MAYYA SINGH, BHAI (1862-1928). spelt as Maya Singh in contemporary English writings, was a leading figure in the Singh Sabha 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 Bhai Jawahir Singh under whose influence he joined the Arya Samaj.

At the same time, he started attending divans under the auspices of Sri Guru Singh Sabha, established in Lahore in 1879. After the estrangement of the Sikhs from the Arya Samaj in 1888, he, along with Bhai Jawahir Singh and Giani Ditt Singh, threw himself wholeheartedly into the Singh Sabha movement.He remained associated with the Khalsa Dtwan, Lahore, and was its staunchest supporter during the days of intense rivalry which developed between it and the Khalsa Dlwan, Amritsar. Even his marriage, in 1889, to the daughter of Giani Parduman Singh of the noted Giani family of Amritsar did not affect his loyalty to the Lahore Dlwan.

In 1892, he was elected its joint secretary. Bhai Mayya Singh was known for his executive talent. Bhagat Lakshman Singh, 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 Singh Sabha work, he gave up service with the railways and set up a book store, Punjab Book Depot. He was appointed editor of the Khalsa Gazelle, 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. Mayya Singh 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 Khalsa Press was restarted and Mayya Singh became its manager. On 5 January 1899, Bhagat Lakshman Singh floated the first Sikh English newspaper, The Khalsa, and Mayya Singh was asked to lend his name to it as editor and publisher. After the death of Giani Ditt Singh, Mayya Singh took up the editorship of the Khalsa Akhbar, which he continued to publish until, consequent upon the decline of Khalsa Dlwan, Lahore, owing to the death one after another of its leaders Sir Attar Singh (d. 10 June 1896), Bhai Gurmukh Singh (d. 24 September 1898) and Giani Ditt Singh (d. 6 September 1901), the paper withered and finally folded up in 1905.

Besides his newspaper writing, Bhai Mayya Singh has left two publications Mazdmm Khalsa Dharam Par, a collection of essays in Urdu on Sikh religion published in 1889, and Kalgidhar Prakash, a tract in Punjabi on Guru Gobind Singh published in 1904. Bhai Mayya Singh had also served as a member of the Khalsa College Establishment Committee set up in 1890 as well as of the Khalsa College Council formed in 1892. After the closure of the Khalsa Akhbar, he fell into oblivion. He opened a shop for the sale of Indian drugs in Lahore, where he died on 8 March 1928.

References :

1. Khalsa Akhbar. 18 December 1886
2. Asali Qaumi Dard. 5 April 1928
3. Barrier, N.G., The Sikhs and Their Literature 1819-1919. Delhi, 1970