Takht Singh, Bhai
A Pioneer of Women’s Education (1870-1937)
Was born at Firozpur around 1870. His father, Deva Singh Nihang, is said to have fought in both of the AngloSikh wars (1845-46 and 1848-49). Takht Singh passed the High Proficiency (Vidvan) examination in 1887 from the Oriental College at Lahore, where two of his teachers, Bhai Gurmukh Singh and Giani Ditt Singh, both leading figures in the Singh Sabha reform movement, deeply influenced him. Takht Singh returned from Lahore resolved to dedicate himself to the cause of women’s education among Sikhs.
To a modest open-air school he had established at Fiirozpur, he added in 1904 a boarding house which marked the beginning of the Sikh Kanya Mahavidayala. The institution, the first of its kind, gave a fillip to education among Sikh women and became a centre of cultural and literary activity. In running this school, Bhai Takht Singh received great support from his wife, Bibi Harnam Kaur. Upon her decease in 1906 he married, on 17 September 1910, Bibi Agya Kaur, who also proved a worthy helpmate. Bhai Takht Singh travelled to distant places, such as Rangoon, Malaya and Singapore to raise funds for the Mahavidayala.
In 1907 was begun the erection of the main building of the school. The same year was launched a literary and social magazine, the Panjabi Bhain (Punjabi Sister). At the Sikh Kanya Mahavidayala, Bhai Takht Singh started assembling books, manuscripts, journals and newspapers, mainly in Punjabi. This was the beginning of what in course of time grew into a prestigious collection, named Bhai Ditt Singh Library in honour of his teacher of Oriental College days. The collection came to the Punjabi University at PatiAla in 1983. Bhai Takht Singh remained actively associated with the Sikh Educational Conference and was, as a rule, called upon to say ardas, supplication prayer, at its annual sessions. Such was the quality of his dedication to his work that his colleagues affectionately called him Zinda Shahid, the Living Martyr.
Bhai Takht Singh died on 18 December 1937.