Accepted Paper:

Manly Sikhs & useful citizens: Khalsa college, Amritsar, physical education and sport, and the Sikh youth in British India, 1892-1947  


Michael Philipp Brunner (ETH Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at ideals and codes of conduct conveyed through sports and physical education at Khalsa College, Amritsar, to transform the Sikh youth into loyal and masculine citizens as imagined by the various Sikh fractions as well as the civil and military authorities in late colonial India.

Paper long abstract:

Khalsa College was founded in 1892 and was the first college aiming to impart English education specifically to boys and young men from the Sikh community. In the economically, politically and socio-religiously rapidly transforming Punjab of late 19th/early 20th century activists and reformers of neo-Sikh (Tat Khalsa) organizations saw themselves leading a necessary project for the renewal of a degenerated Sikh faith. Education was a crucial part of their programs. Khalsa College, as is one of the premises of this paper, thus became a central site for the negotiation and contestation of the various ideas about the right education and socialization of the Sikh youth.

An interesting aspect of this process is the role physical education, discipline and competitive sports played on the campus. The paper thus asks how concepts of Sikh masculinity and martiality, nurtured by the warrior ethos of the Sikh Khalsa order as well as orientalist and racial stereotyping, were central in discussions about the college's objective of moulding Punjabi youth to loyal, intelligent citizens (and Sikhs) and how these images were constructed especially relationally through e.g. intercollegiate games, history or religious instruction. The paper enquires the persistence of a Victorian and Edwardian games ethic at the college, contested by new national and international discourses and schemes of physical education emerging during the interwar period, and considers the strong relationship of the institution to the military authorities as well as the influence of the Sikh princely states and the military and landowner classes.

Panel P07
Mobilizing youth in colonial and post-colonial South Asia