Giani Kartar Singh famous for having selected Sikh history as his subject matter for presenting in narrative poetry, was born in the village Kalaswalia, district Sialkot (now in Pakistan). He was popularly known as Kalaswalia, after the name of his native place. His father, Jagat Singh, who was a pensioner, passed away in 1892 when Kartar Singh was hardly a lad of ten. He was brought up by one Dasondha Singh, who imparted to him the knowledge of Gurmat and Gurmat philosophy. Kartar Singh Kalaswalia had to start working for his livelihood at a very tender age.

He worked in the well-known Mufid-e-Aam press, Lahore, as a Punjabi proof-reader. He taught Punjabi in a High school at Pasroor for quite sometime. Thereafter, he was appointed teacher at Khalsa College, Amritsar. Kartar Singh joined the Indian Army as a \’Granthi\’ during the First World War. During the Akali movement he left the army, went to Amritsar where he worked as Head Priest in Darbar Sahib.

He is known to have written Sikh history in verse. Kalaswalia had a plan to versify the whole Sikh history and he succeeded to some extent in his mission. In the beginning, he wrote two \’qissas\’ (folk poetry), named Buddhe di naar (Wife of an old man) and Nadhe di naar (Wife of a young man). Later on he took to depicting Sikh history. He specially wrote about the Sikh warriors like Baba Banda Bahadur and others and Sikh wars fought against the Mughals, like the wars of Cham Kaur Sahib and Sirhand.

Some of his qissas became very popular because of his \’easy to understand\’ language, simple and lucid style and variety of the \’Chhandas\’. \’Baint\’ is his favourite chhand which is dominant in his poetry. Nirbhai yodha (The fearless warrior), Ajit Khalsa (The invincible Khalsa), Darbar Khalsa, Beta] Khalsa (The crownless Khalsa), Bir saputtar (The brave son, 1948) and Dasmesh dulare are some of his famous books. Though Kalaswalia\’s poetry does not have much literary merit, it is valued greatly for its narration of the history of the Sikhs. At places his narration is both appealing and interesting.

References :

1. Amarjit Singh, Punjabi sahit da itihas ”Qissa kal, Amritsar, 1981.
2. Kohli, S.S., Punjabi Sahit da Itihas, Ludhiana, 1955.
3. Mohan Singh, A History of Punjabi Literature, Amritsar, 1956.
4. Ramdev, Jaginder Singh (ed.), Punjabi Likhari Kosh, Jullundur, 1964.
5. Sekhon, S.S. and K.S. Duggal, A History of Punjabi Literature, Delhi, 1992.