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Singh Sabha Movement

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The Singh Sabha Movement (SSM) is an attempt to get rid of the adulterations and accretions that spoilt Sikhism in the second half of 19th cent. Singh Sabha Movement was a movement with the goal of going back to the original purity of Sikh faith.

It was a movement of the masses through which the Sikhs gained their identity.  Singh Sabha Movement was an active movement which making Sikhism a living religion once again. It had shaped the attitude and aspirations of the Sikhs ever since.

It also a reaction against Christian missionary work found in Ludhiana, Lahore, Amritsar and other places. Singh Sabha (SS) is a great regenerating force of Sikhism. It rescued the Sikhs from their practices of Hinduism. It created an awareness of excellence of their religion. Singh Sabha was the means of opening the door for progress in Sikhism’s growth and development.

Background of Singh Sabha Movement

The founder of Sikhism, Nanak (1469-1539,) born from Hindu Kshatriya family studied the writings of Farid, Kabir, Ramanand and Namdev. Nanak didn’t organize his followers as community as such. But his followers called Sikhs, a term derived from Sanskrit word word Sishya (disciple). After ten Gurus led the community the Guru Granth Sahib (Adi Granth or Guru Granth) written in Gurumukhi replaced the leadership of human Guru. All the ten Gurus were from Kshatriyas.

`In India 2% or more of the total population are Sikhs; many Sikhs are living outside India. Since the 5th & 9th Gurus (Guru Arjun & Guru Tech Bahadur respectively) executed by Moghul rulers, and the Sikhs changed from a pacifist to a militant people. The tenth Guru Gobind Singh started the Khalsa (Gurus’ own).

Since all the Gurus were also from Kshatriya caste the Sikhs were not fully free from caste system. After few years after the death of the last guru Gobind Singh Hindu caste marks, customs, rituals and ceremonies re-emerged in Sikh Gurdwaras.

Even the practice of Sati came back. Not only that, the persecution of Moghul rulers caused many Sikhs to run to the remote hills and deserts for their safety. That affected many of their Gurdwaras to be taken care by the Brahmin priests who neglected their religious duties but lived in free and luxurious life.

They also took Gurdwara property for their private profit and possession.  In addition, the Sikhs faced the problem of identity crisis because many Sikhs went back to Hinduism. But the long hair and unshorn beard are marking the Sikhs to be different from the Hindus.

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Formation of the movement

In 1853, Maharaja Duleep Singh (last Sikh ruler of Punjab) accepted Christian faith. He gave donation for Christian charity and Christian schools. The Ludhiana Christian mission, invited by Sikh ruler of Kapurthala, set up a station at Ludhiana too.

Unfortunately, Kanwar Harnam Singh, a nephew of Kapurthala ruler became a Christian & the Gospel of Jesus was preached around the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Consequently, there were religious polemics between the Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, and Arya Samjists. In 1873, 4 Sikh students of Amritsar Christian School accepted Christian faith.

This shocked the whole Sikh community. Following this, a series of lectures gave in Amritsar by Sharde Ram Phillauri on the life of Guru Nanak. Also a meeting convened in Amritsar by some prominent Sikhs. As a result of this meeting an association called the Sri Guru Singh Sabha came into on 1st Oct.1873.

Singh Sabha movement gave emphasis on the followings

  • – Firstly, The teachings of their Gurus re-emphasized and the teachings against Sikh teaching rejected.
  • Secondly, The precepts and practices of the Sikhs restored.
  • Thirdly, Reformation of the Sikh shrines took place (Here Gurdwara Reform will come).
  • Fourthly, Legal sanction secured through British Government legislation for rites and customs that were consistent with Sikh doctrines and tradition.
  • -Fiftly, Restoration of Sikhism to its original purity.
  • -Editing &publishing of historical and religious books, magazines, newspapers, etc for the Sikhs.
  • -Propagation of current knowledge through Punjabi medium.
  • -Reforming and bringing back the Sikh apostates into the Sikh-fold.
  • -Putting interest on western education & evoking interest of educated English men for educational programme for the Sikhs.
  • -Regeneration of Sikh society.
  • -Interest on Sikh revival and progressive concern.
  • -Singh Sabha Movement supported by various sections of Sikh communities and joined by scholars, intellectuals and leaders.
  • -Singh Sabha in Bhasaur village of Amritsar accepted Sikh apostates and converts from other religions.
  • -Initiation ceremony done for some Sikhs in 1903.
  • -Rejection of un-Sikh customs and social evils.

-Singh Sabha in Amritsar rejected castes & other brahmanical characters.

-Suddhi Sabha established in Lahore on April, 1883 aiming to reclaim the Sikhs & Hindu apostates.

-Several Singh Sabhas were estd in Punjab –Amritsar, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Jullundur, Ludhiana, Ferozepore, Patiala, Nabha, Faridkot, Bargria, Bhasaur, Kapurthala, Simla.

-Singh Sabha Movement faced opposition in the beginning, but it had overcome that and reached its zenith in 1903(on 14 th June, 1903 Sikh convention).

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