Khalsa College Amritsar

Khalsa College Amritsar

Sikh leaders by 1860's realized the supreme importance of good quality education. There were several efforts by Sikh theologians and Sikh intellectuals towards this goal. British started a college for Indian langauges at Lahore in 1865. In 1872, Punjabi with Gurmukhi was included in curriculam after Attar Singh Bhadur showed 389 books written in Gurmukhi at university, establishing a point that Punjab is not just a dialect of Hindi (as Arya Samajis have declared) but with a valid literary history. Outside Khalsa College Bhai Gurmukh Singh (1849- 1898) was appointed the first instructor to teach Punjabi at this University College. On October, 14 1882 this college was converted to Punjab University, which after partition in 1947 was divided into two parts one at Lahore and other at Chandigarh. Dr. Hargobind Khurana and Dr. Abdus Salaam, both noble prize winnders of Science were from Punjab University. Arya Samaj opened their university at Lahore for Western Science Education in 1886, sikh leaders immediately sought to start a college exclusively for the Khalsa.

Khalsa college

The leaders of the Singh Sabha worked assiduously to realize this dream. The government too favoured the proposal . In 1890, the Khalsa College Establishment Committee was set up with Colonel W.R.M. Holroyd, Director of Public Instruction, Punjab, as president, and W.Bell, Principal of Government College, Lahore, as secretary. Frederick Pincott, an eminent Orientalist of London, undertook to help the college movement in England. Among the Sikh constituents of this 121-member committee were Sir Attar Singh, Gurdial Singh Man of Nabha, Diwan Gurmukh Singh of Patiala, Mahant (more commonly, Bhai) Kahn Singh, Tutor to the heir apparent of Nabha state, Professor Gurmukh Singh and Bhai Jawahir Singh (1859-1910). The committee sought especially the support and help of the Sikh princes. The Maharaja of Patiala responded with the promise of a handsome donation and agreed to be the patron of the college. Similarly, the representatives of the committee called on Maharaja Hira Singh of Nabha on December 26, 1890, and on Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala on January 21, 1891 also donated for this purpose. Maharaja Patiala at the Nalwa conference said "In peacetime, the Sikhs mostly are land-cultivators and artisans— poor men for the most part—and the light of western education and civilization has not reached them in their remote and ignorant villages. Lethargy has fallen upon the people. The beginnings of disintegration threaten. The religious faith in the Timeless God, once received with enthusiasm from the great Nanak and the sacred Gurus who followed him, is no longer the sustaining power it was. Even the few Khalsa students who come forth from the recognized colleges of the Punjab exhibit a tendency to despise and abandon the religious and civil traditions of their fathers, instead of becoming patriotic leaders to guide their people to higher planes of enlightened usefulness. The great educational institutions of the Province provide culture for "leisured" and well-to-do subjects of the Crown, and show even the less-favoured youth among Hindus and Mohammadans the way to emoluments in Government's services, at the Bar, and elsewhere. It is owing, however, to no want of energy on the part of the Sikhs that they have failed more largely to take advantage of these institutions, as may be seen from their readiness to join board and indigenous schools near their homes; but partly because of their traditionary surroundings (mainly agricultural), and partly because of their poverty, Sikh boys have hitherto found little opportunity for joining the larger schools and colleges, thus working their way to intellectual, moral and material advancement. The result is that the Sikh community is very poorly represented in the learned profession; and in posts of honour and responsibility in the civil administration. Sikhs now serving in the British army see their sons left in their native villages, far from the tide of civilization, which is being taken at the flood by the rising generation of other communities. Besides this the purely secular education imparted in public schools is calculated, under existing circumstances, to slowly obliterate the distinctive characteristics of the Sikhs, to check the development of the qualities which enabled them to attain to a proud position, and to merge them finally in the general mass of the surrounding population."

Khalsa college enterance

The efforts of the committee, however, received a setback from the controversy that arose between the Khalsa Diwan of Lahore and the Khalsa Diwan of Amritsar over the location of the proposed college. The argument became bitter and longdrawn and it is on record that the supporters of Amritsar placed before the Establishment Committee a petition, nearly 2,000 feet long, bearing 46,698 signatures. The question was ultimately left to be decided by Sir James Lyall, Lt-Governor of the Punjab, who gave Amritsar preference over Lahore. While choosing the actual site, the chief consideration was that it should be beyond the "dangerous influences of city life." The Lt-Governor also held the opinion that it should be near enough to the city to secure to the college "thc occasional visits of the Sikh princes and of gentlemen interested in the important object in view."

A graduating class of Khalsa college Amritsar.

The advice given by Sir James was accepted and he laid the foundation-stone of the Khalsa College on March 5,1892. The teaching started with the opening on October 22, 1893, of middle school classes. This is how the report describes the inaugural ceremonies: " The Khalsa School was opened on the 22nd October at Amritsar in the late Pandit Bihari Lal's house near the Hall Gate. The religious part of the opening ceremony was conducted a day earlier in the spacious Hall of the school premises, with great enthusiasm. Asa-diVar and other sacred hymns were sung by a selected body of trained musicians, and karahprasad was freely distributed. There was a very large gathering of native gentlemen present on the occasion, and they all rose to offer prayers to the Timeless God and to ask Him to grant prosperity to the new institution. After the ceremony was over, a procession was formed of those present, and the whole gathering consisting of about one thousand gentlemen moved, singing hymns, to the Town Hall where a public meeting was already arranged for. The spacious Hall was full, and many had to remain standing in the verandah and on the road. "

Khalsa college over the years acquired the status of highest Sikh institute for education. Sikh Scholars like Professor Ganda Singh and Bhai Veer Singh are products of this institute. Khalsa College is now pride of Sikhs. Guru Nanak Dev University was established at Amritsar, Khalsa college comes under the jurisdiction of Guru Nanak Dev University.


  1. Copyright © Harbans Singh "The heritage of the Sikhs"