Baba Prem Singh Hoti

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Baba Prem Singh Hoti (2 November, 1882 - 10 January, 1954), historian and biographer, was born on 2 November 1882 at Hoti, near Mardan, in North-West Frontier Province, now part of Pakistan. His father Ganda Singh, a man of means, traced his ancestry back to Bhalla family of Goindval, in Amritsar district, to which noted Sikh savant Bhai Gurdas belonged.

One of his ancestors, Baba Kahn Singh, had moved to the western frontier during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who had granted jagirs to his soldiers in that turbulent Pathan territory. When this north-western region was finally annexed by the British in 1849, the jagir which Baba Prem Singh's father had inherited from his forefathers was confiscated. But Sar Buland Khan, the Muslim Nawab of Hoti, gave him lands within his own territory. The family continued to enjoy the patronage of the Nawabs of Hoti until it migrated to Patiala in 1948.

Prem Singh was reared on Sikh teaching and folklore. As a young boy, he was especially fascinatd by stories of Sikh valour and heroism. A meeting with Bhai Vir Singh, Sikh poet and scholar, at the first Sikh Educational Conference convened at Gujrariwala on 1819 April 1908 proved crucial in determining the calling of his life.

After the conference, he took Bhai Vir Singh to visit his homeland the beautiful country of the trigger happy Yusafzai and Barakzai Pathans, and showed him round important historical places commemorating Sikh heroes. Bhai Vir Singh prompted him to write biographies of Sikh heroes who had fallen fighting for the glory of the Khalsa.

Prem Singh took to the task with a rare zeal and biographies flowed from his pen prolifically, establishing this genre firmly in Punjabi writing and creating a new interest in Sikh history. The series began with a biography of Akali Phula Singh (1914), followed by those of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1918), Karivar Nau Nihal Singh (1927), Sardar Hari Singh Nalva (1937), Maharaja Sher Singh (1951) and Nawab Kapur Singh (1952).

His Khalsa Raj de Usrayye "Builders of the Khalsa Raj" (Vol. I in 1942 and Vol. II in 1944), and Khalsa Raj de Badesi Karinde "Foreign employees of the Sikh Kingdom" (1945) were collections of shorter biographies.

His lives of Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Sukkha Singh and Maharaja Duleep Singh remained unfinished. In 1952, he was honoured by the Punjabi Department of the Patiala and East Punjab States Union Government for his monumental work for the advancement of Punjabi letters. Baba Prem Singh died at Patiala on 10 January 1954.