Khushwant Singh

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Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh (b:2.2.1915 – d:20.3.2014) was a novelist, lawyer, journalist and politician.

Early life

Khushwant Singh was born in Hadali, Khushab District, Punjab Pakistan, in a Sikh family (not the Jat). His father, Sir Sobha Singh, was a prominent builder in Lutyens' Delhi.[1]

He was educated at Modern School, New Delhi, Government College, Lahore, St. Stephen's College in Delhi and King's College London, before reading for the Bar at the Inner Temple.[2]

His birth name, given by his grandmother, was Khushal Singh (meaning "Prosperous Lion"). He was called by a pet name "Shalee".


Khushwant Singh started his professional career as a practising lawyer in 1938. He worked at Lahore Court for eight years.

In 1947 he entered Indian Foreign Service for the newly independent India. He started as Information Officer of the Government of India in Toronto, Canada. He was Press Attaché and Public Officer for the Indian High Commission for four years in London and Ottawa.

In 1951 he joined the All India Radio as a journalist.

Between 1954 and 1956 he worked in Department of Mass Communication of the UNESCO at Paris.

From 1956 he turned to editorial services. He founded and edited Yojana, an Indian government journal in 1951 -1953; The Illustrated Weekly of India, a newsweekly; and two major Indian newspapers, The National Herald and the Hindustan Times.


From 1980 to 1986, Singh was a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974 for service to his country. In 1984, he returned the award in protest against the siege of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army.

In 2007, the Indian government awarded Khushwant Singh the Padma Vibhushan.

Singh was a votary of greater diplomatic relations with Israel at a time when India did not want to displease Arab nations where thousands of Indians found employment. He visited Israel in the 1970s and was impressed by its progress.

Honours and awards

  • Rockefeller Grant,1966
  • Padma Bhushan, Government of India (1974) (He returned the decoration in 1984 in protest against the Union government's siege of the Golden Temple, Amritsar)[3]
  • Honest Man of the Year, Sulabh International (2000)[4]
  • Punjab Rattan Award, The Government of Punjab (2006)[5]
  • Sahitya Akademi Fellowship by Sahitya academy of India (2010)[7]
  • 'All-India Minorities Forum Annual Fellowship Award' by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav (2012)[8]
  • Lifetime achievement award by Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest in 2013[9]
  • Fellow of King's College London on January 2014[10]

Books authored

  • The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories, (Short Story) 1950
  • The History of Sikhs, 1953
  • Train to Pakistan, (Novel) 1956
  • The Voice of God and Other Stories, (Short Story) 1957
  • I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale, (Novel) 1959
  • The Sikhs Today, 1959
  • The Fall of the Kingdom of the Punjab, 1962
  • A History of the Sikhs, 1963
  • Ghadar 1915: India's first armed revolution, 1966
  • A History of the Sikhs, 1966 (2nd edition)
  • A Bride for the Sahib and Other Stories, (Short Story) 1967
  • Black Jasmine, (Short Story) 1971
  • Tragedy of Punjab, 1984
  • Delhi: A Novel, (Novel) 1990
  • Not a Nice Man to Know: The Best of Khushwant Singh, 1993
  • We Indians, 1993
  • Women and Men in My Life, 1995
  • Declaring Love in Four Languages, by Khushwant Singh and Sharda Kaushik, 1997
  • India: An Introduction, by Khushwant Singh
  • The Company of Women, (Novel) 1999
  • Truth, Love and a Little Malice (an autobiography), 2002
  • With Malice towards One and All
  • The End of India, 2003
  • Burial at the Sea, 2004
  • Paradise and Other Stories, 2004
  • A History of the Sikhs: 1469–1838, 2004
  • Death at My Doorstep, 2005
  • A History of the Sikhs: 1839–2004, 2005
  • The Illustrated History of the Sikhs, 2006
  • Why I Supported the Emergency: Essays and Profiles, 2009
  • The Sunset Club, (Novel) 2010
  • Gods and Godmen of India, 2012 ISBN 978-9-350-29244-0
  • Agnostic Khushwant: There is no God, 2012 ISBN 978-9-381-43111-5
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ridiculous, 2013 (Co-authored with Humra Qureshi)

On Jat History

Khushwant Singh[11] wrote about Origin of the Jats:

"It is now generally accepted that the Jats who made the northern plains of India their home were of Aryan stock. The origin of the Jats has been exhaustively dealt with by K.R. Qanungo, who states emphatically that the Jats are of Aryan stock (Hindus) that came from Rajasthan into Punjab".

Khushwant Singh[12] said it was the Jats who introduced the panchayat system (a body of five elected people that is widely practiced in modern India):

"They (Jats) brought with them certain institutions, the most important being the pancayat (panchayat), an elected body of five elders, to which they pledged their allegiance. Every Jat village was a small republic".

Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria)[13] writes :

Some facts about the Jat are, however, indisputable. These are neatly summed up by S. Khushwant Singh, a journalist of repute. "Every Jat Village was a small republic made of people of kindred blood who were as conscious of absolute equality between themselves as they were or their superiority over men of other castes who earned their livelihood as weavers, potters, cobblers and scavengers. The relationship of a Jat village with the State was that of a semi-autonomous Unit paying a fixed sum of money. Few governments tried to assert authority, and those Which did, soon discovered that sending out armed militia against fortified Villages was not very profitable. The Jats' spirit of freedom and equality refused to submit to Brahmanical Hinduism and in its turn drew the censure of the privileged Brahman of the Gangetic plains ... The upper caste Hindus' denigration of the Jat did not in the least lower the Jat in his own eyes". The Jat strongly asserts that "Gold does not change its colour for fear of flames", and "embers are, after all embers even though covered with ash".

S. Khushwant Singh further adds "He (the Jat) assumed some-what 'condescending attitude towards the Brahman, whom he considers little better than a soothsayer or a beggar, or the Kshatriya, who disdained earning an honest living and was proud of being a mercenary. The Jat was born a worker and a warrior. He tilled his land with his sword girded round his waist. He fought more battles for the defence of his motherland than the Kshatriya, for unlike Kshatriya the Jat seldom fled from his village when the invaders came. And if the Jat was maltreated or if his Wife was molested by the conqueror on his way to Hindustan, he settled his score by looting the invader's caravans ... His brand of patriotism was at once hostile to foreigners and benign, even Contemptuous towards his own countrymen whose fate depended so much on his courage and fortitude", (History Of the Sikhs, Vol. 1, pp. l5f). In fact, the Jats have always "sacrificed their day for our to-day and their to-day for our tomorrow."


Singh died of natural causes on 20 March 2014 at his Delhi-based residence, at the age of 99. His death was mourned by many including the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister of India. He is survived by his son and daughter.

Short Bio Data

The short bio data is available at the following link of Rajya Sabha website:

SINGH, SHRI KHUSHWANT : B.A., LL.B. (London), Barristrer-at-law; (Nominated); s. of Sir Sobha Singh; b. February 2, 1915; m. Shrimati Kaval Khushwant Singh, 1 s. and 1 d.; Member, Rajya Sabha, 3-4-1980 to 2-4-1986; Author of a number of books consisting of short stories, novels etc. and on Sikhism; Recipient of Padma Bhushan, 1974,
Per. Add. : 49-E, Sujan Singh Park, New Delhi.


  1. Singh, Ranjit (2008). Sikh Achievers. New Delhi: Hemkunt Publishers. p. 168.
  2. Singh, Khuswant (2000). Bhattacharjea, Aditya; Chatterji, Lola, eds. The Fiction of St. Stephen's. New Delhi: Ravi Dayal Publisher. p. v. ISBN 978-8-17-53003-09.
  3. "Life and times of Khushwant Singh l". India Today.
  4. "Khushwant Singh, 1915-". The South Asian Literary Recording Project. The Library of Congress (New Delhi). 2016.
  5. "Life and times of Khushwant Singh l". India Today
  6. "Life and times of Khushwant Singh l". India Today
  7. Mukherjee, Abishek. "Khushwant Singh and the cricket connection". The Cricket Country.
  8. The Times of India
  9. "Life and times of Khushwant Singh l". India Today
  10. "Khushwant Singh awarded Fellowship". King's College London.
  11. Khushwant Singh: The History of the Sikhs, 1963
  12. Singh, Khushwant, A History of the Sikhs, Vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Delhi, India, 1977, pp. 14-15.
  13. The Jats:Their Origin, Antiquity and Migrations/Prologue,p.xii

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