Sahib Singh, Professor
Grammarian and Theologian (1892-1977)
Was born on 16 February 1892 in a Hindu family of the village of Phattevah in Sialkot district of undivided Punjab. He was originally named Natthu Ram by his father, Hiranand, who kept a small shop in the village. Soon the family shifted to Tharpal, another village in the same district. As a youth, Natthu Rain was apprenticed to the village Maulawi, Hayat Shah, son of the famous Punjabi poet, Hasham, upon whom his royal patron, Ranjit Singh, the Maharaja of the Punjab, had settled a permanent jagir.Winning a scholarship at his middle standard examination, Natthu Ram joined the high school at Pasrur where he received in 1906 the rites of the Khalsa and his new name Sahib Singh. The untimely death of his father made the situation hard for him, yet he managed to plough through first Dyal Singh College, Lahore, and then the Government College, Lahore. At the latter, he obtained his bachelor’s degree. In 1917, he joined as a lecturer in Sanskrit at Guru Nanak Khalsa College, Gujranwala.
Sahib Singh, now commonly known as Professor Sahib Singh, took part in the Gurdwara Reform movement in the twenties of the century. He was appointed joint secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 1921. During this period he suffered jail twice-once during the Guru ka Bagh agitation (1922) and then in the Jaito morcha (1924). In 1927 he returned briefly to his college in Gujranwala which he soon quit to join the Khalsa College at Amritsar. From 1929 to 1952 he remained at Khalsa College producing a succession of learned works and commentaries on the Sikh sacred texts. Retiring from the Khalsa College, Amritsar, after many a long year of unbroken and luminous scholarly work, he became principal of the Shahid Sikh missionary College. He also worked as principal at the Gurmat College, Patiala.
Professor Sahib Singh was known for his erudition and assiduous pursuit of scholarship. Nearly 50 of his works were published between 1927 and 1977. These included exposition of several of the Sikh sacred texts and his monumental 10-volume commentary on Sikh Scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan, published during 1962-64. A most original and earlier work was his Gurbani Viakaran, a textual grammar of the Guru Granth Sahib. No exegetical work since the publication of this book in 1932 has been possible without resort to the fundamental principles enunciated in it, especially those concerning the interpretation of vowel endings in inflexions of nouns and verbs. Sahib Singh made a notable contribution to Punjabi prose through his essays on moral and spiritual themes, religious philosophy and issues in history and biography.
Sahib Singh’s contribution to Sikh studies and Punjabi letters received wide recognition in his own lifetime. The Punjabi Sahitya Akademi, Ludhiana, honoured him in 1970 with a life fellowship, and Punjabi University, Patiala, conferred upon him, in 1971, the degree of Doctor of Literature (honoris causa). Earlier, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee had made award to him for his Gurbani Viakaran, and the Government of Patiala and East Punjab States Union had honoured him in 1952 marking his services to Punjabi literature.
Professor Sahib Singh died of Parkinson’s disease at Amritsar on 29 October 1977.