One popular reason for formation of Singh Sabhas was reaction against the maladministration of Gurudwaras (GD) and its management. The zeal for reforms affected a popular movement called Akali (immortal) movement.
One point of this reform was to free Gurudwaras from the control of Brahmin priests. The Hindu priests did not know the fundamental principles of Sikhism. This caused the Sikhs to clash with the British Government; because the black turban of the Akalis became a symbol of sedition to British Government.
The Sikhs rejected Hindu rituals to be performed in Gurudwaras. Important and popular Gurudwaras referred in relation to the Gurudwara Reform were as follows:
1. Gurudwara Golden Temple (GGT) in Amritsar
This central Sikh shrine at Amritsar was controlled by the British Deputy Commissioner through British appointed Sikh manager. This had resulted that-
a) Idols were set up and Hindu pandits and astrologers do their work in GD premises.
b) Sikh pilgrims (backward) were not allowed in Hari Mandir before 9 A.M. (whereas caste system was rejected in Sikhism).
The Khalsa Diwan of Lahore meeting in April, 1907 & Khalsa Diwan of Majha meeting in April, 1907; made a proposal for the removal of the British appointed manager of Golden Temple and a Committee of Sikh chiefs should appoint a another manager.
c) On Oct.12.1920, the Karah Prasad of some low caste Sikh pilgrims who visited Hari Mandir were refused by the priests and the ardas were not said on their behalf.
d) That discrimination was reacted by the Sikhs.
e) Guru Granth was consulted and the priests were condemned.
f) The pilgrims went to Takht Akal Bhunga(supreme seat of authority) in front of Hari Mandir & the priests deserted the place.
g) The pilgrims appointed committee of 25 Sikhs for Golden Temple management.
h) The next day the Deputy Commissioner appointed a committee having 9 members with the manger as president.
i) The Akalis tried their best to free their Golden Temple from Hindu priests/Mahanths. Assembly was called on 15th Nov.1920. But 2 days before Assembly the Govt. appointed a committee of 36 Sikhs to manage Golden Temple.
However the Sikhs met on 15th Nov. and formed a committee of 175 members called Shiromoni Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) including the names of Govt.appointed persons.
j) On April 30, 1921 the SGPC obtained legal sanction as a public body and they had election affecting Sardar Kharak Singh as president.
k) Since then the SGPC became a focal point for the reformation of Sikh shrines and endowments. The Gurdwaras became controlled by SGPC one by one.
Opposition arose from Brahmin priests here and there. But the efforts of Sikhs became stronger and stronger to control their Gurdwaras.
2. Nankana Temple/Gurudwara
Hindu priest Narayan Das hired 400 thugs and attacked the reformers on Feb.20, 1921. Many were tortured and burnt alive within the Temple precincts/campus. The news of this Nankana massacre shocked the country all over. The Gurugranth was torn with rifles shots and sacred sanctuary became full of blood and smoldering flesh. The Sikhs were deeply hurt. On Feb.23 the Sikhs did cremation ceremony in burning mutilated bodies.
3. Guru-ka-Bagh land
One Mahanth/priest handed over the shrine/GR to SGPC but held a land known as Guru-ka-Bagh as his private property. The Sikhs protested and suffered imprisonment and beating of police supervised by British Officers. The Sikhs prayed and their moving lips were receiving the blows, but they suffered with new heroism. The Govt. declaredSGPC as an unlawful association.
4. Jaitu Gurudwara Incident
The worshippers in Gurudwara of Jaitu in Nabha state were arrested by the police. The Sikh protested against this interference and sent out Jathas (demonstration) to Jaitu from the Akal Takht (supreme seat of authority). But police had beaten many Sikhs and sent them to remote places without food and water for many days. Many Sikhs lost their lives. At last the Government involved and let the Sikhs take over the Gurudwaras in Jaitu.
5. Guru-ka-Bagh land
One Mahanth/priest handed over the shrine to SGPC but held a land known as Guru-ka –Bagh as his private property. The Sikhs protested and suffered imprisonment and were beaten by the police supervised by British officers. The Sikhs prayed and their moving lips were receiving the blows, but they suffered with new heroism. The Government declared SGPC as an unlawful association.
6. Gurudwara Rikabganj in Delhi
In 1913 the Govt. demolished the compound wall of Gurudwara Rikabganj in Delhi. The Problem arose regarding its rebuilding work. After the long struggle The Sikh Gurudwara Act was passed on 25th July, 1925.
A central Gurudwara Board was made by the Sikhs to take care of all Sikh shrines/Gurudwaras. This Board resolved that Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) would be fully responsible for the management of Gurudwaras. This was accepted by the Govt. and the SGPC was functioning actively for the management of Sikh Gurudwaras.
Gurudwara reform movement caused about 40,000 to go to jail and 400 persons lost their lives. The SGPC continued to be ecclesiasitical institution for caring Sikh Gurudwaras and their management.