TEJA SINGH, BABU
TEJA SINGH, BABU (1867-1933), leader of the Bhasaur school of fundamentalism, was born on 20 January 1867, the son of`Subadar Sudh Singh and Jion Kaur of the village of Bhasaur in present day Sangrur district of the Punjab. His original name was Narain Singh. Having received his preliminary education in Punjabi and gurbam or the Sikh sacred texts under Baba Fateh Singh Virakt of Bhasaur (d. 1875), he studied in Government Primary School, Lang, near Patiala, and matriculated from City High School, Patiala, in 1882.
He joined the Patiala state army as a havildar (sergeant) in 1882, but resigned three years later to undergo overseer`s training at Engineering College, Roorkee, and was after completing the course appointed a suboverseer at Sirhind in the irrigation department of Patiala state on 21 November 1887. The term babu, a common mode of address for junior government officials, soon came to be prefixed to his name. While still in service, he started preaching the tenets of the Sikh faith as interpreted afresh by the Singh Sabha movement.
In 1893 he established a Singh Sabha at his native village, Bhasaur, and in the following year he compiled and published Khalsa Rahit Prakash, a Sikh code of conduct. During that year he went on a pilgrimage on foot to Hazur Sahib, Nanded, where lie received pahul or the rites of the Khalsa and was renamed Teja Singh. By his dedicated work in the Singh Sabha, he won wide recognition and, when the Chief Khalsa Diwan was established at Amritsar in 1902, he had the honour of saying the inaugural ardas or prayer.
On 1314 June 1903 he convened a largely attended divan or religious assembly at Bakapur, a small village in Jalandhar district, at which a Muslim family of seven and 28 others were administered pahul. He was nominated a member of the committee set up by the Chief Khalsa Diwan, on 20 October 1910, to draft a Sikh code of conduct, later published under the title, Gurmat Prakash : Bhag Sanskar. But Teja Singh`s innate puritanism gradually asserted itself and he started drifting away from the mainstream of Sikh life. In 1907 he set up the Panch Khalsa Diwan or Khalsa Parliament under sanction from a Sikh synod held at Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sabo, on 13 April 1907.
In 1909 he opened a girls school at Bhasaur called Khalsa Bhujangan School where the pupils were required to don turbans like men instead of the traditional women`s dupatta or scarf. Babu Teja Singh replaced the Sikh term for God “Vahiguru,” by “Vahugur.” The word karah prasad, Sikh sacrament, was substituted by mahaprashad. Teja Singh publicly repudiated the Sikh code published by the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Gurmat Prakash : Bhag Sahkar in the preparation of which he himself had earlier participated, and issued his own code, Khalsa Rahit Prakash.
He propagated the use of Sikh calendar beginning from the birth of Guru Nanak in AD 1469, and introduced his own titles and honorifics such as Kirpan Bahadur, Kakar Bahadur and Dahra Bahadur. A motion adopted by the Pahch Khalsa Diwan (Khalsa Parliament) disclaimed the Sahajdhari section of the Sikhs. In his literalist zeal, Teja Singh started garbling the Sikh canon and changed the traditional Sikh ardas or daily prayer of supplication. He advocated the expunging from the Guru Granth Sahib of Ragmala as well as of compositions of the Bhaktas and Bhatts.
He printed courses of reading for his school comprising barn contained in the Guru Granth Sahib, extracting from it the Bhatts` Savaiyye. He also had copies of the Holy Volume printed without the Ragmala. This led to widespread public protest and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, at its special meeting held on 31 March 1928, condemned the innovations introduced by the Pahch Khalsa Diwan. At its meeting on 15 July 1928, the Committee appealed to the Sikhs in general to boycott Babu Teja Singh and his colleagues of the Bhasaur Diwan and to the Takhts to excommunicate them.
Accordingly, the Akal Takht at Amritsar issued the excommunication decree on 9 August 1928. Other Takhts followed suit, Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, issuing a hukamnama on 13 January 1929, Takht Sri Patna Sahib on 27 March 1929 and Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib on 22 August 1929. But Teja Singh was far from repentant. Teja Singh suffered a sunstroke on 17 June 1933 and died on 29 August 1933.
1. Lal Singh, Itihas Ranch Khalsa Diwan Sambandhi SuchnaVari. Ludhiana, 1967
2. VIr Sudhar Pattar arthat Sri Guru Singh Sabha Bhasaur de athme te naume salana divan da sitta. Bhasaur, 1903
3. Harbans Singh, “The Bakapur Diwan and Babu Teja Singh of Bhasaur,” in The Panjab Past and Present. Patiala, October 1973