SHUDDHI SABHA, a society working in the closing years of the nineteenth century primarily for the reconversion to Sikhism of those proselytized into Christianity or Islam, was established in 1893. . Christian pro-selytization had started with the advent of British rule in the Punjab with official encouragement. Though the rate was never alarming, the local religious communities were becoming increasingly self-conscious. The Sikh response had materialized in the shape of the Singh Sabha.
That the Sikhs were the main target is clear from the valedictory instructions given to the first batch of misssionaries of the Church of England appointed to the Punjab in 1852.”A few hopeful instances,” they were told, “lead us to believe that the Sikhs may prove more accessible to scriptural truths than the Hindus and the Muhammedans….” The principal mission centre was set up at Amritsar, the religious capital of the Sikhs. Converts steadily came from amongst Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. To reclaim such of them as had converted to Christianity, the Muslims formed associations like HimayatiIslam.
Orthodox Hinduism does not permit readmission of the apostates, and it was not till the rise of the Arya Samaj that reconversion of shuddhi was encouraged.The Singh Sabha was not averse to reclaiming converts, but its focus was mainly on religious reform and education. Specifically for reconversion a separate Jatt Singh Sabha was formed at Lahore by Bhai Uttam Singh and Bhai Nihal Singh Jamadar. Some other Sikhs individually cooperated with the Arya Samaj ists in their efforts at reconversion.
A broad based organization came into existence only when Dr Jai Singh (1856-1898), who had not long before set up as a chemist in Lahore, established on 17 April 1893 the Shuddhi Sabha, with representatives from the Singh Sabha, Jatt Singh Sabha, Arya Samaj, Sanatan Dharam Sabha, and Pandit Sabha.Its first president was Sardar Basant Singh, vice-president Lala Dilbagh Rai Bakhshi and secretary Sardar Mehar Singh Chawla. By August 1893, its membership had risen to 70.
Under the constitution of the Sabha, shuddhi meant conversion or reconversion of one from Christianity or Islam to Sikh or Hindu faith. Like converts, patits, i.e. fallen ones guilty of a major kurahit or breach of religious discipline, were readmitted into the Sikh faith. If a Hindu wanted to enter the Sikh fold and was willing to observe rahit or the code of the Khalsa, he was to be administered khande di pahul, Khalsa rites by the double edged sword.If any new entrant was not yet prepared to adopt the Sikh discipline, he was, as a first step, administered charan pahul, or initiation by sanctified water, to become a sahajdhan (gradualist) Sikh declaring himself a follower of the Sikh Gurus and of no other religion.
The main force behind the activities of the Shuddhi Sabha was Dr Jai Singh. In Baisakh 1953 Bk/ April , May 1896, he established a journal in Punjabi called Shuddhi Patra Khalsa Dharam Prakashak. A large number of converts were brought back into the Sikh fold through the initiative of Shuddhi Sabha. But the death on 9 June 1898 of its founder, Dr. Jai Singh, tolled its knell. Both the Sabha and its journal folded up soon afterwards.
1. Jagjit Singh, Singh Sabha Lahir. Ludhiana, 1974
2. Shuddhi Patra Khalsa Dharam Prakashak. April-May 1896 and January-February 1897
3. Jagjit Singh, Singh Sabha Lahir. Ludhiana, 1974Vir Sudhar Pattar arthat Sri Guru Singh Sabha Bhasaur de Athme te Naume Salane Divan da Sitta. Bhasaur, 1903
4. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983