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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Bhai Randhir Singh da Jatha/Akhand Kirtani Jatha

Time of origin: mid 1930s

On 7th July 1878, Basant Singh Grewal was born to Sardar Natha Singh and Punjab Kaur, in the village of Narangwal, Ludhiana District. Natha Singh was a proud and wealthy Jatt lawyer who would later become a High Court judge in the state of Nabha. Basant Singh was educated at the Government and Foreman Christian Colleges at capital of Punjab, Lahore (circa 1896-1900). These schools run by the British Raj and the teachers were Christian missionaries.

Ludhiana and surrounding districts in Punjab

On 14th June 1903, Basant Singh was initiated into the Khalsa brotherhood by the notorious Teja Singh Bhasuaria (also known as ‘Babu Teja Singh’), and this spawned the beginning of the organization that today calls itself the Akhand Kirtani Jatha (A.K.J.). The A.K.J was initially known as the ‘Bhai Randhir Singh Da Jatha’, which was originally termed the ‘Tat Khalsa Jatha’ during the Tat Khalsa Singh Sabhia era.

Bhai Randhir Singh Narangwal
Founder of the 'Bhai Randhir Singh da Jatha'

Basant Singh Grewal became known as Bhai Randhir Singh (1878-1961) and is considered to be the co-founder of the modern day puritanical Sikh movement, the A.K.J. After his initiation, he took Babu Teja Singh as his mentor and confidant, and thus he came under his unhealthy influence at an early age (also see Panch Khalsa Diwan). Sikh scholars Pashauara Singh and Gerald N. Barrier noted:

The second legacy lies in the sect which continues some of the ideals of Babu Teja Singh. This is the Bhai Randhir Singh da Jatha, more commonly known as the Akhand Kirtani Jatha. Randhir Singh was a considerable admirer of Teja Singh….’
‘The Transmission of the Sikh Heritage in the Diaspora’, by Pashauara Singh and Gerald N. Barrier, Pa.160

Bhai Randhir Singh da Jatha
'Bhai Randhir Singh Narangwal (with harmonium) and his followers engaged in singing of Sikh scriptures

In one of his early books, Bhai Randhir Singh argues against the S.G.P.C. stance with regards to 'Chatka' meat. In this text, he speaks of his one-time mentor Babu Teja Singh:

‘---, in those days with the jewel of the Panch Khalsa Diwan, Teja Singh Bhasauria I had great love.’
‘Chatka Mas Prthaeh Tat Gurmat Nirna’, Bhai Randhir Singh, Pa.9

Later on, during his travels, Randhir Singh came into contact with Akali Nihangs. The outspoken anti-British Raj attitude of the Akali Nihangs would influence his thoughts and actions in the time ahead.

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