SAT SABHA, a religious and social reform society founded at Lahore in 1866 by a group of Bengalis and Punjabis. Babu Novin Chandra Rai and S.P. Bhattacharjee of the Bengali Community along with two Punjabis, Pandit Bhanu Datta Basant Ram and Lala Behari Lal Puri, established this new society. In the sphere of religion, the Sat Sabha preached an eclectic theism, very similar in content to that professed by the Lahore Brahmo Samaj.

It also sought to encourage education, replace traditional rituals with new rationalistic ceremonies, and to improve the social position of women.The major difference between the Sal Sabha and the Brahmo Samaj lay in the area of language. The Brahmo Samaj published its literature in either English or Hindi. Brahmo leaders, such as Novin Chandra Rai, espoused Hindi for education and government administration. The Sat Sabha, by contrast, made the encouragement of Punajbi in the Gurmukhi script one of its major goals.

Led by Behari Lal, the secretary of the Sabha, they debated and argued in favour of Punajbi. Behari Lal`s reputation as a poet and composer of popular bhajans strengthened his advocacy of the Punjabi language.Behari Lal wrote hymns with two goals in mind : first to create devotional songs in praise of a theistic God and secondly to provide alternatives to those traditional songs of Punjabi women which he and other reformers considered immoral. Under the leadership of Behari Lal, the Sat Sabha opened a small school in 1882.

This school taught in Punjabi using the Gurmukhi script. The Sabha also presented a memorandum to the Hunter Educational Commission in which they argued their standpoint on language and education.The Sat Sabha`s advocacy of Punjabi made it one of the few groups outside of the Sikh community to espouse this language in the debates of the late nineteenth century. The second major leader of the Sat Sabha was Pandit Bhanu Datta Basant Ram, the Acharya of the society. Bhanu Datta took a prominent role in the religious debates among Punjabi Hindus.

He clashed with the great orthodox leader Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri and later opposed the Arya Samaj when Swami Dayanand came to Lahore in 1877. Pandit Bhanu Datta provided leadership for the Sat Sabha after the death of Behari Lal in 1885.Even though the Sabha did not become a mass movement like the Arya Samaj and remained confined to Lahore, it provided a centre for discussion and debate during the latter years of the nineteenth century. Numerous prominent individuals spoke at the Sabha hall including Novin Chandra Rai, Pandit Ganesh Datt, Yogi Shiv Nath, and S.P.

Bhattacharjee. The school was well maintained and the annual anniversary celebrations of the Sat Sabha remained an event of importance in the life of Lahore. Throughout its history it continued to be seen as a “Brahmic institution, whose object is to inculcate pure Theistic worship.” The Sat Sabha remains in Punjab history as an early example of social and religious reform stemming directly from the cultural influence of the Brahmo Samaj, but in a particularly Punjabi form tied to the advancement of the Punjabi language.

References :

1. Jones, Kenneth W. , Arya Dharam. Delhi, 1976
2. Kanal, P.V., Bhagwan DevAtma. Lahore, 1942
3. Tuisi Deva, Shraddha Prakash arthat Sn Pandit Shraddha Ramji KaJivan. Lahore, 1896