KHĀLSĀ BARĀDARĪ, a social organization of Sikhs belonging to backward classes, founded in 1914. The moving spirit behind it was Bhāī Mahitāb Siṅgh Bīr, whose father, Maulawī Karīm Bakhsh had, along with his children, embraced Sikhism in June 1903 and become famous as Sant Lakhmīr Siṅgh. Bhāī Mahitāb Siṅgh convened a meeting of the Sikhs from backward classes in 1914 in Bhāī Dasaundhā Siṅgh's dharamsālā near Srī Darbār Sāhib, Amritsar, at which it was resolved to establish a society called Khālsā Barādarī with the object of preaching Sikh tenets among them, bring them into the Khālsā fold by administering to them the rites of amrit and reforming their social customs such as the giving of dowry and ostentatious display at weddings. Īshar Siṅgh of Sarhālā Qāzīāṅ, Jalandhar district, was chosen president and Mahitāb Siṅgh general secretary. Besides the central office in Amritsar, branches of Khālsā Barādarī were opened at several places in the districts of Amritsar, Lahore, Siālkoṭ and Sheikhūpurā. Bhāī Mahitāb Siṅgh also launched a weekly journal in Punjabi, the Bīr, to promote the interests of the Barādarī and to campaign especially against caste and untouchability.
On 11 and 12 October 1920, the Khālsā Barādarī held a big religious gathering in the Jalliāṅvālā Bāgh at Amritsar which was attended by some professors of the Khālsā College. Elixir of the Khālsā was administered to a large number of Mazhabī and Rāmdāsīā Sikhs. At the end of the ceremonies on 12 October the congregation proceeded to the Darbār Sāhib where the newly initiated Sikhs were to make offering of kaṛāh prasād, the Sikh sacrament, for distribution among the saṅgat. The priests of the Darbār Sāhib refused to accept the kaṛāh prasād and recite ardās on their behalf. Protest was raised against this discrimination towards Sikhs from certain castes. A compromise was at last reached and it was decided that the Gurū's word be sought. The Gurū Granth Sāhib was, as is the custom, opened and the first verse on the page to be read was: "He receiveth the meritless (lowly) into grace, and puts them in the path of righteous service..." (GG, 638). The Gurū's verdict was clearly in favour of those whom the clergy would not accept as full members of the community. The group thereafter marched to the Akāl Takht to offer prayers, but found that the priests had disappeared, leaving the shrine unattended. The reformist Sikhs, Bhāī Kartār Siṅgh Jhabbar and Bhāī Tejā Siṅgh Bhuchchar, filled the gap and a committee consisting of 25 Sikhs including a few members of the backward classes was formed to take over control of the Akāl Takht. In this way the Khālsā Barādarī indirectly heralded the Gurdwārā Reform movement for wresting control of Sikh shrines from the hands of the conservative and effete priestly order, securing at the same time recognition for the so-called low-caste Sikhs as equal members of the community.
During 1939-41, Khālsā Barādarī organized a series of conferences urging members of the backward classes to enlist themselves as Sikhs at the ensuing census (1941) and demanding reservation of seats for them in the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, a representative body of the Sikhs for managing Sikh shrines. It also demanded enrolment of Mazhabī and Rāmdāsīā Sikhs in the armed forces. With most of its demands conceded in course of time, the Barādarī became redundant. It virtually ceased to exist after the death in 1960 of its founder, Bhāī Mahitāb Siṅgh Bīr.
Partāp Siṅgh Giānī