KARTĀR SIṄGH SARĀBHĀ (1896-1915), Ghadr revolutionary, was born in 1896 in the village of Sarābhā, in Ludhiāṇā district of the Punjab, the only son of Maṅgal Siṅgh, a well-to-do farmer. After receiving his primary education in his own village, Kartār Siṅgh entered the Mālvā Khālsā High School at Ludhiāṇā for his matriculation. He was in his tenth class when he went to live with his uncle in Oṛīssā where, after finishing high school, he joined college. In 1912, when he was barely 16 years old he sailed for San Fransisco, California (U.S.A.), and joined the University of California at Berkeley, enrolling for a degree in chemistry. His association with the Nālandā Club of Indian Students at Berkeley aroused his Patriotic sentiment and he felt agitated about the treatment immigrants from India, especially manual workers, received in the United States. When the Ghadr Party was founded in mid-1913 with Sohan Siṅgh, a Sikh peasant from Bhaknā in Amritsar district, as president and Har Dayāl as secretary, Kartār Siṅgh stopped his university work, moved in with Har Dayāl and became his helpmate in running the revolutionary newspaper Ghadr (Revolt). He undertook the responsibility for the printing of the Gurmukhī edition of the paper. He composed patriotic poetry for it and wrote articles. He also went out among the Sikh farmers and arranged meetings at which he and other Ghadr leaders made speeches urging them to united action against the British. At a meeting at Sacramento, California, on 31 October 1913, he jumped to the stage and began to sing: "Chalo chalīye desh nū yuddha karan, eho ākhirī vachan te farmān ho gaye" (Come! let us go and join the battle of freedom; the final call has come, let us go!" Kartār Siṅgh was one of the first to follow his own call.

         As World War I broke out, members of the Ghadr Party were openly exhorted to return to India to make armed revolt against the British. Kartār Siṅgh left the United States on 15 September 1914, nearly a month ahead of the main body of Sikhs who were to follow. He returned to India, via Colombo, resolved to set up in his village a centre on the model of the Ghadr Party's Yugāntar Āshram in San Francisco. When Bhāī Parmanand arrived in India in December 1914 to lead the movement, Kartār Siṅgh was charged with spreading the network in Ludhiāṇā district. In this connection he went to Bengal to secure firearms, and made contacts with revolutionaries such as Viṣṇu Ganesh Piṅgley, Sachindra Nāth Sānyāl and Rāsh Behārī Bose. With Piṅgley, Kartār Siṅgh visited the cantonments at Meerut, Āgrā, Banāras, Allāhābād, Ambālā, Lahore and Rāwalpiṇḍī with a view to inciting the soldiers to revolt.

         As for armaments, Kartār Siṅgh and his associates succeeded in manufacturing bombs on a small scale at Jhābevāl and later at Lohaṭbaḍḍī, both in Ludhiāṇā district. Kartār Siṅgh organized and participated in raids on the villages of Sāhnevāl and Mansūrān in January 1915, in order to procure funds for the party.

         In February 1915, just before the planned revolt was to erupt, there was a massive roundup of the Ghadr leaders, following the disclosures made by a police informer, Kirpāl Siṅgh, who had surreptitiously gained admittance into the Party. Kartār Siṅgh, Jagat Siṅgh of Sursiṅgh and Harnām Siṅgh Ṭuṇḍīlāṭ escaped to Kābul. All three however came back to continue their campaign in the Punjab and were seized on 2 March 1915 at Wilsonpur, in Shāhpur district, where they had gone to seduce the troops of the 22nd Cavalry.

         The trial of arrested leaders in the Lahore conspiracy cases of 1915-16 highlighted the central role of Kartār Siṅgh Sarābhā in the movement. His defence was just one more eloquent statement of his revolutionary creed. He was sentenced to death on 13 September 1915 and he received the hangman's noose on 16 November 1915 singing his favourite patriotic song. A statue of Kartār Siṅgh, erected in the city of Ludhiāṇā commemorates his legendary heroism. He has also been immortalized in a fictional account Ikk Miān Do Talvārāṅ by the famous Punjabi novelist, Nānak Siṅgh.


  1. Jagjīt Siṅgh, Ghadar Pārṭī Lahir. Delhi, 1979
  2. Mān Siṅgh, Azādī dī Shamhā de Sikh Parwāne. Delhi, 1973
  3. Nāhar Siṅgh, Giānī, Azādī dīāṅ Lahirāṅ. Ludhiana, 1960
  4. Sainsarā, G.S., Ghadar Pārṭī dā Itihās.Jalandhar, n.d.
  5. Fauja Singh, ed., Who's Who., Punjab Freedom Fighters, vol I. Patiala, 1972
  6. Mathur, J.P., Indian Revolutionary Movement in the United States of America. Delhi, 1970
  7. Grewal, J.S., "Kartar Singh Sarabha" in Dictionary of National Biography, vol. IV. Calcutta, 1974

Mark Juergensmeyer