KHĀLSĀ DĪWĀN AMRITSAR, established at Amritsar on 11 April 1883 to oversee and provide direction to the work of the Siṅgh Sabhā. This reform movement had originated in Amritsar with the formation of the first Siṅgh Sabhā on 1 October 1873. Siṅgh Sabhās began springing up in other places, the one at Lahore being formed on 2 November 1879. Amritsar and Lahore Siṅgh Sabhās joined hands to evolve a common platform under the name of General Sabhā set up at Amritsar on 11 April 1880. The General Sabhā turned itself on 11 April 1883 into the Khālsā Dīwān, the central body to which thirty-six Siṅgh Sabhās were initially affiliated. The Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab and Rājā Bikram Siṅgh of Farīdkoṭ were its patrons with Bābā Khem Siṅgh Bedī as president and Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh as chief secretary. The Dīwān addressed itself to the tasks of religious and social reform and the promotion of education. It was the first representative organization of the Sikhs and at the time of the visit to Amritsar of the Governor-General, Lord Dufferin, it presented to him on 11 April 1885 an address stressing mainly the educational backwardness of the community and seeking the means to redress it. But the Dīwān suffered a setback as a schism occurred between the Amritsar and Lahore Siṅgh Sabhās. The Lahore group was especially critical of the way Bābā Khem Siṅgh Bedī, being a direct lineal descendant of Gurū Nānak, was apotheosized by his followers and how he sat in the saṅgat on a special seat, gadailā or cushion even in the presence of the Gurū Granth Sāhib for which reason the Amritsar group was pejoratively called the Gadailā Party. Opinion was sharply divided at the annual meeting of the Khālsā Dīwān in April 1884 when the Rāwalpiṇḍī Siṅgh Sabhā under the influence of Bābā Khem Siṅgh proposed that the name of the Siṅgh Sabhā be changed to Sikh Siṅgh Sabhā to enable non-baptized Sikhs to enroll as members. This was strongly opposed by the Lahore spokesman, Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh, and the meeting broke up in confusion.

         The publication in May 1885 of a book in Urdu entitled Khurshīd Khālsā, written by Bāvā Nihāl Siṅgh, caused further antagonism between the two groups. The book contained passages against the government and in favour of Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh who had by that time turned a rebel. To this the Lahore party objected and asked the author to withdraw the book. Gurmukh Siṅgh as secretary of the Khālsā Dīwān issued a letter in October 1885, clearing the Dīwān of any connection with the publication and throwing the entire blame on the author, who had the backing of the Amritsar faction. As the differences came to a head, the Lahore group split from the parent body and set up on 11 April 1886 a separate organization called the Khālsā Dīwān Lahore. The truncated Amritsar Dīwān was left with fewer than 10 Siṅgh Sabhās affiliated to it --- three important ones among them being those of Amritsar, Rāwalpiṇḍī and Farīdkoṭ . A new constitution of the Dīwān adopted in September 1887 failed to stem the decline; it in fact accelerated the process. Under the new scheme the Dīwān split itself into two divisions --- the upper house called Mahān Khaṇḍ representing the aristocracy and the lower house Samān Khaṇḍ representing the common people. Bābā Khem Siṅgh was president of the former and Mān Siṅgh, manager of Srī Darbār Sāhib, Amritsar, of the latter, with Rājā Bikram Siṅgh as patron at the apex. The Dīwān became defunct with the establishment of the Chief Khālsā Dīwān in 1902.


  1. Jagjīt Siṅgh, Siṅgh Sabhā Lahir. Ludhiana, 1974
  2. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983
  3. Ganda Singh, ed., The Singh Sabha and other Socio-Religious Movements in the Panjab. Patiala, 1984

Jagjīt Siṅgh