Bhai Kishen Singh:
First Sikh Principal of Khalsa Collge, Amritsar

Dr Sukhbir Singh Kapoor (The Sikh Review magazine - July 1995).
 
 
The foundation stone of Khalsa College Amritsar was laid on 5th March 1892 by Sir James Lyall, the Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab. It was registered as a Society under act XXI of 1860 on 4th April 1892. The first enrolments were made on 18 May 1897. The first student to be admitted was young Sohan Singh, aged 13 years. The admission included students from all faiths including Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. Mr. Vere O'Ratigan joined as the first Principal of the College and served as such for about 12 months. Bhai Kishen Singh took over as the officiating Principal from him on 30th April and handed over the charge to Dr. J.C. Oman who came from England, on 6th May 1898.
Dr. J.C. Oman remained Principal for about 15 months and gave charge on August 15, 1899 to Bhai Kishen Singh, who was at that time a Professor of Mathematics. Bhai Kishen Singh served for 10 months and handed over charge to Mr. G.V. Cole on 13th June 1900. It was during Principal Kishen Singh's tenure that Lord Curzon, the Viceroy and the Governor General of India, visited the College and was welcomed by Professor Kishen Singh along with the College Governing body.
The Viceroy accompanied by lady Curzon and members of his staff left Calcutta on 28th March, 1900 and arrived in Amritsar on 8th April, and were received by the lieutenant Governor of Punjab. In the morning a visit was made to the Golden Temple and Khalsa College. In his speech Lord Curzon said, Amritsar, with the Golden Temple and Khalsa College in its midst had been the centre of the Sikh race with all its traditions of loyalty and gallantry. Nowhere had the recent success of the British Arms been hailed with greater rejoicing than at Amritsar. Its longstanding commercial prosperity showed no decline, and no opportunity had been lost of extending and encouraging the trade and enterprise of the city. He was extremely happy that the first Khalsa College was set up in the holy city.
Bhai Kishen Singh's name stands out in modern Sikh history along side Nawab Kapur Singh and Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. Whereas they excelled in valour, Bhai Kishen Singh excelled himself in the field of education. He was a great mathematician. Principal Jodh Singh was one his student.
Bhai Kishen Singh was born in Amritsar in 1873 and graduated from Lahore in 1892. He was the only son of Sardar Jassa Singh, a rich trader from Kabul, Afghanistan, who migrated to India in 1868. Sardar Jassa Singh was a renowned Sikh of his times and was actively associated with the affairs of Golden Temple and Akal Takht.
Jassa Singh wanted his only son Kishen Singh to be a great educationist and scholar and Kishen Singh aptly fulfilled his father's dream. Bhai Kishen Singh married Bibi Hukum Kaur of Dera Baba Nanak in 1898 and had two children: a daughter Sukhwant Kaur, born in 1901 and a son, Kulwant Singh, born in 1907. Bhai Kishen Singh joined Khalsa College as professor of Mathematics in 1897 and was associated with the College up-to 1904. He wrote many books on mathematics, published by Janki Dass & Sons, which were prescribed as text books for schools and colleges by the Government of Punjab and also wrote a number of papers on mathematics and attended a seminar in London. For a long time he remained President of Amritsar Temperance Society.
During his tenure as the Principal of Khalsa College Amritsar he made his famous speech on education when he welcomed Lord Curzon in Khalsa College. Later in life he was made a member of Senate of Punjab University, which he served diligently till his untimely death in 1936.
He lived in Amritsar all his life, first in Bunga Kapurthalian in the complex of Golden Temple, and then in a palatial house situated near the statue of Queen Victoria (now known as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Road), which he purchased from the reigning chief of Kalsian. He also built a kothi at Lawrence Road which he later bequeathed to his daughter.
He was a great lover of pets and had kept rabbits, parrots and deers at specially built burrows, cages and enclosures in his house. He donated liberally to orphanages, schools and religious places. He also organised centres to look after young widows.
His only son, Kilwant Singh, gradusted from Lahore (Law) and Agra (M.A. History) and retired as Secretary of Punjab & Sind Bank in 1965. He died in 1967. His daughter Sukhwant Kaur retired as Professor of English and Panjabi. His three grandsons (sons of Kulwant Singh): Jasbir Singh retired as Economic Advisor, Punjab Government in 1990, Sukhbir Singh (writer of this note) is working as Principal Lecturer at London Guildhall University, whilst the youngest, Dalbir Singh is working as General Manager, Punjab & Sind Bank.
Bhai Kishen Singh's children and grandchildren have kept his name alive both in the field of education and economic development.
     
 
 

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