Bhai Vir Singh
His identification with all the important concerns of modern Sikhism was so complete that he came to be canonized as Bhai, the Brother of the Sikh Order, very early in his career. For his pioneering work in its several different genres, he is acknowledged as the creator of modern Punjabi literature.
Born on 5 December 1872, in Amritsar, Bhai Vir Singh was the eldest of Dr Charan Singh's three sons. The family traces its ancestry back to Diwan Kaura Mall Arora (d. 1752), who rose to the position of vice-governor of Multan, under Nawab Mir Mu'ln ul-Mulk, With the title of Maharaja Bahadur. Bhai Vir Singh was married at the age of 17 to Chatar Kaur, daughter of Sardar Narain Singh of Amritsar.
Exceptional Sikh scholar
Considered to be the harbinger of modern Punjabi literature, Bhai Vir Singh wrote many books,prose, novels, poety, plays, historical research, novels and articles pertaining to the Sikh history, Gurbani and understanding of the Sikh principles. His works include the renowned novels such as Sundri, Satwant Kaur, Bijay Singh, and historical collections such as Sri Guroo Nanak Chamatkar, Sri Asht Guroo Chamatkar and Sri Guroo Kalgidhar Chamatkar.
Panjab University conferred on him a doctorate in Oriental Learning, and the Sahitya Akademi awarded him its first annual award for outstanding contribution to Punjabi literature. He was also awarded the Padma Bhushan. He was nominated member of the Punjab Legislative Council in 1952.
His grandfather, Baba Kahn Singh (1788-1878) was, perhaps, the first in the family to become a Sikh. He became a recluse when he was still in his early teens and spent his entire youth in monasteries at Haridvar and then at Amritsar acquiring training in traditional Sikh learning. His mother's affection ultimately reclaimed him to the life of a householder at the age of 40, when he got married. Adept in versification in Sanskrit and Braj as well as in the oriental system of medicine, Baba Kahn Singh passed on his interests to his only son, Dr Charan Singh.
Apart from his sustained involvement in literary and scholarly pursuits, mainly as a Braj poet, Punjabi prose-writer, musicologist, prosodist and lexicographer, Dr Charan Singh took active interest in the affairs of the Sikh community, then experiencing a new urge for restoration as well as for change.
A literary heritage from both sides of the family
To this patrimony of Bhai Vir Singh was added from his mother's side a living kinship with another rich tradition of scholarship in exegesis of the Ckiani school, going back to the times of Guru Gobind Singh. His maternal grandfather Giani Hazara Singh compiled a lexicon of Guru Granth Sahib, and wrote a commentary on Bhai Gurdas Varan.
As a schoolboy, Bhai Vir Singh used to spend a great deal of his time in the company of Giani Hazara Singh under whose guidance he not only learned the classical and neo-classical languages; Sanskrit, Persian and Braj, but also received grounding, both theoretical and practical, in the science of Sikh exegesis.
Bhai Vir Singh was the child of an age in ferment. The extinction of Sikh sovereignty in the Punjab, the decline in the fortunes of Sikh aristocracy, the gradual emergence of an urban middle class, the dissipation of the "national intellectual life" of the Punjab owing to the neglect and decay of any indigenous education of the local people aroused among the Sikhs a concern for the survival of Sikhi, any political destiny and a concern for redefining the boundaries of their faith.
Mythologization of the Sikh Gurus
Further challenges arose in the concern over modernization, of proselytization from Christian, Muslim and Hindu movements and even from agnostic cults such as Brahmo Samaj. Parallel to the developments foreboding gradual appropriation of Sikhism by the Hindu social order emerged a powerful end towards Braj classicism in the Sikh literary and schlolarly tradition.
The mythologization of the Sikh Gurus, the mixing of fiction with historical fact and interweaving of Vedantic and Vaisavite motifs into the essential Sikh teaching were also very worrisome. Response arose in Sikhism in several movements; Nirankari (puritanism), Namdhari (militant protestantism), Singh Sabha (revivalism and renaissance) and Panch Khalsa Diwan (aggressive fundamentalism) .
Both traditional and modern training
Bhai Vir Singh had the benefit of both, traditional indigenous learning, as well as, a modern British education in a missionary school. He learned Persian and Urdu from a Muslim Maulawi in a mosque and was apprenticed to Giani Harbhajan Singh, a leading classical scholar, of Sanskrit and Sikh literature. He then joined the Church Mission School, Amritsar and took his matriculation examination in 1891.
At school, the conversion of some students (to Christianity) gave him a crucial experience, which strengthened his own religious conviction. From the Christian missionaries' emphasis on literary resources, he learned how efficacious the written word could be as a means of informing and influencing a person's innermost being. Through his English courses, he acquired familiarity with modern literary forms, especially that of the short lyric.
While still at school, Bhai Vir Singh was married at the age of 17 to Chatar Kaur, daughter of Sardar Narain Singh of Amritsar, but unlike the educated young men of his time, Bhai Vir Singh was not tempted by prospects of a career in government service. He chose for himself the calling of a writer and created material conditions for a single minded pursuit of his goal.
A year after his passing the matriculation examination, he set up a lithograph press in collaboration with Bhai Wazir Singh, a friend of his father's. As his first essays in the literary field, Bhai Vir Singh composed some geography textbooks for schools.
Khalsa Tract Society
Bhai Vir Singh began taking an active interest in the affairs of the Singh Sabha movement. To promote its aims and objects, in 1894 he launched the Khalsa Tract Society. In November 1899, he started a Punjabi weekly, the Khalsa Samachar. He was among the principal promoters of several of the Sikh institutions, such as Chief Khalsa Diwan, Sikh Educational Society (1908) and the Punjab and Sind Bank (1908).
Interest in corporate activity directed towards community development remained Bhai Vir Singh's constant concern, simultaneously with his creative and scholarly pursuits. In this engagement and, at the same time, in his avoidance of any political activity, the Christian missionary example was apparently his model.
In determining the basic parameters of the modern phase of Sikhism, Bhai Vir Singh stressed the autonomy of Sikh faith nourished and sustained by an awakening amongst the Sikhs of the awareness of their distinct theological and cultural identity. Secondly, he aimed at reorienting the Sikhs' understanding of their faith in such a manner as to help them assimilate the different modernizing influences to their historical memory and cultural heritage. Education of the masses was the first requirement for the fulfilment of these objectives.
In the meanwhile, the old educational system which had till then served as a channel for communication of the traditional knowledge to the youth of the religion had broken down with the withdrawal, under British dispensation, of state patronage from the Sikhs' indigenous institutions, As if to fill the vacuum as well as to build new channels of intra-community communication, Bhai Vir Singh, through his single-minded cultivation of the Punjabi language as the medium of his theological, scholarly and creative work, resolved the cultural dilemma which the Sikhs faced at the turn of the century.
On the one hand was the Sikh literary tradition as recorded in the Braj language which had collected unmatched riches in multiple directions during the course of its (three-centuries-long) well noted career, on the other hand were the attemts to mobilize the common Sikhs through their own common language. By drawing upon the Sikh tradition of Braj literature for his basic inspiration and cultural motivation and upon the Punjabi literary tradition for its linguistic components Bhai Vir Singh initiated a new literary idiom distinctly different from both. The tracts produced by the Khalsa Tract Society introduced a 'down to earth literary Punjabi' remarkable for lightness of touch as well as for freshness of expression. In this writing lay the beginnings of modern Punjabi prose.
The Khalsa Tract Society periodically made available under the title Nirguniara lowcost publications on Sikh theology, history and philosophy and on social and religious reforrn. Through this journal Bhai Vir Singh established a living contact with an everexpanding circle of readers. He used the Nirguniara as a vehicle for his own self expression and some of his major creative works such as the epic Rana Surat Singh, the novel Baba Naudh Singh, and the lives of the Gurus Sri Guru Nanak Chamatkar and Sri Guru Kalgidhar Chamatkar were originally serialized in its columns.
In literature, Bhai Vir Singh started as a writer of romances which proved to be the forerunners of the Punjabi novel. His writings in this genre- Sundari (1898), Bijay Singh (1899), Satvant Kaur (published in two parts, I in 1900 and II in 1927)- were aimed at recreating the heroic period (eighteenth century) of Sikh history. Through these novels he made available to his readers typical models of courage, fortitude and human dignity.
Subhagji da Sudhar Hathin Baba Naudh Singh, popularly known as Baba Naudh Singh (serialized in Nirguniara from 1907 onwards and published in book form in 1921) shares with Rana Surat Singh ( which he had started serializing two years earlier), Bhai Vir Singh's fascination with the theme of a widow's desperate urge for a reunion with her dead husband. But in Baba Naudh Singh this search is situated in a more mundane setting. This makes all the difference. The narrative here is more realistic in tone, and almost contemporary in its appeal. Bhai Vir Singh weaves into the narrative numerous motifs of social reforms moral teaching and religious preaching and depicts several situations of intercommunal and urban-rural confrontation.
In 1905, Bhai Vir Singh started serializing through tracts Rana Surat Singh, the first Punjabi epic, written in blank verse of Sirkhand, variety. This long narrative of over 14,000 lines is a striking imaginative evocation of the situation of the Sikhs through a symbolic tale of a widowed queen in quest of her lost paradise. The spiritual voyage of Rani Raj Kaur, the main protagonist of the poem, from external factuality to internal essence has been described by Bhai Vir Singh in the form of a fantasy of spiritual ascension. Apart from living out her earthly destiny of suffering and pain, she symbolized the total ethos of the Sikh people at that historical moment when they were emerging out of their sense of defeat and despair into an era of a fresh beginning.
Bhai Vir Singh's quest for new forms of expression continued. Soon after the pubtication of Rana Surat Singh in book form in 1919, he turned to shorter poems and Lyrics. In quick succession came Dil Tarang (1920), Earel Tupke ( 1921), Lahiran de Har (1921), Matak Hulare (1922), and Bijlian de Har (1927). Following at some distance was Mere Salan Jio (1953). In this poetry, Bhai Vir Singh's concerns were more aesthetic than didactic, metaphysical or mystical. He refined the old verse forms and created new ones.
The metrical patterns Kabir, Soratha, Baint, etc., which he inherited from classical Punjabi literature, were transformed into lights nimble measures. Bhai Vir Singh also naturalized in Punjabi the Rubai which he borrowed from Urdu. By grafting Soratha and Sirkhandv forms on English blank verse, he paved the way for the emergence of Punjabi poem. As it happened, the first play written in Punjabi, Raja Lakhdata Singh (1910)* also came from the pen of Bhai Vir Singh. Tentative in form, the 1. play did reveal the author's powers of constructing crisp and witty dialoguesb Change-over from Braj Bhasa to Punjabi 2. as the main medium of Sikh literary and 3. scholarly expression created the need for new materials such as glossaries, lexicons, encyclopaedias and exegetical works.
Bhai Vir Singh himself provided several of the tools. He revised and enlarged Giani Hazara Singh's dictionary, Sri Guru Granth Kosh, originally published in 1898. The revised version, published in 1927, gave evidence of Bhai Vir Singh's command of the science of etymology and of the classical and modern languages. He published critical editions of some of the old Sikh texts such as Sikhan di Bhagat Mala (1912), Prachin Panth Prakash (1914), Puratan Janam Sakhi (1926) and Sakhi Pothi (1950).
Monumental in size and scholarship was his annotation of Bhai Santokh Singh's magnum opus, Sn Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, published from 1927 to 1935 in fourteen volumes covering 6668 pages.
No sooner was the Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Grallth completed than Bhai Vir Singh launched on an even more arduous task. This was a detailed commentary on the Guru Granth Sahib. In a way, exegesis had been his lifelong occupation. Early in his career he had annotated selections from the Holy Book published in 1906 under the title Panj Granth Saiik, and, as he himself declared, all of his writing was an exposition of the Sikh Scripture. He devoted himself unsparingly to the commentary, but it remained unfinished. A lifetime of unrelieved hard work and the weight of advancing years at last began to tell. In early 1957 signs of fatigue and weakness appeared. He was taken ill with a fever and died in his home in Amritsar on 10 June 1957. The portion of the commentary- nearly one half of the Holy Book- he had completed was published posthumously in seven large volumes.
He was honored with the Sahitya Academy Award in 1955 and the Padam Bhushan Award in 1956
Works by Bhai Vir Singh
Following are some of literary works created by Bhai Vir Singh. read book from SinghBrothers
A STUDY OF BHAI VIR SINGH POETRY by PRITAM SINGH SAFEER
ADHUNIK PUNJABI KAVITA ATE BHAI VIR SINGH by BRAHMJAGDISH SINGH
AMAR LEKH by VIR SINGH
ARSHI CHHUH by VIR SINGH
ASHT GUR CHAMATKAR (3 VOLS) by VIR SINGH
ASHT GUR CHAMATKAR VOL. 3 by VIR SINGH
ASHT GUR CHAMATKAR VOLS 1,2 by VIR SINGH
ATAM KATHA VOL 1 by VIR SINGH
AWAZ AAYEE by VIR SINGH
BABA NAUDH SINGH by VIR SINGH
BABA NAUDH SINGH (2 VOLS.)(ENGLISH) by VIR SINGH
BABA NAUDH SINGH DWARA SUBHAG JI KA SUDHAR VOL. 1 by VIR SINGH
BAN JUDDH by VIR SINGH
BANDGI by VIR SINGH
BANJAR MAN PUNJAB by JASVIR SINGH SHEERI
BH. VIR SINGH ATE PRO. PURAN SINGH KAV DA TULNATMAK ADHYAN by SWAIJOT KAUR KASEL
BH. VIR SINGH DE NOVEL SUNDRI DA GEETNAT RUPANTAR by
BHAI BHUMIA by VIR SINGH
BHAI MARDANA by VIR SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH by HARBANS SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH (ENGLISH) by HARBANS SINGH (ENCYCLOPAEDIA)
BHAI VIR SINGH A LITERARY PORTRAIT by J.S. GULERIA
BHAI VIR SINGH DA KAV LOK by BRAHMJAGDISH SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH DI ITIHASIK RACHNA by KIRPAL SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH DI SAHITAK PRATIBHA by GURCHARAN SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH JIWAN SAMAN TE RACHNA by SURINDAR SINGH KOHLI
BHAI VIR SINGH JIWAN TE RACHNA by SATINDER SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH KAV DA DARSHNIK VISHLESHAN by MANMOHAN SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH RACHNA SANSAR by BRAHMJAGDISH SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH RACHNAVLI: KAVITA by LANGUAGE DEPARTMENT, PUNJAB
BHAI VIR SINGH RACHNAVLI: NOVEL by LANGUAGE DEPARTMENT, PUNJAB
BHAI VIR SINGH SAHIT KOSH by RATAN SINGH JAGGI
BHAI VIR SINGH SAHIT SANSAR by BIKRAMJIT SINGH GHUMMAN
BHAI VIR SINGH SANDARBH KOSH by VISHWA NATH TIWARI
BHAI VIR SINGH SHATABDI GRANTH by VIR SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH TE OHNAN DI RACHNA by SANT SINGH SEKHON
BHAI VIR SINGH: BIRTH CENTENARY VOL. by GANDA SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH: JIWAN TE RACHNA by SATINDER SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH: JIWAN TE RACHNA by SATINDER SINGH
BHAI VIR SINGH: LIFE TIME AND WORKS by GURBACHAN SINGH TALIB
BHARTHARI HARI: JIWAN TE NITI SHATAK by VIR SINGH
BIJAI SINGH by VIR SINGH
BIJAI SINGH (ENGLISH) by VIR SINGH
BIJALIAN DE HAAR by VIR SINGH
BIR DARSHAN by VIR SINGH
DAS GUR GATHA by VIR SINGH
DIWAN BHAI VIR SINGH by VIR SINGH
GANJ NAMA STEEK by VIR SINGH
GUR BALAM SAKHIAN PATSHAHI DASVIN by VIR SINGH
GUR BALAM SAKHIAN PATSHAHI PEHLI by VIR SINGH
GUR KIRAT PARKASH by VIR SINGH BAL
GURKIRAT PARKASH by VIR SINGH BAL
GURMAT NAM by VIR SINGH
GURMUKH JIWAN (BHAI VIR SINGH) by MAHAN SINGH
GURPURB GULZAR by VIR SINGH
GURSIKH VARI by VIR SINGH
GURU NANAK VOL. 1 by VIR SINGH
GURU NANAK VOL. 2 by VIR SINGH
HAI NA TOR (HINDI) by VIR SINGH
JAAP SAHIB STEEK by VIR SINGH
JAPJI SAHIB STEEK by VIR SINGH READ ONLINE Jap Ji Steek by Bhai Veer Singh
JIWAN KANI by VIR SINGH
KABITT BHAI GURDAS STEEK by VIR SINGH
KABITT BHAI GURDAS VOL 2 by VIR SINGH
KALGHIDHAR CHAMATKAR by VIR SINGH
KAMBADI KALAYEE by VIR SINGH
KANT MAHELI by VIR SINGH
KHARA SAUDA by VIR SINGH
LEHAR HULARE by VIR SINGH
LEHAR HULARE (DELUXE) by VIR SINGH
LEHRAN DE HAAR by VIR SINGH
MATAK HULARE by VIR SINGH
MERE SAIAN JIO by VIR SINGH
NAKSH by KARAMVIR SINGH
NANAN BHARJAI DI VARTA by VIR SINGH
NARGAS by VIR SINGH
NAVIN PANEERI (GURU GOBIND SINGH) by VIR SINGH
NAVIN PANEERI (GURU NANAK 3 PARTS) by VIR SINGH
NAVIN PANEERI (GURU NANAK DEV) PART I by VIR SINGH
NAVIN PANEERI (GURU NANAK DEV) PART II by VIR SINGH
NAVIN PANEERI (GURU NANAK DEV) PART III by VIR SINGH
NAVIN PANEERI (GURU NANAK DEV) VOL 1 (PUNJABI) by VIR SINGH
NAVIN PANEERI (GURU NANAK DEV) VOL 2 (PUNJABI) by VIR SINGH
PANJ GRANTHI STEEK by VIR SINGH
PIAR PARWANE by VIR SINGH
PIARE DA PIARA by VIR SINGH
PIARE JIO (CHITHIAN BH. VIR SINGH JI) by VISHWA NATH TIWARI (Listen to Audio Book of Piare Jio by Dr. Surjit Singh (Glen Rock) http://sikhsangeet.com/albumid790-Dr-Surjeet-Singh-(Khalsa-School-Glen-Rock-NJ)-Pyare-Jio-by-Vir-Singh-Chapter-3-Phutkal-(Miscellaneous)-Part-2.html )
PIARE KA PIARA (HINDI) by VIR SINGH
PREET VEENA by VIR SINGH
PRITAM JI by VIR SINGH
PURATAN JANAMSAKHI by VIR SINGH
RANA BHABAUR by VIR SINGH
RANA SURAT SINGH by VIR SINGH
SAHITAK KALIAN by VIR SINGH
SANT BIMLA SINGH VOL. 1 by VIR SINGH READ ONLINE Sant Bimla Singha by Bhai Veer Singh
SANT BIMLA SINGH VOL. 2 by VIR SINGH
SANT GATHA 2 VOLS by VIR SINGH
SANT GATHA VOL. 1 by VIR SINGH
SANT GATHA VOL. 2 by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB (7 VOLS.) by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB ANEK BANIAN VOL. 1 by VIR SINGH Read Online Santhya Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Vol.-1 by Bhai Veer Singh Ji
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB ANEK BANIAN VOL. 2 by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB ANEK BANIAN VOL. 3 by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB ANEK BANIAN(3 VOLS.) by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB VOL. 1 by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB VOL. 2 by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB VOL. 3 by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB VOL. 4 by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB VOL. 5 by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB VOL. 6 by VIR SINGH
SANTHYA SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB VOL. 7 by VIR SINGH
SATT AUKHIAN RATAAN by VIR SINGH
SATWANT KAUR by VIR SINGH
SATWANT KAUR (ENGLISH) by VIR SINGH
SIKHAN DI BHAGATMALA by VIR SINGH
SIKKAN SADHRAN by VIR SINGH
SINGH SAGAR by VIR SINGH BAL
SRI GURU GOBIND SINGH JI DE JIWAN VICHON KUJH CHAMATKAR by VIR SINGH
SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB KOSH by VIR SINGH
SRI GURU NANAK CHAMATKAR (2 VOLS) by VIR SINGH
SRI GURU NANAK CHAMATKAR VOL. 1 by VIR SINGH
SRI GURU NANAK CHAMATKAR VOL. 1 HINDI by VIR SINGH
SRI GURU NANAK CHAMATKAR VOL. 2 by VIR SINGH
SRI GURU NANAK CHAMATKAR VOL. 2 HINDI by VIR SINGH
SRI GURU NANAK CHAMATKAR VOL. 3 HINDI by VIR SINGH
SRI GURU NANAK CHAMATKAR VOL. 4 HINDI by VIR SINGH
SRI KALGHIDHAR CHAMATKAR VOL 1 by VIR SINGH
SRI KALGHIDHAR CHAMATKAR VOL. 2 by VIR SINGH
SRI KALGIDHAR CHAMATKAR (2 VOLS) by VIR SINGH
SUKHMANI STEEK by VIR SINGH
SUKHMANI STEEK- DELUXE by VIR SINGH
SUNDRI by VIR SINGH
SUNDRI (ENGLISH) by VIR SINGH
SUNDRI (HINDI) by VIR SINGH
VARAN BHAI GURDAS STEEK by VIR SINGH
VIR PATRAVLI by VIR SINGH
VIR SINGH BAL JIWAN TE RACHNA by AMRITPAL KAUR
VIR SUNEHRE by VIR SINGH
In the news
An ode to Punjabi culture Varinder Walia Tribune News Service June 9, 2005
Bhai Vir Singh’s house on Lawrence Road is a living monument of the great writer. But how many of us know about it, or have visited it to feel the legendary grace of the man?
The tastefully decorated residence of Bhai Vir Singh, generally hailed as the father of the modern Punjabi literature, is perhaps the most beautiful house (of the state) dating back to the British time. The house provides a nice green space in the concrete commercial jungle of the posh Lawrence Road. .....More
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