Sikh History & Personalities

What do you know of the Chief Khalsa Diwan?

The origin or the Singh Sabha Movement lay in the realization by the Sikh leaders of the Eighteen seventies (last century) that Sikhi was dominated by Hindu practices and should be reformed to accord with the ideals of the Sikh Gurus. The movement was also reacting to the proselytizing activities of the Christian missionaries and the Hindu Arya Samaj movement in the Panjab.

The immediate cause of the beginning of the movement was the decision of four Sikh students of the Amritsar Mission School, early in 1873, to embrace Christianity. It gave a rude shock to the Sikh leaders. They succeeded in persuading these students to change their decisions and to continue living as Sikhs. A meeting of Sikh leaders, including prominent Gianis, Nirmalas and Udasis was held in Amritsar, on 1st Oct, 1873. As a result of their deliberations, a society named “Sri Guru Singh Sabha” was constituted and registered under existing law. The objectives of the Singh Sabha movement were to propagate the principles of Sikhi in its pure form, to remove untouchability, to perform Sikh ceremonies at the time of birth, marriage and death, to publish literature on the Sikh religion and history, to popularize the teaching of Gurmukhi, to reclaim apostates (patits) and to provide secondary and higher education to Sikhs and others.

As the movement gathered momentum branches were started in Lahore and other major towns of the Panjab. Under the leadership of Bhai Gurmukh Singh, it got Punjabi and Gurmukhi recognized as subjects of study at the college level. It also started a Punjabi weekly in 1880 called “Gurmukhi Akhbar”. Thereafter, Singh Sabhas sprang up all over India and reorganized Sikh missionary work in their areas by encouraging Ragi-groups and training preachers.

The Centenary of the Singh Sabha movement was celebrated in 1973 by the Singh Sabha Shataabdi Committee, in Amritsar. Now it has a permanent form and it is called the Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha with a Head Office in Amritsar and Administrative Office in New Dehli. It has also opened a regional Office for the U.K. Sikhs in London. It has organized a number of Seminars on Sikh themes and conventions all over India. It has also produced a lot of literature in Punjabi, expounding the doctrines and practices of Sikhi. It issues a monthly magazine in Gurmukhi called Singh Sabha Patrika. Recently it exposed the hypocrisies, heresies and criminal and malicious, activities of the Nirankari sect. It has started a missionary school at Mehrauli which offers a three-year course in Sikhi including Gurbani, Kirtan, History, Philosophy and Comparative Religion.

As early as 1873 a movement was started in the Punjab for protecting the Rights of the Sikhs and for maintaining the prestige and purity of the Sikh faith. It was originally part of the Singh Sabha Movement. It became necessary to have a central organization to co-ordinate the activities of local Singh Sabhas. A big religious congregation was held on 30th October, 1902, at Amritsar, for this purpose. At this meeting the “Chief Khalsa Diwan” was formed. It was registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1869, on the 9th July, 1904. The founder of the Diwan-Sir Sunder Singh Majithia, gathered around him sincere and zealous workers like Bhia Vir Singh, S. Harbans Singh of Attari, S. Trilochan Singh and Principle Jodh Singh.

The aim of the Diwan was four-fold: (i) to promote the social, economic and moral uplift of the Sikhs, (ii) to propagate the message of Sikhi, (iii) to remove illiteracy, (iv) to protect the political rights of the Sikhs and ensure the redress of their grievances, by constitutional means. The constitution of the Diwan provides for a broad based representation of the four Takhats, the Singh Sabhas and the missionary associations.

The Diwan has had considerable success in the cultural and educational fields. The educational committee of the Diwan, started in January, 1908, has held annual sessions of the All India Sikh educational Conference. The Diwan has a large number of educational institutions under its management. A high percentage of literacy among the Sikhs, is an of-shoot of the educational effort of the Diwan. It has redressed many Sikh grievances against the discrimination of Sikhs in government services.

The Chief Khalsa Diwan actively encouraged the production of Punjabi literature. The Sikh Tract Society was affiliated to the Diwan. it took a leading part in the movements for the carrying of the Kirpan and Achhut Udhar. It also runs the Central Khalsa Orphanage, Homoeopathic Hospital, Khalsa Parcharak Vidyalaya and Khalsa Hospital, Tarn Taran. Examining its past record, the Diwan provides a useful service to the Panth.