MANI SINGHJANAM SAKHI
MANI SINGH JANAM SAKHI, also known as CYAN RATNAVALI and traditionally attributed to Bhai Mani Singh, a famous Sikh of the early eighteenth century martyred by the Mughal governor of Lahore, Zakariya Khan, in 1737, is a collection of 225 anecdotes related to the life of Guru Nanak and some exegetical and theological discourses. Two manuscripts held by Khalsa College, Amritsar, are dated 1891 Bk/ADl834, and 1895 Bk/AD 1838, respectively, and of the three others in a private collection at Patiala two are also dated 1883 Bk/AD 1826, and 1927 Bk/AD 1870, and although the third and the oldest one bears the date 1778 Bk/AD 1721, it is evident from its contents and the modern style of its language that its actual date must be much later.According to S.S. Ashok, Panjabi Hath likhatan di Suchi, four other undated manuscripts, two of them complete and two incomplete, also existed but they were probably destroyed during the army`s invasion of the Darbar Sahib complex in 1984.
Of the three lithographed editions, the first was published by Charagh Din and Saraj Din of Lahore in 1891, the second by Sanskrit Book Depot, Lahore, in 1892, and the third by Gulab Singh and Sons, Lahore, in 1908. It is an abridged text of the 1892 lithographed edition that appears in Dr Kirpal Singh (ed) Janam Sakhi Parampara (1969).Some modern scholars dispute the authorship of the work or at least suspect some interpolations to have occurred later, although a prologue providing the following explanation for its original composition is found attached to all extant copies of the manuscript: Some Sikhs once approached Mani Singh with a problem. The schismatic Mmas were, they reported, corrupting the received account of the life and teachings of Guru Nanak.
It was evidently becoming impossible to distinguish authentic fact from malicious interpolation and for this reason they desired that he, as an acknowledged authority, should undertake to separate the two.Man! Singh, in reply, referred them to Bhai Gurdas` Var as a reliable record of the Guru`s life. This record, they responded, was a very brief one. Something more was necessary and their request was for an extended commentary on Bhai Gurdas` work. Protesting his inadequacy for such a task, Mani Singh eventually agreed to take Bhai Gurdas` Varas his basic text and to supplement it with narratives he had heard from the followers of Guru Gobind Singh.
The result was his Janam Sakhi, the Gyan Ratnavali There is no evident reason to mistrust this explanation although its accuracy cannot be definitively proved.That the work appears to be originally based on Bhai Gurdas` varI is evidenced by stanzas from this Var quoted in the janam sdkhi, most of them followed by a brief paraphrase, although other anecdotes also separate the stanzaic passages. These latter may have been taken from other sources by Bhai Man! Singh himself who must have been conversant with several janam sakhis that already existed during his time. Still some interpolations cannot be ruled out.
The language of Mam Singh Janam Sakhi is simple and easy to follow, but it is not uniform. Mostly, it is Punjabi, but it changes to Sadh Bhakha when some philosphical point is being discussed. On the whole, it is nearer to the modern idiom; some of the grammatical forms, particularly case forms, freely occurring in Puratan or even in Bala tradition have disappeared by this time.
1. McLeod, W.H., Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1968
2. Kirpal Singh, ed., Janam Sdkhi Parampard. Patiala, 1969
3. Ashok, Shamsher Singh, Punjabi Hath-Likhatdn di Suchi. Patiala, 1963