MAYYĀ SIṄGH, BHĀĪ (1862-1928), spelt as Māyā Siṅgh in contemporary English writings, was a leading figure in the Siṅgh Sabhā awakening. He was born in 1862. Little is known about his early life, except that after his school. years he joined the Railways at Lahore as a clerk. There he came in contact with Bhāī Jawāhir Siṅgh under whose influence he joined the Ārya Samāj. At the same time, he started attending dīvāns under the auspices of Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā, established in Lahore in 1879. After the estrangement of the Sikhs from the Ārya Samāj in 1888, he, along with Bhāī Jawāhir Siṅgh and Giānī Ditt Siṅgh, threw himself whole-heartedly into the Siṅgh Sabhā movement. He remained associated with the Khālsā Dīwān, Lahore, and was its staunchest supporter during the days of intense rivalry which developed between it and the Khālsā Dīwān, Amritsar. Even his marriage, in 1889, to the daughter of Giānī Parduman Siṅgh of the noted Giānī family of Amritsar did not affect his loyalty to the Lahore Dīwān. In 1892, he was elected its joint secretary.

         Bhāī Mayyā Siṅgh was known for his executive talent. Bhagat Lakshman Siṅgh, a ‘contemporary describes him as a "frail, thin man, and not ungainly in appearance with heaps of brains," and as "a man of high character [who] had a great organising power and, what is more, a gift of the gab to a remarkable degree." He was a good speaker, wielded a facile pen in both Urdu and Punjabi and had a considerable knowledge of English. As he became more deeply involved in Siṅgh Sabhā work, he gave up service with the railways and set up a book store, Punjab Book Depot. He was appointed editor of the Khālsā Gazette, a weekly newspaper in Urdu, which started publication in 1885, but resigned his position on 10 December 1886. In 1884, the Punjab Government decided to have a comprehensive Punjabi-English dictionary prepared. Mayyā Siṅgh was entrusted with the project.

         He laboured at it for ten years and the work saw the light of day in 1895 under the title The Punjabi Dictionary. On 1 May that year Khālsā Press was restarted and Mayyā Siṅgh became its manager. On 5 January 1899, Bhagat Lakshman Siṅgh floated the first Sikh English newspaper, The Khālsā, and Mayyā Siṅgh was asked to lend his name to it as editor and publisher. After the death of Giānī Ditt Siṅgh, Mayyā Siṅgh took up the editorship of the Khālsā Akhbār, which he continued to publish until, consequent upon the decline of Khālsā Dīwan, Lahore, owing to the death one after another of its leaders — Sir Attar Siṅgh (d. 10 June 1896), Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh (d. 24 September 1898) and Giānī Ditt Siṅgh (d. 6 September 1901), the paper withered and finally folded up in 1905. Besides his newspaper writing, Bhāī Mayyā Siṅgh has left two publications - Mazāmīn Khālsā Dharam Par, a collection of essays in Urdu on Sikh religion published in 1889, and Kalgīdhar Prakāsh, a tract in Punjabi on Gurū Gobind Siṅgh published in 1904. Bhāī Mayyā Siṅgh had also served as a member of the Khālsā College Establishment Committee set up in 1890 as well as of the Khālsā College Council formed in 1892. After the closure of the Khālsā Akhbār, he fell into oblivion. He opened a shop for the sale of Indian drugs in Lahore, where he died on 8 March 1928.


  1. Khālsā Akhbār. 18 December 1886
  2. Asalī Qaumī Dard. 5 April 1928
  3. Barrier, N.G., The Sikhs and Their Literature 1849-1919. Delhi, 1970

Jagjīt Siṅgh