PAÑJĀBĪ PRACHĀRNĪ SABHĀ, society for the promotion of Punjabi language, established in 1882 under the aegis of the Lahore Siṅgh Sabhā. In pursuance of the policy set forth in the famous Wood's Dispatch of 1853 (a letter from Sir Charles Wood, President of the Board of Control of the East India Company) high schools in some district and tahsīl towns and primary schools in some villages were opened in the Punjab and a system of grants-in-aid for privately run schools was, introduced. The medium of instruction in village schools opened by the British was Urdu, and the syllabi were drawn up on secular basis. This meant a setback to indigenous education in Punjabi, traditionally carried out in gurdwārās, ḍerās and dharamsālās. As G.W. Leitner, History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab, 1883, states on the basis of a survey of some districts carried out by Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh, "...it is clear that by the establishment of Government village and town schools and the procedure adopted by them, a death blow has been dealt to the indigenous Gurmukhī [Punjabi] and Nāgarī [Hindi] schools. A solicitude for obtaining employment for their children induced the parents of many pupils attending the indigenous schools to withdraw them from those institutions of combined religious and secular education and to send them to the purely secular schools established by Government... He [Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh] further shews that the disparity between the number of the Gurmukhī knowing people of the old school and that of the same class in the present time is out of all proportion, the former being many times more than the latter."
Under the new regime, Punjabi received little official patronage. The Añjuman-i-Pañjab, a literary association formed in 1865, had a Punjabi section for which Lālā Bihārī Lāl Purī, Rāi Mūl Siṅgh and Bhāī Harbhagat Siṅgh translated a few English books into Punjabi. In 1873, some leading Sikhs of the day set up in Amritsar a society called Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā. Its primary aims were the reform and propogation of the Sikh faith and the promotion of Punjabi language. Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh (1849-98), then a student at the Government College at Lahore, left off his studies to work for the new movement. He was instrumental in having Punjabi included, in 1877, in the curriculum at the Oriental College, Lahore, where he himself was appointed the first lecturer to teach the language. The Siṅgh Sabhā, Lahore, established in 1879 with Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh as its secretary, set up the Pañjābī Prachārnī Sabhā in 1882 with the object of popularizing and promoting Punjabi. It had Sardār Attar Siṅgh of Bhadauṛ as its patron and Rāo Nihāl Siṅgh as its president. Prominent among the members were Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh, Soḍhī Hukam Siṅgh, Lālā Nānak Bakhsh, Bhāī Ratan Siṅgh and Bhāī Āyā Siṅgh. A highlight of the Sabhā's short career was the presentation in May 1882 of a memorandum signed by 50,000 persons supporting Punjabi to the Hunter Commission, appointed to assess the working of the educational system introduced in response to Wood's Dispatch, and to suggest measures for its improvement. The memorandum of the Panjābi Prachārnī Sabhā contained two main demands : (1) that Punjabi should be the official language for all government business in the Punjab, and (2) that it should be introduced as medium of instruction in government and government-aided schools. The Sabhā lapsed upon the establishment in 1886 of the Khālsā Dīwān Lahore whose educational branch under Lālā Bihārī Lāl assumed its duties and functions.
Sarmukh Siṅgh Amole