Khem Singh Bedi

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Sir Baba Khem Singh Beda (or Bedi) of Kullar (1830-1905)
Sir Baba Khem Singh Beda (or Bedi) of Kullar (1830-1905), photographed in London in 1902

Khem Singh Bedi KCIE (21 February 1832 – 10 April 1905) claims he was a direct descendant of Guru Nanak, a leader, founder of the Singh Sabha in 1873, and a Sanatan Sikh who believed there were no essential differences between Sikhs and Hindus.[1] It instituted many charitable causes for Sikhs, was a landowner and politician in the Punjab during the British Raj.

Life[edit]

Bedi was born in Kallar Syedan in the Rawalpindi District in 1832. He was said to be the thirteenth direct descendant of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism.[2] His father Baba Attar Singh was killed in a family feud on 25 November 1839 and Bedi and his elder brother Sampuran Singh inherited jagirs in the Doaba region along with 41 villages in Depalpur Tehsil. Following the annexation of the Punjab by the East India Company in 1849, 14 of those villages were appropriated by the new administration.[3]

In 1855, the Punjab administration established the Department of Public Instruction with the aim to open 30 single-teacher primary schools across the Punjab. Bedi lent his full support to the scheme, additionally opening his own schools in Rawalpindi. At least fifty schools for boys and girls were opened in the Punjab with his assistance.[4]

During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, Bedi helped British troops quell an uprising in Gugera.[5] He distinguished himself in a cavalry charge on 21 September 1857, and the following day narrowly escaped an ambush which killed the Extra Assistant Commissioner of Gogera, Leopold Fitzhardinge Berkeley. Following the rebellion, he was given a robe of honour and a double barrelled rifle.[6]

On 1 October 1873 he co-founded the Singh Sabha Movement in response to growing Christian, Islam, Arya Samaj and Brahmo Samaj proselytising in the Punjab region. The movement aimed to re-capture the original message of the Gurus and re-establish Sikh identity. It sought to address issues of personal identity, formulate theoretical concepts, reform social customs and give prominence to the Punjabi language in the Gurmukhi script of the Gurus.[7] Within a decade 121 separate Singh Sabhas had emerged across the region.[8]

Bedi was a Sanatan Sikh (lit. "Traditional Sikh"),[9] who maintained that "there were no essential differences between Sikhs and Hindus". He opposed the movement led by Tat Khalsa (pure Khalsa) who sought to distinguish Sikhism and Hinduism.[1]

He was appointed a magistrate in 1877 and made a Companion of the Indian Empire in 1879. On the occasion of his daughter's marriage in 1893, he donated Rs 3,00,000 for religious and charitable purposes. He was nominated to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1893 and became a Knight Commander of the Indian Empire in 1898.[10] Throughout his life he added to the land he inherited to become a substantial landholder in the Punjab. Towards the end of his life, his land possessions in the Montgomery District alone amounted to 28,272 acres.[11] He died in Montgomery on 10 April 1905.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1.
  2. ^ Bobby Singh Bansal, Remnants of the Sikh Empire: Historical Sikh Monuments in India & Pakistan, Hay House, Inc, 1 Dec 2015
  3. ^ Harbans Singh, The Encyclopaedia of the Sikhism Volume, Punjabi University Patiala
  4. ^ Harbans Singh, The Encyclopaedia of the Sikhism Volume, Punjabi University Patiala
  5. ^ Harbans Singh, The Encyclopaedia of the Sikhism Volume, Punjabi University Patiala
  6. ^ Harbans Singh, The Encyclopaedia of the Sikhism Volume, Punjabi University Patiala
  7. ^ Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh, Sikhism: An Introduction, I.B.Tauris, 15 Mar 2011, p145
  8. ^ Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh, Sikhism: An Introduction, I.B.Tauris, 15 Mar 2011, p145
  9. ^ Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1.
  10. ^ Bobby Singh Bansal, Remnants of the Sikh Empire: Historical Sikh Monuments in India & Pakistan, Hay House, Inc, 1 Dec 2015
  11. ^ Harbans Singh, The Encyclopaedia of the Sikhism Volume, Punjabi University Patiala