Khalsa Updeshak MahaVidyala

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KHALSA UPDESHAK MAHAVIDYALA, GHARJAKH, a training institution for Sikh preachers, was established in 1901 by Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Gujranwala, now in Pakistan. The Gujranwala Singh Sabha, formed in 1888 and affiliated to the Khalsa Diwan Lahore, played an important role in the educational and social awakening of Punjabi Sikhs. Already it had opened a Khalsa High School, one of the first of its kind, in 1889, and a girls school, Istri Pathshala, in 1895. Its leaders next decided to provide another institution designed to meet the needs of Sikhs for religious education. Although Singh Sabhas attempted to reach the masses with ideals of reform, the paucity of preachers trained in history and religion proved a handicap. The Gujranwala Singh Sabha, therefore, set up a Khalsa Upeleshak School on 5 April 1901. With just five students to start with, BhaI Gal Singh was appointed its manager and Sundar Singh its headmaster. The school rapidly grew in popularity. However, as it often happens when two or more schools rely on the same constituency for finances, the High school and the Updeshak school soon became caught up in competition in an attempt to minimize party bickering, Sadhul Singh, extra assistant commissioner and a prominent Sikh leader, intervened in August 1902 and worked out a compromise whereby the administration of both institutions was transferred to the committe originally in charge of the Khalsa high School. But the arrangement did not work, and the Khalsa High School committee decided on 15 December 1903 to neglect the interests of the younger institution.

The necessity for training Sikhs in preaching and missionary work nevertheless remained, and fortunately the Singh Sabhla of Charjakh, a large village located close to Gujraliwala, came to the rescue of the students and the faculty Sh-eady r ullllirlg a grand class, this Sabha Ierged it with the Updeshak school on 15 January 1904 and appointed Bhai Gal Singh and Giani Lahina Singh as joint teachers. The local dharammsala and the garden of Sardar Charhat Singh were utilized for other facilities.

The subsequent history of the Charjakh Updeshak Vidyala reflects the manner in which Sikhs developed an institution and then broadened it, as necessary, to meet a variety of needs Outbreaks of famine and plague had left Hindu and Sikh children orphans vulnarable to Muslim and Christian proselytization Sikhs of Charjakh responded to an appeal by Sant Sura Singh nade on 30 March 1904, and added an orphanage to the School, renamed Khalsa Updeshak School ate Yatimkhana (orphanage). The Khalsa Dharamsala thus became a home for the destitute children, managed by Jagat Shergill, a retired havilelar, and his wife.

Students and staff rapidly became involved in a widening range of religious activity in addition to performing daily kertan at the Khalsa Dharamsala in the morning and Ramgarhia Dharamsala in the evening, on every puranmasi (full-moon day) they enriched the worship services at Gurdwara Rori Sahib, Eminabad. The school also helped form an Amrit Prachar Jatha or a group to administer the Sikh rites of initiation Teams tollled far-flung villages in Lyallpur, Sialkot and Gujraldwala districts emphasizing upon the Sikh youth the importance of amrit.

The institution grew and prospered. The school became the Updeshak Mahavidyala, or college, with classes designed to prepare students for University examinations in Giani and Vidwan on 23 February 1907, Sant Atar Singh laid the foundation -stone of a new building of the Khalsa Updeshak Mahavidyala. Although the buildings and the reputation of the Mahavidyala continued to expand, the institution was handed over to the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar, at the first session of the Sikh educational Conference which took place at Gujraliwala on 18-19 April 1908. The move was intended to set an example for centralizing all Sikh educational ventures and there by engulfing Panthic Unity. The first president of the subcommttee of the Diwan in charge of the Mahavidyala, Kalivar Prithipal Singh, served for several years Other patrons of the school included Mangal Singh Man, Gurmukh Singh, an engineer by profession, Dr Mahali Singh, Tirath Singh, Dharalll Singh and Chllahabar Singh. Sant Atar Singh continued his close association and frequently visited the Mahavidyala After a decade of planning and hard work, a beautiful three-storeyed gurdwara was opened on its premises.