BAVANJA KAVI, lit. fifty two poets, is how the galaxy of poets and scholars who attended on Guru Gobind Singh(1666 – 1708) is popularly designated. Guru Gobind Singh, Nanak X, prophet and soldier, was an accomplished poet and also a great patron of letters. According to Sarup Das Bhalla, Mahima Prakash, he sent out Sikhs to different parts of the country to invite and bring to him scholars of repute. His instruction was: “Let them bring with them works pertaining to the fields they specialize in.” When they came, “the True Guru bestowed great respect and honour upon them and provided for them without disscrimination.” Although traditionally mentioned to be 52, the number of scholars who came and stayed with the Guru at one time or the other was even larger.
Bhai Santokh Singh,Suraj Granth, mentions 52 poets and Bhai Sukkha Singh, Gurbi/as, 36 lekhaks (writers or scribes). Besides, there were bha.tts who often recited their own poetical compositions. Several poets like Pandit Sukhdev, Brind, ‘Alim, Kunvaresh, Kanshi Ram and Nand Lal Goya, who had earlier been at the Mughal court, came to spend the rest of their lives at the feet of the Guru. These men were assigned by Guru Gobind Singh to the task of rendering of Hindi, Sanskrit and Persian classics into Bhakha written in Gurmukhl script. The work appears to have been taken in hand quite early in his career, probably in 1678 and spread over the next two decades and more, including four very productive years at Paonta Sahib (168588), until the Guru, foreseeing the impending conflicts that were to engulf Anandpur, relieved the poets, scholars and scribes. Classics such as ChanakyanJti, Ranch tan tra, Hitopadesa, Upanisads and parts of Mahabharata were translated into Braj and Punjabi and works and manuals on martial arts such as rearing, training and employment of hawks, horses, elephants, camels and dogs were prepared. A few Hindi classics were transliterated into Gurmukhi. According to Bhai Santokh Singh, Sn Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, the entire work was collected into a single anthology called Vidya Sar or Vidya Sagar, lit. ocean of knowledge. The poet even mentions the weight of the whole mass of manuscripts nine maunds or approximately 350 kilograms. Whatever the quantity of the material, the entire treasure was lost consequent upon the evacuation of Anandpur in December 1705, most of it in the flooded Sarsa stream. Only small fragments and copies of some of the manuscripts already prepared and carried out of Anandpur by the authors themselves or by others survived.
Sukha Singh Sukhia
Senapati Shyam Haer
s Nihal Chand
Raval Roshan Singh Makhan