SUNDAR SIṄGH MAJĪṬHĪĀ, SARDĀR BAHĀDUR SIR (1872-1941), statesman and reformer, was the younger son of Rājā Sūrat Siṅgh (d.1881). He was born on 17 February 1872 at Majīṭhā (31º-38'N, 74º-52'E), a village 18 km northeast of Amritsar (hence the surname Majīṭhīā). He was educated at Government School, Amritsar, and Aitchison College, Lahore, finally joining Government College, Lahore, to pass the intermediate (undergraduate) examination. Soon after leaving college, he joined Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā, Amritsar, affiliated to the Khālsā Dīwān, Amritsar, taking over as its secretary in 1894. In 1895, he became a member of the governing council of the Khālsā College, Amritsar, for the establishment of which he had worked with unsparing energy. He was the secretary of the college council from 1902 to 1912 and president of the council as well as of the college managing committee from 1920 till his death in 1941. Sundar Siṅgh was a founder-member of the Chief Khālsā Dīwān, established in October 1902, holding the office of secretary from 1902 to1920 and again from 1934 to 1937. In 1932-33, he acted as the president of the Dīwān. He took a leading part in the founding of the Sikh Educational Conference in 1908, and presided at its annual sessions in 1911, 1924 and 1935. He also inaugurated Khālsā Advocate, an English monthly, to propagate the policy and activities of the Chief Khālsā Dīwān.
Sardār Sundar Siṅgh's political career began in 1909 when he was nominated a member of the Viceroy's Legislative Council. In the Council he worked assiduously to steer the Anand Marriage Bill which had been introduced by Ṭikkā Ripudaman Siṅgh of Nābhā during his tenure as a member. He was mainly instrumental in having the ban on the carrying of a full-sized kripān or sword by Sikhs as their religious emblem lifted throughout India and Burma and in having a 20 per cent share for Sikhs reserved in government services in the Punjab. On 16 November 1920, he was elected the first president of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee which office he resigned early during the following year after his election to the Punjab Legislative Council and appointment as an executive councillor and revenue minister in the Punjab Government. At the time of the Round Table Conference, he led a Sikh deputation which met the Commander-in-chief on 8 July 1931 and the Viceroy on 9 July 1931 to present a charter of 17 demands on behalf of the Sikhs to secure protection for them as a minority.
During the first legislative elections held in 1936 under the Government of India Act 1935, Sundar Siṅgh was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly from Baṭālā constituency on the nomination of the Khālsā National Party which he and Sir Jogendra Siṅgh had founded, and joined, on 1 April 1937, the Unionist Coalition government in the Punjab under the premiership of Sir Sikandar Hayāt Khān as revenue minister. He retained his Cabinet seat until his death at Lahore shortly after the midnight of 1-2 April 1941. The cremation took place at Amritsar on the premises of his permanent residence.
Sundar Siṅgh's field of activities extended to commerce and industry as well. He was one of the founders of the Punjab and Sind Bank established at Amritsar in 1908. He was one of the pioneers of sugar industry in India and set up in 1911 a mill at Sardārnagar, in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh. He was nominated one of the governors of the Imperial Bank of India in 1933. In politics, Sundar Siṅgh was essentially a moderate, and he received from the British Government several honours and awards. He was made a Sardār Bahādur in 1911 and Companion of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.) in 1920. He was knighted in 1926. In 1926 the University of the Pañjāb awarded him the degree of Doctor of Oriental Learning (D.O.L) honoris causa.
Sundar Siṅgh had in 1887 married the daughter of Sardār Bishan Siṅgh Kaṇḍaulā, in Ludhiāṇā district, maternal uncle of Rājā Bikram Siṅgh of Farīdkoṭ. After her death the same year, he married the daughter of Sardār Sir Attar Siṅgh of Bhadauṛ. He had three sons, two of whom Kirpāl Siṅgh Majīṭhīā and Surjīt Siṅgh Majīṭhīā --entered politics. After Independence, Surjīt Siṅgh was elected to Parliament and became a deputy minister in Jawāharlāl Nehrū's government.
N. Iqbāl Siṅgh