Zail Singh

Gyani Zail Singh or simply Zail Singh was the first Sikh to serve as the President of the Republic of India.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Gyani Zail Singh or simply Zail Singh was the first Sikh to serve as the President of the Republic of India. He was the seventh President of India serving from 1982 to 1987. Prior to his presidency, he was a politician with the Indian National Congress party, and had held several ministerial posts in the Union Cabinet, including the post of Home Minister. He also served as the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1983 to 1986.


His presidency was marked by Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He was born on May 5th, 1916 and died on December 25th, 1994.


Childhood of Zail Singh:

Zail Singh was born in a mud house to a poor family in Faridkot district in Punjab, India. His father's name was Bhai Kishan Singh while his mother was Mata Ind Kaur. His father worked as the village carpenter. He was the youngest among six siblings who included five brothers and a sister. His mother died when he was just a child. The children were later brought up by the sister of their mother. Zail Singh was brought up in a religious environment by his family and became well versed in the holy scriptures of the Sikhs by an early age.


Education of Zail Singh:

Although he did not have a matriculation certificate, Zail was accepted into the Shahid Sikh Missionary College at Amritsar. However, he was a very confident young man highly skilled in the art of public speaking. Because of his knowledge of the Guru Granth Sahib and because of his extensive training in religious studies, he acquired the title 'Gyani' while in college. He was very fluent in Punjabi and Urdu and could hold his audience in a trance with his oratory skills. 


Family of Zail Singh:

He was married to Pardhan Kaur and was blessed with one son and three daughters.


Some facts about Zail Singh:

  • He was actively involved in politics from his teenage and had joined the Shiromani Akali Dal when he was just 15.
  • In 1938 he established the Praja Mandal, which was a political organization allied to the Congress party in Faridkot.
  • After India became independent, he was appointed as the Revenue Minister of the recently formed Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU). His contributions to the farmers of PEPSU in removing inequalities and providing them their rights was immense.
  • In 1956 PEPSU was integrated with the state of Punjab and Zail Singh became a member of the Rajya Sabha where he served till 1962.
  • In the 1972 Punjab Assembly elections, Congress came to the power and Giani Zail Singh became the Chief Minister of Punjab.
  • He arranged for lifelong pension scheme for freedom fighters of Punjab.
  • Zail Singh was awarded the Order of St. Thomas (the highest honorary award conferred by the Indian Orthodox Church) by Catholicos of the East Baselios MarThoma Mathews I during the Catholicate Platinum jubilee celebratory meeting held at Kottayam Nehru Stadium on 12th September 1982.
  • On 29 November 1994, Zail Singh suffered multiple injuries following a motor accident near Kiratpur Sahib in Ropar district and  died in Chandigarh where he had been undergoing treatment on Christmas Day in 1994, aged 78.
  • Giani Zail Singh College Of Engineering & Technology is named after him.



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