Fakiri Surat – The Fragrance of Bhai Vir Singh - Sikh Research Institute

Fakiri Surat – The Fragrance of Bhai Vir Singh

Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957) is known as “The Sixth River of Panjab.” He was a poet, novelist, editor, exegete, historian, and a journalist. He was the leading figure in the Singh Sabha, the dynamic Sikh renaissance movement in early 20th century Panjab.

In spite of being extremely involved in various literary, social and personal activities, he made the ‘practice of letters’ as an essential part of his life.

In 1958, the Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan was established in Delhi, India. They made a concerted effort to collect his letters, thereby preserving them in three books: Hamdardi Pattar of Bhai Sahib, Vir Pattravali, and Vir Sunehare. These letters written in Panjabi have a unique relevance and enhance the genre of modern Panjabi literature. 

While reading Vir Pattravali, I was drawn to a particular letter, for it spoke to me. In my twenties, I met a Fakir whose simple words made me focus inwards, and the cleansing began. Not a day goes by, when I do not think of him. His magnetic energy and fragrance lingers. Will he ever know the profound effect he had on my life?

Being a wordsmith, I delve into the etymology of fakir. Fakir is derived from the Arabic word ‘faqir,’ – a poor man. In the Hindu context, fakir is an ascetic (i.e. guru, sadhu, swami, yogi).


I pause.


This is a simplistic understanding of the word.

Something seems to be missing.

So, I reach out to of my friend and colleague Harinder Singh.

He shares the following with me: “Fakir was originally a Sufi Muslim ascetic. In Panjab, they are known as Phakkar, genuine, honorable and kind. In Panjabi-Sikh parlance, “phakkar fakir” is a carefree lover of the divine.”

I listen.

My fakir’s image flashes before me.

I see his toothless smile, his still black shining eyes dancing before me.

Gratitude flows.

A longing to be imbued with fakiri surat (consciousness) sets in.



The Letter

5. 1. 1914


Pavitar atama ji: (Virtuous revered being)


Everyone and everything is well. I received your letter.


Satguru ji (Eternal Guru) has written:


ਸੁਖੀ ਬਸੈ ਮਸਕੀਨੀਆ ਆਪੁ ਨਿਵਾਰਿ ਤਲੇ ॥
ਬਡੇ ਬਡੇ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੀਆ ਨਾਨਕ ਗਰਬਿ ਗਲੇ ॥1॥


Humble being lives comfortably, removes I-ness.

O’ Nanak! Big egoistic being rots in pride.

– Guru Granth Sahib 278



For fakirs, humility is their canopy of protection. The fakir lives in the continuous presence of Sai (Divine). Living in the world like a loser yet winning the world. Passing days humbly, but this humility, this humbleness is not of a low consciousness.   

The consciousness of the fakir always resides in celestial heights, in divine radiance, and is always walking in that light. The people of the world, the intelligent pandits of the world, the preachers of the world cannot understand the character of the fakir. Fakirs don’t praise, criticize, or practice any unkind behavior. People seem to think that they are meek, but they are as:


ਮੈ ਗਰੀਬ ਮੈ ਮਸਕੀਨ ਤੇਰਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ਅਧਾਰਾ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

I am poor, I am humble; Your Nam (Divine Identification) is the support. 1 Reflect

– Guru Granth Sahib 727



One joy equals a thousand joys. One flavor equals a thousand flavors. It supports the eternal happiness of those who belong to the Beloved. However, people look at these children of the Beloved as meek and weak outwardly, but the people of Sai are…


ਜਿਨ੍ ਪਟੁ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਗੁਦੜੁ ਤੇ ਭਲੇ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥
ਤਿਨ੍ ਨੇਹੁ ਲਗਾ ਰਬ ਸੇਤੀ ਦੇਖਨ੍ੇ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥
ਰੰਗਿ ਹਸਹਿ ਰੰਗਿ ਰੋਵਹਿ ਚੁਪ ਭੀ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਹਿ ॥
ਪਰਵਾਹ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਿਸੈ ਕੇਰੀ ਬਾਝੁ ਸਚੇ ਨਾਹ ॥

Those silken inside, raggedy outside, are honorable in the world.

They are in love with the Divine, contemplating for the vision.

In Color-Love they laugh, in Color-Love they cry. They also go silent.

They are not bound by others, except the Eternal Spouse.

– Guru Granth Sahib 473



This is the image of the true fakir of Guru Nanak. They are immersed in this Color-Love:


ਆਠ ਜਾਮ ਚਉਸਠਿ ਘਰੀ ਤੁਅ ਨਿਰਖਤ ਰਹੈ ਜੀਉ ॥

I look at You Dearest, all the time, day and night.

– Guru Granth Sahib 1377



What is there in the world? It has always been a source of pain. We should bear this pain sweetly and not get upset with it. We should think that this pain is coming from Sai.


Mian Mir told Jahangir that in his kingdom, a braham-giani (Divinely-enlightened being. Referred to here as Guru Arjan Sahib) was killed. Jahangir laughed and said, “What is a braham-giani? What kind of braham-giani was he, who got killed by my officials?”


Mian Mir said, “If he wanted, he could have blown away your rule. But he borne it.”


“If he was powerful, why did he allow himself to be roasted on a hot plate and get blistered under the hot sand?” asked Jahangir.


“I saw him in this state and said, Guru ji, if you wish, I can take care of this problem. And if you wish, I can sink this empire.”


Guru ji replied, “Fakir ji, don’t come under the influence of maya (deception). All that is happening is in Beloved’s Will. My Beloved knows, and if my Beloved wishes, it can be removed. But if my Beloved does not remove it, then it is in Divine Will and I am happy in this Will.”


After listening to this, Jahangir’s eyes filled-up and he cried for quite some time. This was the reason why he punished Chandu and the Nawab. Guru ji bearing this atrocity was not like a punishment of a sinner. Guru ji was in the Presence of the Divine, dyed in the Color of braham-giani, and was in chardi-kala (high-spirits). In the joy of the Beloved, of the Beloved, he accepted the anguish.


There is no pain that is strong enough to bring down the consciousness of the lover of the Guru. For, they look at every difficulty as coming from the Beloved and ask for this:


ਤੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਗੈ ॥
ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਾਂਗੈ ॥2॥

Your action feels sweet.

Nanak asks for the wealth of All-Pervasive’s Nam. 2.

– Guru Granth Sahib 394



I wish the learned people of the world come to understand that the fakirs of Sai are not to be tormented, they don’t lose their patience, and their Nam Color-Love does not fade away. When the axe hits the sandalwood tree, why would the tree sacrifice its own fragrance? The tree shows no animosity towards the axe and neither does it leave its fragrance. Any kind of worldly act, should not be capable of lowering our consciousness.


ਨਾਨਕ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਭਸੁ ਰੰਗੁ ਭਸੂ ਹੂ ਭਸੁ ਖੇਹ ॥

O’ Nanak, the world’s color is like ash, is just ash, dirt.

– Guru Nanak 1240



ਨਾਨਕ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕੈਸੀ ਹੋਈ ॥
ਸਾਲਕੁ ਮਿਤੁ ਨ ਰਹਿਓ ਕੋਈ ॥
ਭਾਈ ਬੰਧੀ ਹੇਤੁ ਚੁਕਾਇਆ ॥
ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਦੀਨੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥5॥

O’ Nanak! What has the world become?

The mentor and the friend, none remains.

Entwined in brothers and relatives, Love’s lost.

For the world’s sake, the faith is forsaken.

– Guru Granth Sahib 1410


Seeing this condition of the world, the intelligent as well as the foolish get despondent. The six Shastras were written in this despondency and taught about running away from this world and making life lifeless. But the ones who live in Divine Presence become stronger and rise higher in the love of their Beloved.


They live in a higher consciousness and they bloom in the undying love of Sai infused with simran (Remembrance).


Fakiri is not sulkiness, sadness, hopelessness, or living in declining consciousness. Fakiri is being in chardi-kala, in simran, in Color-Love’s humility, blossoming, exuding a peaceful outside, and living a care-free life.


ਨੀਚੇ ਲੋਇਨ ਕਰਿ ਰਹਉ ਲੇ ਸਾਜਨ ਘਟ ਮਾਹਿ ॥
ਸਭ ਰਸ ਖੇਲਉ ਪੀਅ ਸਉ ਕਿਸੀ ਲਖਾਵਉ ਨਾਹਿ ॥234॥
ਆਠ ਜਾਮ ਚਉਸਠਿ ਘਰੀ ਤੁਅ ਨਿਰਖਤ ਰਹੈ ਜੀਉ ॥
ਨੀਚੇ ਲੋਇਨ ਕਿਉ ਕਰਉ ਸਭ ਘਟ ਦੇਖਉ ਪੀਉ ॥235॥

I keep my eyes lowered. I cherish the Friend within heart.

I play-enjoy all flavors with the Beloved. I reveal to none. 234

I look at You Dearest, all the time, day and night.

Why must I keep my eyes lowered? I see the Beloved in all hearts! 235

– Guru Granth Sahib 1377


Don’t be affected by the actions of the world, by talks and dealings of different people, and by treatment from loved ones. At any time, don’t let your consciousness come down.


Live with the inside Light blazing, even when everything outside of you is like a dark night. Be wealthy within and poor on the outside. Be in higher consciousness within, and humble on the outside. Speak with Kalgivala (Guru Gobind Singh Sahib) within, and engage in less and sweet conversation outside. Be an emperor within, but live humbly with patience and acceptance on the outside.


So, be strong! This body is a dream just for a few hours, days, or years. Whatever time we have, let not even one day go to waste. Whichever day we spend valuably, then all the three eras (past, present, future) are looked after. This “now” moment will become a “spent” moment in a little while. The future time will present itself moment by moment. If we have looked after the “present” moment and the “now” moment, then we have looked after those three eras.


In the “now” moment, the fakir who is in the bliss of simran has won the three eras, has conquered death, has gone beyond the power of death, and has become timeless, merging with the Light. 

– Vir Singh


The translator Inni Kaur is the CEO of the Sikh Research Institute. She is also the author of ‘Journey with the Gurus’ series, ‘Sakhi-Time with Nani ji’, and ‘Thank You, Vahiguru.


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