JODH SIṄGH, BHĀĪ (1882-1981), patriarchal figure for many years in the fields of Sikh theology, education and politics, was born on 31 May 1882 at Ghuṅgrīlā, in Rāwalpiṇḍī district, now in Pakistan, the son of Rām Siṅgh and Gulāb Devī. Named Raṇbīr Siṅgh at birth and later called Sant Siṅgh, Jodh Siṅgh lost his father when he was barely two years old. Of his cleverness at studies, he gave evidence at the village primary school from which he passed out standing first in the district. At Rāwalpiṇḍī where he joined high school, his mind was exposed to the revitalizing influence of the Siṅgh Sabhā renaissance. Siṅgh Sabhā lectures stirred him deeply and he gave himself to the study of the Sikh sacred texts. While still at school, he had himself started delivering sermons on Sikhism. This was his introduction to the art of public speaking which became his forte as he grew up. On 30 December 1897, he received the rites of baptism at the hands of Giānī Ṭhākar Siṅgh, a renowned scholar and interpreter of Sikh lore. At the ceremony, Sant Siṅgh was given the name of Jodh Siṅgh.
After passing the matriculation examination, Jodh Siṅgh joined the Mission College, Rāwalpiṇḍī, where he studied for two years. Doing odd jobs for brief intervals in the Postal and Supply and Transport departments, he came to Amritsar to become a private tutor to the children of Sir Sundar Siṅgh Majīṭhīā which enabled him to resume his studies. He took his Bachelor's degree in 1904 at the Khālsā College, winning the top position in the Pañjāb University. He stood first again in his M.A. in Mathematics which examination he passed from the Forman Christian College at Lahore in 1906. Simultaneously, he expanded his study of Sikh Scripture and theology.
Jodh Siṅgh started his career at the Khālsā College as a lecturer in Sikh religion. This turned out to be a most fruitful association with that premier institution of the Sikhs of which he eventually became principal. In the struggle to rid the college of British management, he played a notable part and was made to sever his connection with it. Upon the withdrawal of the British control from its management in 1924, he returned to the college. An additional pre-occupation now was membership of the Punjab Legislative Council where he displayed exceptional parliamentary talent in carrying through the Punjab Legislative Council the Sikh Gurdwārās Act of 1925. He served on the various bodies of the Punjab University, and played an active part in laying down the educational policy in the Punjab. On three different occasions, he presided over the deliberations of the Sikh Educational Conference.
Bhāī Jodh Siṅgh occupied in his day the most honoured place in Sikh learning. As an exegete of the Holy Writ, he had few equals. He was regarded by his contemporaries as the most authoritative interpreter of Sikh faith and tradition. His commentaries on scriptural texts, marked by a catholic knowledge of Eastern and Western schools of thought and by clarity of expression, have already become classics. Besides his books, both in English and Punjabi, he contributed essays on Sikhism to several learned publications and reference works, including the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Among his more famous works in Punjabi are Sikkhī kī Hai? (1911), Gurū Sāhib ate Ved (1911), Ṭīkā Japujī Sāhib, Bhagat Bāṇī Saṭik (1913), Gurmat Nirṇay (1932), Prāchīn Bīṛaṅ Bāre Bhullāṅ dī Sodhan (1947), and Srī Kartārpurī Bīṛ de Darshan (1968); in English, Japji (1918), Life of Sri Guru Amardas Ji (1921), 33 Savaiyas (1953), Some Studies in Sikhism (1953), Gospel of Guru Nanak in His Own Words (1969) and Kabir (1971).
Bhāī Jodh Siṅgh served as a member of the Punjab Legislative Council after Independence. He was a member of Indian Sāhitya Akādemī and the founder-president of the Punjabi Sāhit Akādemī. He represented Punjab on the Council for National Integration set up by Jawāharlāl Nehrū. In 1962, at the age of 80, he took over as the first Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Paṭiālā. He was awarded the title of Padma Bhūshan in 1966. He was also awarded honorary degrees of Doctor of Literature by Pañjāb University, Chaṇḍīgaṛh (1961), and Punjabi University, Paṭiālā (1979).
Dr Bhāī jodh Siṅgh died in Ludhiāṇā on 4 December 1981.
G. S. Mansukhānī