BHAGVĀN SIṄGH LAUṄGOVĀLĪĀ (d. 1944), patriot, Akālī activist and one of the founders of the Prajā Maṇḍal, a platform meant to provide voice to the people of Indian states ruled by Indian princes during British times to ventilate their grievances and protest against the oppression, misrule and extravagances of the autocrats who presided over their destinies, was born in Burma where his father Rūṛ Siṅgh was a soldier in the army. The only child of his parents, he was named Indar Siṅgh. The family originally belonged to the village of Lauṅgovāl in the present Saṅgrūr district of the Punjab. As he grew up, Bhagvān Siṅgh, then Indar Siṅgh, also joined the army and served in World War I. Under the influence of Ghadr radicalism, deserted the army and went over to Nepal, disguised as a sādhū. It was during this phase of his life that he changed his name from Indar Siṅgh to Bhagvān Siṅgh. After remaining underground for 4-5 years, he came to India where he was apprehended by police. As he stepped out to freedom, he was drawn into the Gurdwārā reform movement, participating in dīvāns and activities connected with the liberation of the Sikh shrines from the control of the degenerate mahants or clergy. On 24 May 1922, he was convicted and sentenced to two years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1, 000 for a "seditious" speech delivered at Sherpur (Paṭiālā state). Another "seditious" speech delivered at an Akālī gathering in his own native village, Lauṅgovāl, landed him in jail for a three-year sentence. All his property was confiscated by the princely ruler of Paṭiālā state. Bhagvān Siṅgh was released along with other Akālī prisoners after the Punjab Legislative Council passed the Sikh Gurdwārā laws in 1925. But almost immediately he plunged into the agitation for release from Paṭiālā jail of the veteran Akālī leader, Sevā Siṅgh Ṭhīkrīvālā. In open defiance of the orders of the district magistrate, Sunām, he led a jathā of agitators from his village to join a protest rally on 11 July 1926. In 1928, a largely-attended dīvān was held at Ṭhīkrīvālā in protest against the continued detention of Sevā Siṅgh. Speaking at the dīvān, Bhagvān Siṅgh denounced the British government as vehemently as he did the princely rulers of the states. The Paṭiālā police arrested a large number of Akālī workers who had attended the dīvān, but Bhagvān Siṅgh dodged the police and escaped into the (British) Punjab territory, thereafter operating mostly from outside the orbit of the princely states. Akālī leaders Master Tārā Siṅgh and Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh were his new allies now.

        Bhagvān Siṅgh represented the states' people at the All-India States Subjects Conference held at Calcutta in 1928. In December 1929, the first regular session of the Punjab Riyāstī Prajā Maṇḍal was held at Lahore where Bhagvān Siṅgh was elected general secretary of the Maṇḍal. Another detention and court trial earned him totally a sentence of 22 years. He was released from jail as a result of the Tārā Siṅgh-Bhūpinder Siṅgh Pact of 1935 concluded between the Akālī leader and Mahārājā Bhūpinder Siṅgh of Paṭiālā after the death in jail of Sevā Siṅgh. Against this pact Bhagvān Siṅgh along with five of his leading colleagues from the Riyāstī Prajā Maṇḍal undertook a fast unto death on 20 January 1936 in front of the Akāl Takht at Amritsar. The pact in fact signalled the exit of Bhagvān Siṅgh from the Akālī Dal and his gravitation towards the Communist Party.

        Bhagvān Siṅgh married, late in his life, Dharam Kaur, widow of his cousin, who bore him two daughters and a son. He died on 16 September 1944 of phthisis of the lungs. His portrait occupies a place of honour among the galaxy of eminent Sikh leaders displayed in the Central Sikh Museum at the Golden Temple at Amritsar.


  1. Walia, Ramesh, Praja Mandal Movement in East Punjab States. Patiala, 1972
  2. Fauja Singh Eminent Freedom Fighters of Punjab, Patiala, 1972

Zail Siṅgh