DYAL SINGH MAJITHIA
DYAL SINGH MAJITHIA, (1849-98), Sikh aristocrat and philanthropist, was the son of Lahina Singh Majithia and grandson of Desa Singh Majithia, both of whom had served Maharaja Ranjit Singh with distinction in the first half of the nineteenth century. He was born in 1849 at Banaras. His extensive education came from a dual source from the family`s keen interest in science and religion as well as from English tutors appointed by the court of wards which became responsible for Dyal Singh`s upbringing after Lahina Singh`s death in Banaras in 1854.
Dyal Singh was among the first Sikhs exposed to the Western systems of thought. Thereafter he lived in two worlds not one Eastern and the other Western, as one might assume but rather one of solitary experience, searching after ideas through reading, and the other a whirl of Punjabi culture not without its Westernized elements, which spun round Dyal Singh daily as a prominent r.ais, an urban entrepreneur, a patron of social reform and sponsor of political causes. Nevertheless, as Punjabi Sikhs faced the task of reconstructing self respect and identity following the British occupation of the Punjab, Dyal Singh *s youth caught the full force of exposure to Westernization which included study of the Bible, and a journey to England.
All these were reflected in his education. Yet intellectual interests and alterations in lifestyle did not end in conversion to any new creed or in desertion of Sikhism. Rather it was orthodoxy of all kinds and devotion to any single dogma that Dyal Singh had left behind. Comparative theology became his passion. He knew the elements of Sikhism well, had a great reverence in his heart for the Sikh Gurus, read with a Firozpur pandit the Bhagavadgita, discussed (then rejected) the tenets of the Arya Samaj with its founder Swami Dayanand, and refused to side with any faction of the Brahmo Samaj.
He became and remained in essence his own man. Dyal Singh cannot be termed a typical nineteenth century rais, aristocrat, of the Punjab, yet he did not seek to avoid the various traditional roles consequent upon such influence and wealth as were his. Rather, he intensified those roles and gave them modern currency. The brief biographical notes left behind reporting his daily life indicate a mercantile sagacity, a particular attention to detail, an accumulation of urban property during a successful career as financer. During his younger years even more `typical` activities occupied Dyal Singh, the nobleman.
In other words, Dyal Singh became a grand patron of many causes. When issues or ideas of importance impressed him he gave supportmoney, to aid the fervent (but often penniless) students, journalists, reformers, teachers Punjabis as well as Bengalis. He supported men of words and ideas who had set about trying to alter, establish and build institutions, belief systems and sociopolitical reforms in a Punjab struggling to express itself to find its identity, while the law was dominated by the British whose rule was despotic though inclined to be benevolent. It would be a mistake to consider him as confined to a single creed, society or dogma.