Life and Times of Sant Teja Singh: 1906-1912
Much has been written about the life of Sant Teja Singh who was born in 1877 and passed away at the age of 88 years. He made outstanding contributions for the cause of spreading the glorious teachings of Guru Nanak all across the world throughout his life. But this paper will restrict presentation of his works during the period 1906 through 1912. This period was full of intense activities for young Teja Singh in England, Canada and America. He was only 29 years of age in 1906. A young, brilliant and a dedicated Sikh, he did pioneering work in educating Americans and Canadians about Sikhism and establishing Gurdwaras in Victoria (Canada) and Stockton (California). This paper will describe the state of affairs that existed 1906-1912. The paper will present that how a combination of a young scholarly person like Teja Singh, and spiritually enlightened souls like Baba Vasakha Singh, Baba Jawala Singh and a revolutionary person like Baba Bakhana Singh would make an everlasting imprint on the pages of history of the Sikhs in America and for the freedom of India. They drew their strength and inspiration from Sikh faith thereby providing a spring board for the rise of Gaddar movement. This paper will attempt to show that how a neglect of the above noted lesson with regard to the cooperation between the educated Sikh youth and the elderly persons managing the Gurdwaras, has bogged down the progress of Sikh image in modern times in Western countries. Certain examples and suggestions are made in the context of current pursuit of scholarship on Sikhism through Sikh chairs and otherwise and the current management styles of Gurdwaras in U.S.A.
Although the focus of this paper is to examine the "Life and Times" of Sant Teja Singh for the period of only 6 years i.e. from 1906 through 1912, a brief look into his life until 1906 is given first. Born in 1977, he passed B.A. at the age of 19 years, got LLB degree in 1900 at an age of 23 years and received M.A. in 1901 and became vice principal of Khalsa College, Amritsar in 1904 at the unprecedented young age of 27 years. A brilliant and a remarkable achievement. At Khalsa College he started as a wholly materialistic, non-religious person and an atheist. But a deeply spiritual transformation took place in Teja Singh's life in 1905 after meeting Sant Atar Singh who persuaded him to go for higher education. Sant Atar Singh valued education highly and wanted to establish schools in Malwa region of Punjab, to provide spiritual as well as western style science education.
England (1906-1908): Studies at University of London and Cambridge University
Young Teja Singh of 29 years of age arrived in London on 24th of August, 1906. He had his wife and two children with him. Three other Sikhs also accompanied him and reached London at the same time. It is interesting to note that these four young Sikhs did not choose to do menial jobs, but straight way embarked upon their pursuit for education in the subjects of science and technology. Teja Singh joined University of London for a doctorate in Science, Dharam Singh enrolled for Electrical Training in a London College, Amar Singh joined for Textile and Clothing in Manchester and Hari Singh joined Edinburgh University. Alas, such pursuits are mostly missing among today's arrivals in the West.
Analysis: In those days (1906), although Britishers knew about Sikhs and their turbans, yet at Universities like Cambridge they would not allow students to wear turbans. This was Teja Singh's first fight for justice for Sikhs. He left London University after one term and joined Cambridge University where he successfully defended the right to wear turban. Thus he was the first Sikh with turban at Cambridge. It may be noted that at Cambridge, he enrolled for the 'Science Tripose Degree' and took subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Zoology. For every one hour lecture in these subjects, there were three hours of laboratory. Significance of science and technology for progress was recognized by Teja Singh so early. But these days, though there are many academies/ organizations in Punjab/USA to recognize achievements of the Sikhs in literature/ culture/ language, there is none to acknowledge their achievements in science, engineering and medicine. Remember Kartar Singh Sarabha had enrolled himself in Chemistry and Dalip Singh Saund did his Ph.D. in Mathematics at UC Berkeley. From1906 through 1908 Teja Singh completed 5 terms at Cambridge University. Only one more term was needed. But before completing the 6th term, he left for New York to join Columbia University where he won a scholarship for teachers training studies.
U.S.A (Columbia University 1908) and Impact of Teja Singh's Lectures
While at Columbia University, Teja's grasp of Indian Life and the teachings of Guru Nanak was acknowledged not only by his teachers at Columbia but by the general public as well. During one of his classes at Columbia he disagreed with his teacher's description of Kipling's genius. Teja Singh explained the reason for his disagreement in such a scholarly way that the teacher asked Teja Singh to give a public lecture on Indian Society. The teacher took upon himself to advertise and to invite people to listen to Teja Singh. It is said that about 10,000 people gathered for his lecture. Teja Singh's thorough knowledge and eloquence impressed everyone. But his deep unshakable inner peace as Gursikh, while explaining teachings of Guru Nanak, was the most moving experience for the audience who consisted of professors, students, press reporters and scholars of sociology. Many of the audiences developed reverence for Guru Nanak and Sikh faith and requested Teja Singh to give weekly discourses to about 100 persons initially, but number doubled very soon.1
Analysis: The fact that the first two lectures of Teja Singh were widely covered by the newspapers throughout America is testimony to the universal appeal of Guru Nanak's teachings and the clarity and the earnest way Teja Singh presented these to the American audience. How many of Teja Singh's calibre are there among us these days? Although present day exegetes (Katha Vacharaks) maybe quite learned, yet because of the lack of their command over English, they cannot deliver much. Although there are Sikh chairs in US but their scholars are obsessed too much with history rather than with basic tenets of Sikh faith. That approach may be fine but to keep splitting hairs on only one aspect for over 15 years with good amount of financial resources is beyond comprehension. As a result their spiritless research has created more confusion than clarity about the Sikh philosophy and faith. Granted, and it is appreciable, that these chairs have taught Sikhism/Sikh studies to many of their American students, yet their scholarly presentation can often be dry and lacks that appeal which a truly learned and dedicated Sikh can make to the American audience. Is that one of the reasons that we the Sikhs remain misunderstood in USA. An average American still does not know who Sikhs are and what their religion is. Thanks to CNN that has, after the tragic event in Wisconsin, done a great job in portraying the correct image of the Sikhs and Sikh values to Americans.
The news about Teja Singh's landmark lectures in New York reached Western shores of Canada where Sikhs were suffering because of the general ignorance about them and they were thinking of inviting a learned person from India to explain about them and their faith to Canadians.
Vancouver (Summer of 1908): Teja Singh's First Visit to Canada
As soon as Canadian Sikhs learnt about Teja Singh's lectures from a Canadian well wisher of the Sikhs who had read the news about the two lectures of Teja Singh given in New York, they made an immediate and urgent request to Teja Singh to come to Vancouver. This was the time of 1908 summer vacation at Columbia University, so Teja Singh hurried to reach Vancouver. This was his first visit to Vancouver. Teja Singh delivered lectures on the teachings of Guru Nanak and endeared himself to the Sikhs living in British Columbia. At the end of summer vacation, he returned to Columbia University to finish his studies. His return to New York delighted many of his American admirers who requested him to resume his weekly discourses on the teachings of Guru Nanak. One of the American admirers named T.C. Crawford became deeply and spiritually attached to Sikh faith and also to Teja Singh. He would visit Teja Singh daily to discuss spiritual matters and even started his daily meditation. As ill luck would have it, one early morning Crawford came and made an urgent request to Teja Singh to raise $15,000 to help him save his share in a gold mine in Jacksonville, California. Mr. T.C. Crawford appeared very distressed. Teja Singh could not see a devotee of Guru Nanak in trouble. So he decided to return to Vancouver area to seek funds from his fellow Sikhs.2 This was in December, 1908.
Teja Singh's Second Visit to Vancouver & His Stand Against Injustice (December 1908)
This was indeed a drastic decision for Teja Singh to interrupt his studies for such a difficult mission. But somehow. this was an inner callings of the Sikhs of Canada, who used to be shipped like sheep to Honduras by the Canadian government on the pretex that the Sikhs were mostly unemployed, unclean people and that they were public nuisance. Honduras in those days was a land infested with yellow fever and there were no job opportunities. This misfortune was looming large over the Sikhs and they needed some learned and capable person who could save them from their misery by presenting a true account of the Sikhs and their faith. Arrival of Teja Singh was a fortunate coincidence. Sikhs were overjoyed to see him and requested him for help. Teja Singh delivered a couple of lectures within the first week of his arrival. These lectures were so powerful and full of profound wisdom about Sikh faith that many of the Canadians became keenly interested in knowing more about Guru Nanak's teachings. Some of Teja Singh's lectures were also published in the newspapers. Since Teja Singh had lectured at Columbia University earlier, he was now popularly known as Professor Teja Singh. This was during the first week of December, 1908 and Teja Singh was only 31 years of age. He was considered a novice against Mr. J.B. Harkin, a government commissioner and a well seasoned elderly Governor Swayne who had told Sikhs to move to Honduras.3,5,7 But Teja Singh, though relatively much younger than these powerful officials, defended the Canadian Sikhs by forcefully opposing the racial injustice for the Sikhs.
"Later speaking at the O'Brien Hall, in Vancouver, Professor Teja Singh vehemently pleaded for sympathy of the white brethren in Canada for his fellow citizens. He said that: If India's rights are not granted, as prophesied by an English officer in India years ago, that will cause a direct warfare. At the outset, I appeal to our white brethren here to help us in our efforts to prevent the movement from being carried out. It is alleged that we are to be shipped out of the country because there is no work here. No, this is not true. It is a safe estimate that about seventy percent of them are working" (The Vancouver Daily Province)."
It was reported that Teja Singh spoke in perfect English and that audience warmly applauded his speech many times.
He presented such a correct and genuine description of the Sikhs and Sikh faith in the context of world history and historic events, that Vancouver newspapers published a headline news with the title "Mystery and Power of Teja Singh." A few quotes from this newspaper are as follows:
"There was no jingoism (boast) in his two -hour address. He spoke calmly and dispassionately quoting historical authorities… The professor showed himself to be a man of profound erudition with a marvelous grasp of the principles of European civilization and intimate knowledge of oriental philosophy. He expounded the principles of true political economy… White men and white women are remembered among his warmest admirers."
The newspaper further writes that "in appearance he is quite distinguished. He wears European attire, his head being surrounded by a large turban. A glossy black beard knotted at the end. He looks like a man who is terribly earnest."6
Besides being a learned and spiritual person, Teja Singh was a remarkable planner and organizer. He successfully organized the Sikhs to purchase 250 acres of land near Eagle Harbour for $25,000 for establishing a Sikh colony and a Sikh University.4 He also persuaded seven Sikhs to register Guru Nanak Mining and Trust Co. and to buy one-fourth share of Gold Mine in Jacksville, California by collecting $15,000 and sending this amount to Crawford. All this built a good base and a firm position for the Sikh community in Canada. Strong financial strength of the Sikhs became a public knowledge and there was no reason for them to become a public liability. Thus the Canadian government's propaganda against Sikhs was exposed and was known worldwide including India. Sikhs were now enjoying a good political image and a comfortable life. Their financial position was sound and improving.1
Analysis: Now we all know what follows when Sikhs become too rich. Sikhi becomes bankrupt; they fight with each other. This was perhaps the first and the last time a land of this much size (250 acres) was bought by Sikhs together to set up a University. Crawford was very keen for Sikhs to have a Sikh University on this land, and that the profit from the Guru Nanak Mining Company could be used for this purpose, and to further propagate the mission of Guru Nanak. But the mutual bickerings and fights among Sikhs resulted in selling that piece of land which would have been worth billions of dollars at present. Sikhs also withdrew their shares from the mining company. A somewhat similar story, but on a smaller scale happened in Berkeley, California. A two storied apartment building located only two blocks from the University of California Berkeley campus at the crossing of Alliston Way and Roosevelt Street was bought by Stockton Gurdwara members. This was done soon after the establishment of Stockton Gurdwara and to help Berkeley Students free accomodation for their education. It was named Khalsa Club. Later after several decades due to the lack of maintenance and students opting to stay in other places, it got infected with rats and spiders and finally got torn down by the city administration of Berkeley. We came to know of it only in 1969-70, when a friend of ours rented an apartment just across the corner where the Khalsa Club apartment used to be. I was studying at U.C. Berkeley at that time and we decided to clean up the plot. We worked very hard for several weeks with shovels, picks, and bins and cleared most of the debris out of the plot. We planned to request the Stockton Committee to build a memorial there. Somehow for some reason or the other our team members were not allowed there. I was on transfer to Houston and then to Alaska. In 1974-76 we learnt that the land had been sold by the Stockton Gurdwara Committee. What a short sightedness born either out of ignorance or due to mutual bickering/fighting which often would not let our members to have visions beyond these fightings/jealousies. Exact date and price at which this piece was sold can be found out from the city records.
Reaching Out to Sikhs in Western Coast
Victoria: In order to reach out to Sikhs in the Western Coast of U.S.A., Professor Teja Singh undertook visits to Victoria, Seattle, Portland, Oregon and California. His first stop in Victoria happened to be in a house where his host and other Sikhs were drinking alcohol. Unperturbed, Teja Singh decided to stay there for the night. And next morning when he addressed them with his uncanny yet profoundly dedicated way to be the gems of Guru than to be a blot, about 15-20 Sikhs decided to take Amrit which was administrated to them the same day. Such was the power and influence of this deeply devoted Sikh of the Guru. Upon Teja Singh's suggestion, a plot was purchased to build first ever Gurdwara in Victoria. Every Sikh gave one month's salary to pay for building A Real Estate agent Mr. Robert W. Clark's wife arranged public lectures by Teja Singh in a city hall. Impact of Teja Singh's lectures was such that many Europeans loved the Sikh doctrines. Mrs. Clark printed 10,000 copies of pamphlets that she had got written by Teja Singh on Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. She sent these pamphlets far and wide cities across Canada, America and Europe. As usual none of these pamphlets was saved by Sikhs and the efforts to find a copy of these pamphlets has not been successful. It would have been great to know in what an inspiring way Teja Singh wrote and spoke.
California (1909): Accompanied by a few Sikhs of Canada, Teja Singh undertook a mission to visit Sikhs in Western Coast of America for the purpose of helping them and to administ Amrit (Pahul). Lectures were given in Seattle, Portland and California to Sikhs and many of them took Amrit (Pahul). This was his first visit to California. When this group of Canadian Sikhs including Teja Singh returned from America, and narrated stories of the Sikhs of California's enthusiasm in taking Amrit (Pahul), many more Canadian Sikhs got into the Khalsa fold. Again an urgent request came from the Sikhs in Pleasanton, California. Teja Singh with his group of Sikhs reached there after a brief stopover in Porland, Oregon, This second visit turned out to be short but equally successful and the group returned to Vancouver.
Teja Singh's Legislative, Organizational and Constitutional Skills:
A need was felt to form an organization of Sikhs. Professor Teja Singh formulated the bylaws and other rules of the organization which was named Khalsa Diwan Society. This society was formally registered in Vancouver, B.C. This was in 1909. Later in 1912 at the time of starting of Stockton Gurdwara, Teja Singh prepared the bylaws for Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society and got it registered on May 27th, 1912. His vision was far reaching. The name Pacific Coast was purposely used to allow this as an umbrella body to facilitate establishing more Gurdwaras without forming another set of bylaws. Unfortunately, we did not realise its significance, and now we have many nomenclatures, sometime after a community name that built the Gurdwara. Anyway here is the statement:
"That we, the under-signed persons, all residents of the State of California, and members of the Sikh faith, do hereby voluntarily associate ourselves together for incorporating under the laws of the State of California and in pursuance of the purposes for which we have been elected as hereinafter set out, a religious corporation, not for profit and without capital stock, and we do hereby certify."11
It demonstrates the able guidance and skill of Teja Singh in drafting these. These articles of incorporation were signed by Teja Singh, as President and Tara Singh as Secretary.
Teja Singh's Constitutional Fight for Justice for Families of Immigrants
Teja Singh joined U.C. Berkeley for Doctor of Literature degree and his plan was to build a Gurdwara at Berkeley also. But he had hardly settled at Berkeley when another urgent letter came from Vancouver.
This was to help Indians in British Columbia modify a rule by government of Canada, according to which their families could not come from India to join them unless they came on one direct voyage from India, which was not possible as there was no ship directing coming to Canada from India. Upon consultation with California Sikhs and after registering Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society to facilitate further opening of Gurdwaras in California, Teja Singh reached Vancouver along with his family. A meeting was called and three persons: Dr. Sunder Singh, priest-Mr. L.W. Hall and Teja Singh were deputed to go to Ottawa to request the immigration ministry to modify the rule. In spite of a very persuasive presentation, the ministry denied the demand. Roman Catholic priest Mr. L.W. Hall congratulated Teja Singh for smartly neutralizing each and every argument put forward by the ministry, and requested Teja Singh to deliver a public lecture to explain their position before the public. A large public hall was arranged. The lecture was attended by more than ten thousand persons. Teja Singh explained the history of Greek Empire's fall when they denied justice to their people. British Empire can face the same fate. Teja Singh's explanation of the fall of Greek, Roman and the Mughal empires was so remarkable that several people agreed with the demand. The delegation returned to Vancouver empty handed, but made significant progress towards the legislative and constitutional rights of Indians in Canada. At a meeting at the Sikh Temple, they drafted the cable as below:
"Khalsa Diwan Society and United India League, Vancouver, implore your office to stop deportation ordered by the Dominion Government of two Sikh ladies and their children under wrong interpretation of immigration laws. This is a gross breach of Imperial unity by attack on Sikh homes."
Later Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala got it approved during an Empire Conference in London.
London and Back to Vancouver (1910)
Meanwhile as mentioned earlier, tensions and mutual bickering among Sikhs were becoming more common. Teja Singh thought of fulfilling the promise of Sant Attar Singh to set up Gurdwara in England. So he left Vancouver for London via New York, and reached London with his family.
Upon reaching London, Teja Singh sent letters to Sikh students across England to get together in London for the purpose of seting up of a Gurdwara in London. However, it had only been two weeks since his arrival in London that Teja Singh received an urgent request with prepaid tickets to come back to Vancouver to resolve a deepening crisis. Teja Singh left his family in London and returned to Vancouver to find that misappropriation of accounts was being blamed on him. A complete auditing of all the accounts by an impartial body revealed no misuse or misappropriation. Teja Singh's honor was vindicated and he returned to London.
Analysis: Now 100 years later, Gurdwara accounts remain the main source of division and fighting among the Sikhs even today. There are examples of good record keeping by responsible persons. But there are also opportunistic persons keeping doubtful records. This seems to be becoming quite common these days, resulting into wastage of money and time of our community on law suits. It was during a climate of distrust and infightings that Sikhs have often missed golden opportunities of their lives. Selling off of the 250 acres of land and shares in the mining company happened under these circumstances when Sikhs lost vision to think beyond their mutual jealousies.
Back to London (1910): First Gurdwara in London
Upon return to London, Teja Singh had selected, with the help of a Real Estate Agent, a beautiful big house (for free hold) for the Gurdwara. This was available for twenty-five hundred pounds. However the Sikhs of London, most of whom were students, thought it was too expensive. Accordingly, a house for sixty years lease, was acquired for Gurdwara and thus the first ever Gurdwara was set up in London in 1910. At the time of Dewan in the Gurdwara, the Sangat requested Teja Singh that he had been working so hard for Sikh cause and that he should now go back to complete his studies.
Back to Academic Pursuits & Denial of Admission
Accepting the request and remembering Sant Attar Singh's directive to receive education, Teja Singh went to Cambridge University to complete the sixth and the last term. But he was not allowed readmission because of his political activities, the report of which had reached the University. Teja Singh then approached Columbia University but a similar reply was received. Imagine the days when places of higher learning could be so narrow minded, simply because Indians were slaves and that they were the subject of British Empire whose cruel hands could extend far and wide.
At Harvard University (1911) and Financial Hardships:
Teja Singh, now, thought of Harvard University where he had got admission while he was still in India hoping that Harvard University might not have received information about his political activities inNorth America. He was admitted at Harvard for M.A. degree in English literature. He was to pay $60 fee for the first term, but he was left with only $15 after paying his tickets from New York to Boston. He paid $4 for weekly rental of the house. These were days of great financial hardship for Teja Singh. But he faced it boldly. Teja Singh would buy plain cloth for pillow or sofa covers and since his wife had good skill of sewing, she would make covers and then Teja Singh would sell these. This worked. The very first cover, they sold for nine dollars. Earnings continued to reach the target for fee. Meanwhile when New York Sangat came to know of his presence at Harvard, they invited Teja Singh over for a lecture in New York for which they paid an honorarium of $25 besides the return ticket. This way Teja Singh had saved up to $60 to pay the fee and was able to start his studies. Once the first term was finished, there were not enough funds to pay a fee of $60 for the second and the last term. He could not arrange the money for the fee and University sent a letter to Teja Singh that he could not attend classes. Teja Singh writes "Me and my wife went to a park to think and after praying for forgiveness for any selfish thoughts, we returned to the apartment. As soon as we sat down, there was a knock at the door." That was one of his professors named Bilso Perry who gave $60 to Teja Singh and told him to give this to same needy student whenever he could. What a tremendous power of prayer is, if it comes out from the depths of a heart with full faith. Here Teja Singh writes again that contrary to what people think that one cannot carry on Gurbani Nit Name when studying, it is actually a great support to ride over difficulties on the way to studies.2
Teja Singh sent his wife and younger son to California where they were received by Baba Jawala Singh and Baba Vasakha Singh. Teja Singh's plan was to let his wife reach India via Shanghai, Hong Kong and that he will follow soon after completing his studies at Harvard. But Baba Jawala Singh and Baba Vasakha Singh requested his wife not to travel alone but to stay in Stockon until Teja Singh finished his studies.
Second term was over and Teja Singh successfully completed his studies at Harvard and left for California with his elder son. Here it is interesting to note that Teja Singh started his journey to California with only fifty cents in his pocket. That was the amount left after he bought two train tickets to California. During the six days of journey they survived by eating pieces of bread with water. What an unflinching determination and faith!
Gurdwara in Stockton (1912) and Teja Singh's Contribution to National Movement
Upon arrival at Holt Stockton, Teja Singh get a very warm reception by Baba Jawala Singh (36 years of age in 1912) and Baba Vasakha Singh (35 years of age in 1912). This gave renewed enthusiasm to Teja Singh who embarked upon his mission of building Gurdwaras, assigned to him by Saint Attar Singh to build Gurdwaras. Teja Singh had become a highly respected person in California due to his previous visits and people would now rally around him. Here too he played a pioneering role. At the next Sunday Dewan, about 20 Sikhs received Amrit and a committee was formed to work towards setting up of a Gurdwara in California. The members of the committee were Teja Singh, Baba Vasakha Singh, Baba Jawala Singh, Tara Singh, and Bava Singh. Donations were collected at great speed and a nice and open piece of land with a good house and a wind mill on it was purchased with $3400 in the city of Stockton and thus first Gurdwara in the U.S.A. was established in 1912. Later with an brand new building which still stands today, was built on the land. The Gurdwaras became a hub for the revolutionary activities of the Gadar movement. Indian students of all faiths would often visit and stay at the Gurdwara.
Analysis: Professor Teja Singh's activities in British Columbia and in the Western Coast of America made him the uncrowned king not only of the Sikhs but of all the Indians. His humility, honesty and dedication endeared him to one and all. In India he was regarded the champion of nationalist movement trying to tell British government that their representatives in India were unjusticely discriminating on racial grounds. It should be noted that this was in 1908-1912 well before the start of Gaddar movement in 1913. In fact, Teja Singh 's works in Canada and on the Western coast of USA provided the fertile ground for nationalistic feelings that paved the way for Gaddar movement. A testimony to Teja Singh's leadership role in pioneering struggle against British Rule can be seen from the following statement of a British ruler:
"Captain H.F.E. Freeland of the Punjab regiment, had been in India for 16 years, and had seen services in Burma and China, also. He was in Vancouver in December 1908, and at a party in his honor at Hotel Vancouver, he said that: The vast masses of the people in India are loyal to the British and there will be no general uprising… England's safety comes from the large number of races professing different creeds as well as the caste system… In dealing with Orientals you must act with a firm hand. If you show weakness they will not be slow to take advantage… I have read the seditious utterances of Professor Teja Singh who is said to be the leader of the local colony. The boldness of his utterances surprised me. If he returns to India and talks the same way, I think he would be speedily silenced… But John Bull has always been too lenient regarding the freedom of the press and free speech as safety valves. This may be good logic among whites but it does not apply among Orientals… I trust the people of British Columbia will treat the East Indians with justice and fairness."10
It was during these times (1908-19012) that the resentment against the demeaning and indiscriminate racial treatment of Indians, majority of whom were Sikhs on the West coast was growing. Baba Jawala Singh owned a big farm and he established scholarships for students studying at U.C. Berkeley. How generous and farsighted was Jawala Singh who knew that higher education was the key to the door of opportunities. How many more Gurdwaras, and affluent Sikhs are there nowadays, yet the vision for promoting pursuit of education among youths through scholarships is sadly absent among them. But those Sikhs worked in lumber mills in Oregon and in farms in California and had been indoctrinated in faith by Teja Singh's visits. Later in April, 1913, at Astoria, Oregon, they established Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast which later became Gaddar Movement named after the newspaper Gaddar of Hindi Association. Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna (43 years of age in 1913) was the founder president of the association. Although eminent intellectuals and prolific writers like Lala Hardyal and Ram Chandra have been given lots of credit because of their writings in the weekly newspaper Gaddar, the poems of Baba Vasakha Singh in Punjabi in the gaddar paper were no less forceful, in fact far more nationalistic show, as to how these shrewd intellectuals swayed away from their commitment and how the Gadderites, but majority of whom were Sikhs, never waived and laid down their lives. As such the backbone of Gaddar movement were the Sikhs and their crucial role should have been acknowledged in the Gaddar Movement.
The Sangat of Victoria had collected sufficient funds by offering one to two months of their pay to build Gurdwara on the land they had purchased in 1909. Drawing of the building, estimaties and contract were all done with speed. Teja Singh, who had gone to California for about 2 to 3 months for preaching and organizing California Sikhs and also returned to Victoria. Meanwhile the Gurdwara building was near completion. Opening ceremony was done with great pomp and show. A nagar kirtan was also taken out. After this Teja Singh started his journey back to India.
1. Teja Singh's academic pursuits at London, Cambridge and Columbia Universities are testimony to the value placed by Sant Attar Singh and through his inspiration by Teja Singh on higher education. Sikhs must not forget this fact.
2. Because of Teja Singh's deep spiritual strength born out of his grounding in Sikh faith, he was able to bring about profound changes in the minds of the English, the Canadians and the Americans, and especially a desire in the hearts and souls of Indians for freedom.
3. Teja Singh's pioneering efforts to fight for justice for Sikhs and Indians and to initiate national movement for the freedom of India are noteworthy and historic. He prepared the ground work for the Gaddar movement to take root.
4. His fight against unjustice and ill treatment of Indians in Canada and America was most remarkable and was even acknowledged by the governments of these countries. This was because of his thorough knowledge of world history, his skills in the legislative, constitutional and organizational fields, and the way he articulated these in perfect English to Western audience. We need a spokesmen like him to further our progress in America.
Help extended by Avtar Singh Gill of Vancouver and Alison Wuerstle of Santa Clara University is gratefully acknowledged.
1. "Sant Teja Singh ji (Professor), (1877-1965)";by Dr. Gurbakhsh Singh Gill, U.S.A.
2. "Life History of Sant Attar Singh ji" (in Punjabi) by Teja Singh, published by Director Language Dept., Punjab, Patiala, 1946 (First Edition), 1981 (4thEdition)
3. "Hindoos almost Caused Riots at Temple," "Hindus Refuse to Hear Report," The 14 World, Tuesday, December 8, 1908
4. "Hindoos Buy Valuable Tract," The Vancouver World, Thursday, December 10, 1908
5. "East Indian Labor is Needed": Governor Swayne says laboring men are difficult to get in Honduras and offers local Hindoos best of treatment; The Vancouver World, Friday, December 11, 1908
6. "Mystery and Power of Teja Singh," The Vancouver Daily Province, Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, December 12, 1908
7. "Governor Swayne's Mission Has Proven Fruitless; Swayne Mission Proves Failure," The Vancouver World, Monday, December 14, 1908
8. "Prof. Teja Singh and Light Housekeeper Irwin reach a Deadlock in Negotiations for North Vancouver Tract." The Vancouver Daily Province, December 18, 1908
9. "People of India in North America," I.M Muthanna, Bangalore, South India, 1975
10. "The Vancouver Daily Province," December 1908
11. Articles of Incorporation of Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society, State of California, Chapter No.69371-dated the 27th May 1912
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