SANTOKH SINGH, BHAI (1787-1843), poet and historian, was born on 8 October 1787 the son of Bhai Deva Singh and Mat Rajadi, professionally cloth printers of Nurdin village, also known as Sarai Nurdin, 7 km northwest of Tarn Taran in Amritsar district of the Punjab. Deva Singh though poor was educated and well versed in the sacred texts. He sent his son, after preliminary education at home, to Amritsar where he became a pupil of Giani Sant Singh (1768-1832), a renowned man of letters and custodian of Sri Darbar Sahib. After having studied Sikh Scripture and history, Sanskrit language and literature, poetics, philosophy and mythology at Amritsar for about 15 years, Santokh Singh moved to Buna, an old town on die right bank of Yamuna in the present Yamuna Nagar district of Haryana, some time before 1813, and established himself there as a writer, poet, and preacher.

His patron was Dial Singh, also from a clothmakers` family and an old acquaintance of the poet`s father, who was serving as an army officer under Sardar Hari Singh, chief of Buna. Here Santokh Singh wrote his earlier works, Nam Kosh, a versified Hindi translation of Amar Kosa, the famous Sanskrit dictionary, (completed in 1821), and Sn Guru Nanak Prakash, an epic poem consisting of 9,700 verses dealing with the life and teachings of Guru Nanak (completed in 1823). He had attained such repute as a poet and scholar that Bhai Udai Singh, chief of Kaithal, invited him in 1825 to join his court. Santokh Singh is said to have spent some time at Patiala also as an employee of Maharaja Karam Singh before going to Kaithal.

During his 18year span at Kaithal, now a district town in Haryana, he wrote Garab Ganjani Tika (1829), an exhaustive philosophical commentary in Hindi prose on Guru Nanak`sJapu, along with a critical appreciation of its poetic features (the work was meant to be a rejoinder to Anandghana`s tika of the Japu); Valmiki Ramayana (1834), a versified translation of the epic in chaste and refined Braj Bhasa ; translation of Atma Purana in Sadhukari prose (date not known) ; and his mangum opus, Sri Gur Pratap Suryodaya, popularly known as Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, a voluminous history of the Gurus in Braj Bhasa consisting of 51,820 verses written during 1835-43. Bhai Santokh Singh was married during his stay at Buna to Bibi Ram Kaur of Jagadhri. Five sons and three daughters were born to them. Some of his descendants are now living at Patiala and at Kaithal.

The poet died at Kaithal on 19 October 1843, soon after the completion of his Gur Pratap Suraj Granth. A shrine in honour of his memory was constructed at his native place, Sarai Nurdin, during the 1950`s.

References :

1. Goel,Jai Bhagwan, Mahah Kavi Santokh Singh : Jivan Te Rachna. Patiala, 1992
2. Vir Singh, Bhai, Prastavna `Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth. Amritsar, 1927-35
3. Padam, Piara Singh, Mahari Kavi Santokh Singh. Patiala, 1964
4. Macauliffe, Max Arthur, The Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1909