His most cherished wish was to perform at the Golden Temple — where his forefathers used to perform — but now it will be buried with him in the grave as the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) did not allow this. Noted kirtan exponent Bhai Ghulam Mohammad Chand, popularly known as Bhai Chand, passed away in Lahore on Wednesday. He was 80.
Every time he visited India, he expressed the desire to perform at the Golden Temple, where his ancestors used to sing praises to the Almighty. But the SGPC did not allow this, he being not a Sikh. Despite numerous appeals by Sikh scholars and Gurmat sangeet exponents, the SGPC did not accede to the request, which the Punjabi scholars termed as unfortunate.
Reacting to the death, London-based Punjabi writer Amarjit Chandan said, “Bhai Ghulam virtually died the day he was not allowed to perform kirtan at the Darbar Sahib in 2008 for not being an Amritdhari. They should know that Bhai Mardana was not one either. But he was Guru Nanak’s first and true Sikh, his lifelong companion and rababi. Now, Bhai Ghulam must be in great company up there.”
Gurmat sangeet exponents view his death as an end of an era in the rababi kirtan tradition in Pakistan. Dr Gurnam Singh, the head of the Punjabi University Patiala’s Gurmat Sangeet department, who had invited Bhai Ghulam Mohammad to the university to teach students in 2005 and 2007, said that after his death there would be a vacuum as there were hardly any places in Pakistan to perform this. “Bhai Ghulam Mohammad knew Gurbani orally. But his next generations don’t know Gurmukhi, so soon the rababi tradition in Pakistan will vanish.”
Dr Navtej K Purewal, deputy director, South Asia Institute, SOAS University of London, who invited Bhai Chand to London on several occasions, said Bhai Chand would be missed by people on both sides of the border. “In the present times, religious leaders and institutions represent power, authority and following. Bhai Chand had such a crystallised memory of the shabad kirtan compositions, passed down to him by his forefathers that even in his 80s he could sing those compositions and give the translations of Gurbani as though they were a part of him,” she said.
Another exponent from the same family, Ashiq Ali, popularly known as Bhai Lal, had died in Lahore in November 2012.