Problem of Birth Place and Identity of Bhai Mani Singh
According to Kesar Singh Chhibbar, Bhai Mani Singh, scholar and martyr, belonged to a Kamboj family.1 In the view of a later Sikh chronicler, Giani Gian Singh (Panth Prakash) Bhai Mani Singh belonged to a Dullat Jat family of Kamboval village, near Sunam in Sangrur district of Punjab.2 Mani Singh was from Kanha Kachcha, according to Vir Singh Bal in his Singh Sagar.3 In Seva Singh's Shahid Bilas: Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Mani Singh Shahid is identified with Naik Mani Ram, a Puar Rajput of Alipur near Multan. He was the third amongst the twelve sons of Mai Das. Mani Singh was born to Madhari, the first wife of Mai Das, on Sunday, Chet sudi 12, 1701 BK/7 April 1644.4 It is notable that Kesar Singh Chhibbar, Giani Gian Singh and Vir Singh Bal are silent about the year of birth of Mani Singh, Seva Singh has mentioned it very clearly.
There are basically four theories about the antecedents of Bhai Mani Singh Shahid.
i) That he belonged to a Kambo (Kamboj) family, as mentioned by a contemporary, Kesar Singh Chhibbar in Bansavalinama Dasan Patshahian Ka (1769);
ii) That he was from Kanha Kachcha, as mentioned by Vir Singh Bal in his Singh Sagar (1827);
iii) That he was a Dullat Jatt of Kaimboval, as claimed by Giani Gian Singh in his Panth Prakash (1880);
iv) That he was a Puar Rajput from Alipur near Multan, as stated by Kavi Seva Singh's, Shahid Bilas, believed to have been written sometimes during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Giani Garja Singh discusses and disposes off the first three theories in his introduction to Shahid Bilas, but upholds the fourth one on the authority of Kavi Seva Singh for which he adduces supporting evidence from Bhatt vahis.9
About Kambo theory, Garja Singh argues that Kesar Singh Chhibbar was too young at the time when he saw Bhai Mani Singh and was mistaken about his caste.10 Chhibbar refers to himself as Balak (boy) and Nikra (younger). But Chhibbar also says that he was 70 when he wrote his Bansavalinama which takes his date of birth to 1699. He, according to Bansavlinama, mentions Bhai Mani Singh twice, in 1727 and 1736, i.e. at the age of 28 and 37 respectively on the two occasions. All these points, he could not describe as he was too young. Clearly, Chhibbar's use of balak and nikra for himself was only in deference to the elders for whom he had immense regards. It should not be forgotten that Chhibbar's account is of a contemporary, while Giani Gian Singh, Vir Singh Bal and Seva Singh Kaushish are separated from Bhai Mani Singh by 100 years and more.12 Chhibbar remains silent about the village and parentage of Bhai Mani Singh.13
Bhai Mani Singh was Dullat of Kaimboval is rejected by Giani Garja Singh on three counts.14 First, that Giani Gian Singh's claim is based on hearsay, his source being only bards and old men:
ਸੁਨੀ ਸੁਨਾਈ ਸੋਧ ਕੇ ਜੋਇ ਰਹੀ ਹੈ ਯਾਦ |15
Secondly, Panda Vahi at Kurukshetra does not mention Mani Singh in the record of Dullat Jatts of Laungowal. Thirdly, while in the first edition of his Panth Prakash, Gian Singh mentioned Bika as the father of Mani Singh, in the second edition, the name changes to Kala. Another face pressed into argument by Giani Garja Singh is that, in first edition, Giani Gian Singh he admitted that there was also a Mani Singh Kambo whose descendants he had met in Lahore and Amritsar. He omitted this point in the second edition.16
Vir Singh Bal's theory of Kahna Kachha is easily brushed aside by Giani Garja Singh by saying that some of the descendants of Bhai Mani Singh later settled at Kahna Kachha and other places.17 This leaves us with testimony of Seva Singh's Shahid Bilas, and other evidence marshalled by Giani Garja Singh in support of his thesis that Bhai Mani Singh Shahid was the same as Mani Ram, Puar Rajput of Alipur, near Multan.18 It may be noted that Bhai Santokh Singh mentions two different persons, Mani Singh (Shahid-Lih Sir Lau Sikkhi Nibhai) in Sri Guru Nanak Prakash (1823), and Mani Ram, son of Mai Das and father of Bachitra Singh, etc., in Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth (1843).19 In the latter case, the poet is describing the administration of amrit by Guru Gobind Singh. Mani Ram produces his five sons, who are duly baptized, but there is no mention of Mani Ram himself taking the Pahul.20 Koer Singh, author of Gur Bilas Patshahi Daswin (1751), as near to the events as Kesar Singh Chhibbar, also does not mention Mani Ram Rajput as taking Khande di Pahul.21 Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha in Gursabad Ranakar Mahan Kosh also accepts Mani Ram Rajput of Alipur as different from Mani Singh Shahid.22 He describes the latter as Dullat Jatt of Kaimboval, but he also clarifies in the footnotes:
ਭਾਈ ਮਨੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਦਾ ਦੁੱਲਟ ਹੋਣਾ, ਕੇਵਲ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਗਿਆਨ ਸਿੰਘ ਦੁੱਲਟ ਦੇ ਲੇਖ ਅਨੁਸਾਰ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਗਿਆ ਹੈ, ਅਨੇਕ ਸੱਜਣ ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦਾ ਜਨਮ ਕੰਬੋ ਵੰਸ਼ ਵਿੱਚ ਮੰਨਦੇ ਹਨ | ਇਕ ਸੱਜਣ ਨੇ ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦਾ ਜਨਮ ਕਾਨੇ-ਕਾਛੇ ਦਾ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਹੈ |
(Bhai Mani Singh's being a Dullat has been recorded only on the authority of Giani Gian Singh Dullat's writings. Many other believe that the Bhai was born in Kambo family. One writer mentions Kahna Kachha as his birth place.)
M.A. Macauliffe gives us a detailed information about Bhai Mani Singh's missionary and literary works. According to him Mani Singh was the son of Bika who received baptism from the tenth Guru and devoted his life to the Guru's service.24 S.M. Latif in his History of Punjab, does not mention Bhai Mani Singh.25 Giani Thakur Singh in Sri Gurdwara Darshan mentions that Bhai Mani Singh the Son of Kalu and Daya Kaur, was born on Tuesday, 22 Magh, in village Kakru near river Ghaggar, district Ambala. His parents shifted to Sunam later on.26 Gian Ratnavali and Bhagat Ratnavali both ascribed to Mani Singh, do not offer any clue to the author's birth, place or family. But one thing is clear from Bhagat Ratnavali, better about mentioning the caste or sub-caste of his subjects. So was Bhai Gurdas in his var XI.27
The authors of later period choose either one of above historians or they have their own opinion about the year of birth and family of Bhai Mani Singh. Some authors like Bhagat Lakshman Singh, Sikh Martyrs (1923)28 agree with Giani Gian Singh, that Mani Singh was a Jat boy of village Kamibowal in Malwa. Some authors follow Seva Singh's views as mentioned in Santokh Singh's, Tales of Truth;29 Trilochan Singh's, The Sikhs;30 Harjinder Singh Dilgeer's Sikh Reference Book,31 Romesh Chander Dogra and Gobind Singh Mansukhani's, Encyclopedia of Sikh Religion and Culture,32 and Gurtej Singh's, Bhai Mani Singh: In Historical Perspective.33
W.H. Mcleod34, Hari Ram Gupta35, O.P. Ralhan36 have a different view about the year of birth of Mani Singh. According to them, Mani Singh was born in 1673. Hari Ram Gupta mentions the month and the day also. According to him Bhai Mani Singh was born on Feb, 1673 on Wednesday. In the views of J.S. Grewal and S.S. Bal,37 Bhai Mani Singh, Son of Kalat, the Dulat Chaudhari of Kaimboval, was presented by his father to Guru Teg Bahadur's Darbar at the age of six or seven; almost the same age as Guru Gobind. Rattan Singh Jaggi in his monograph in Bhai Mani Singh: Jiwani Ate Rachna, has followed Seva Singh's, Shahid Bilas. He concludes by saying that there is only one Bhai Mani Singh in Sikh History whose detailed life described by Kavi Seva Singh with full devotion and dedication for which he adduces supporting evidence from Bhatt Vahis and from the very distant past material.38
In conclusion, it may be said that Kavi Seva Singh's Shahid Bilas, in spite of the available evidence of the claimed Bhatt Vahi extracts marshalled in its support, does not provide unassailable testimony for us to believe that Bhai Mani Singh Shahid was the same Bhai Mani Ram Rajput of Multan who doubtless was a devoted Sikh in his own right and whose five sons laid down their lives for Guru Gobind Singh.39 Even Giani Gian Singh's attempt to dub Bhai Mani Singh as a Dullat Jat appears, like that of Giani Garja Singh, motivated by a desire to use the great martyrs name for the exaltation of his own clan. Such instances are not exceptional.40
In fact, there is no valid reason to disbelieve Kesar Singh Chhibbar, a contemporary with no parochial or caste naive, he himself being a descendant of Brahman Divans of the Gurus, that Bhai Mani Singh Shahid was a Kambo, who could be from Kaimboval, of which the ruined mound now lies, almost flattened, in the revenue limits of Laungowal. There is no valid reason, again, to upset a tradition that has came down the generations, and, the tradition so faithfully cherished in the area. This area, formerly had many Kambo families living in it.41 Authors of later period have their different opinions about Bhai Mani Singh's identity, birth and birth place and still it is matter of deep research.
Thus, this brief attempt clearly brings out the conflicting interpretations regarding the place of birth of Bhai Mani Singh as well as the debate concerning the problem of his identity and status in the Sikh history.
1. Kesar Singh, Chhibbar, Bansavalinama Dasan Patshahian Ka, (ed. Piara Singh Padam), Singh Brothers, Amritsar, 1997, p. 216.
ਤਬ ਭਾਈ ਮਨੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਜਾਤੀ ਕੰਬੋਹ ਕਹੀਏ|
ਸੋ ਆਇ ਮਿਲ ਜਿਨ ਕੇ ਸਮ ਸਿੱਖ ਕੋਈ ਐਸਾ ਗੁਰੂ ਕਾ ਨਹੀਏ|
2. Giani Gian Singh, Panth Prakash, pp. 675-94.
3.Vir Singh Bal, Singh Sagar (ed. Krishna Kumari Bansal), Punjabi University, Patiala, 1986 (Reprint first published in 1827), p. 136,
Kavi Seva Singh, Shahid Bilas: Bhai Mani Singh, (ed. Giani Garja Singh), Ludhiana, 1961, p. 51.
5. Kesar Singh Chhibbar, Bansavalinama Dasan Patshahian Ka, p. 216.
6. Vir Singh Bal, Singh Sagar, p. 136
7. Giani Gian Singh, Panth Prakash, pp. 675-94.
8. Kavi Seva Singh, Shahid Bilas: Bhai Mani Singh, p. 12.
9. Introduction, Kavi Seva Singh, Shahid Bilas: Bhai Mani Singh.
10. Kavi Seva Singh, Shahid Bilas, pp. 10-12.
11. Kesar Singh Chhibbar, Bansavalinama Dasan Patshahian Ka, p. 280.
12. Kavi Seva Singh, Shahid Bilas: Bhai Mani Singh, pp. 10-12.
13. Kesar Singh Chhibbar, Bansalvalinama Dasan Patshahian Ka, p. 280.
14. Kavi Seva Singh, Shahid Bilas: Bhai Mani Singh, p. 13.
15. Giani Gian Singh, Panth Prakash, p. 217.
16. Kavi Seva Singh, Shahid Bilas: Bhai Mani Singh, p. 13.
17. Kavi Seva Singh, Shahid Bilas: Bhai Mani Singh, p. 12.
18. Gurmukh Singh, Identity of Bhai Mani Singh Shahid, Proceedings Punjab History Conference, Twenty Second Session, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1988, pp. 83-84.
19. Bhai Santokh Singh, Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, Part 14th (ed Vir Singh), Khalsa Samachar, Amritsar, 1965.
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