Bikrama Singh, Kanvar
One of the Pioneers of the Singh Sabha Movement (1835-1887)
Was born in 1835. He was the son of Raja Nihal Singh of Kapurthala. As he grew up, he developed interest in classical learning and music. He received several honours and distinctions from the British government. During the 1857 uprising, he commanded a Kapurthala contingent of 300 men, horse and foot, and 2 guns to defend Hoshiarpur. He also assisted in the subjugation of Oudh at the head of a Kapurthala contingent. He was awarded the title of Sardar Bahadur and a large jagir in land, with a khill’at. He was an honorary magistrate at Jalandhar and in 1879 was appointed an honorary assistant commissioner and was decorated with the title of Companion of the Star of India (C.S.I.). He also served as president of the newly created Municipal Board of Jalandhar for a term.
Well versed in English, Persian, Sanskrit, and Punjabi, Kaflvar Bikrama Singh was a strong advocate of Western learning. He equally supported the cause of women’s education. In 1882, he initiated the proposal for the establishment of a Khalsa college. He also felt concerned about the state of Sikh faith in his day and was one of the three original founders of the Singh Sabha established at Amritsar on 1 October 1873, the other two being Sardar Thakur Singh Sandhanvalia and Baba Khem Singh.
His more important, though indirect, contribution to the Singh Sabha movement was his patronage of the renowned Bhai Gurmukh Singh. Gurmukh Singh was the promising son of one of his family servants whom he had brought up and educated with loving care. He now helped Bhai Gurmukh Singh with funds for setting up Khalsa Press at Lahore. This led to the launching in 1886 of the Punjabi weekly, Khalsa Akhbar, which played a major role in spreading Singh Sabha ideology. Kanvar Bikrama Singh stood by Giant Ditt Singh and helped him financially when he became involved in a defamation case for the publication of his Svapan Natak (q.v.), a satirical work which gave offence to the patrons of the Khalsa Diwan of Amritsar. Kanvar Bikrama Singh, as president of the Jalandhar Singh Sabha, always took the part of the Lahore Khalsa Diwan. Besides the patronage, encouragement and active assistance he gave to scholars like Bhai Gurmukh Singh and Bhai Ditt Singh, he himself wrote a book, Upma Sar Granth. Kanvar Bikrama Singh died, after a short illness, on 8 May 1887.