Professor Puran Singh (Punjabi: ਪ੍ਰੋ. ਪੂਰਨ ਸਿੰਘ) (1881–1931) was a Punjabi poet, scientist and mystic. Born in Abbottabad, now in Pakistan, in a Sikh family, he is acclaimed as one of the founders of modern Punjabi poetry. He passed his matriculation examination at the Mission High School Rawalpindi in 1897 and, after obtaining a scholarship for the years 1900 to 1903, obtained a degree in Industrial Chemistry from Tokyo University in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Though a born Sikh he became a Buddhist Bhikshu and a sanyasi under influence of Ukakura a Japanese Buddhist monk and Swami Ramtirath respectively before he finally got settled as a Sikh mystic when he came under influence of Bhai Vir Singh during a Sikh Educational Conference meeting at Sialkot in 1912.
Four crucial events—his Japanese experience, his encounter with the American poet Walt Whitman, his discipleship of Svami Ram Tirath, and his meeting with the Sikh saint Bhai Vir Singh—were influential. As a student in Japan, he was impressed with the land and its people, and was greatly influenced by the romantic aestheticism of Okakura Kakuzo, Japanese artist and scholar. Walt Whitman, the American poet, had left a deep impression on his poetics and practice as on his world view. It was in Japan that he met Rama Tirtha, under whose influence he took on the identity of a monk. An encounter with Bhai Vir Singh in 1912 led to his formal return to Sikhism.
Puran Singh started the distillation of essential oils in Lahore in association with Ishar Das and Rai Bahadur Shiv Nath. He prepared thymol, and fennel and lemon oils. Owing to deceitful dealings on the part of his partners, he closed the business and migrated to Dehra Dun, where he remained as a disciple of Swami Rama Tirtha. He returned to Lahore in December 1904 and joined Diamond v.j.Hindu Technical Institute as Principal. He restarted his monthly Thundering Dawn from Lahore. He resigned the Principalship in November 1906 to establish a factory for soapmaking at Doivala (Dehra Dun) but soon sold it off to a minister of Tihri to join in April 1907 as a Forest chemist at the Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun, from where he sought retirement in 1918. He had stints in the princely states of Patiala and Gwalior. At Gwalior (1919–23) he turned the scorching desert into a fragrant oasis of rosha grass and eucalyptus, interspersed with fruit trees. He gave up his appointment at Gwalior to join Sir Sundar Singh Majithia’s sugar factory at Surayya (1923–24) where he discovered a special method for purifying sugar without mixing it with charred bones. In 1926, he moved over to Chakk 73, near Nankana Sahib, where he got a plot of land on lease from the Punjab Government to grow rosha grass on a commercial scale. In 1928, his plantation suffered a heavy loss owing to floods.
Puran Singh was a lover of nature and beauty, and wrote beautiful and tender poetry both in English and Punjabi. Aad an example from Khulle Asmani Rang his Punjabi verse is given
ਜਿੱਥੇ ਸੁਹੱਪਣ ਸੋਹਣੀ ਪਰਤ ਹੈ ਵਿਛਦੀ,
ਬਸ ਇਕ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਸ਼ ਦਿਲ ਖਿੱਚਵਾਂ,
ਇਕ ਰਾਗ ਜਿਸ ਵਿੱਚ ਰੱਬ ਰੂਪ
ਰੰਗ ਪਿਘਲ-ਪਿਘਲ ਰੂਪ ਅਨੂਪ
ਜਿੱਥੇ ਸੁਹੱਪਣ ਆਪਾ ਵਾਰ, ਸਦਕੇ ਹੋ-ਹੋ
ਬਿਹਬਲਤਾ ਅਨੰਤ ਵਿੱਚ ਉੱਠੀ ਕਦੀ
Jithē suhapaṇa sōhaṇī parata hai vichadī,
basa ika prakāśa dila khicavāṁ,
ika rāga jisa vica raba rūpa
raga pighala-pighala rūpa anūpa
jithē suhapaṇa āpā vāra, sadakē hō-hō
bihabalatā anata vica uṭhī kadī
Another example from “Khulle Maidaan” in Punjabi verse on JAWAAN PUNJAB
Ih beparwah Punjab de
Maut noo makhaulan karan
maran theen nahin dared
piaar naal ih karan gulamee
jaan koh aapnee vaar dinde
par tain naa mannan kise dee
khalo jaan dangaan modhe te khalaar ke
mannan bas aapnee javaanee de zor noo
aakharkhaand, albele, dhur theen satguraan de
azaad keete ih bande
Punjab naa hindoo naa musalmaan
Punjab saraa jeendaa guraan de naan te
In 1930, he fell ill with tuberculosis and had to leave this world during stay at Dehra Dun where he died on 31 March 1931.
He composed three volumes of Punjabi poetry: Khule Maidan (‘Free Meadows’) in 1923, Khule Ghund (‘Free Veils’) 1923 and Khule Asmani Rang (‘Boundless Blue Colours of the Sky’) in 1926. His poetry was composed in free verse and explored the experience of villagers, peasants and the poor. Among his famous works in English are The Sisters of the Spinning Wheel (1921), Unstrung Beads (1923), The Spirit of Oriental Poetry (1926); in Punjabi, Khulhe Maidan, Khulhe Ghund (1923), Khulhe Lekh (1929), and Khulhe Asmani Rang ( 1927) . Seven Baskets of Prose Poems.
Among his prose writing published works are The Book of Ten Masters,The Spirit Born People,Swami Rama in English and Khulle Lekh (1929)in Punjabi and Kanya Daan te hor Lekh in Hindi..
Besides what has seen the light of the day, some work of greater magnitude and most likely of a maturer and more comprehensive level of experience still remains unpublished. Of this unpublished work the two most considerable are Spirit of the Sikh, that is of the nature of a voluminous series of moments of spiritual vision growing out of the teachings of Guru Nanak and his holy successors, and Prakasina, a novel, which as the author says in the sub-title, is the story of a Buddhist Princess. Both these came in manuscript form to the Punjabi University, which has a project of salvaging whatever of the creative effort of the genius of the Punjab falls within the scope of its several Departments establishment towards this end.