Gurdwara Reform Movement & Sikh Gurdwara Act

The Sikh Gurdwaras Act refers to the legislation passed by the Punjab Legislative Council which marked the struggle of the Sikhs from 1920-1925 to wrest control of their places of worship from the mahants (priests) into whose hands they had passed during the 18th century when the Sikhs were driven away from their homes to seek safety in remote hills and deserts. Later when the sikhs established their way in Punjab they rebuilt their shrines.

However, the management remained with the priests whom were mainly belonging to the Udasi sect. This sect began to consider the shrines and lands attached to them as their personal properties after the advent of the British in 1849, and began to use the Gurdwara incomes for their private use. Some of them even went as far as selling Gurdwara properties.

The mahants introduced rituals and ceremonies which were totally against the teachings of Sikhism. There had also been complaints of immorality against them. All these factors gave rise to what is known as the Gurdwara Reform Movement in which Sikhs had to face imprisoment, suffer atrocity and death.

The British government eventually gave in under popular pressure and passed, in the first instance, Sikh Gurdwaras and Shrines Act, 1922, in which a committee was nominated by the government to take over control of the Gurdwaras. This, however, was not accepted by the Akali leaders and remained for this reason a dead letter. The agitation/morcha continued and the government had another draft. worked out.

Akali counsel was required this time and the principal demand about the shrines being handed over or management to a representative body of the Sikhs was conceded. The bill was moved in the Punjab Legislative Council by Sardar Tara Singh of Moga on 7 May 1925 and piloted by another Sikh member, Bhai Jodh Singh. The bill was put into operation on 1 November 1925 known as The Sikh Gurdwaras Act. The mahants and there rituals and ceremonies were removed from all the Gurdwaras and Sikhi maryada had been restored.

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