The man behind Pilgrimage Tourism in Akhnoor

Asthi Visarjan in Akhnoor

N K Singh

Lakhbir Singh Sohal

Asthi Visarjan Asthan is a place for the ritualistic scattering of ashes after cremation while Taposthan is a place of meditation and spiritual practice .
As per our Hindu/Sikh mythology we perform many rites and the respect shown not only for the individuals but also the souls of deceased is honored with rituals after the cremation. The ashes and bones are usually immersed in holy rivers. However there are other rivers in India where asthi visarjan is performed and these places are conveniently located so as people do not have to travel far. Since we the people of Jammu have been blessed with the most sacred and silver like icy wave water of river Chenab flowing with mighty speed & strong current downstream Akhnoor could have been the best option for the people of Jammu for immersing ashes of dead love ones to avoid long travelling to Haridwar or Kiratpur , but it was not possible without a person of great vision & social background.
S. Lakhbir Singh Sohal an intellectual visionary and prominent Social activist born in small ,backward kandi village of Sohal near Akhnoor was passionate about social reforms from his childhood with his indomitable will power and strong passion for socal work and mission against social evils including drug prohibition. While compiling information for this holy project he travelled from Kashmir to Kanpur via Amritsar and reached out to Sant Baba Mohan Singh a follower of Sant Baba Sunder Singh, a resident of Alibegh in Mirpur of PoK who migrated to Kanpur after partition. His insights offered valuable perspectives on the historical context and subsequent endeavors to develop these new shrines and marked suitable place for Asthi Visarjan on right bank of River Chenab near Taposthan a historic background like Kiratpur/Haridwar or other Mukti Dhams in India . His findings revealed the importance and significance of the present holy place and also confirmed what he had heard from his elders, where Saint Baba Sunder Singh Ji Alibegh ,eleventh generation of Guru Nanak Dev ji in his young age had spent many years in meditation on a rock on the bank of river Chenab called Taposthan Sant Baba Sunder Singh Ji Alibegh. He then started movement for convincing the public for scattering ashes in river Chenab. He found that fearing social resentment and comments no one came forward. Most of the people were scared and adamant on not changing centuries old tradition but he continued his struggle .
Setting aside the stiff opposition of all his village folk and family members, guided by a divine vision S. Lakhbir Singh played a pivotal role for a new significant sikh heritage site discovered on the bank of river Chenab with incredible discovery of new Asthi visarjan Asthan. As ancient saying goes that ‘charity begins at home’, Lakhbir Singh breaking all myths for the first time on 12 Feb 1994 performed first Ashthi Visarjan ( Immerssion of ashes) of his own mother late Mata Kesar Kour w/o HM Karam Singh World War II Veteran in River Chenab and laid foundation of “Mata Kesar Kour Asthi Visarjan Ghat” on right bank of river Chenab downstream Akhnoor Bridge and started mobilizing opinion of sikh Sangat from Rajouri to Samba Kathua for this noble cause. He printed eye catching posters and distributed among all people to start immersion of ashes of their beloved dead one in river Chenab at Akhnoor . At the same time he laid foundation for the construction of historical Gurudwara Taposthan Sant Baba Sunder Singh near Asthi Ghat .
Despite all odds and obstacles the construction work of Gurdwara was started in 1997 with the blessing of Baba Mohan Singh ji of Kanpur under the able guidance of late engineer. HS Bali and founder Er. Lakhbir Singh, with active supervison of late Master Kartar Singh and late tehsildar Atal Singh , and Kar sewa by many architects and engineers with volunteers of sikh community of Akhnoor & Jammu .Many great souls who contributed with devotion (tan,man dhan) for kar sewa by hiding their identity are still contributing in one or otherways to continue the Langer and development of the holy places. In 2001 Gurudwara Taposthan was completed and opened for devotees . Since 1994 sikh sangat is performing asthi Jal Parvah on this sacred Asthan and rush of visitors has increased manifold.
Recognizing the contributions and selfless scial services , discovery and construction of these new religious sites, Akhnoor Sikh Sangat and other social organizations honoured Lakhbir Singh with awards and mementoes including an award by Ministry of Culture Govt. of India. Now S. Lakhbir Singh is the only living Founder of above sites and his two associates S. HS Bali & Kartar Singh who played pivotal role and supported him in this holy task has left for heavenly abode .
Born in a very remote and border village of Akhnoor Lakhbir Singh has never forgotten his roots. Despite serving Indian navy to high positions in reputed govt. organizations,Port Authorities and Offshore Oil exploration Multinational companies around the world, he returned to his village after retirement to serve the public.His exceptional works for the society till now has gone unnoticed. Such unsung heroes are the real warriors of our society. We need to join hands to make our country better and free from all social evils, and make it peace loving place to live in harmony.