BAVANJA KAVI, lit. fifty-two poets, is how the galaxy of poets and scholars who attended on Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) is popularly designated. Guru Gobind Singh, Nanak X, prophet and soldier, was an accomplished poet and also a great patron of letters. According to Sarup Das Bhalla, Mahima Prakash, he sent out Sikhs to different parts of the country to invite and bring to him scholars of repute. His instruction was: “Let them bring with them works pertaining to the fields they specialize in.” When they came, “the True Guru bestowed great respect and honour upon them and provided for them without discrimination.
” Although traditionally mentioned to be 52, the number of scholars who came and stayed with the Guru at one time or the other was even larger.Bhai Santokh Singh, Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, mentions 52 poets and Bhai Sukkha Singh, Gurbi/as, 36 lekhaks (writers or scribes). Besides, there were bha.tts who often recited their own poetical compositions. Several poets like Pandit Sukhdev, Brind, `Alim, Kunvaresh, Kanshi Ram and Nand Lal Goya, who had earlier been at the Mughal court, came to spend the rest of their lives at the feet of the Guru.
These men were assigned by Guru Gobind Singh to the task of rendering of Hindi, Sanskrit and Persian classics into Bhakha written in Gurmukhl script.The work appears to have been taken in hand quite early in his career, probably in 1678 and spread over the next two decades and more, including four very productive years at Paonta Sahib (1685-88), until the Guru, foreseeing the impending conflicts that were to engulf Anandpur, relieved the poets, scholars and scribes. Classics such as ChanakyanJti, Ranch tan tra, Hitopadesa, Upanisads and parts of Mahabharata were translated into Braj and Punjabi and works and manuals on martial arts such as rearing, training and employment of hawks, horses, elephants, camels and dogs were prepared.A few Hindi classics were transliterated into Gurmukhi.
According to Bhai Santokh Singh, Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, the entire work was collected into a single anthology called Vidya Sar or Vidya Sagar, lit. ocean of knowledge. The poet even mentions the weight of the whole mass of manuscripts nine maunds or approximately 350 kilograms. Whatever the quantity of the material, the entire treasure was lost consequent upon the evacuation of Anandpur in December 1705, most of it in the flooded Sarsa stream. Only small fragments and copies of some of the manuscripts already prepared and carried out of Anandpur by the authors themselves or by others survived.
The names of poets and scholars which have come down to us through these fragments or through other works such as Sau Sakhi, Mahima Prakash, Gurbilas Dasvin Patshahi.Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, Gurpad Prem Prakash and Twarikh Guru Khalsa are listed below: 1. Adha 2. `Alim 3. Allu 4. Amrit Rai 5. Ani Rai 6. Asa Singh 7. Ballu Bhatt 8. Bhagatu 9. Bhoj Raj 10. Bidhi Chand 11. Bihari 12. Brahm Bhatt 13. Brij Lal 14. Brikkha 15. Buland 16. Chand (Chandan) 17. Chandra Sain Sainapati 18. Desu Bhatt 19. Devi Das 20. Dhanna Singh 21. Dharam Singh 22. Dhyan Singh 23. Girdhari Lal 24. Gunia 25. Gurdas Guni 26. Gurdas Singh 27. Hans Ram 28. Hari Das 29. Hir Bhatt 30. Husain `Ali 31. Ishar Das 32. Jado Rai 33. Jamal 34. Kallu 35. Kashi Ram 36. Kesho Bhatt 37. Khan Chand 38. Kunvaresh 39. Lakkhan Rai 40. Lal Khiali 41. Madan Giri 42. Maddu Singh 43. Madhu 44. Mala Singh 45. Mall Bhatt 46. Man Das Vairagi 47. Mangal 48. Mathra Das 49. Mir Chhabila 50. Mir Mushki 51. Nand Lal Goya 52. Nand Lal, Pandit 53. Nand Ram 54. Nand Singh 55. NanVairagi 56. Narbud Bhatt 57. Nihal Chand 58. Nihchal Faqir 59. Phat Mall 60. Pindi Lal 61. Prahilad Rai 62. Ram Das 63. Raghunath, Pandit 64. Raushan Singh 65. Raval 66. Sharda 67. Shyam 68. Sudama 69. Sukhia 70. Sukhia Singh 71. Sundar 72. Tahikan 73. Tansukh 74. Thakar 75. UdeRai 76. Vallabh
1. Bhalla, Sarup 6as, Mahima Prakash. Patiala, 1971
2. Sukkha Singh, Gurbilas Dasvfri Patshahi. Lahore, 1912
3. Santokh Singh, Bhai, Sri Gur Pratap Sura/` Granth. Amritsar, 1926-37
4. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Guru Khalsa. Patiala, 1970
5. Vidiarthi, Devindar Singh, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Abhinandan. Amritsar, 1983
6. Padam, Piara Singh, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji de Darbari Ratan. Patiala, 1976
7. Macayliffe, M.A., The Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1909 P.S.P.