KAHN SINGH, of Nabha (1861-1938), celebrated scholar and encyclopaedist, was born on Bhadori vadi 10, 1918 Bk/30 August 1861, in a Dhillon Jatt family at the village of Sabaz Banera, in what then used to be the territory of the princely ruler of Patiala. His father, Narain Singh (mother: Har Kaur), was a man of saintly character and he succeeded to the charge of Gurdwara Dera BabaAjapal Singh, at Nabha, upon the death in 1861 of his grandfather, Sarup Singh. Kahn Singh, the eldest of three brothers and one sister, did not attend any school or college for formal education, yet he mastered several branches of learning by private effort.
By the age of 10, he could recite freely both the Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth. He read Sanskrit classics with Pandits in and around Nabha and learnt music from a famous musicologist, Mahant Gajja Singh. He sought Maulawls in Delhi to leach him Persian. In 1883 he went to Lahore where during his two year stay he studied Persian texts and assisted Professor Gurmukh Singh, a leading figure in the Singh Sabha, in the publication of his Sudhdrdrak.
In 1887 he was appointed tutor to Tikka Ripudaman Singh, the heir apparent of Nabha state. From the Maharaja`s private secretary to judge of the High Court, he held several different appointments in the state, serving for a brief interregnum, 1915-17, in the neighbouring Sikh state of Patiala.In 1885, he had a chance meeting with Max Arthur Macauliffe which led to a lifelong friendship. Macauliffe depended a great deal on his advice and guidance in the work he was then doing on Sikh scriptures and on the history of early Sikhism.
He took him along to England when his 6volume The Sikh Religion was in print at the Clarendon Press. Such was his admiration for Bhai Kahn Singh that he assigned to him the copyright of the book. From among Bhai Kahn Singh`s works, Gurushabad Ratandkar Mahdn Kosh (1930), an encyclopaedia of Sikh literature, will remain a permanent monument to his unmatched industry and erudition. His maiden work Raj Dharam (1884), written at the instance of Maharaja Hira Singh of Nabha, was followed by Ndtak Bhdvdrth Dipikd (1888), an exegesis of extracts from the Hanumdn Ndlak, based on his notes prepared for the instruction of the young prince under his tutelage.
In 1898, he published Ham Hindu Nahm which set forth forcefully the Singh Sabha standpoint with regard to Sikh identity. The Gurmat Prabhdkar, a glossary of Sikh terminology, concepts and institutions, was published in 1898, and Gurmat Sudhdkar, an anthology of important Sikh texts, scriptural and historical, in 1899. His Guru Chhand Divdkar (1924) and Gur Sabad Alankdr (1925) deal primarily with rhetoric and prosody employed in the Guru Granth Sahib and some other Sikh texts. His Guru Gird Kasauti answers some of the questions raised by his pupil, Tikka Ripudaman Singh, about the meanings of certain hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib, and his Shardb Nikhedh (1907) is a didactic work stressing the harmful effects of drinking.
Among his other works are tikds or exegeses of Jaimam Asvamedh (1896), Visnu Purdna (1903), Sadu and Chandi di Vdr (1935). From among his works which were published posthumously, Gurmat Mdriand (2 volumes) which essentially follows the formal of his earlier Gurmat Prabhdkar but includes much more explanatory material was published in 1960. A travelogue was published in 1984. Bhai Kahn Singh lived in seclusion, totally immersed in his scholarly pursuit, yet his influence transcended the bounds he had created around himself.
From the privacy of his study, he continued to enrich contemporary Sikh life in its diverse aspects. A man of aristocratic bearing, he was extraordinarily handsome, with sharp, chiselled features. He had the interests of an aesthete and loved art, flowers and music.
In several spheres, he was the arbiter of taste. Through his writings, he subtly moulded the course of Sikh awakening at the turn of the century. On latterday Sikh learning, he has left a permanent imprint. Kahn Singh died at Nabha on 24 November 1938.
1. Vidiarthi, Devinder Singh, Blun Kahn Singh Ndhha:fwnn l,e Rachna. Patiala, 1987
2. Sukhjit Kaur, Bhai Kahn Singh Nnbhd te undn dtdn Raclmdvaii. Patiala, 1973
3. Aniarjit Singh, cd., Bhai Kahn Singh : 1k Adhiain. Pat-iala, 1982
4. Ashok, Shamshrr Singh, Prnsidh Vidvdn Bhai Kahn Singh Nahhd. Amritsar, 1966