DITT SIṄGH, GIĀNĪ (1853-1901), scholar, poet and journalist, was an eminent Siṅgh Sabhā reformer and editor. He was born on 21 April 1853 at Kalauṛ, a village in Paṭiālā district of the Punjab. His ancestral village was Jhallīāṅ, near Chamkaur Sāhib, but his father, Dīvān Siṅgh, had migrated to his wife's village, Kalauṛ. Dīvān Siṅgh, a Ravidāsīā by caste and a weaver by trade, was a religious-minded person who had earned the title of Sant for his piety. Himself an admirer of the Gulābdāsī sect, he sent Ditt Siṅgh at the age of nine, to be educated under Sant Gurbakhsh Siṅgh at Ḍerā Gulābdāsīāṅ in the village of Tioṛ, near Kharaṛ in Ropaṛ district. Ditt Siṅgh studied Gurmukhī, prosody, Vedānta and Niti-Śāstrā at the Ḍerā, and learnt Urdu from Dayā Nand, a resident of Tioṛ. At the age of 16-17, he shifted to the main Gulābdāsī centre at Chaṭṭhiāṅvālā, near Kasūr, in Lahore district. Formally initiated into the sect of Sant Desā Siṅgh, he became a Gulābdāsi preacher. Not long afterwards, he came under the influence of Bhāī Jawāhir Siṅgh, formerly a follower of Gulābdāsī sect, who had joined the Ārya Samāj. Ditt Siṅgh also became an Ārya Samājist. He was introduced to Swāmī Dayā Nand, the founder of the Ārya Samāj, during the latter's visit to Lahore in 1877. Soon, however, he and his friend, Jawāhir Siṅgh, were drawn into the Sikh fold through Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh, then an active figure in the Siṅgh Sabhā movement. In 1886, Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh, following the establishment of the Lahore Khālsā Dīwān parallel to the one at Amritsar, floated a weekly newspaper, the Khālsā Akhbār. Though its first editor was Giānī Jhaṇḍā Siṅgh Farīdkoṭī, the principal contributor was Giānī Ditt Siṅgh, who soon took over editorship from him. He had passed the Gyānī examination the same year and had been appointed a teacher at the Oriental College. In his hands the Khālsā Akhbār became an efficient and powerful vehicle for the spread of Siṅgh Sabhā ideology. The Khālsā Dīwān Amritsar led by Bābā Khem Siṅgh Bedī and the ruler of Farīdkoṭ, Rājā Bikram Siṅgh, had Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh excommunicated, under the seal of the Golden Temple, in March 1887. On 16 April 1887, Giānī Ditt Siṅgh issued a special supplement of his Khālsā Akhbār in which appeared a part of his Svapan Nāṭak (q. v. ), or Dream Play, a thinly-veiled satire, ridiculing the Amritsar leaders and their supporters. One of the victims of the burlesque, Bāvā Ude Siṅgh, filed a defamation suit against Giānī Ditt Siṅgh in a Lahore court. The latter was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs 5 but was on appeal acquitted by the sessions court on 30 April 1888. The case had dragged on for over a year, imposing severe financial hardship on the Khālsā Akhbār. It had already suffered a setback by the death in May 1887 of its chief patron, Kaṅvar Bikramā Siṅgh of Kapūrthalā. In 1889, it had to be closed down, along with the Khālsā Press. Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh, however, secured, through Bhāī Kāhn Siṅgh, help from the Mahārājā of Nābhā and the Khālsā Akhbār recomenced publication on 1 May 1893. Editorship was again entrusted to Ditt Siṅgh. Ditt Siṅgh also helped Bhagat Lakshman Siṅgh to launch from Lahore on 5 January 1899 the Khālsā, a weekly in English.
Giānī Ditt Siṅgh and his friend, Jawāhir Siṅgh, had not severed their connection with the Ārya Samāj even after their initiation into the Sikh faith. The final breach came on 25 November 1888 when, in a public meeting held on the eleventh anniversary of the Lahore Ārya Samāj, Paṇḍit Gurū Dutt of Government College, Lahore, and Lālā Murlī Dhar spoke disparagingly about the Sikh Gurūs. This hurt the feelings of Giānī Ditt Siṅgh and Jawāhir Siṅgh and they left the Ārya Samāj for good. They joined hands with Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh and threw themselves whole-heartedly into the Siṅgh Sabhā work.
Giānī Ditt Siṅgh wielded a powerful pen and was equally at home in prose as well as in verse. He wrote more than forty books and pamphlets on Sikh theology and history and on current polemics. Well-known among his works are: Gurū Nānak Prabodh, Gurū Arjan Charittar, Dambh Bidāran, Durgā Prabodh, Panth Prabodh, Rāj Prabodh, Merā ate Sādhū Dayānand dā Sambād, Naqlī Sikh Prabodh and Panth Sudhār Binai Pattar. He also published accounts of the martyrdoms of Tārā Siṅgh of Vāṅ, Subeg Siṅgh, Matāb Siṅgh Mīrāṅkoṭīā, Tārū Siṅgh and Botā Siṅgh.
Ditt Siṅgh's marriage took place in Lahore in 1880 according to Sikh rites. His wife, Bishan Kaur, shared his religious zeal and the couple had a happy married life. They had two children, a son, Baldev Siṅgh, born in 1886, and a daughter, Vidyāvant Kaur, born in 1890. Ditt Siṅgh was very fond of his daughter who was a highly precocious child. Her death on 17 June 1901 was a great blow to Ditt Siṅgh, who had already been under a strain owing to persistently heavy work since the death in 1898 of Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh. He still continued to work with patience and fortitude, but his health deteriorated rapidly and he fell seriously ill. A Muslim doctor, Rahīm Khān, treated him, but it was of no avail. Giānī Ditt Siṅgh died at Lahore on 6 September 1901. The loss was mourned widely by the Sikhs. A 15-member memorial committee was formed with Bhāī Sāhib Arjan Siṅgh Bāgaṛīāṅ as chairman. Notable memorials honouring his name were Giānī Ditt Siṅgh Khālsā Boarding House in Lahore and Bhāī Ditt Siṅgh Library opened at Sikh Kanyā Mahāvidyālā Fīrozpur by Bhāī Takht Siṅgh, one of his former students and a close friend.