Singh was born in Hoshiarpur, Haryana.
==> GANDA SINGH (Dr.) was born on November 15, 1900, at
Hariana, an ancient town in Hoshiarpur district of the Punjab.
He started his schooling in the village mosque and then joined
the local Government Middle School. After some time he transferred
himself to the D.A.V. Middle School, eventually taking his
matriculation from Government High School, Hoshiarpur. The
inter-religious polemic which raged in the Punjab in the early
part of this century, stirred young Ganda Singh's curiosity.
He turned to reading Sikh literature. The stories of Sikh
heroes of the eighteenth century and their brave deeds and
sacrifices made a deep impression on his imagination. This
was the origin of his interest in Sikh lore. The liberating
impulse generated by the Singh Sabha, the Sikh renaissance
movement, gave a critical bias to his study of Sikh history.
A deeply embedded streak of adventure, tough physique and
strong, indomitable character were the other constituents
of the equipment of the future historian of the Punjab.
Dr. Ganda Singh interrupted his studies at Forman Christian
College, Lahore, to join the Indian army in the Third Afghan
War. He served in the Supply and Transport Corps Base Depot
at Rawalpindi in 1919, and then in the Divisional Supplies
at Peshawar. In 1920-21, he was with the Mesopotamia Expeditionary
Force, first in the Indian Base Depot at Makina (Basra) and
later at the Base Supply Depot, Margil (Basra). In 1921, he
joined the Royal Army Pay Corps, British Army, Basra.
In Mesopotamia he had his thigh torn with a bullet shot.
Through an erroneous marking, the letter which arrived back
in his village home, Pur Hiran, in Hoshiarpur district, showed
him as "dead." Recovering from his wounds, he came
to his village a few months later. The hour was late and his
knocking at the door of his house did not sound to the inmates
as an earthly phenomenon. He was not let in. Spreading out
his rug on the bullock-cart in the haven, he slept out the
night as soundly as he would have done in the most comfortable
He went back to Mesopotamia and, then, to Iran. In the latter
country, where he spent nine years (1921-30) with the Anglo-Persian
Oil Company, he came in touch with Sir Arnold T. Wilson, then
engaged on his Bibliography of Persia. Sir Arnold encouraged
his literary interests and introduced him to English journals
and societies devoted to oriental studies. Dr. Ganda Singh
reviewed for some of these books on Indian themes.
In Iran, he started building up his private library, which,
today, is perhaps the largest collection under a single roof
of material on the history of the Sikhs. He purchased books
from all parts of the world and undertook tours of England
and other European countries where he visited museums and
He published his first book, My First Thirty Days in Mesopotamia,
which was in English, while he was in Iran. His next two books,
Inkishaf-i-Haqzqat and Sikkhi Parchdr were in Urdu and Punjabi,
respectively. The urge to take up historical research in a
more systematic manner brought him back to India in 1930.
His object was to collaborate with Karam Singh who had done
valuable original work in the line and who, by his impassioned
writings, had aroused considerable interest in the study and
investigation of Sikh history. But before Dr. Ganda Singh
could meet him, the latter had died. Dr. Ganda Singh settled
down in Lahore and joined the Phulwarls a journal devoted
to Punjabi letters and history.
But he soon moved to Amritsar where he was offered a teaching
and research appointment by the Khalsa College. The college
had just opened a department of research in Sikh history which
was placed in his charge. This was the beginning of a most
prolific period of his career. Starting from nothing, he built
the research department of the Khalsa College into a leading
institution of its kind in the country. He equipped it with
the rarest books and manuscripts. His summer holidays every
year he spent travelling in the country collecting for his
college material bearing on the history of the Punjab. Copies
of many rare and valuable Persian manuscripts from different
collections in India transcribed in elegant calligraphy by
his faithful amanuensis, Maulavi Faiz-ul- Haq, kept pouring
into the Research Library of the Khalsa College.
His first major work was a biography, in English, of Baba
Gurbakhash Singh (Banda Bahadur). It was an example of meticulous
historical composition marked by accuracy of detail and authenticity
of evidence based on original and contemporary sources of
information. The book proved a signal success and instantly
introduced the author to scholarly notice. A few more biographies,
equally well documented, followed. Two of these, Maharaja
Kalra Mall and Sham Singh Attarlwala, were in Punjabi; Ahmad
Shdh Dtlrram, a doctoral thesis, was in English. While at
the Khalsa College, he took his Master's degree in History,
topping the year in the first grade, from Muslim University,
Aligarh (1944). In 1954, he received his Ph.D. at Punjab University,
After eighteen long years at the Khalsa College full of hard,
unflagging labor and dramatic achievement, he came to Patiala
and joined appointment in Patiala and East Punjab States Union
as Director of Archives. He stayed in this post until his
retirement in 1956. During this time, he did not allow his
official responsibilities to impinge on his scholarly pursuit.
He edited volumes of government records and published numerous
learned papers and books. A notable work was Private Correspondence
Relating to the Anglo-Sikh Wars (1955). In this book was collected
a voluminous mass of letters written by English army and political
officers dealing with events preparatory to the annexation
of Sikh dominions. In light of the evidence thus assembled,
the story of the occupation of the Punjab stood stripped of
the muddle which had till then surrounded it and of the glib
simplifications of the writers of history textbooks. To this
correspondence Dr. Ganda Singh added a long introduction which
revealed the range of his historical erudition and his power
of cogent reasoning. As Director of Archives at Patiala, he
helped salvage from the Punjab princely states, then under
abrogation, a vast amount of historical material and organized
it into a large collection of records, manuscripts and books.
He acted as Director of Archives and Curator of Museum at
Patiala, from February 14, 1950, to March 2, 1956. From 1950
to 1953, he simultaneously held charge, as Director, of the
Punjab; Department of Patiala and East Punjab States Union.
A permanent monument of his association with PEPSU Government
was the Central Public Library at Patiala which is of his
creation. Another important monument is the Khalsa College
of which he became the founder-Principal after his retirement.
Dr. Ganda Singh remained in Khalsa College, Patiala, from
June 1, 1960, to September 15, 1963. The connection broke
only when the newly established Punjabi University invited
him to organize for it a department of Punjab historical studies.
This meant the beginning of another spell of sustained, creative
work. He charted a set-up which became a dynamic centre for
research in Punjab history. De novo started the quest for
bibliographical and manuscript materials. Publication of primary
sources on the history of the Punjab was sponsored. Work was
started on a comprehensive eight-volume history of the Punjab
modelled on the Cambridge History. Another project undertaken
was a four volume series of documents on Punjab's part in
the national struggle for freedom. In 1965, Dr. Ganda Singh
founded the Punjab History Conference, and published in the
following year his by now prestigious A Bibliography of t/le
Panjab. He headed the department from September 16, 1963,
to September 15, 1966. Upon his retirement, the Punjabi University
conferred upon him a fellowship for life.
Among learned bodies, he has been a life-member of the Indian
History Congress since 1938, and a life-member of the Asiatic
Society, formerly Asiatic Society of Bengal. He has also been
a life-member of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and
Ireland since 1949, and a life-member of Bharat Itihas Samshodhan
Mandal, Poona, since 1964. He was a corresponding member of
the Indian Historical Records Commission, Government of India
from 1938-49, and a member of the Commission from 1950-56.
He was secretary of the Sikh Historical Society, Lahore, in
1931 as well as secretary of the Sikh Tract Society, Lahore.
He was president of the medieval India session of the Indian
History Congress at Ranchi in 1964. He was president of the
medieval session of the Punjab History Conference at Punjabi
University, Patiala, in 1968, and president of the Institute
of the Historical Studies, Calcutta, for its 12th annual session
in Shillong in 1974. He presided the Indian History Congress
for its 35th session at Jadavpur, Calcutta, in 1974. In 1975,
he presided the 13th annual session of the Institute of Historical
Studies at Panaji, Goa.
Marks of honor have been numerous. In 1963, the Punjab Government
invested him with the State Award for Literature for his services
to the cause of Punjabi letters. In 1964, Aligarh Muslim University
awarded him the degree of D. Litt. (Honoris Causa). On March
28, 1964, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee honored
him for his monumental work on Sikh history. He was similarly
acclaimed by the Sikh Educational Conference at its 52nd annual
session at Kanpur, October 25-27, 1974.
- taken from: "Punjab Past and Present: Essays in
Honor of Dr. Ganda Singh," Eds. Harbans Singh and N.
Gerald Barrier Punjabi University , 1976. pp. 511.