Sri Guru Nanak Parkash (VOl 1 & 2)
by Kavi Bhai Santokh Singh
A Review by Dr Gurbakhsh Singh*
Edited by Dr Kirpal Singh
Published by Dharam Parchar Committee, SGPC, Amritsar
Section I, Vol 1 – Price : Rs 165/- Pages : 880; Vol
2 – Price 165/- Pages 891
Section 2, Vol 1 – Price : Rs 150/- Pages : 673; Vol
2 – Price 150/- Pages 719
very common comment often made about the Sikh history is,
and it is correct, that Sikhs made history but they did
not write it. Some Sikh scholars did write the biography
of the Gurus but it is in verse. So their stance was emotional
while narrating the teachings of the Gurus and the episodes
of their lives rather than recording the chronological incidents
of their history meticulously.
Bhai Santokh Singh has been given the highest position among
these Sikh poets for writing a great epic Sri Gur Partap
Suraj Granth, the first and the last of its kind. After
completing it, he presented it to the Khalsa Panth at the
Akal Takht in 1843-44, as a humble Sikh. He died soon after,
making the Sikhs believe that the mission of his life was
only to perform this great task for the nation. The first
part of the granth is related to the life of Guru Nanak
Dev and it is called Sri Guru Nanak Parkash.
This granth is recited episode by episode regularly in the
evening congregations in many gurdwaras. Listening to the
poetic recitation and its explanation (katha) in Punjabi
is not only informative but also very inspiring, soothing
and peace-giving to the mind. No doubt the epic has become
the most popular epic among the community.
Bhai Santokh Singh was a famous scholar of the Nirmala order
and a great poet. He had studied the Hindu literature, and
was a great scholar of Puranas and Shastras. His mind was,
therefore, greatly influenced by the old Hindu beliefs and
myths. This is the reason that the Puranic myths have been
narrated as if these were related to Guru Nanak historically.
But he has given a gurmat colouring to the non-Sikh and
anti-Sikh beliefs and rituals.
Many Sikh scholars have pointed out such shortcomings in
his granth. They are concerned with editing it so as to
insulate the minds of the listeners from its katha, and
its readers from the mythological overtones emerging from
his narration of the life and teachings of Guru Nanak.
Bhai Vir Singh of Khalsa Dewan Society, Amritsar, was the
pioneer in editing this work. He edited the granth with
meanings of difficult words so that a reader could understand
it easily. He has also added some critical comments regarding
the faith and devotion (sharda) of the author/poet in the
Sikh Gurus. The granth is a very important source for knowing
the history of the Sikh Gurus for the devout Sikhs of the
Gurus. However, this edition does not fulfil all the requirements
of the readers who are interested in chronological facts
of the life history of Guru Nanak Dev. They have to do lot
of labour themselves to ascertain the historical facts mentioned
in this voluminous epic.
Many other earlier Sikh writings also suffer from these
kind of shortcomings, pertaining to anti-Sikh beliefs and
rituals and incorrect dates of Sikh historical records.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has been receiving
repeated complaints from readers all over the globe about
the anti-Sikh information being spread through these popular
books. Therefore, on the advice of the Sikh scholars and
historians, the Dharam Parchar Committee of SGPC thought
it prudent to launch the ‘Sikh Srot Ithasik Granth
Sampadna Project’. Under this project, a fresh editing
of the Old Sikh literature is to be done to present the
correct version of the history of the Gurus and the Khalsa
Panth. Dr Kirpal Singh, a prominent historian, was chosen
to undertake this important task to elucidate the contents
of this work in modern Punjabi and point out the various
anti-Sikh statements in it.
Sri Gur Partap Suraj Granth has been chosen first of all
because of its popularity and serious disinformation contained
in this epic. The first four volumes of the this edited
version are related to the life of Guru Nanak Dev. The study
of these volumes convinces the reader that the purpose of
getting the granth edited has been fully served. The editor
has investigated facts about the life history of the Guru.
Not only has he studied all the old Janam Sakhis for recording
the most reliable facts about Guru Nanak (Janamsakhi Prampra)
but also had gone to Sri Lanka and other places connected
with Guru’s udasis (journeys). He also searched the
local literature and learnt firsthand about the oral traditions
about the visit of the Guru to different places.
Reading the Punjabi version along with the original Brij
Bhasha on the left page of the book, helps the reader to
understand the real feelings and devotion of the author.
It also reveals the author’s scholarship for imaginative
dialogue and other descriptions so that the reader himself
starts feeling similar emotions while reading and listening
to the narration of various episodes.
The significance of this edition has also been enhanced
by the relevant notes, commentary and academic discussion
of the issues emerging from the text. The editor has chosen
more than 40 issues for his analysis based on other Sikh
writings and the teachings of Gurbani.
After studying the analysis of this work by the present
editor, the mind of reader responds, “Great! the editor
has done full justice by editing this epic.” The quotations,
references and his interpretation all strive to take the
reader nearest to the truth.
The issues he has discussed inter alia are: parkash of the
Guru, his coming out of the Bein after three days, miracles
associated with his life, his visit to Sri Lanka and dialogue
with the Siddhas, his visit to Baghdad, Mecca, his hymns
under the name of Nanak included in the granth but not included
in Guru Granth Sahib, etc., and the various mythological
anecdotes attached to Guru’s life in the epic.
These issues could be analysed only by a practising Sikh
fully aware of gurbani teachings, who is a scholar and a
historian as well. The editor’s elaborate elucidation
reveals that such an analytical discussion could be presented
only by an editor who is fully qualified for this job.
A reviewer is awed by the huge amount of labour that has
gone into preparing the four volumes of this edited biography
running into more than 3000 pages. However, the reader finds
full justification for this large size of edited biography
because so many issues involved have been analysed to sift
the historical facts from mere assumptions or hearsay. Already
there is a large body of authors/editors with different
approaches and their different biases which had to be studied
for the logical analysis of the issues. It surely was not
an easy task which has been accomplished so well by the
The main object of the project is to analyse the important
old Sikh literature, a great heritage of the Panth. It aims
to scrutinize the whole material in the light of the teachings
of gurbani, and point out the non-Sikh, anti-gurmat statements
in this work of literature, and interpret it in an easily
readable and intelligible Punjabi. This objective has been
fully met by the editor. He deserves the thanks of the readers
for providing them the material they had been waiting for
a long time.
Summary given at the end of each chapter facilitates the
reader to know the chronogical order of the events mentioned
in detail in each chapter. Difficult words or those words
which are merely suggestive have been explained well. This
is quite helpful for understanding the original text.
Some words or statements, which needed some detailed description
of their background for knowing the full concept of the
issues/events have been given in the endnotes for thorough
understanding of the text.
The book should be made available for study to the modern
Sikh youth. All the katha watchaks (who explain the granth
to the sangat in the gurdwaras) must go through it, and
tell the sangat about the correct history and also discuss
Sikh philosophy for the benefit of listeners. This will
go a long way to educate the sangat regarding the greatness
of the Gurus and their lives.
A common problem when editing such manuscripts is that when
these epics are copied and recopied, some changes in the
text do creep in. Here, too, we find the original Brij Bhasha
text having such ‘mistakes’ regarding the use
of adhik (for double sound) and foot dots. Their use in
the volumes is quite common while the Brij Bhasha language
does not have any of these two symbols. Such changes do
creep in when Punjabi writers copy a Brij Bhasha manuscript.
On the whole, Dr Kirpal Singh's commentary is lucid, informative
and explanatory which addresses the major concerns of the
Sikh scholars and devout and descerning Sikh readers, who
feel uncomfortable with the somewhat excessive mythological
baggage in all the these ancient texts.