Internet is simply amazing. I received this excellent article by Ranpreet Singh Bal on Lahore’s great son whose name lives on despite the changes of borders, tumult of history and bitterness of the violence. Many thanks, Bal-ji! (Raza Rumi)
One of the greatest sons of Punjab in the second half of 19th century Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia was a versatile and amazing personality.
His father General Lehna Singh Majithia was one of the Generals in Ranjit Singh’s army, who was an engineer and Chief of the Ordinance department of the Maharaja.
For three generations the family had provided generals to the maharaja’s Army. Majithia Sardars family was so eminent that when Viceregal Durbar was held in Lahore in 1864, of the 603 people invited, Dyal Singh then age 16 was allotted 55th seat and his uncle Sardar Ranjodh Singh Majithia being 103rd.
Anarchist situations that prevailed in Punjab after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, forced General Lehna Singh Majithia to leave Lahore.
After travelling Hardwar, Banaras, Jagannath Puri and Calcutta the family settled down in Banaras, where Dyal Singh his only son was born in 1848.
Orphaned at the age of six on the death of his parents in 1854, Dyal Singh was brought to his ancestral home Majitha- a town 10 miles north of Amritsar in Punjab.
Dyal Singh received education first at home, from an English governess and then in the Christian Mission School at Amritsar.
Dyal Singh showed signs of an inquisitive mind with an insatiable hunger for knowledge. He became a scholar of Persian, Arabic, Hindi and English.
Sardar Dyal Singh later shifted to Lahore. His friends were teachers, poets, lawyers, civil servants and politicians.
Dyal Singh lived like a prince. He was a patron of wrestling and keen kite- flyer. He travelled to the United Kingdom and Europe, which broadened his outlook towards life and revolutionized his religious beliefs.
Sardar Dyal Singh developed an admiration for western system of education and the freedom of the press.
He started the weekly Tribune- newspaper from Lahore on February 2, 1881. It became tri-weekly in 1898 and a daily in 1906.
Sardar Dyal Singh extended his patronage to poets, artists and sportsmen. He himself wrote poetry under the pen name “Mashriq”
Sardar Dyal Singh was the main force behind the founding of Punjab University Lahore.
He was the leader of Punjabi youth in the movement for demanding in setting up a University in Lahore to impart education through the medium of English. The battle was won in 1882 when the Punjab University was set up on the model of Calcutta, Bombay and madras Universities.
According to Annie Besant Sardar Dyal Singh was among the “17 good men and true” who founded Indian National Congress.
Unlike other Jagirdar Sardars of his time, he took up the business in real estate, diamonds and jewellery. He earned quite a fortune from the business and utilized his self earned wealth by helping the needy.
Throughout his life Dyal Singh gave scholarships to deserving students of all communities.
He held 25 percent of the initial shares in Punjab National Bank until his death and was the Chairman of Board of Directors.
He was the first President of Indian Association of Lahore and continued in that capacity till his death.
He bequeathed largely self earned assets including the prestigious Dyal Singh Mansions on the Mall Road and other huge properties in Lahore, Karachi, Amritsar and Gurdaspur worth Rs. 30 lakh in 1898 to three trusts that later established Dyal Singh College and Dyal Singh Library in Lahore
and The Tribune- newspaper.
Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia Died on September 9, 1898 without an issue.
After the partition of the country in 1947, Dyal Singh College, Dyal Singh Majithia Hall, Dyal Singh Mansions and Dyal Singh Library still exists by the same name, it is a tribute to Sardar Dyal Singh’s transcendent qualities that Pakistan Government retained his name for the college and library.
The Tribune shifted to Simla then to Ambala and later to Chandigarh.
The properties in India were taken over by the Sardar Dyal Singh College Trust which runs Dyal Singh College in Karnal.
The Sardar founded these trusts with great care. His trustees were well chosen, and they have tried to keep his inspiring philosophy alive.
Even Partition has not killed the trusts. They are still alive. Sardar Dyal Singh lives on. He still inspires.