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Sri Gur Panth Parkash (Vol 1)

A Review by Saran Singh

Author : Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translator : Prof Kulwant Singh
Publisher : Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh
Pages : 530; Price : Rs 400/- (Hard Bound)

The romance of history of the Sikhs never ceases to amaze and fascinate. As observed by late Prof. Anil Chandra Banerjee: “In the early writings on Guru Nanak the role assigned to him is that of a Deliverer and Saviour.”

In 1969, the quincentennial year of Guru Nanak’s advent on earth, The Sikh Review had the privilege to publish an authentic account of Guru Nanak’s visit to Sri Lanka written by the noted Buddhist scholar, Saddhamangala Karunaratna. In the recent past, Dr. Devinder Singh Chahal of Canada, an entomologist by profession, came upon evidence that points to Guru Nanak’s journey to Constantinople – the modern Istanbul.
New vistas are opening in the Sikh religion’s incredible history. While keen students have been familiar with the felicitous Vars of Bhai Gurdas, with the post-1708 writings of Kavi Santokh Singh in ‘Sri Gur-Pratap Suraj Granth’, Kavi Sainapat’s Sri Guru-Sobha and Koer Singh’s Gurbilas Patshahi Dus, (in original and translation) we now have Rattan Singh Bhangoo’s picturesque epic: Sri Gur Panth Prakash handily available, thanks to the bold initiative of Institute of Sikh Studies, based in Chandigarh, embodying a refreshingly vibrant translation by Professor Kulwant Singh.

Sample this from EPISODE 14 (P. 81) in Dohra format:

“The Khalsa must be as autonomous and self respecting,
As embodiment of all the Divine attributes in plenty.
Never submitting to the sovereignty of anyone else,
Except the sovereignty and autonomy of God alone.” (35)

The original text, essentially in epic verse and, couched in classical - if archaic - Punjabi, does not fall in the category of popular reading. Its episodic structure and fanciful diction call for enormous patience that the modern-day scholar does not often possess. Digressions and deviations, peculiar to medieval epics, also tax the patience of a work-a-day reader. Yet the compelling saga of the birth, struggle and growth of the Sikh nation, in all its pathos and glory, deserves to be read - if not in the original Punjabi then at least in Prof. Kulwant Singh’s elegant translation, so that we become aware of the agony and ecstasy of the emergent Khalsa Panth. This volume covers translation of 81 Episodes, with excellent reference sheets at the tail-end.

The moving account of the 18th Century history has been translated in poetic English, with monumental patience, and a remarkable perception and empathy. Indeed, the translation acquires an enchantment of its own in a way that most history books cannot dream of. If Rattan Singh Bhangoo was a poet-chronicler, then the translator, in his own way, gives intimations of a philosopher of rare sensitivity and depth. The spirit of Rattan Singh Bhangoo would surely be pleased to discover this latest resurgence of interest in his remarkable work. We owe Prof. Kulwant Singh and Dr. Kharak Singh a debt of gratitude for bringing Sri Gur Panth Prakash into limelight for the English knowing history scholars. The translation also unfolds a major primary source of Sikh history. The second volume will doubtless be keenly awaited.

Meanwhile, The Sikh Review has also been serializing the translation of the same epic, in prose, by an equally dedicated scholar, Sr. Gurtej Singh.

 

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