One can't count how many women in Punjab sung ghori for Bhagat Singh when he was on his way to marry his 'death bride'. But Parkash Kaur's ghori was the longest one.
Her ghori -- a folk song sung in Punjab by girls on their brother's marriage -- continued for more than eight decades and came to an end on Sunday.
Bhagat Singh's last surviving sister Parkash Kaur passed away in Toronto (Canada). She was 94. Coincidentally, she passed away on the birth anniversary of the martyr, September 28.
Prof Chaman Lal, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, and an author of several books on the martyr, confirmed the news. He also met Parkash Kaur in Toronto in January 2012.
Known as Sumitra in the family, she was living with her son Rupinder Singh. A few hours before she died, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) activists in Canada visited her to greet her on Bhagat Singh's birth anniversary, though she was not in a condition to respond.
She was bed-ridden for the past several years. "Bibi Parkash Kaur was the last surviving sibling of Bhagat Singh. Her husband Harbans Singh died more than a decade ago. During the days of terrorism in Punjab, her daughter's brother-in-law was killed by the Punjab Police in an encounter and that had become a big issue in Punjab," said Dr Lal.
Along with her sister Amar Kaur, Parkash Kaur also worked hard to rehabilitate displaced women at the time of Partition. "She was always very proud of his brother's heroism," said her daughter Gurjit Kaur, who lives at Ambala Jattan village in Hoshiarpur district.
According to historians, for several decades Bhagat Singh has remained part of popular imagination, especially for young women who would tie rakhi or sing a ghori for him. "The ghori describes Bhagat Singh, who is to be hanged, as a bridegroom. To eulogise his chivalry and execution, the ceremonies of marriage are evoked as metaphors. He is characterised as a bridegroom, a solemn figure in Punjab's cultural matrix. He is visualised as the celebrated one who is going to wed with the girl named Death," says Chandigarh-based Dr Ishwar Dayal Gaur, author of the book 'Martyr as Bridegroom: A Folk Representation of Bhagat Singh'.
The most popular ghori of Bhagat Singh, who attained martyrdom at the age of 23, was sung by poet Tair in 1932 on his first death anniversary.
Bhagat Singh's siblings included Jagat Singh, Amar Kaur, Kulbir Singh, Shakuntla Devi, Kultar Singh, Parkash Kaur, Ranbir Singh and Rajinder Singh. Jagat Singh died very young, while others lived longer.
Kultar Singh died in 2004 at the age of 86. He was elected MLA in Uttar Pradesh and had served as minister in the ND Tiwari government. Kulbir Singh was elected MLA in Punjab on the Jan Sangh ticket in the early 1960s.
With inputs from Harpreet Kaur, Hoshiarpur