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Edward Ovchinnikov
Edward Ovchinnikov


Sundar Singh was born into a Sikh[2][3] family in the village of Rampur (near Doraha), Ludhiana district (Punjab state), in northern India. Sundar Singh's mother took him to sit at the feet of a Hindu sadhu, an ascetic holy man, who lived in the jungle some miles away, while also sending him to Ewing Christian High School, Ludhiana, to learn English. Sundar Singh's mother died when he was fourteen. In anger, he burned a Bible page by page while his friends watched.[2] Sundar Singh was also taught the Bhagavad Gita at his home.


In October 1906, he set out on his journey as a new Christian, wearing a saffron turban and the saffron robe of a sadhu, an ascetic devoted to spiritual practice. Singh propagated himself as a sadhu, albeit one within Christianity, because he realised Indians could not be converted unless it was in an Indian way.[2]

It has been claimed by his biographers that Singh's withdrawal was due to stipulations laid down by Bishop Lefroy. As an Anglican priest, Singh was told to discard his sadhu's robe and wear "respectable" European clerical dress, use formal Anglican worship, sing English hymns and not preach outside his parish without permission. As an ardent devotee of Christ who was interested only in spreading his message, he rejected the mixing of Jesus Christ and British culture.

Conventional Indian churches were willing to grant him a pulpit, but their rules were foreign to his spirit. Indeed, he felt that a key reason the gospel was not accepted in India was because it came in a garb foreign to Indians. He decided to become a sadhu, so that he could dedicate himself to the Lord Jesus. He was convinced that this was the best way to introduce the Gospel to his people since it was the only way which his people were accustomed to. As a sadhu, he wore a yellow robe, lived on the charity of others, abandoned all possession and maintained celibacy. In this lifestyle, he was free to devote himself to the Lord. Dressed in his thin yellow robe, Sundar Singh took to the road and began a life of spreading the simple message of love and peace and rebirth through Jesus. He carried no money or other possessions, only a New Testament.

Thirty-three days after his baptism at sixteen years old, Sundar Singh began his life as a Christian sadhu. He was distressed to see the Indian church inculcating Western culture, imitating its customs and failing to present the gospel in Indian terms. Sundar Singh knew that a life of a sadhu was the best way to present the gospel message of Christ to Indians. His yellow robe won him admission into many villages and people listened to him. He wandered barefoot, without any possessions except his thin linen garment, a blanket and a New Testament in Urdu. He preached the Gospel in villages near his home, then he traveled through Punjab to Afghanistan and Kashmir, lands where Christian mission work had hardly begun. On his travels, Sundar Singh met Samuel Stokes, a wealthy American who came to India for missionary work and joined with him for some time in ministry. He learned from him the ideals of Francis of Assisi; his life as a preaching friar inspired him.

"Visions of the spiritual world": A Brief Description of the Spiritual Realm, Its Different States of Existence, and the Destiny of Good and Evil Men as Seen in Visions. Sundar Singh was known in his lifetime as India's most famous convert to Christianity. His twenty-three years pilgrimage as a sadhu - a wandering, penniless pilgrim - had led him across more than twenty countries on four continents. He had profoundly influenced tens of thousands of people. He never accepted the religion as such but he instead emphasized the life-changing starkness of Christ's original teachings.

These books are reviewed together because they present two different perspectives on the life of Sadhu Sundar Singh. The late Eric Sharpe invested decades in scholarly research on religion in South Asia and brings that perspective to his study of Sundar Singh. He is deeply respectful of the sadhu but does not shrink from addressing the complex historical and missiological issues that arise in careful study of his life. 041b061a72




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