Giani Gian Singh

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Was born on 5 Baisakh 1879 Bk/15 April 1822, at Laungoval, a village in present-day Sangrur district of the Punjab. Gian Singh claimed descent from the brother of Bhai Mani Singh Shahid, Nagahia Singh. His father's name was Bhag Singh and mother's Desah. He learnt Gurmukhi in his village from Bhai Bhola Singh and Sanskrit from Pandit Atma Ram. He was gifted with a melodious voice and recitation of gurbani earned him popularity in the village. At the age of twelve, he was taken to Lahore by his maternal uncle, Karam Singh, who was a Subahdar in the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Dhanna Singh Malvai introduced him to the Maharaja who employed him to recite the Sukhmani to him every morning.

At Lahore Gian Singh was able to continue his studies under the guidance of Giani Ram Singh. After the death of his patron, he returned to his village and received appointment in the revenue office in Patiala state in place of his uncle, Hari Singh, who had died childless in 1841 fighting in Maharaja Karam Singh's army. During the first Anglo-Sikh war, when Patiala was an ally of the British, Gian Singh was sent to Mudki where he was assigned to distributing mail. In 1849, as Patiala troops were engaged in an anti-rebel operations in aid of Jind state, Giani Gian Singh who was among them was seriously wounded in the leg and had to quit service. His true calling in life began when he resigned his position as a granthi in Patiala and set out on an extensive peregrination across India visiting places of pilgrimage, especially those commemorating events in Sikh history. Returning to the Punjab owing to the upheaval of 1857, he came in touch with Pandit Tara Singh Narotam, a renowned scholar of the Nirmala school, whom he acknowledges in his writings as his literary mentor. He helped Tara Singh in preparing his lexicon of the Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Granth Girarath Kos, by sending to him in Patiala notes he took of the religious discourses of Giani Chanda Singh Surama, the blind, another celebrated scholar of the day, whose seat was in Amritsar.

Giani Gian Singh was launched on his own distinguished career as a writer with the publication in 1880 of his Panth Parkash, a history of the Sikhs in Braj verse. He now planned another ambitious work, the Twarikh Guru Khalsa, which was to be published in five parts. The first three parts were lithographed in 1892 by Baba Rajinder Singh, proprietor Guru Gobind Singh Press, Sialkot. Urdu editions of these three volumes entitled Twarikh Guru Khalsa, Shamsher Khalsa and Raj Khalsa, respectively, were also published.

Suffering a prolonged illness in Amritsar, Giani Gian Singh transferred his unpublished manuscripts as well as his rights in published books to the Khalsa Tract Society for a subsistence allowance of Rs 12 per month. He survived his illness, and returned to Patiala where he received ready patronage of the ruling family. He solemnized the first wedding of the young Maharaja Bhupinder Singh on 9 March 1908.

Giani Gian Singh remained celibate. He adopted Giani Hamir Singh, the son of his niece, Pradhan Kaur, as his heir. In 1916 he drew up a new will in which he nominated a committee to arrange the publication of his works. The members of the committee were Bhai Sahib Bhai Arjan Singh of Bagarian, Sardar Bahadar General Gurnam Singh, Bhai Kahn Singh and Sardar Gajjan Singh of Ludhiana.

On 15 August 1916, the Maharaja of Patiala approved the constitution of a History Society, with Hamir Singh as its secretary, for the publication of historical works by Giani Gian Singh and others. He also sanctioned a grant of Rs 135,000 for the Society and authorized the publication through the state press. But a dispute which arose between the states of Patiala and Nabha hampered the work of the committee. Gian Singh himself became a pawn in this feud. He was a native of Patiala state and had stayed for long periods at Patiala, but the ruler of Nabha, Maharaja Ripudaman Singh, considered him a relation, the Maharaja's mother being a daughter of his village, Laungoval. Both the states thus claimed him. One night he was whisked away in a car from Patiala to Nabha. He died there on 9 Assu 1978 Bk/24 September 1921.

The Panth Parkash and Twarikh Guru Khalsad are the most important but not the only works of Giani Gian Singh. His other books are: Suraj Prakash Vartak, an abridged version in prose of Bhai Santokh Singh's Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth; Ramayan Bhai Mani Singh Ji Di; Twarikh Amritsar (Urdu); Twarikh Lahore (Urdu); Patit Pavan; Gurdham Sarigrah; Bhupendranand; Itihas Bagarian and Ripudaman Prakash.


Twarikh Guru Khalsa a voluminous prose narrative delineating the history of the Sikhs from their origin to the time when they lost the Punjab to the British. The author, Giani Gian Singh (1822-1921), claimed descent from the brother of Bhai Mani Singh, the martyr, who was a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh. The work is divided into five parts Janam Sakhi Dasan Guraan, Shamsher Khalsa, Raj Khalsa, Sardar Khalsa, and Panth Khalsa.

In the first part the author presents biographies of the Ten Gurus and sketches the evolution of the community culminating in the emergence of the Khalsa. The second part deals with the career of Banda Singh Bahadur, the sustained struggle Sikhs waged against the Mughals in face of fierce persecution, their reorganization in the form of the Dal Khalsa and the running battle between Ahmad Shah Durrani and the Sikhs. The third part describes the rise of the twelve misls or independencies and of the sovereign kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and ends with the annexation of the Punjab by the British. The fourth part contained accounts of Sikh principalities which did not form part of Ranjit Singh's kingdom. The fifth part treats of Sikh sects, gurdwaras and preaching centres.

As Giani Gian Singh himself relates in the book, he spent more than fifteen years collecting information, mainly verbal. His sources were his own elders, Nagahia Singh, Raghu Singh and Bakhta Singh who had served Guru Gobind Singh, Banda Singh Bahadur and the eighteenth-century sardars such as Nawab Kapur Singh and Baba Ala Singh. Besides, he travelled extensively in quest of materials. Two of the older works he admits to having made use of were those by Ratan Singh Bhangu and Bate Shah. He received encouragement from his mentor, Tara Singh Narotam, a Nirmala scholar, and completed in 1867 his first work, the famed Panth Prakash which was a connected history of the Sikhs in Punjabi verse. The Twarikh Guru Khalsa was its expansion in prose.

The first edition of the Twarikh comprising the first three parts was printed in 1891 at Guru Gobind Singh Press, Sialkot, with the help of Mahant Prem Singli, Bhai Hari Singh of Sialkot and Bata Singh of Rawalpindi. Gian Singh made over the rights of publication of his Twarikh to the Khalsa Tract Society, Amri.tsar. Besides all the copies of the published first three parts of the Twarikh, the manuscripts of the remaining two unpublished parts were also handed over to the Society. The Panth Khals5 (the fifth part) was published in Urdu as late as 1919 and the Sardar Khalsa (the fourth part) was never published.

The first three parts severally and collectively of this monumental work ran into several editions in Urdu as well as in Punjabi. They were last published in two volumes in Punjabi by the Languages Department, Punjab, Patiala, in 1970.