GANDA SINGH MASHARIQI (1857-1909), Urdu poet, scholar and religious guide in the line of family preceptors to the chiefs of Ropar in the Punjab. His grandfather, Bhai Bagh Singh (1757-1822), and his father, Bhai Bishan Singh (1809-90), had served the Ropar family as priests and counsellors. When the British East India Company confiscated the princely state in 1846 for its sympathy with the Sikhs during the AngloSikh war (1845-46), and placed Raja Bhup Singh, of Ropar, under detention in Saharanpur, Bhai Bishan Singh accompanied his master to Saharanpur. He returned to Ropar after the death of Raja Bhup Singh (1851) and settled down to a life of worship and strict religious discipline in his former residence, then famous as Granthi Bagh.

Here Ganda Singh Mashariqi was born on 2 August 1857. He passed his middle standard examination from Bhai Bishan Singh Raj Granthi Middle School, Ropar. As he grew up he taught in the same school for some time and then joined service in the accounts branch of the Military Works Department of Government of India, where he rose to be an accounts officer. Ganda Singh gave evidence of his poetic genius when he was still very young.

As was customary in those days, he adopted a penname for himself which in his case was Mashariqi lit. eastern. The young poet was deeply influenced by the uprise of the Namdhari movement, the tremors of which were then being felt in the Punjab and beyond. From the merely romantic, his poetry took a distinctly patriotic tone. He apprenticed himself to the famous Urdu poet Dagh Dehlavi. He also wrote verse in Persian which generally had a Sufi touch.

His poems usually appeared in Paisa Akhbar and Akhbari`Am, both published from Lahore. His fame as a poet travelled to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh (then United Province) and beyond. Mashariqi also wrote Guru Nanak Dev`s biography (Janamsakhi) in Urdu which he called Vigydn Kosh and which was published by Aftab Press, Lahore, in 1883. He also wrote an annotated translation of Japuji in Urdu. Published in 1892, it is the oldest work in this genre in Urdu. Ganda Singh Mashariqi died at Ropar on 2 April 1909.

His Urdu and Persian poems were collected and arranged by his son, Subedar Narain Singh (1885-1968). These have been published by his grandson, Kulwant Singh, in the form of a book entitled DiwaniMashariqi. The first 28 pages of the Diwan contain eulogies of the Lord, Manifest and Unmanifest. Then follows praise of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. Thereafter begins the text comprising 264 ghazals of all shades, amorous, gnostic, didactic and patriotic. The third part of the Diwan comprises miscellaneous verse, epigrams and mathnavis.

References :

1. Kulwant Singh, Late Sardar Ganda Singh Mashariqi. Chandigarh, n.d.