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Baba Khem Singh Bedi

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Baba Khem Singh Bedi one of the founders of the Singh Sabha movement, was born on 21 February 1832 at Kallar, a small town in Rawalpindi district, now in Pakistan. He was a direct descendant, in the thirteenth place, of Guru Nanak. He received the rites of amrit at the hands of the celebrated Baba Bir Singh of Naurangabad. His father Baba Attar Singh was killed in a family feud on 25 November 1839. Khem Singh and his elder brother Sampuran Singh inherited jagirs in the jalandhar Doab along with 41 villages in Dipalpur tahsil of of Gugera, later Montgomery (Sahival), district. On the annexation of the Punjab to the British dominions in 1849, 14 of these villages were resumed by the new government. During the uprising of 1857, Baba Khem Singh assisted the British in quelling a local revolt in Gugera district. He personally took part in a number of skirmishes, proving himself an excellent marksman with gun and rifle. While accompanying extra Assistant Commissioner Berkeley on a drive to reopen communications with Multan, Khem Singh distinguished himself in a cavalry charge on 21 Septernber 1857. The following day he barely escaped death in an ambush in which Berkeley was killed. The Government of lndia bestowed on him a khill'at or robe of honour of the value of 1,000 rupees and a double barrelled rifle. His jagirs were enhanced from time to time and, towards the end of his life, his possessions in land in Montgomery district alone amounted to 28,272 acres. He was appointed a magistrate in 1877 and an honorary munsif in 1878. He was made Companion of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.) in 1879, was nominated to the Viceroy's Legislative Council in 1893, and when the Indian council Act was extended to the Punjab in 1897, he was among the first non-official members nominated to the Punjab legislature. He was knighted in 1898 (K.C.I.E).

Baba Khem Singh was sensitive to the decline that had set in Sikh society after the occupation of the Punjab by the British and to the inroads being made by Christian proselytization. The gravity of the situation was brought home to the community dramatically when, at the beginning of 1873, four Sikh students of the Amritsar Mission School proclaimed their intention of renouncing their faith and embracing Christianity. The Sikhs convened a meeting at Amritsar on 30 . July 1873, led by Baba Khern Singh Bedi, Sardar Thakur Singh Sandhavalia and Kanvar Bikrama Singh of Kapurthala. As a result of the deliberations, a society called Sri Guru Singh Sabha was established at a largely attended gathering on the occasion of Dusshehra, 1 October 1873.

Singh Sabha began to spring tip at other places as well. A co-ordinating Khalsa Diwan was formed at Amritsar on 12 April 1883, with Baba Khem Singh as president and Bhai Gurmukh Singh of Lahore as chief secretary. Serious differences, however, soon arose between the two. Baba Khem Singh, being a direct descendant of Guru Nanak, was glorified by his followers which was resented by some Gurmukh Singh supporters. At the Baisakhi divan at Amritsar in 1884, he was given the customary cushioned seat in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. The group led by Bhai Gurmukh Singh protested. A schism arose. Baba Khem Singh's supporters were commonly burlesqued as Gudaila party. A separate Khalsa Diwan was set up at Lahore in April 1886. Baba Khem Singh, supported by the Patron of the Amritsar Diwan, Raja Bikrarn Singh of' Faridkot, secured the excommunication of Bhai Gurmukh Singh under the seal of the Golden Temple. This, however, did not help him retain his position among the Sikh masses; henceforth, his influence was restricted to the Pothohar region and to some areas in Western Punjab. There he preached among the Sahajdharis, and brought a large number into the Sikh fold. Besides the propagation of Sikh faith, Baba Khem Singh's important contribution lies in the spread of education among the Sikh masses, especially women. In 1855, the dispatch of the Court of Directors Of the East India Company, which initiated a new era in Indian education, was received at Lahore.

Eventhough Baba Khem Singh Bedi was pioneer of Singh Sabha movement and singlehandedly established Amritsar Singh Sabha, his ideals were in conflict with Sikhism. He allowed people to worship him which caused a great rift between Lahore Singh Sabha and Amritsar Singh Sabha. Ultimately it became the cause of his decline, but nonetheless his share in revitalizing the sikhism in undeniable. His missionary work and help for destitutes was noteworthy. He and his followers that were known as members of "Gudaila Party" were often publicly ridiculed by Lahore Singh Sabha for giving him a soft cushion to sit in front of Guru Granth Sahib. It is also said that he was encouraged by British missionaries who wanted to undermine the real spirit of Sikhism.

The following year the Punjab Government established the Department of' Public Instruction and planned to open 30 single-teacher primary schools in each district. Baba Khem Singh lent his full support to the scheme. He also opened schools on his own in the Rawalpindi division. Out of his immense wealth he gave away liberally for this purpose and at least fifty schools for boys and girls were opened in the Punjab through his help. On the occasion of the marriage of his daughter in 1893, he donated Rs 3,00,000 for religious and charitable purposes. Half of this amount was for setting up a college at Rawalpindi. As a beginning, a vocational School was opened there, in early 1894, with provision for training in dyeing, photography, carpentry, tailoring, etc. Provision was made for subsidized board and lodging for poor students.

Baba Khem Singh lived in princely style and enjoyed the reverence of hundreds of thousands of followers in Western Punjab and what later became the North-West Frontier Province. He was on a tour of the latter in the spring of 1905 when he suddenly fell ill. On 8 April 1905, he left Peshawar by rail in a state of' serious sickness and feebleness, and died at Montgomery on 10 April 1905.

Excerpts taken with courtesy from .

The Encyclopedia of Sikhism by Harbans Singh.

The family tree of the Bedis in which Guru Nanak was born is given here:-

Baba Ram Narayan


Baba Shivram/ Shiv Narayan (born Samvat 1417 Bikrami)


Baba Kalyan Chand (Kalu Ji) (born Samvat 1497 died Samvat 1579)


Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (born Samvat 1526, died 1596)


Baba Lakhmi Das (born Samvat 1553, died Samvat 1612) {Baba Sri Chand never married)


Baba Dharam Chand (born 1580 died 1674)


Baba Mehar Chand


Baba Dataar Chand


Baba Pahar Chand


Baba Harkaran Chand


Baba Nihal Chand


Baba Kaladhari Ji (died AD1738)


Baba Jit Singh {Ajit Singh} (died AD 1773)


Baba Sahib Singh (born Samvat 1813 died Samvat 1891 [ AD1834])


Baba Bishan Singh (died AD1839) And Baba Bikram Singh (died AD 1863)


Baba Attar Singh Baba Sujan Singh (Born AD1845, died AD 1919)


Baba Sir Khem Singh (died AD1904/5) Baba Ram Kishan Singh (born AD 1874)


Baba Sir Gurbaksh Singh (born AD 1861) Tikka Sanwal Singh (born AD 1898)


Tikka Surendra Singh (born AD 1897)

The Gaddi of Baba Bishan Singh is at Una (Hoshiarpur) and the Gaddi of Baba Bishan Singh is at Kallar (dist. Rawalpindi).

The above information taken from Mahan Kosh (Bhai kahn Singh Nabha)

Please discuss about his life, contributions, his ideology, things that he did which you agree or don't agree with....!

I heard from bhai avtar singh ji raagi that he used to do 25 japji sahib a day alone..!

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  • 1 year later...

Another observation that has always been playing on my mind is that Baba Khem Singh Bedi of the "Sanatan Singh Sabha" was infact 'knighted' by the British!

We'll leave aside Bhai Kahn Nabhas commentary above, since the UK Sanatanis have adequately demonified his personality as an agent of the British and the Namdharis (what a mix!!!), however the fact that he was knighted as a 'sir' clearly show the reality of who was 'British-inspired'...

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I disagree with Niranjana, his observations at a glance would seem logical and intelligent but it tackles the issue at a "us" vs. "them"...which you have rightly alluded to in your many obsversations about groupism on the net.

I'd like to shed some light on khem singh bedi. I will be as broad in my scope as I can afford to be without compromising the focal point. I will write in short terse sentences as I've already given my intention

backgroud-descendent of baba lakhmi chand, ancestor accepted khanday ki pahul, who was then given a blessing of an 'ansha avtar' for a grandson (I am talking about baba kaladhari and his grandson baba khemi singh bedi).

mystical realities= the descendents of baba phool ji, namely the raja's of jind, nabha, and patiala, were in prominence...so the guru's word was true

maharaja ranjit singh was the descendent of 5 generations of seva to the guru khalsa panth...his boons were also realized and squandered

baba maharaj singh was seen as a great leader for the community but he was shafted by maharaja ranjit singh for the dogra brothers...hence the influence of the dogra on the sons of maharaja ranjit singh and their amicable nature with the british.

British policy- eradicate all sense of 'tribal, ancient, old' religion and take advantage of colonialism by subduing the masses. Methods included getting people to question their validity as 'cultured' humans and constantly using duality to pitch them against the ideal...the rulers who were british. The British took the constructs that the masses were used to and worked with those to tweak the constructs in their favor. TThey had a modernist approach and saw everything as being 'practical' (something you hear from the youth of india even today..functionality takes precedence).

byproducts of british policies: arya samaaj. A reaction by swami dayanad 'modernizing' vedic religions to take out rituals. This form of religion was understood and promoted (inactively, by not having much protests against it) and many sikhs started cutting their hair and adopting this path

Effect on khem singh bedi= He was from an affluent family that had 360 villages around kalaar, which even, if split up, would have provided enough money for the average bedi at that time. He also saw the blessings of the guru and realised that people had to be mobilized and was upset that the dogray were in power

Reaction= khem singh bedi started doing prachar from peshawar to kalaar his chakarvartee would last 2 years before he cycled a village again. The bedi's were naturally respected as per indian tradition with familial respect.

So he was treated as a 'baba'...

british's counteraction= they kept giving him more land so that he would stop his empowerment as he preached hindu's and sikhs were from one stock etc etc... (originally they took it all away, and only gave a fraction of the amount, but they kept giving more to subdue him)

I do not know what he was knighted for but khem singh bedi would have been smart to keep his detractors close at hand...

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"I do not know what he was knighted for but khem singh bedi would have been smart to keep his detractors close at hand... "

Forward-backwards, thanks for your reply and noting the underlying issue behind my comments - I note the timeline and events that you present, however as per the last comment, this is little more than an assumption at the moment (with due respect to Baba Khem Singh).

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