Saint Puran Singh, known affectionately as Baba Ji was born in 1898 in the Punjab village of Gura in India. He later migrated to Kenya in 1917, where he set up Kericho Wagon works in the then small shopping centre of Kericho.
Baba Ji’s message was not just philosophy of words; he was a personification of the proverb, ‘Practise what you can preach’. On 5th June 1983, Baba Ji went to be with the Lord leaving exemplary legacy of Sikh practice, which is an inspiration in all endeavours of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ). Bhai Sahib Bhai Norang Singh was selected to carry on his great legacy.
Bhai Sahib too passed away on 3rd July 1995. Bhai Sahib Mohinder of Zambia continued with the legacy to date. The small but blessed town of Kericho is home to one of the largest Gurdwara (place of worship for Sikhs). The towering monument is lovingly dedicated to the memory of one of the greatest Sikh Saints of the 20th century outside India, a Saint who lived in Kenya for 57 years out of his eighty-four-year lifetime and 47 of which spent in Kericho- Puran Singh.
The Saint fondly remembered as Baba Puran Singh Ji of Kericho has immortalized the humble town of Kericho and transformed thousands of lives as well as uplifted the local community through many development initiatives. He propagated faith with immense simplicity, across class, creed, denominations, gender and status, through utmost humility, compassion, selflessness and infinite love.
Saint Puran Ji placed strong emphasis on the principle of non-celibacy, living the life of a householder, with all its responsibilities to the family and the society, rather than choosing a reclusive life of mediation. Saint Puran put up ‘Kericho Wagon Works’ workshop where he manufactured numerous wagons to help Brooke Bond Tea Company transport tea leaves to the factory. Wagons were the best mode of transport then. Similarly, he focused on earning livelihood being a father to his family and giving to the society notably through municipal improvement for instance renovation of hospitals, schools and churches.
In recognition of Saint Puran civic contributions, the town square was renamed ‘Puran Singh square’ where he constructed an ornamental garden with magnificent fountain, which he donated and handed over to the municipal authorities in 1962.
Saint Puran is succinctly remembered to have had the welfare of Kenyans at heart. Through his work, he was able to create job opportunities for the locals in Kericho. He worked hand in hand with them developing their capacity in terms of skills and technical competencies. He is remembered to have won a certificate for having the best-decorated car during celebrations to Mark Kenya’s Independence Day in 1963. He was happy that the unjust chains of the colonialists were ending.
The monumental Gurdwara in Kericho is a revered architectural landmark in the region. It envelopes Puran Singh Ji’s modest family residence as well as an Institute- Nishkam Saint Puran Singh Institute founded in 2009 to offer business and technical courses. Saint Puran valued high moral and ethical standards. He was very steadfast in his ethics, morals and religion. His standards were beyond reproach. This is why the Institute in his honour has incorporated moral and ethics as a compulsory subject across all programmes. This is aimed at producing not only qualified individuals but also citizens with high moral standards.
Saint Puran had special call for service to humanity and the community; he participated in numerous community events and therefore the Institute was started as part of his legacy of service to the community. The college acquired its name as commemoration for his will to offer professional training backed with strong moral and ethical background.
In recognition of its exceptional spiritual heritage and value, the government of Kenya gazetted the founder’s humble residence and workshop as a national monument and a Place of Spiritual Significance. Kericho people are grateful to have had such a spiritual and blessed man in the 20th Century. His remarkable record has inspired and will still inspire countless generations to come.