Dr.Jasbir Singh Sarna
Khalsa College, Amritsar, a premier institution of northern India, is the hub of religious, cultural, political, social and progressive movement in the Sikh homeland. The founders of this College were inspired by the lofty ideals of the Sikh Gurus. It has passed through a long and colourful period of struggle in order to achieve its present status as the fountain head of dynamic and enlightened leadership for the people. The main aim of its founders was for the achievement of excellence of mind and body through intellectual hardwork and spirit of Chardikala.
Being the nerve centre of the Sikhs for the fulfillment of their religious, social, cultural and political aspirations, its history is the living chronicle of the Sikh renaissance, while remaining the nucleus of the educational and cultural excellence. For over a century Khalsa College has influenced not only the destiny of the Sikh nation but has become a nursery of the Sikh lore and literature.
By 1885, the Singh Sabha had become a mass movement. Its main aim was to spread literacy among the Sikhs, for publication of the Sikh literature, for the opening of orphanages and the educational institutions for boys and girls. The first and foremost institution conceived by the Singh Sabha movement, and particularly by Sunder Singh Majithia, was to establish a Khalsa College. In those days there were two views regarding its location. One favored Lahore and the other insisted on Amritsar. Sunder Singh Majithia favoured Amritsar. About 101 acres of land were purchased near Kot Said Mahmood, now known as Kot Khalsa. The foundation was laid by then Lt.Governor of Punjab, Sir James B. Lyall on March 5, 1892. It was registered as a Society under Act XXI of 1860, on April 4, 1892. The Governing Council of Khalsa College consists of 100 members and the execution committee constitutes 30 members. Dr. William H. Rattigan became its first president of the council and S. Attar Singh as Vice president on April 3, 1893.
During inception of the College all the sections of the Sikhs, from princes to peasants, came forward. All Sikh farmers contributed six pies per rupee on all land revenue paid by them. The present magnificent building truly came into being as a result of the contribution of the masses. The architectural structure of the Khalsa College building is one of the most outstanding in the country. The layout was drawn by S. Ram Singh, of the Mayo School of Arts, Lahore. The engineer was S. Dharam Singh. Adjacent to Khalsa College are staff quarters, hostels for boys and girls, viz JAV hostel, Nabha, Fairdkot, Hargobind and Jind hostels.
S. Sohan Singh, a young boy of 13 years was admitted as a first student of this College. The admission is open to all students from all faiths, viz Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, etc. In this way Khalsa College remains secular in character.
On April 9, 1990 Lord Curzon, Viceroy and the Governor General of India visited the College.The first five Principals of the College were Englishmen, including O. Ratigan, J.C. Oman, G.V.Cole. Wadhen (1913 1924) proved a living legend for the students. In 1928 Sirdar Kishan Singh, a well known mathematician of his time, was nominated as the first Sikh principal. Bhai Jodh Singh became principal in 1936. After that S. Inder Singh, Dr. Harwant Singh, S. Bishan Singh Samundari, S. Sham Singh Kapoor, S. Gurbux Singh Shergil, Dr S S Dhillon, Dr. N.S.Soch, were principals, the last named is now Vice Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University. Dr S.S. Randhawa and now Dr Mahal Singh is currently the principal. Among erstwhile staff members were prof. Kishan Singh, Prof. Gopal Rao, Prof. Narayan Singh, Prof. Teja Singh, Prof. Oman, Prof. Panicliffe, Dr. Puranic, Prof. Sahib Singh, Dr. Roshan lal Ahuja. Principal Sant Singh Sekhon, Prof. Diwan Singh, Prof. Karnail Singh Thind, Prof. Gurdial Singh Phull, Prof. Waryam Singh, Prof. Kartar Singh all leaving an indelible mark on the College and on the educational map of the Punjab.
The Sikh History research Department was started in Khalsa College in 1930 under advice of Bhai Vir Singh. The first head was S. Karam Singh historian. Others were S. Jagat Singh, Dr. Ganda Singh (1931-1950) assembled hundreds of priceless books, manuscripts, arts, and photos for this department. Dr. Kirpal Singh’s contribution in its comprehensive reorganization is well known to scholars. There are some 570 manuscripts, including 287 Punjabi, 248 Persian, 32 Urdu, 3 Sanskrit, all pertaining to the Sikhs and Punjab History. The special library had 4,726 books, 288 portraits, paintings and photographs. arms and artefacts. The department has published more than a dozen books. Scholars of history from abroad and all over the country regularly visit this department for consultation of manuscripts and rare books for research purposes.
Nursery of Sports
In sports, Khalsa College has achieved remarkable success, especially in hockey, athletics, Shotput, discus throw, wrestling. The players have performed great feats in national and international games.
In 1905, for the betterment of Sikh religious and Sikh heritage, a chair of Divinity was established. Bhai Jodh Singh was its first in charge. Later this department was served with distinction by Prof. Sahib Singh, Taran Singh, Prakash Singh, Dr Suba Singh, Dr Inderjit Singh Googani . A splendid Gurdwara in the campus stands as testimony to the devotion of scores of teachers and thousands of students. Late Giani Diwan Singh Ragi served for decades singing Gurbani in soulful ragas.
The Khalsa College insignia depicts scholar students as lions emerging out of the divine light of Harimander Sahib, holding aloft Khalsa symbol with a perennial sense of Chardikala and faith in the pious slogan of ‘Akal Sahai’ aimed at achieving excellence in education, thought and service to others.
Before 1947, there were only two agricultural Colleges, one at Lyallpur and the second at Khalsa College. The latter has played a yeoman’s part in the green revolution in Punjab. Thousands of Graduates, Agri. officers, University-level professors. Agri. Inspectors and Scientists remain torch-bearers of Khalsa College. The world renowned agriculture scientists like Dr. Khem Singh Gill and Dr. N.S. Randhawa are well known.
The British government had offered to convert the Khalsa College into a Sikh University provided the College community received the Prince of Wales ceremonially. But the College fraternity keeping in mind the national aspirations and sentiments refused to do so. The British Government withdrew its offer immediately. The main personalities who revolted against British rule and later engaged in the freedom struggle, playing a remarkable role in the politics of India, were Master Tara Singh, Partap Singh Kairon, Sohan Singh Josh, Giani Shankar Singh, S. Niranjan Singh Talib, Teja Singh Sutantar, Achar Singh Cheena, etc.
In the post-1947, when the Punjab University had been dislocated and the new University for the East Punjab had yet to be set up, many of the post graduate classes of the university and the Govt. College of Agriculture were housed in Khalsa College.
Till date Khalsa College has produced thousands of high ranking military officers, among them the best known are Air Chief Marshal Arjun Singh. The College has produced a large number of top class academicians, eminent scientists, civil servants and public men, eminent writers, historians and Olympians.
Today, the Khalsa College, Amritsar, has expanded considerably. More than a dozen educational institutions are affiliated with it. Their number is constantly increasing. This college has not only produced famous historians, thinkers, scholars, poets, writers etc. but also famous military generals, policy makers, scientists, politicians, sportspersons etc. who have made a name for themselves in the country and abroad. Khalsa College, Amritsar has been of great historical significance.
It is perhaps the only College in the Indian subcontinent which provides facilities for education right from nursery up to the Ph. D. level in all academic disciplines.
Dr.Jasbir Singh Sarna