BHASAUR SINGH SABHA
BHASAUR SINGH SABHA, or to give its full name Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Bhasaur, was established in 1893 twenty years after the first Singh Sabha came into existence in Amritsar at the village of Bhasaur in the then princely state of Patiala. The Singh Sabha, a powerful reform movement among the Sikhs, was as much an urban phenomenon as it was rural. While there were very strong Singh Sabhas in cities such as Rawalpindi, Lahore, Shimla and Firozpur, Singh Sabhas flourished in small villages like Badbar and Bagarian as well.
Most dynamic of them all was the Singh Sabha located in the village of Bhasaur.Bhai Basava Singh, known as a virakat or recluse, was named the First president of the Bhasaur Singh Sabha and Babu Teja Singh, then a sub-overseer in the irrigation department of Patiala state, its secretary. They made a very good team. Basava Singh was widely reputed for his piety and Babu Teja Singh, a well educated person, became the ideologue and source of much of the dynamite that came from Bhasaur. He brought to the Singh Sabha renaissance a new verve and thrust.
He was a puritan of the extremist kind and a fundamentalist in the interpretation of Sikh principles and tradition, and challenged much of the prevalent Sikh usage.The Bhasaur Singh Sabha was, from the very beginning, forthright in the rejection of caste and Brahmanical customs which had infiltrated into Sikhism. It openly advocated the acceptance back into the fold of those who had been led into forsaking the Sikh faith, and it willingly converted those from other faiths, who volunteered for initiation. As the records say, at the very first annual divan of the Bhasaur Singh Sabha held in 1894, thirteen Jatts, six Jhivars (watercarriers), two barbers, one Khatri and one Musalman (Miran Bakhsh of Tahsil Garhshankarwho became Nihal Singh) were initiated into the Sikh faith.
Babu Teja Singh himself published in the press a report of a subsequent year saying, “By the power of the Word revealed by the Ten Masters and in accord with Akalpurkh`s wish, the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Bhasaur, had administered the gurmantra and holy amrit to a Muslim woman and ushered her into Sodhbans (the family of Guru Gobind Singh who came of the Sodhi clan; bans = family, line or clan). Her Sikh name is Kishan Kaur. A Sikh who had fallen by living with a Muslim woman had been baptized and renamed Ude Singh.” At the divan convened in the village of Bakapur near Phillaur on 1314 June 1903 by the Bhasaur Singh Sabha, 35 persons including Maulawi Karim Bakhsh and his family of four sons and a daughter received the rites of amrit.
The Bhasaur Singh Sabha set up Panch Khalsa Diwan or Khalsa Parliament at Bhasaur under sanction of a Sikh synod held at Damdama Sahib on 13 April 1907. In 1909, a girls school called Khalsa Bhujhangan School was opened at Bhasaur. The Singh Sabha, Bhasaur, decreed that Sikh women tie turbans round their heads in the style of men. Rolling up, pressing or dyeing of beards was outlawed. It was stated that though the custom of splitting and rolling up the beards was not unknown in the Khalsa armies, it became firmly established only during British rule after an incident in 1868 in 15th Sikh Regiment when a Muslim Havildar`s rifle got entangled in the flowing beard of a Sikh Havildar, ishar Singh, lined up next to him.
Against all evidence and authority, the Sikh term for God, “Vahiguru”, was replaced by “Vahugur.” The word “karahprashad” for Sikh sacrament was substituted by “Mahaprashad”. The Sikh code prepared by the Chief Khalsa Diwan was repudiated, use of the Sikh calendar beginning from the birth of Guru Nanak (AD 1469), and introduction of titles and honorifics such as Kirpan Bahadur, Kakar Bahadur, Dahra Bahadur, Vidaya Ratan, Hitkari and Bir Jang were propagated. A motion adopted by the Panch Khalsa Diwan disclaimed the Sahajdhari sect of the Sikhs. Likewise, it was proclaimed un-Sikh to install the Faridkot Tika by the side of Guru Granth Sahib.
By a resolution of the Panch Khalsa Diwan (1928), the Chief Khalsa Diwan of Amritsarwas declared to be a body of men un-firm of conviction and Bhai Vir Singh, the widely revered Sikh savant and scholar, was laid under penalty for what was called “his secret propagation of the cult of personal deification. “At the annual divan of 1921, exception had been taken to Sikhs seeking advice of non Sikh leaders in their religious matters. The instance was cited of the Akalis being in touch with Mahatma Gandhi at the time of the Nankana Sahib morcha. In his literalist zeal, Babu Teja Singh, the all powerful man at the helm of affairs of the Bhasaur Singh Sabha, started garbling the Sikh canon.
He changed the traditional Sikh ardas or daily prayer of supplication. He jettisoned the preamble most of which is derived from Guru Gobind Singh`s composition called Chandi di Var. He advocated expunging of Ragamala from the Guru Granth Sahib as well as the compositions of the saints and bhaktas, especially those of the Bhatts. Teja Singh printed courses of reading for his school comprising the barn contained in the Guru Granth Sahib, but he deleted from it the Savaiyyas by Bhatts and he added some of Guru Gobind Singh`s compositions.
He also had copies of the Guru Granth Sahib printed without the Ragamala. This led to widespread protest in the Sikh community. Teja Singh was excommunicated on 9 August 1928 by an edict of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Amritsar, the highest seat of Sikh ecclesiastical authority. Teja Singh now ceased to be the force he used to be and with the decline in his popularity set in the downfall of the Bhasaur Singh Sabha.
1. Lal Singh, Itihas Panch Khalsa Diwan Sanbandhi Suchnavan. Ludhiana, 1967
2. Vir Sudhar Pattar arthat Sri Guru Singh Sabha Bhasaur de athme te naume salane 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 1975