ṬHĀKAR SIṄGH,GIĀNĪ (1838-1943), learned in Sikh sacred texts which he expounded with exceptional virtuosity, was born on 10 November 1838 at the village of Jaṇḍiālā in Hoshiārpur district of the Punjab, the son of Bhāī Mahāṅ Siṅgh, a soldier in Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh's army. Mahāṅ Siṅgh was a follower of Bhāī Mahārāj Siṅgh of Nauraṅgābād under whose care Ṭhākar Siṅgh had his early lessons in the Sikh Scriptures and at whose hands he received the Sikh initiatory rites. After the arrest by the British of Bhāī Mahārāj Siṅgh in December 1849, ṭhākar Siṅgh and his father fled roaming from place to place. During these forced travels, they visited most of the Sikh shrines of historical importance. Young Ṭhākar Siṅgh kept elaborate notes on the basis of which he later wrote a book on the sacred sites titled Srī Gurduāre Darshan. As order was restored in the Punjab, father and son returned home. Ṭhākar Siṅgh joined the seminary at Damdamā Sāhib, Talvaṇḍī Sābo, where he received further education in Sikh lore and religion. He also acquired proficiency in Braj, Urdu and Persian. For his learned exposition of the Gurūs' word, he came to be called a giānī, lit. possessor of religious and spiritual knowledge. Thereafter he set out on his long career of preaching and initiating neophytes into the Khālsā fold. He actively participated in the activites of the Khālsā Dīwān, Lahore, and enjoyed the respect of Sikh aristocracy as well as of the Sikh masses.
In 1888, he started the annual joṛ-melā or religious fair at Gurdwārā Fatehgaṛh Sāhib, near Sirhind, to observe the martyrdom anniversary of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's mother, Mātā Gujarī, and his sons, Zorāwar Siṅgh and Fateh Siṅgh. Giānī Ṭhākar Siṅgh was a founder-member of the Chief Khālsā Dīwān established in 1902. He was also a member of the committee which drafted the Dīwān's constitution. For a time he lectured on Sikhism at Khālsā College, Amritsar. He was an officiant at the marriage of Mahārājā Bhūpinder Siṅgh of Paṭiālā which was performed in 1908 according to anand rites. He was supporter of the Gurdwārā Reform movement launched in 1920. Giānī Ṭhākar Siṅgh opened in Amritsar an institution for the training of preachers and scripture-readers which he named Bhāī Manī Siṅgh Giānī Granthī Ate Shahīd Āshram.
Giānī Ṭhākar Siṅgh was a poet of some merit. Apart from his Gurduāre Darshan (1923) which is in prose, all his smaller works are in verse. They include Sidq Sikkhī-- Prasaṅg Bhāī Jodhā Ḍhesī (n.d.); Shahīd Bilās : Srī Gurū Gobind Siṅgh Sāhibjī de Srī Mātā Gujarī jī ate Chāre Sāhibzādiāṅ dī Shahīdī Kathā (n.d.); Bārāmāhā : Ustat Srī Gurū Gobind Siṅgh Jī (1901); Pothī Gurmat Itihās (1903); Shahīd Bilās Bābā Dīp Siṅgh Jī Shahīd (1904) ; Sidq Jīvan-Manī Siṅgh Shahīd dā Jīvan Britānt (1907); Vaḍḍā Shahīd Bilās (1913); Kunjīāṅ dī Dard Bharī Kathā (1922).
Giānī Ṭhākar Siṅgh died at Amritsar on 5 January 1943 at the age of 104 years.
Naunihal Siṅgh Giānī