HARNAM KAUR, BIBI
HARNAM KAUR, BIBI (1882-1906), a pioneer in the field of women`s education, was born on 10 April 1882 in a Siddhu Jatt family of Chand Purana, a village in Firozpur district of the Punjab. Her father`s name was Bhagvan Das and mother`s Ram Dei. Her own original name was Jiuni. Bhagvan Das, a religious minded person, had become a disciple of an Udasi sadhu, Ram Das, of Ftrozpur, after whose death he became the head of his derd or seminary.
Here Jium and her mother joined him when the former was only an infant. She was a precocious child and had read Panj Granthi, Das Grantfii and Hanumdn Ndtak before she was six years of age.She then joined the local Arya Pathshala and learnt Hindi, but left off after six months because the Pathshala had no facilities to teach Gurmukhi. Later she was sent to the village of Daudhar, now in Faridkot district, where she studied for several years under Bhai Dula Singh.
Meanwhile, Bhai Takht Singh, who had started a Gurmukhi school at Firozpur under the auspices of the local Singh Sabha, offered to open a school exclusively for girls. The Singh Sabha welcomed the proposal but was reluctant to let it be run by a bachelor. To overcome the difficulty, Jiuni`s parents promised Takht Singh the hand of their daughter.The Kanya Pathshala, lit. girls` school, was opened in Firozpur on 5 November 1892, and Jiuni joined it both to learn and to teach as an employee of the Singh Sabha.
Her betrothal to Takht Singh took place on 11 October 1893 and they were married on 8 May 1894. She received the new name of Harnam Kaur when she was administered on 15 July 1901 pdhul or the rites of the Khalsa. The couple threw themselves heart and soul into their work. Harnam Kaur`s monthly salary was Rs 6 and her husband`s Rs 8. On 1 September 1900, tired of internal dissensions in the management of the Singh Sabha, they quit service, but continued to teach privately.
Early in 1903, Bibi Harnam Kaur persuaded her husband jointly to open a boarding school for girls at Firozpur. A number of parents offered to send their daughters to the boarding school which was named Sikh Kanya Maha Vidyala and which started functioning from March 1905. Harnam Kaur worked hard to make the Vidyala succeed. In addition to helping her husband at teaching, she looked after catering and lodging arrangements for their wards. She had also set up Istri Satsarig, a women`s religious society, which held meetings in the afternoon of every Wednesday, and a parchdrak jathd or missionary group. But she did not live long to serve the cause to which she had dedicated herself, and died on 1 October 1906.
1. Karam Singh, Jivan Bibi Hamdm Kaur. Fhozpur, 1907
2. Suraj Singh, Bibi Hamdm Kaur. Amritsar, 1908