Sep 22 Mega-funerals - Brother Bakht Sing
Today in 2000 we travel to Hyderabad, India where a quarter of a million Christians clogged the streets, to pay their final respects to the evangelist Bakht Singh who was being buried. Inching along the funeral route, they hold aloft Bibles and Scripture banners, singing and praising God. It was one of the largest funerals in the history of Hyderabad, but not in India, when compared to other historical figures,
He was known as Brother Bakht Singh and was one of the most well-known preacher and pioneer of the Indian Church movement and Gospel contextualization that started in the Colonial era and Anglican circles. Born into a Sikh family in the Punjab, in his early years he had fiercely opposed Christianity, even tearing up the Bible and when he had gone to study Agricultural Engineering in England, it was against his parents’ wishes as they were concerned that he would be influenced by Christians. To allay their fears he had promised his parents that he would not be converted. He enjoyed the new freedom he found in England, travelling around Europe and was attracted to and influenced by the British lifestyle. As a sign that he was moving on from what he considered his suffocating upbringing, he shaved his long hair, and broke the practice of Sikhism to allow one's hair to grow naturally out of respect for the perfection of the creation of Waheguru. He continued his studies in agricultural engineering at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, and lived with and became close friends of John and Edith Hayward, who were committed Christians. They always read the Bible at every supper and he visited their church and started reading the Bible. He was baptized on 4 February 1932 in Vancouver, British Columbia. On returning to India he met his parents in Bombay who delighted by his return reluctantly accepted his conversion, but requested him to keep it a secret for the sake of the family's honour. This he refused to do, knowing that they would disown him. He started preaching in the streets of Bombay and soon started attracting large crowd and his reputation as a fiery preacher and revivalist spread rapidly throughout colonial India. His role in a 1937 revival that swept the Martinbur United Presbyterian Church is now seen a significant moment in the history of the church in the Indian subcontinent. This grew into a worldwide indigenous church-planting movement in India that grew to more than 10,000 local churches and established Hebron Ministries.
His vision matured and focused after spending a night in prayer on a mountaintop at Pallavaram, Chennai in 1941. He started to describe ‘contextualized; local assemblies patterned on New Testament principles. He would spread the message by holding "Holy Convocations", the first one, in Madras in 1941 based on Leviticus 23. After this, the convocations were held annually in Madras and Hyderabad in the south, and in Ahmedabad and Kalimpong in the north. The largest one in Hyderabad would draw up to 25,000 participants. They would eat and sleep in huge tents, and meet under a large thatched pandal for hours-long prayer, praise and teaching meetings that began at dawn and ended late at night. Feeding the guests was handled by volunteers supported by voluntary offerings; and he became known as 'Elijah of 21st Century' .
The largest recorded funeral in history was also in India in 1969 in Chennai, with 15,000,000 people of the actor and politician C.N. Annadurai, dwarfing the funeral of Mahatma Gandhi which attracted 3,000,000.Other large funerals in history include 7 million people in Washington D.C. of Abraham Lincoln will forever remain one of the most respected and admired of all American presidents. After his assassination, millions of Americans poured out to pay their respects at his funeral procession. The Funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy had 4,000,000 and a TV audience of 2,000,000,000. There have been huge funerals in Iran and North Korea but it is incredibly difficult to pinpoint exact numbers of attendees for such large gatherings for a few reasons: It's impossible to accurately count that many people. Many estimates are actually based off counting people visible in photographs. Data can be very unreliable and figures are prone to exaggeration. In some cases crowd figures are overstated, either accidentally due to human error, or deliberately due to political propaganda or personal bias. And some funerals lasted only one day and took place in one location, and in some other cases perhaps several funeral services were incorporated into one big series of services that took place across several cities, and official estimates may include attendees at all of these locations in one figure.