Prachin Panth Prakash
PRACHIN PANTH PRAKASH, by Ratan Singh Bharigu, a chronicle in homely Punjabi verse relating to the history of the Sikhs from the time of the founder, Guru Nanak (AD 14691539), to the establishment in the eighteenth century of principalities in the Punjab under Misi sarddrs. The work, which was completed in 1998 Bk/AD 1841 in the bungd of Sham Singh near the Golden Temple at Amritsar, is owed to the Britishers’ curiosity about the Sikhs and about their emergence as a political power. Captain Murray, then stationed on the AngloSikh frontier at Ludhiana, had been charged with preparing a history of the Sikhs. He sought the help of a Persian scholar, Maulawl Bute Shah. Ratan Singh volunteered his own services as well to undo, as he says, the bias that might crop up in the narration of a Muslim. He verbally traced for Murray the origin of the faith of the Sikhs and their rise to sovereignty in the Punjab. What he narrated to Captain Murray during the day, Ratan Singh reduced to writing by night. For this recital and for the account that he finally composed in Amritsar, Ratan Singh drew upon available Sikh sources such as Janam Sakhis and Gurbilases and on the oral tradition that had come down to him from his parents and grandparents: the famous Sikh martyr, Matab Singh ofMirarikot, was his paternal grandfather, and Sham Singh of Karorasirighia misi, his maternal grandfather. The latter material he utilized in his account of the career of Banda Singh Bahadur and of the troubled times following his execution. This in fact is the most significant part of the work. The details and sequence of events here provided have been generally accepted in later Sikh historiography.
The earlier period has been dealt with sketchily. The descripton of Guru Nanak’s life is relatively more detailed, but with the miraculous element predominating as in the Janam Sakhis. The succeeding seven Gurus have been barely mentioned, except Guru Hargobind whose battles against the Mughal forces are briefly touched upon. In his account of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom, Ratan Singh follows Guru Gobind Singh’s Bachitra Ndtak. He attributes the fall of the Mughal empire to the Emperor’s sinful act of beheading the Guru. From among the events from Guru Gobind Singh’s life, the manifestation of the Khalsa on the Baisakhi day of AD 1699, abolishing the masand system, the intrigues of the hill chiefs, and the siege of the Anandpur Fort, Guru Gobind Singh’s escape from the mud fort of Chamkaur, his southward journey and meeting at Nanded with Banda Singh Bahadur whom he charged to come to the Punjab to ransom righteousness are described in considerable detail. Then follows the account of Banda Singh’s entry into the Punjab with a few of the Sikhs who were in the Guru’s train at Nanded (among names mentioned are those ofBinod Singh and Kahn Singh, Daya Singh and Aunin Singh and Baj Singh Bal ofMirpur), the rallying of Sikhs from Malva and Majha to his standard (the poet makes no secret of his partiality towards the latter), the occupation of Samana and Sirhind, and inroads into the Jalandhar Doab. The Sikhs had established their power right up to Patti, near Lahore. Sovereignty, sang the poet, had been promised the Sikhs by the Guru himself. Banda Singh’s own victories were ascribed by Ratan Singh to the occult powers Guru Gobind Singh had bestowed upon him. His final defeatwas attributed to his resiling from the teachings of the Guru. The split of the Panth into two rival camps Tatt Sar Khalsa (both tatt and sdr meaning the essence) and Bandai Khalsa is described in dramatic detail. The account of the fierce persecution which overtakes Sikhs after the death of Banda Singh reaches its climax in the martyrdom ofBhai Mani Singh which, according to Ratan Singh, takes place in 1738.
The narrative henceforward loses its continuity and becomes more episodic in character. Among the events described are the chastisement of Masse Khan Ranghar who had desecrated the Harimandar, the martyrdoms ofBota Singh, Subeg Singh, Taru Singh and Mahitab Singh, Chhota Ghallughara (the minor carnage), Vadda Ghallughara (the major carnage), the third assault of the Sikhs on Sirhind in which Zain Khan, the governor, was killed, and the Sikhs’ foray into the country around Delhi. In simple verse, the poet captures the spirit of the Sikhs in those difficult times: "Sikhs had a fondness for death. To court death they had now found an opportunity. Their lives they held not dear. They did not feel the pain if their bodies were slashed. They took to arms vowed to death." The Prachin Panth Prakdsh was for the first time purblished in 1914. BhaiVir Singh, famed scholar and poet, came across an old manuscript which he edited and had printed at the WaziriHind Press at Amritsar in that year. Bhai Vir Singh added the word "Prachin" (old or older) to the title of the book to distinguish it from the more recent Panth Prakdsh by Giani Gian Singh. Another edition of the work, as annotated byJit Singh Sital, was published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 1984. s.s.s. PRAHILAD RAI, one of the foremost scholars who enjoyed the patronage of Guru Gobind Singh (16661708), translated into Punjabi prose 50 Upanisads. He launched upon this work in 1689 at the instance of Guru Gobind Singh and based it upon Dara Shukoh’s Persian translation of the classics, SirriAkbar. However, the philosophical terminology used by him shows that he was also well conversant with the original Sanskrit texts. A manuscript of this work entitled Upanishad Athdrvdn Bhdkhd is preserved in Motibagh Palace Library at Patiala. Verses composed by Prahilad Rai in Hindi and Punjabi lie scattered in miscellaneous old manuscripts.
1. Padam, Piara Singh, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji de Durban Ratan. Patiala, 1976