SRĪ GURŪ HITKĀRNĪ SIṄGH SABHĀ, a splinter group of the Khālsā Dīwān, Lahore, came into existence during the early period of the Siṅgh Sabhā movement for reasons partly ideological and partly personal. The Khālsā Dīwān, Lahore, itself had separated from its parent set-up at Amritsar for similar reasons. Dissension marked its very first meeting held on 11 April 1886 when Bāvā Nihāl Siṅgh and Dīwān Būṭā Siṅgh were expelled from it, the former for his advocacy in his book Khurshīd-i-Khālsā of the restoration of Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh to the throne of the Punjab, and the latter for the publication of the Punjabi translation of Major Evan Bell's The Annexation of the Punjab and Maharaja Duleep Siṅgh, again espousing the cause of the deposed prince. The policy of the pioneers of the Siṅgh Sabhā movement was to keep aloof from politics, and never to criticize the British government. Since their publications went against the government, Bāvā Nihāl Siṅgh and Dīwān Būṭā Siṅgh rendered themselves liable to the drastic penalty. But the action against them embittered the feelings of their supporters. Dīwān Būṭā Siṅgh, who owned the Āftāb-i-Punjab paper as well as the printing press having the same name, was a man of influence in Lahore society. The difference came to a head when, on 31 October 1887 the Nānak Panth Parkāsh Sabhā, celebrating its seventh anniversary at Gurdwārā Janam Asthān, Lahore, displayed a garlanded portrait of Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh by the side of Gurū Granth Sāhib. Bhāī Jawāhir Siṅgh, secretary of Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā, Lahore, took exception to what he said was an act of sacrilege as well as an act against the government.

        He especially criticized Bhāī Basant Siṅgh, vice-president of the Lahore Siṅgh Sabhā, who also held an important office in the Nānak Panth Parkāsh Sabhā.

        In those days, a defamation case was going on in the civil court against Giānī Ditt Siṅgh, another leading figure of the Siṅgh Sabhā movement, for the publication in the Khālsā Akhbar supplement, dated16 April 1887, of a part of Svapan Nāṭak, or dream play, a thinly-veiled satire on the leaders of the rival Khālsā Dīwān, Amritsar. A part of the expenses for the defendant in the long-drawn suit had been borne by the Lahore Siṅgh Sabhā. When the accounts were audited in 1888, Bhāī Basant Siṅgh passed strictures against the secretary, Bhāī Jawāhir Siṅgh, and others of his group for alleged misuse of the Sabhā's funds. Mutual recriminations continued and in September 1888, Bhāī Sant Siṅgh and Bhāī Basant Siṅgh, president and vice-president respectively, resigned from the Siṅgh Sabhā and formed an association named Srī Gurū Hitkārnī Siṅgh Sabhā based in Lahore. Sant Siṅgh became its president and Basant Siṅgh vice-president, with Mehar Siṅgh Chāwlā, a rich merchant of Lahore, as secretary. Dīwān Būṭā Siṅgh and his paper, the Āftāb-i-Punjab, backed the new organization which also had the support of Amritsar Khālsā Dīwān.

        The aims and objects of Srī Gurū Hitkārnī Sabhā remained the same as those of Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā, Lahore. Among them could be counted (a) celebration of Sikh festivals and anniversaries and restoration of the true rites, practices and doctrines of Sikhism ; and (b) spread of education among the Sikh masses by opening schools, publishing newspapers, books and pamphlets, and propagation of Punjabi in the Gurmukhī script. The Hitkārnī Sabhā, which received liberal financial aid from Mehar Siṅgh Chāwlā, devoted itself especially to the renovation of the gurdwārās, to activities for the promotion of Sikh teaching and of Gurmukhī letters, and free distribution of breviaries containing hymns from the Gurū Granth Sāhib. The Hitkārnī Sabhā supported the shuddhī or proselytization movement of Dr Jai Siṅgh, though the Khālsā Dīwān, Amritsar, opposed it and was averse to according equal status in Sikh society to converts from among Muslims and low-caste Hindus. On the question of the location of the proposed Khālsā College, the Hitkārnī Sabhā sided with the Amritsar Khālsā Dīwān. Both favoured Amritsar. Unlike the Siṅgh Sabhā, Lahore, and the Khālsā Dīwān, Lahore, Hitkārnī Sabhā applauded the enterprise of Rājā Bikram Siṅgh of Farīdkoṭ to have a commentary on the Gurū Granth Sāhib prepared by a synod of scholars. Its representatives, in fact, joined the Amritsar Khālsā Dīwān deputation that called on the ailing Rājā on 10 February 1894 at Farīdkoṭ to offer prayers for his speedy recovery and to make suggestions for a revision of the draft of the commentary. The following year, 1895, however, witnessed a rapproachement and ultimate reunion and amalgamation of the Hitkārnī Sabhā with the Siṅgh Sabhā, Lahore. At a meeting of the Khālsā College Council at Amritsar in March 1895, Bhāī Mayyā Siṅgh, secretary of the Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā, Lahore, bitterly attacked Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh, an influential figure in the college affairs, on the question of recruitment of staff and allocation of scholarships. Bhāī Basant Siṅgh, also a member of the council, joined hands with him in the attack. This incidental alliance paved the way to a closer understanding between the two and the societies they led merged together to form a united Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā, Lahore.


  1. Jagjīt Siṅgh, Siṅgh Sabhā Lahir. Ludhiana,1974
  2. Khālsā Akhbār. Lahore, 24 November and 7 December 1888

Jagjīt Siṅgh