ATTAR SIṄGH, SARDĀR SIR (1833-1896), scholar nobleman, was collateral of the rulers of Paṭiālā, and belonged to the village of Bhadauṛ, in present-day Saṅgrūr district of the Punjab. He was born in 1833, the son of Khaṛak Siṅgh. From the very beginning, he had a bent for learning and gained proficiency in Urdu, Persian, Punjabi and English. For study of Sanskrit, he went to Vārāṇasī. For his mastery in Sanskrit learning he was honoured by the British with the title of Mahāmahopādhyāya. He was equally at ease in the world of Arabic-Persian learning for which he earned the title of Shamas ul-'Ulemā. Succeeding to the family estates in 1858, Attar Siṅgh set up a library for himself and a school for the children at Bhadauṛ. In 1878, he moved to Ludhiāṇā, shifting his library from Bhadauṛ to that city as well. In pursuance of his will, this Library was after his death transferred to the Pañjāb Public library at Lahore. For his scholarly tastes and for his work in the cause of education, he was appointed a member of the senate of the Pañjāb University College, Lahore, in 1870. Already in 1869 he had been elected a member of Añjuman-i-Punjab, an educational and literary society started under the presidentship of Dr G. W. Leitner. Of the Añjuman, he was vice-president in 1880. He was elected a member of Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1869. The British authorities often consulted him on matters relating to Sikh affairs, faith and literature. A strong loyalist in sympathy, Attar Siṅgh helped the British especially at the time of the uprising of the Kūkās or Nāmdhārīs and maintained voluntary surveillance in keeping the government informed about their activities. For the benefit of the British government, he also translated into English in 1873 Sau Sākhī (lit. A Hundred Stories), an apocryphal text ascribed by some to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, which was popularized towards the end of the nineteenth century by Kūkās who read some of its verses as predictory of their own triumph and prosperity and of Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh, the deposed king of the Punjab.
When in 1873 Trumpp expressed his inability to translate the Dasam Granth, Attar Siṅgh at the request of the government prepared abstracts of certain texts from it, such as Jāp Sāhib, Akāl Ustati, Bachitra Nātak, Zafarnāmah and the Hakāyāt section in Persian and Punjabi which he supplied to the Government of India and to Dr Trumpp in March 1874. He also translated into English Rahitnāmās of Prahlād Siṅgh and Bhāī Nand Lāl for the benefit of the government. In January 1876, he published his English translation of Mālvā Des Raṭan dī Sākhī Pothī, popularly known as Sākhī Pothī, under the title The Travels of Gurū Tegh Bahādur and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. He was a member of the Bengal Philharmonical Society and also served on the Committee of Management of the Aitchison Chiefs' College, Lahore. In recognition of his literary and political services he was awarded by the British the title of Fāzil ul-Fuzalā (lit. excelling the excellent learned men) in 1877, and C. I. E. (Companion of the Indian Empire) in 1880. In 1887, on the occasion of the Queen Victoria's Jubilee Celebrations, the newly instituted title of Mahāmahopādhyāya was conferred on him in recognition of his eminent services in the promotion of Oriental learning. In 1888, he was admitted to Knighthood. Attar Siṅgh was consulted on the question of official permission to Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh to visit India. He opposed the proposal and his advice was one of the factors which led to the refusal for the deposed Mahārājā to visit the Punjab.
Sardār Attar Siṅgh's services in the cause of Siṅgh Sabhā movement are as noteworthy as his loyalty to the British. He was founder president of Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā, Ludhiāṇā, established in 1884. He also took a leading part in the establishment of the Khālsā Dīwān at Lahore of which he became patron-in-chief. In 1886 he had been nominated a member of the General Committee of the Darbār Sāhib (Golden Temple) at Amritsar. In 1890, he was made vice president and trustee of the Khālsā College Establishment Committee and later vice-president of the Khālsā College Council. Attar Siṅgh made a signal contribution to the history of the development of Punjabi when he had the language included in the academic programme at the Oriental College at Lahore. To counteract the argument of the opponents that there was no mentionable literature in Punjabi, he produced a formidable list of books and manuscripts in Punjabi from his personal collection which clinched the issue. He brought to the notice of scholars, especially Dr Leitner, an old inscription at Haṭhūr, a village in Ludhiāṇā district. This inscription proved how far back the roots of Punjabi language and its script went.
Sardār Sir Attar Siṅgh died at Ludhiāṇā on 10 June 1896.