JAWAHIR SINGH, BHAI (1859-1910), a leading figure in the Singh Sabha movement, was the son of Bhai Anna Singh Kapur of Gujranwala, now in Pakistan. He was born at Amritsar in 1859. After finishing school, he entered service in the accounts department of the North Western Railway in 1876, and making steady progress rose to be the superintendent in the Manager`s office in 1903. In 1882, he attended law classes of the University of the Panjab, but did not continue to complete the course. In 1886, he applied for the position of a granthi at the Harimandar at Amritsar, but his candidature was rejected owing to his earlier religious affiliations.

In his younger days, Jawahir Singh had been, under the influence of Sant Bahadur Singh, a follower of the Gulabdasi sect, and had later joined the Arya Samaj. He had been the secretary of the Lahore Arya Samaj and vice-president of the Arya Paropkarini Sabha from 1878 to 1883. He was also appointed a member of the Arya Patrikd committee in 1885. Meanwhile, however, he, along with his friend and associate, Bhai Ditt Singh, had been reclaimed to his ancestral faith through the influence of Bhai Gurmukh Singh, Kanvar Bikrama Singh and Sardar Afar Singh of Bhadaur, although he did not formally break away from the Arya Samaj until 25 November 1888, when, at its eleventh annual meeting at Lahore, Pandit Guru Dutt, of Government College, spoke in highly provocative terms attacking the Sikh Gurus.

Thereafter, Bhai Jawahir Singh devoted himself wholeheartedly to the cause of the Singh Sabha movement. He became vice-president of the Lahore Singh Sabha, and went out lecturing on its behalf when free from official duties during Christmas and oilier holidays. Promotion of education among Sikhs was one of his persistent concerns. Unlike some other leaders of the Singh Sabha, he kept clear of the wranglings of the factional Lahore and Amritsar groups. Jawahir Singh`s interest in education dated back to his Arya Samaj days. He had been one of the original promoters of the D.A.V. College at Lahore in 1885, and had worked as secretary of its fundraising committee.

He had also been a fellow of the AnjumaniPunjab. Earlier, in 1882, he had pressed the claims of the Punjabi language before the Hunter Commission on Education. He himself passed the proficiency examination (Buddhiman) in Gurmukhi Punjabi from the University of the Panjab in 1886. In 1899, he was appointed a member of the Punjab Text Book Committee. He was made a fellow of the Panjab University in November 1904. Already, in 1897, he had been elected a member of the Calcutta Literary Society. But his singular contribution to the cause of Sikh education was his steadfast work for the establishment of the Khalsa College at Amritsar.

He was one of the members of the Khalsa College Establishment Committee set up in 1890, and when, in March 1892, the College was opened, he was made honorary secretary of the College Council. He worked in this capcity for 14 years. He resigned the office twice, in 1897 and in 1902, but the Council considered him indispensable and persuaded him to stay on. When in 1906, he finally resigned the secretaryship as well as his membership of the managing committee, he still continued as a member of the College Council. In July 1897 he was appointed a member of the management committee for Maharaja Sher Singh`s samddh at Shah Bilaval, Lahore. His name was also enrolled in the list of assessors to help sessions courts in the trial of criminal cases.

On several occasions, he approached the government, on behalf of the Sikh community, and presented addresses to British viceroys and lieutenant governors. The refrain of these addresses was a request for the extension of educational facilities in villages and for making Punjabi the basis of education, with due provision for subsequent acquisition of English and high scholarship. Bhai Jawahir Singh wrote a number of books, mostly in Urdu. He was once officially commended for preparing the best chronogram in Persian for the inauguration of the Lansdowne Bridge over the Indus at Sakkhar in 1889.

The congratulatory note from the director of the North Western Railway said: “Bhai Jawahir Singh allow me to congratulate you as the best poet of all that we tried.” His works include Khalsa Dharam, IfldsiHind, Daydnand Itihas, Dharam Vichdr, Guide to Punjabi, AimaliArya and RaddiBdtldn or TarydqiSarasvati Phobia. The last two contain his polemic against the Arya Samaj, following his disavowal of it. IfldsiHind or The Poverty of India and Dharam Vichdr or Thoughts on Duty were favourably reviewed even by English newspapers like the Homeland Mail. Bhai Jawahir Singh commanded the respect of his British officers as well as of the Sikh aristocracy. He had the rare privilege of having bartvdrd (mutual friendly relations) with the rulers of Patiala, Nabha, Jind and Kapurthala on occasions of joy and sorrow. He died, after a brief illness, on 14 May 1910.

References :

1. Jagjit Singh, Singh Sabhd Lahir. Ludhiana, 1974
2. Asliok, Shamsher Singh, Panjab didn Lahirdn. Patiala, 1954
3. Jubilee Book. Amritsar, 1936