SAU SAKHI (lit. a book of one hundred anecdotes) is the popular name of Gur Ratan Mal (lit. a string of the Guru`s gems), a work esoteric and prophetic in nature : also problematic as regards the authenticity of its text. Its writer, one Sahib Singh, describes himself only as a scribe who wrote to the dictation of Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh, better known as Bhai Ram Kunvar (1672-1761) and a knowledgeable and honoured member of the retinue of Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). The book is meant to be a narrative pertaining to the life of Guru Gobind Singh, supposedly based on the personal knowledge of Bhai Ram Kunvar, although later interpolations and corruption of the text are clearly decipherable.

The extant manuscripts of the work have textual variations. Not all of them liave (lie number of anecdotes matching its popular title. Allegedly written in 1724 or 1734 (the two dates found in the text), 5au Sakhi remained unknown until it was discovered in 1815 in a Brahman family of Thancsar, who presented the manuscript to Sardar Amar Singh Singhpuria. The latter got copies prepared by a scribe, Nattha Singh of Buria. The book contained several allusions, in the form of prophetic utterances of Guru Gobind Singh, to contemporary personages such as Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Rani Sada Kaur, and Ranjit Singh`s Muslim wife, Moran.

It became a much sought after work, though only rarely obtainable.Further changes and interpolations, evidently made after the annexation of the Punjab to British dominions, prophesied the reestablishment of Sikh sovereignty under Maharaja Duleep Singh. This roused the apprehension of the British government and, at their instance, Sir Attar Singh of Bhadaur, translated the book into English in 1873 and got it published at Varanasi. Several Punjabi editions appeared in print from 1890 onwards, the various versions continuing to differ in content and details, especially in respect of prophesies. The book is still popular with Nihangs, who hopefully look forward to the revival of Khalsa rule, and with the Namdharis who interpret some of the allusions in the text as referring to their own movement which was clearly anti British under its leader, Baba Ram Singh (1816-85).

Prophecies bearing on the political aspirations of the Khalsa or the Namdhari Sikhs are not, however, the only or even the principal theme of the Sau Sakhi. Only 15 to 20 anecdotes contain such forecast. Many of the stories are didactic in aim, and follow the pattern of Bhai Mani Singh`s Bhagat Mal, better known as Sikhah dl Bhagat Mala. Guru Gobind Singh is shown as explaining and illustrating philosophical and ethical principles of the Khalsa in answer to questions or doubts raised by the Sikhs.Occasionally, the Guru himself creates situations to elicit pertinent questions.

Resort is had to fables and mythology. Some of the stories descibe the battles fought by the Sikhs under Guru Gobind Singh`s leadership, while other give an account of learned discussions among poets and scholars he had engaged. Two chapters in verse lay down the Sikh code of conduct in the style of the Rahitnamas. Another is a discourse on worldly wisdom and diplomacy. The book has some historical value too, but has to be used with great care because of several anachronisms, misstatements, interpolations and motivated turns given to the text by different scribes.

From the literary point of view, Sau Sakhi is a mixed fare. It is partly prose and partly verse. Punjabi is generally used for prose and Hindi for verse. Its anecdotal style and frequent use of narration in the first person, coupled with its euphoric, picturization of the future, make it interesting, but the idiom at places is loo terse and obscure. On the other hand, this very obscurity lending itself to varying interpretations, heightens its appeal. It seems 5au Sakhi was a part of a larger volume, Panj Sail Sakhi or five hundred anecdotes, no longer extant, which formed the basis of some of the episodes in Bhai Santokh Singh, Gur Pratap Suraj Granth.

References :

1. Nayyar, G.S., ed., Gur Ratan Mal : Sau Sakhi, Patiala, 1985