Today on 14 May, we commemorate Sant Teja Singh Ji, who was born on this day in 1877 in village Balowali, Gujranwala (now in Pakistan).
He is considered as the ‘First Ambassador of Sikhism to the Western World.’
He obtained his higher education from Lahore, graduating from Government College by standing first. He topped in his LL.B. from Law College in 1900. He passed his M.A. in 1901, standing first in Punjab University, Lahore; and A.M. from Harvard University in 1911.
Sant Teja Singh Ji started legal practice at Gujranwala but he left it shortly because he had to do things against his conscience. Then he was selected for the job of Assistant Superintendent, North India Salt Department, where he served from 1902 to 1904. Production of salt then was a government-controlled enterprise and the poor were debarred from producing salt to make their both ends meet. This frustrated Sant Teja Singh Ji and he thought of adopting the career of a teacher.
Sant Teja Singh Ji joined as Vice-Principal of Khalsa College, Amritsar in 1904 and became Principal of the Khalsa College in 1905.
He got initiated into the Khalsa fold with Amrit from Sant Attar Singh Ji along with his mother and family in 1906 and changed his name from Niranjan Singh Mehta to Teja Singh.
Sant Teja Singh Ji’s mentor Sant Attar Singh Ji once expressed, “I wish that an educational institution is established where the spiritual science, as advocated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the material science of the west are combined together so that students may adopt the spiritual philosophy in action and become assets to the world.” In order to fulfil the mission of Sant Ji, Bhai Teja Singh made up his mind to go abroad for higher education of western sciences.
Sant Teja Singh Ji studied at the University College, London and at Cambridge University from 1906-1908. For the first time in the history of this University, he brought the authorities around to let him attend the classes with turban on according to the Sikh religious tenets. He joined a summer school in the Teacher’s College, Columbia University, New York in 1908. Later, he joined the Harvard University in USA and obtained his second Masters’ degree in 1911.
During his stay abroad, Sant Teja Singh Ji established the first Gurdwara in the Western world in 1910 at Shepherd’s Bush in London. He also got a Gurdwara built in Victoria BC in Canada in 1912-13. He served the Sikhs and other Indian communities in Vancouver BC and organised the Khalsa Diwan there. He pleaded with the Canadian Government for Indians, who were being ordered to leave the country and planning them to deport to Honduras in Central America. He won for them the legal battle. He established the Sikh Temple at Stockton, California in USA and organised the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society in 1912.
Sant Teja Singh Ji returned to India from Vancouver in 1913, traveling via Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Malaya. He reached Gur Sagar Sahib in Mastuana and offered himself in the services of Sant Attar Singh Ji.
On the request of Gujranwala Sangat, Sant Teja Singh Ji started Guru Nanak Khalsa College, Gujranwala in 1917 and remained its Principal up to 1919. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, President of Banaras Hindu University, approached Sant Attar Singh Ji in 1919 and requested him for the services of Sant Teja Singh Ji for starting Teacher’s Training College in that University. Sant Teja Singh Ji joined as Principal of this College and established its working. Sangat approached Sant Attar Singh Ji to call back Bhai Teja Singh Ji for starting Akal College at Gur Sagar Sahib, Mastuana. He joined Akal College, Mastuana and served it faithfully. He also established Khalsa High School, Kallar in Rawalpindi district and other educational institutions. Sant Attar Singh Ji sent him many a time to various organisations of the Sikhs including Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to resolve crucial and vital issues of the Sikh Panth.
He established Gurdwara Tapiana Sahib in village Kanoha, now in Pakistan, where Sant Attar Singh Ji had constantly meditated on the Divine Name for about two years. In 1932, he undertook the construction of a Gurmat Vidyala and Gurdwara Nanaksar Cheema, whose foundation was earlier laid by Sant Attar Singh Ji. He also laid the foundation of Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Nanaksar Cheema in 1960 at the place where Sant Attar Singh Ji was born.
At Khalsa College, Amritsar, he inspired the students to imbibe the divine virtues along with the worldly education. Sant Ji told them, “Where there is a will, there is a way. When I was ignorant of the holy hymns and the Divine Name, I had to exert very hard to get through the various examinations. However, when I started devoting time for the recitation of the Divine Name, I neither felt tension nor difficulty in qualifying my examinations with distinction during my studies in England and USA.”
In 1954, Sant Teja Singh Ji went to African countries to spread the message of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He advised the Asian settlers to develop love and affection for the local population and help their needy brethren.
In 1955-56, Sant Teja Singh Ji undertook the Sewa of spiritual uplift of humanity in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, USA and Canada. He delivered an address in the Eighth Congress of Religions for the World Peace organised by Ananai-Kyo, Shimizu city, Japan in 1956.
As Sant Attar Singh Ji had prophesied, Sant Teja Singh Ji in July 1957 revealed the hitherto unknown Tapo Bhoomi of Baru Sahib – the valley of divine peace.
Before shedding his mortal frame on 3 July, 1965, Sant Teja Singh Ji established The Kalgidhar Trust. The activities of this Trust, based at Sant Attar Singh Ji Hari Sadhu Ashram, Baru Sahib, Himachal Pradesh are being carried out by his devout disciple Baba Iqbal Singh Ji with the divine blessings and as per the vision of Sant Attar Singh Ji and the guidelines laid down by Sant Teja Singh Ji.