(Last Updated on : 05/05/2011)
The Gurdwara Reform Movement came about with an aim to revive the Sikh values and traditions. During the British rule, a number of Hindu practices like the worship of gods and goddesses were prevalent among the Sikhs. The caste system was also followed by the Sikhs. Christian missionaries and Arya Samaj took advantage of this situation and many of them started following these religions. To meet this situation, some Sikhs started working towards reform of the Sikhs which included the Nirankari, Namdhari or the Kuka sect.
In 1873, these movements gave birth to a society known as the Singh Sabha. Its main aim was to arouse a love of religion among the Sikhs. During the Mughal rule, the Sikh community had to face harsh persecution and many of them were forced to go into exile. During this period the Gurdwara management passed on to the hands of the Udasi sect which was founded by Guru Nanak's eldest son Sri Chand which mainly included members of sahajdhari Sikhs. They served as granthis and mahants in the Sikh gurdwaras. As large income was being generated, these mahants became corrupt that provoked reform in the management of gurdwaras.
The Sikhs had demanded special representation which was accepted by the Montague-Chelmsford Commission in 1918. In 1920, the militant members of course re-named the Gurdwara Committee as the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee which instituted an organization known as the Shiromani Akali Dal. The organized Akalis were a big threat to the authority of these mahants. The manhunt through various ways tried to protect their community.
The biggest threat was faced by the management of Nankana Sahib Gurdwara in the Lahore district. Its mahant, Narain Das had first approached the British government for protection. However later he took the entire matter into his hands. They killed many Sikhs in the process that provoked the government to intervene in the management of the Gurdwara. Narain Das and seven men were arrested and were sentenced to life.
Ultimately a draft bill, the Sikh Gurdwara and Shrine Bill was prepared in the year 1922.
No sahajdhari Sikh could claim they were Hindu as well as Sikh according to the declaration. Thereafter this, on 8 July 1925, the Sikh Gurdwara Act was passed that marked a turning point in the movement towards the reform and development of Sikh identity. The Sikh Gurdwara Act of 1925 has since undergone thirty amendments keeping the basic principles and the institutions intact.