Born a Sikh, Sundar Singh became a Christian Sadhu, or Holy Man, in India. Famous for parables, the Sadhu spread the word of Christ with a humble fervor.
Sundar Singh was born in September 1889 in Rampur, a city in Northern India. Sundar Singh’s parents raised him in the Sikh religion. Sundar Singh’s mother was a very devout and spiritual women and she venerated the Sadhus.
Sadhu Holy Men
Sadhu is a Hindu term for a holy man that has forsaken the material world. The Sadhus typically wandered the countryside wearing yellow robes. The tradition of a Sadhu was one of meditation and contemplation. Sundar Singh’s mother instilled a respect in him for all things spiritual and he acquired a desire to become like a Sadhu.
Schooled by Missionaries
Sundar Singh’s mother also used her connections to get Sundar Singh into a school run by missionaries. This was his first exposure to the Bible. Sundar Singh was only fourteen years old when his mother died. Distraught, Sundar Singh took a Bible, ripped out few pages, and burned them in public.
A few days after he burned the Bible, Sundar Singh was in his bed at three in the morning. Restless, the young boy considered suicide. There was train that came by the house at five in the morning and Sundar Singh was determined to put himself on the tracks and let the train run over him.
Singh Prays to God
Sundar Singh prayed to God saying, “Oh God, if you do exist, show me the right way, or I will kill myself.” Suddenly his room filled with light and Jesus appeared and said, “How much longer are you going to search for me? I have come to save you. You prayed for the right path. Why have you not followed it?”
Sundar Singh Takes the Robes of a Sadhu
Sundar Singh fell to his knees and as Jesus vanished, the young Sundar Singh remained filled with a sense of peace and elation. Despite the wishes of his family, Sundar Singh was baptized on his fifteenth birthday in an English church. Shortly thereafter, he renounced the material life and took up the robes of a Sadhu.
Sadhu Sundar Singh spent many hours in meditation, prayer, and fasting. Sadhu Sundar Singh combined Indian asceticism with Christian devotion. Many converts from Hinduism said that they knew about Christ from the European missionaries, but did not truly understand Christ until they listened to Sadhu Sundar Singh.
Sadhu Sundar Singh enrolled in the St John School of Theology in Lahore, but only stayed two years. Sadhu Sundar Singh wandered through the small villages of India for ten years, teaching in parables, as his savior had thousands of years before. Soon the Christian west discovered him and he toured Europe.
Sadhu Sundar Singh Travels to Europe
What he found in Europe discouraged him. Sadhu Sundar Singh thought that the west had experienced Christianity for almost two thousand years, but that they did not heed the true message. Sadhu Sundar Singh said, “There are many Christians who do not feel His glorious presence as something real. Because for them Jesus only occurs in their minds and not in their hearts. Only when someone surrenders his heart to Jesus can he find Him.” He thought the Europeans were stuck in the material world and although they knew about Christ with their minds, they did not know Christ with their hearts.
Sadhu Sundar Singh Returns to India
Sadhu Sundar Singh returned to India and continued to wander the countryside, teaching Christianity not only with his parables, but also with his actions. Often Sadhu Sundar Singh endured persecution, sometimes his humility and gentleness would disarm the attackers, and he gained new converts. Indeed, Sadhu Sundar Singh’s father repented and became a Christian.
In 1929, Sadhu Sundar Singh set out on a journey to Tibet. He never made it to Tibet. Sadhu Sundar Singh disappeared, leaving behind a legend.
- Dobe, Timothy. “Wanderer for Christ” Christian History & Bigraphy, Summer 2005