Amrit( a ceremony to become a Khalsa Sikh).
In 1924, he started Pingalwara at the age of 19. He wanted to care for those who were made homeless by society.
He also understood that many of them were not that well to afford treatments in the hospital and these hospitals were full.
People with incurable diseases were left on the streets to die. Eventually, he went on and established the All India Pingalwara Charitable society.
In 1934, someone left a four-year-old child suffering from leprosy (a contagious disease that affects the skin, mucous membrane and leads to decay of limbs) outside the gurdwara as the child’s mother died three months ago and father left him.
Puran Singh became the parent of the four-year-old child and named him Piara and cared for him his whole life and it is because of Piara that Pingalwara was established.
Wherever he went, he used to take him on his shoulders and that became a place for him. In 1947, during partition, he took a 17-year-old piara on his back and explored around 2500 refugee camps and started treating the injured. For one and a half years he used to take sick, handicapped and people suffering from various diseases to the hospital and he used to clean off their excretion, wash their dirty clothes, sweep clean the place, scrub and clean the utensils, etc.
All these duties, Bhagat Ji performed all alone. When the number of patients grew to 22, he employed a part-time sweeper. He obtained one old rickshaw, removed its four-wheel along with the part-frame and tied two bamboos to the back wheels and converted it into a hand-pulled rickshaw to carry the sick to the hospital.
This was the first ‘ambulance’ of Bhagat Ji’s pingalwara. Therefore, he became a person for penniless old men, helpless women and guardians of orphan children.
He was a simple person and spent a hard life on footpaths then occupied a house. Kunda Singh and Narian Singh helped a lot and without their support, Pingalwara might not be there as it is today. In the beginning, Bhagat Puran Singh had to face many difficulties. He was not only shelterless but also had no provision for food, clothing, medicines etc. He was keeping his patients in huts built on-road routes, footpaths etc.
Ultimately, he was able to purchase the land under the present Head office from the District Rent and Managing Officer of the Rehabilitation Department in 1958 in Amritsar and this way it came properly. He was also passionate about the environment and the printed educational articles on reused paper. He planted saplings and went by foot or bicycle wherever possible. He wrote books such as
In 1981, he was honoured with Padma Shri. He felt very satisfied returning the Padma Shri Award after the ‘Blue Star’ operation on the Golden Temple and the Akal Takht early in June 1984.
In 1991, he was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian service.
After a prolonged illness, he died on 5 August 1992 and now his wife Dr Inderjeet Kaur is serving the suffering of humanity and continuing Pingalwara.
Dr Inderjeet Kaur was born on 25 January 1942. Dr Kaur acquired an M.B.B.S. degree from Govt. Medical College, Patiala in 1967. She was influenced by Bhagat Puran Singh’s aim. After the death of her father, Bhagat Puran Singh in 1975 took her in as his daughter. She followed Bhagat Ji in all ways and served humanity.
In 1986, he nominated Dr Inderjit Kaur as his successor. Dr Inderjit Kaur has been Member of Improvement Trust Sangrur from 1976 to 1981, Vice President of Indo-Soviet Cultural Society from 1977–81 and Member, Child Welfare Society, Punjab, from 1987–88. She was the vice president of All India Pingalwara Charitable Society from 1988 to 1992.
She worked hard to continue Pingalwara and has expanded through the establishment of many new centres like Sangrur and Palsora. Her concern for handicapped, mentally challenged, deaf etc motivated her for establishing schools, physiotherapy centres etc.
She is concerned for the environment too and that’s why workshops and seminars are conducted for spreading awareness.
Pingalwara has darted relief measures to different parts of the country which are affected by natural calamities. She was awarded many awards, some are Padma Bhusan, Sri Rama Award by Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, Life Time Achievement Award by Sikh Directory London-2012, Vibrant Indian Award by Developer India Foundation, Chennai etc.
Currently, Pingalwara has seven branches, one each at Chandigarh, Sangrur, Jalandhar, Goindwal, Mananwala and Pandori Waraich, in addition to the head office and main branch at Amritsar. In all these branches, there are 1700 patients.
Also, Pingalwara is running five schools and 2 dental clinics, an eye clinic, sewing centre, physiotherapy centre, stitching centre and artificial limbs centre. All the provisions and treatments are free of cost.
Also, they have their printing press where a lot of pamphlets are printed and distributed free of cost for raising awareness about religion, conservation of natural resources, health, environmental issues and many more.
Also, Pingalwara is running two agriculture farms, one at Bangwali and one at Dhirkot and in these farms, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weedicides etc are not used whereas organic farming is performed.
In addition, they have started a nursery where saplings are distributed for free among the public and also has one dairy farm in which around 150 cattles are head.
The daily expenditure required to take proper care of patients and to carry out other projects is around rupees three and a half lacs. Pingalwara depends on donations throughout the world.
The organization is presently being managed by a seven-member society with Dr Inderjit Kaur at its head as Patron President.
The 20-bed ward has an oxygen facility for critical patients. Dr Inderjit Kaur, director, Pingalwara, stated that the ward has been set up to facilitate the treatment of Covid patients.
The ward offered free medical treatments. The Khalsa Aid has donated two oxygen concentrators for the ward and the Pingalwara also offered free ambulance service.
Feature image credits: Pingalwara